Charles A. Ness, Perkiomenville
The Hudson River Valley just north of New York City is a beautiful historic area that attracts both vacationers and residents. Towns with names like, Tarrytown, Ossining, Sleepy Hollow and Croton on the Hudson, have had an idyllic appeal for hundreds of years.
It is also home to many Spanish-speaking persons from a variety of Central and South American countries, including Daniel and Jacky Lopez and their two sons who came to the United States 15 years ago from Chile. Daniel works as a maintenance supervisor at a children’s hospital and Jacky is employed in domestic services.
Years ago the Lord delivered Daniel and Jacky from a life of addiction and healed their marriage. This gave them a passion to share Christ’s love with others who need to know abundant life in Christ. For several years they have had a desire to be part of a church that could effectively reach the Spanish-speaking persons in Ossining. Daniel had led several persons to Christ who found it difficult to assimilate into their existing church. After prayer they decided to begin a new fellowship for these and other persons.
In February 2010 the group began a Friday evening meeting in the Lopez home attended by several persons from their home church and those who had recently professed Christ. It was very small at first but as persons came to faith in Christ they outgrew the Lopez living room. In December 2010 they began renting space in another church building. This new church, Maná de Vida Eterna, has adopted the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective as their statement of faith.
This group got connected to Franconia Conference when Pastor Alfredo Navea from Viña del Mar, Chile, who had been friends with the Lopez family for many years, introduced them to Kirk Hanger, Pastor of New Hope Fellowship, Alexandria, VA, and Charles Ness, Pastor of Perkiomenville Mennonite Church. This began a relationship where Daniel and his family attended Perkiomenville’s annual church retreat in August and persons from Perkiomenville and Franconia Conference have gone to worship services in New York. With Kirk serving as LEAD Minister for Perkiomenville, he and Charlie came together to support Daniel and the Manna of Eternal Life Church.
In December representatives of Franconia Conference, Steve Kriss, and Noel Santiago, persons from Philadelphia Praise Center, along with Kirk, Charlie and several men from Perkiomenville, attended the dedication of their new worship space. It was an encouragement to this emerging church to have representatives from the broader church present to bless this new beginning. In February 2011, Kirk and Charlie assisted with the first baptism. It is anticipated that this summer both the New Hope and Perkiomenville congregations will assist Manna of Eternal Life with outreach efforts which will further enhance the relationship and be mutually beneficial to all the churches.
A Franconia Conference Missional Operations Grant has provided important seed money for rent and other start up costs for this emerging church. Additionally, Daniel is participating in Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s STEP program which provides training for people who are licensed for pastoral ministry or have been encouraged to consider pastoral ministry—who may not have college, Bible school, or seminary training. STEP combines spiritual and personal formation with content-based learning in Bible, theology, leadership, and ministry skills in a very practical way. Daniel attends a class in Philadelphia one Saturday a month. This is equipping him to be a leader and giving him an understanding of Anabaptist/Mennonite theology and practice.
This Partner in Mission relationship between Franconia Conference, New Hope Fellowship and Perkiomenville Mennonite Church and the Manna of Eternal Life Church is another example of how the Lord is working through relationships to connect congregations and conferences across what may have formerly been seen as boundaries that were not to be crossed. This new paradigm allows for authentic relationships that are both life giving and life sustaining and enables both congregations and the conference to participate in the fresh move of God. The Spirit is flowing from the Potomac River and Perkiomen Creek to the Hudson River to build the Kingdom of God.