Tag Archives: Ubaldo Rodriguez

Every Ordination is Miraculous

By Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation & Congregational Resourcing

oil lamp 9-24-15
To order a Dancing Flame Oil Lamp handcrafted by June Keener Wink please call 413-258-4243 or e-mail junewink@gmail.com.

The year 2015 has been a year of ordinations in Franconia Conference.   We’ve been celebrating and marking commitments and calling nearly every six weeks . . . Mike Ford at Blooming Glen, Joe Hackman at Salford, Donna Merow at Ambler, Angela Moyer at Ripple, Kris Wint at Finland, Josh Meyer at Franconia, Samantha Lioi at Whitehall and Ubaldo Rodriguez at New Hope Fellowship in Baltimore for mission work in the Philippines.

Ordination is an ancient process of setting apart leaders for public ministry in the way of Jesus.  Within Franconia Conference, we follow a set of procedures that seek to honor both the individual and the community while respecting the work of the Spirit within both settings.  There is coursework for completion, interviews, paperwork that intends to keep our communities both safe and accountable, mental wellness assessments, varieties of continuing education and varying levels of mentoring.   Some of our pastors breeze through the process at a steady and assured pace in the two year minimum waiting and working period of licensing.   Others take much longer to plumb the depths of call both personally and communally and to wrestle it out.   Personal disclosure, it took me six years of working, waiting and wondering in Allegheny Conference before I could wrap my head around the commitments and calling that ordination entails.

We take this process seriously yet the days of ordination have a more celebratory tone. There are few times in our lives when we make commitments that will shape our life like ordination.  In front of a gathered congregation at the request and affirmation of a particular Christian community, we make commitments to serve, lead, pray, study, turn from evil and live into the role of Christian leadership as long as God sustains.

Many of us wrestle with the meaning of ordination.   I’ve found this human and historic process of calling, recognizing, working and wrestling and receiving becomes quite holy.   Somewhere in the wrestling and symbols, the questions and the mundane of the paperwork, the Spirit unfailingly shows up.

In this flurry of ordinations in the midst of a turbulent time, I am confident that the Spirit is still at work with us, trying to bring life.   Each person who says yes to the invitation of God and the community strengthens the possibilities of future “yes” responses into the next generation.   This round of ordinations represents our first millennial generation ordained ministers, our first Italian American woman, our first ordination for mission work in the Philippines.  We’ve called at some of our most historic congregations and our newest.  The churches are rural, suburban and urban.  We’re recognizing the sons and daughters of historic Franconia Conference families, as well as persons who were drawn to Mennonite congregations by conviction, relationships and call.  We’ve held events in Episcopal and Lutheran facilities and even at a Lancaster Conference church in Baltimore.  (Interesting side note, a Lancaster Conference African congregation recently used the Towamencin meetinghouse for an ordination worship).

It’s definitely a different time.   The ordination process isn’t what it used to be.  There’s no somber ceremony with Bibles or hymnals and a slip of paper as in Mennonite history.   But the holy moments remain, those wonderful spaces where community and Spirit commingle to cultivate surprising invitations toward ordination and wonderfully amazing continued responses of “yes I am willing.”   Every time we ordain, it’s a sign that the church will go on.   And in these days of turbulence and questions both in the church and in the culture around us, every yes somehow feels miraculous.   And I’m grateful to get to witness it as the Good News still breaks upon us. . . this year about every six weeks.

Building Bridges Across Cultures and Continents

An Interview with Ubaldo Rodriguez and Kirk Hanger
on the Occasion of Ubaldo’s Ordination – September 9, 2015

by Noel Santiago

ubaldo 2 9-24-15On August 2, 2015, I had the privilege and honor of officiating at the ordination service of Campo Ubaldo Rodriguez at Iglesia Nueva Esperanza that meets at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church located in Baltimore, Maryland. Ubaldo Rodriguez, originally from Colombia, educated at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, who is now serving with SEND International in Manila, the Philippines returned home for his ordination as he continues to build bridges between cultures and continents.

Iglesia Nueva Esperanza is a church plant initiative of Pastor Kirk Hanger. Pastor Kirk is the pastor of New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, VA a partner congregation with Franconia Mennonite Church. Pastor Kirk has been a mentor to Ubaldo over the years, as Ubaldo began pastoring at Iglesia Nueva Esperanza in 2011 and did so there for 2 years before moving to the Philippines, the home country of his wife, Joy, as a missionary with SEND International.

Following Ubaldo’s ordination, I had the opportunity to ask both Ubaldo as well as Kirk Hanger, mentor to Ubaldo, a few questions about embracing God’s call and life in the Philippines.

What has this ordination meant for you?

Ubaldo: The recognition of my calling and ministry by the Franconia Conference gives me encouragement and I feel the support of the Mennonite community even though I am in the Philippines.

Ubaldo, what is it you and Joy do in the Philippines?

Ubaldo: We promote missions awareness, training Filipino missionaries to send others into the world to reach those who have never heard of Jesus and the Good News.  We help churches to fulfill the Great Commission by doing missions training for them.  We intentionally disciple people for them to disciple others (2 Timothy 2:2).

Who is SEND?

Ubaldo: SEND is an international mission organization based in Michigan that sends missionaries to do church planting among the least reached peoples in about 20 countries. Currently, SEND has about 550 missionaries in the world.

As their website states, “About 1/3 of the world’s population lives outside the reach of the local church—they have no opportunity to hear the gospel. SEND International, an interdenominational mission, mobilizes missionaries to engage them with the gospel and establish reproducing churches.”

What brings you the greatest joy?Ubaldo: It brings me great joy to see people come to Christ and see their transformation as disciples for the Kingdom of God.

Kirk, what has been your relationship with Ubaldo over the years?

ubaldo 1 9-24-15Kirk: I first met Ubaldo at a Church Planter’s Retreat at Highland Retreat in Virginia some years ago as he was finishing his studies at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. We later met at the Atlantic Northeast Conferences (ANEC) Regional Church planters gathering. Soon after that, Ubaldo called me to see if I might have a place where he could serve. At that point, I was looking for someone to lead Nueva Esperanza in Baltimore meeting at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church. Ubaldo came and pastored the church for about two years. I’ve been a mentor and pastor to Ubaldo since then. I had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines two years ago to preach at Ubaldo and Joy’s wedding.

What have you appreciated about Ubaldo?

Kirk: Ubaldo is a man of deep faith, humility and integrity. Ubaldo is a prayer warrior and spends much time in intercession. I appreciate his intercession for me, especially when I travel. His is also a gifted pastor and teacher and now along with Joy is making the church more aware of the importance of reaching the least reached in the world and mobilizing people for missions.

What has the partnership between Nueva Esperanza and Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church been like?

Kirk: Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church is part of Lancaster Mennonite Conference. While Nueva Esperanza has grown out of New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria and through me connects with Franconia Conference, Wilkens Avenue shares the vision of a Spanish speaking church in the community. Wilkens Avenue provides a free space for the church to meet and occasional financial support for Nueva Esperanza. A couple of times a year Wilkens Avenue and Nueva Esperanza have a joint, bilingual outdoor evangelistic service. When Ubaldo lived in Baltimore, he related closely to the Wilkens Avenue congregation.

Ubaldo has bridged cultures and conferences, he has also play a role in RIMI (Red de Iglesias Misioneras Internacional/International Network of Missionary Churches), what will his ongoing relationship be with RIMI and you?

Kirk: RIMI is a network of churches in eight countries that work together in church multiplication, leadership development and missionary mobilization. Ubaldo was instrumental in helping RIMI expand in South America. He and I visited his home church in Bogota, Columbia where I met Ubaldo’s pastor, Islandes and the co-pastor Eduardo. That visit began their relationship with RIMI. Recently, Pastor Eduardo was sent out to start a daughter church in Bogota and last year they hosted Generacion Sana / Healthy Generation, RIMI’s annual international youth event.

 Ubaldo also helped RIMI expand into Quito, Ecuador. Pastor Dairo Rubio had been pastor of Ubaldo’s church before Pastor Islandes many years ago. Pastor Dairo went to Quito to work with Trans-World Radio and while there started two churches. Dairo stays in close contact with the church in Colombia. Through Ubaldo, we met Dairo and he is now part of RIMI. Dairo is an excellent teacher and his experience in radio has helped RIMI’s radio ministry in Mexico expand.

RIMI has an international network of intercessors and Ubaldo is one of the intercessors of the network. RIMI has a coordinator in Mexico who sends out prayer requests to intercessors in several countries who together pray for needs from around the globe.

 Ubaldo, Joy and I are developing a plan for young adults from Latin American to go to the Philippines to learn English and be equipped in the region for missions in Southeast Asia and beyond. We have people in Latin America interested in going and are praying for funding for this project. The goal is that some would commit to long term missions among the least reached.

It seems that God’s purposes for Ubaldo and I meeting were much larger than Baltimore as Ubaldo has helped make important connections with Colombia, Ecuador and now South East Asia that we pray will result in the multiplication and training of many followers of Jesus.

Franconia Mennonite Conference is delighted to have Ubaldo as one of our credentialed leaders as he continues to connect the body of Christ across cutlutres and continents.

For more information or to send words of encouragement you can reach Ubaldo at: ubaldor@pscsend.org. To support Ubaldo and Joy’s ministry you can send checks payable to SEND International at this mailing address: 36216 Freedom Road, Farmington, MI USA 48332, or setup direct deposit by calling 800-SEND808 or 1-248-4774210.


Thanking God for new offices, my Mac and Skype

by Stephen Kriss, director of leadership cultivation

transpacific interview
Steve, Mary, Aldo, and Verle Skype with Ubaldo for his credentialing interview.

In less than a decade, the Mennonite Conference Center has moved to its third location.   With increasingly dispersed staff, the Center has downsized to serve as a hub and back office for activity out and about.

My first day in the offices at Dock High School this week included crowding around my MacBook Pro with Verle Brubaker (Swamp) Mary Nitzsche (Blooming Glen), and Aldo Siahaan (Philadelphia Praise Center) for our first transpacific ordination interview by Skype.  We were interviewing Ubaldo Rodriguez, originally from Colombia, educated at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, who is now serving with SEND International in Manila, the Philippines.  Ubaldo is there to support and train mission workers from the 2/3rds world, hoping to build connections between Latin America and Asia.

Ubaldo is connected with a one of our partner congregations, New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, VA, begun by Kirk Hanger after returning from a long term assignment with Franconia Mennonite Missions in Mexico City over a decade ago.   As a community, we keep being shaped and reshaped by our relationships and engagement in the world.  And now some of those connections are more easily sustained through technology like Skype, which we thanked God for in our interview.

Franconia Conference keeps changing and moving.  It’s not just our desks and cabinets, but it’s how we’re following the Spirit, paying attention to the pillar of fire that urges us to follow in the way of Jesus that moves us to be a part of God’s great redemption story in Souderton, Harleysville, Lansdale, Alexandria, Mexico City and Manila.

Fall Ministerial Update

Noah Kolb, for the Ministerial Committee

Ubaldo Rodriguez, left, is the newest member of the Ministerial Committee.

The Ministerial Committee met on September 5 and November 7. At our September meeting, we welcomed Ubaldo Rodriguez as a new member of the committee. We took action to approve Kristopher Wint, associate pastor of Finland congregation, for a two-year ministerial license toward ordination and accepted the ordination credentials of John Stoltzfus, conference youth minister and campus pastor at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, from Illinois Conference.

At our November meeting, we approved Franco Salvatori, pastor of Rocky Ridge congregation, for a license toward ordination. The committee took action to change the ordination status of Dennis Detweiler and Bill Brunk from “active’ to “retired.” The policy to assist credentialed leaders with counseling expenses was reviewed and updated.  We invited LEADership Ministers and the Credentials Committee to join us in reviewing the policies that guide who we credential.

Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)

by Ubaldo Rodriguez, New Hope Fellowship/Nueva Esperanza (Baltimore, Md.)

Ubaldo RodriguezI appreciate the opportunity to express my Latino perspective of what it means to Mennonite. I grew up as a Catholic and I became a disciple of Jesus in a Mennonite Church in Colombia, South America.

I define myself as a disciple of Jesus who is part of the Mennonite family and uses the Anabaptist theological glasses by which I read the Scriptures in a particular way: using the historical Jesus as the  paradigm for personal and social ethics for Christian living; participating with God and my community of faith in the formation and transformation of individuals and societies; discerning in community our mission or reason for existence here and now in our particular context; making disciples in order to keep expanding the kingdom of God.

I believe the communal Christian life is like a boat that continuously moves back and forth from the river to the pond. When the boat is on the river of the Spirit, it brings life, newness, challenges, and hope for the future.  In the river, we take the risk of being led by the flow of the Spirit and many times we end up in wonderful places and situations where we never expected to be. On the other hand, when we are on the still waters of the pond of tradition, we are like a lighthouse that guides those who are traveling in this world with no direction and purpose in life.

In my own experience, I have been in both –the river and the pond waters in the Mennonite Church.  What I have been discovering is that both places are important in order to be relevant in this changing and needy world.

I am glad that the Lord allowed me to live in this particular time of history in the Mennonite Church, because along with many brothers and sisters we have this great opportunity to be history makers.  I believe we are living in the time that the prophet Joel prophesied (2:28), when the Lord is going to pour out his Spirit on all people–in our case, all those riding the Mennonite boat in the river of the Spirit sharing the richness of our Mennonite Anabaptist theological tradition.

Menno Simons saying
Click to expand.

This promise gives me hope for unity, for integration; for working together as people of God in the same spirit, a spirit in which the older generations share their unfinished spiritual dreams to the younger generations and empower them to accomplish those dreams by the power of the Spirit through a fresh vision.

This sounds very exciting to Mennonite in a new way.  This is one of the times in our Mennonite history when we need leaders with the spirit of Caleb and Joshua, (Numbers 14:6-9), who saw the challenges as opportunities to experience God’s faithfulness and mighty presence among them.  As the Mennonite church, we should keep moving forward; the desert of power and fear of change should not stop us from moving to the promise land that flows with milk and honey.

“Franconia’s got talent–” we have people with amazing gifts that can take the conference to the place where the Lord wants us to be.  So now we wait and see what Mennonite history will tell about us, if we were a generation that made a difference.

Next week, Maria Byler, Philadelphia Praise Center, will share a ritual component of Mennoniting.  How do you “Mennonite”?  Join the conversation on Facebook & Twitter (#fmclife) or by email.

Who am I?  (To Mennonite Blog #1)
Serving Christ with our heads and hands (To Mennonite Blog #2)
Quiet rebellion against the status quo (To Mennonite Blog #3)
Mennoniting my way (To Mennonite Blog #4)
Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)
Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)
We have much more to offer (To Mennonite Blog #7)
Mennonite community … and community that Mennonites (To Mennonite Blog #8)

Ministerial Update (June 2012)

An update from Noah Kolb, Pastor of Ministerial Leadership, on behalf of the Ministerial Committee

Rose Bender Ordination
Rose Bender was ordained at Whitehall on May 27.  Photo Gallery
  • Derek Cooper, assistant professor of Biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield (Pa.) was approved for a two-year license toward ordination. He and his family are members at Deep Run East (Perkasie, Pa.). The seminary, through his congregation, requested a ministerial license for his work in preparing pastors.
  • Joy Sawatzky was approved for a two-year license toward ordination for her ministry as chaplain with Living Branches. She presently has a license for specific ministry. She is a member of the Plains (Hatfield, Pa) congregation.
  • Don McDonough resigned from his associate pastoral role at Spring Mount (Pa.) to give leadership to a missional experiment called Arise in the Harleysville, Pa. area. He is accountable to Chris Nickels and the Spring Mount congregation.
  • Randy Good resigned as pastor at Taftsville (Vt.). He will complete his ministry there at the end of August.
  • Blaine & Connie Detwiler completed their pastoral leadership at Lakeview, (Susquehanna, Pa.) at the end of May. They have accepted pastoral leadership at the Marion Congregation in Franklin Conference.
  • Scott Landes has resigned as pastor at Frederick (Pa.) and completed his ministry there on June 15.
  • Rose Bender was ordained  on May 27 at Whitehall (Pa.). Steve Kriss and Noah Kolb officiated. A large crowd of church community and relatives were present.
  • Ubaldo Rodriguez was appointed to fill an opening on the ministerial committee. Ubaldo is the church planter at  New Hope Fellowship/Nueva Esperanza (Baltimore, Md.), a church plant of New Hope Fellowship Iglesia Nueva 
  • Dennis Edwards, pastor of Peace Fellowship (Washington DC) has resigned as pastor. He has accepted a pastoral position in Minneapolis, MN. Dennis has been credentialed with Franconia serving a Partner in Mission congregation.

God’s call from the Andes Mountains

Ubaldo Rodriguez, New Hope Fellowship Baltimore, ubalrod@hotmail.com

I am glad that the Lord called me when I was a teenager. I believe nowadays that listening to God’s call is hard because we must listen through the worries of life and the distraction of the world’s noise to hear and respond to his call.

During the preparation for “my first communion” in the Catholic Church, I started to feel the Lord’s call toward service. I was 12 and lived with my parents by the Andes Mountains thirty miles north of Bogota, Colombia. I remember that I had some questions about Jesus and the Catholic Church. I asked questions like, “Why did baby Jesus not grow up?” “Why did we have to pay for baptisms, confirmations and funerals?” and “Why was preaching not relevant for real life?” I knew, somehow, that something was not right, but I did not know what.

When I was 19, my parents sent me to Bogota to study. After a semester of living in a big city, my father and I got involved in a witchcraft situation without knowing it. We went to different places for help, but we could not find any release. We could not become free from that evil power. My uncle, who was Christian, told us that the only way to overcome that evil power was through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we decided to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and we started to attend a Mennonite church in Bogota. After several months of attending, we were free from that evil influence. After a year, I was baptized by water. I remember that after my baptism, I began to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I prayed for a long time, believing Luke 11:13b: “. . . how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (NRSV) After three years of prayer, I was baptized in the Spirit in a worship service.

Years later, I studied in Bogota in a two-year evangelical Bible institute. After that, the Lord granted me a one-year opportunity through the Mennonite Central Committee International Exchange Program in the US. Reflecting back on that time, I realized that the Lord was opening doors for me in different places. It was during that time, as I walked through those doors in obedience to God, that my ministry began to take shape. It was also during that time in 1993 that I decided to open my life completely to God and to serve the Lord only. I quit my job and said, “Lord, here is my life, use me as you wish.” God started to open doors outside Colombia for my Biblical and theological formation. I went to Hesston College’s Pastoral Ministry Program. Years later, I went to Costa Rica to study the scriptures from the Latin American perspective. I thought Colombia was going to be the place for a long-term ministry, working with the poor and the victims of the country’s internal conflict, however the Lord had other plans for me. In 2006, God, in his mercy, allowed me to come to Eastern Mennonite Seminary for further education. Maybe God took me out of my country in order to serve somewhere else and not become one of the hundreds of pastors killed recently in Colombia.

God’s call in my life has been a process: accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior, witnessing God’s power against the powers of darkness, experiencing baptism in the Holy Spirit, responding in obedience, receiving an excellent Christian education and committing to serve in the Mennonite Church.

New Hope Fellowship Baltimore is a new church plant connected with Wilkins Avenue Mennonite Church and New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, VA. If you are interested in supporting this initiative to reach Spanish speakers in the city, contact Steve Kriss, skriss@franconiaconference.org.

Church Lives

By Ben Sutter, benjamins5@goshen.edu

What is Church? This summer, as a ministry inquiry intern with Franconia Conference, I have seen Church live in so many ways. I’ve interacted and reacted to people, thoughts, and spiritual movements around me. I’ve asked questions. I have seen the incredible similarities and vast differences between what people call ‘Church.’

Can a conference be Church? What about a denomination? Can one person start Church? Can Church be one person? What is Church anyway? Am I a part of Church? How do I even start to define it?

The first encounter I had with Church this summer was at a Fund for Theological Education Conference in New Orleans. I spent five days with other undergraduate and graduate students talking about the role of Church in our lives and how it will continue to shape our futures.

During a tour of the city, we visited First Grace Methodist Church, a post-Katrina congregation born in the merging of a historically black congregation with a historically white congregation. One of our guides suggested that Church is like gumbo. She described this gumbo-Church as a bunch of stuff all thrown together that makes something wonderful—butyou don’t really want to know what’s in it.

Church can feel like that sometimes.

Pittsburgh convention this July offered another view of Church, this time within the denominational structure of Mennonite Church USA. People joined together from across the country to define where the denomination now finds itself. There were discussions, conversation rooms, and delegate sessions full of people sharing their stories. Many of these stories included pain. People and institutions can habitually and unintentionally harm those around them.

Does Church hurt people?

After convention, I traveled to Baltimore to visit Nueva Esperanza Baltimore, a Spanish-speaking church plant. The neighborhood of the church plant was desolate; it didn’t take much effort to spot a drug deal, a fist fight, or a prostitute—all in the middle of the day. Ubaldo Rodriguez, Nueva Esperanza’s pastor, hopes to build something from that desolation. But when does it become more than a pastor trying to build a congregation?

When does it become Church?

I also traveled with a group to Mexico City to build relationships with Church. The Bible School we helped with was an outreach that impacted the neighborhood. Alicia Alvarez and Ariel Avila, our hosts, had hearts for God and an incredible work ethic. But Fraternidad Christiana Prensa, their congregation, is in the midst of conflict. The long-time families of the church find themselves on opposing sides of many different issues and unable to agree.

Does Church argue?

Last Sunday evening I was driving home with my roommate, Ardi. When I told him I was writing a blog post about Church, he chimed in.

“Many people think that church is the building, that it’s just what they do on Sunday morning,” he said. “Each one of us is Church. Church happens every day, all the time, whenever we connect with God. We become sanctuaries for God, the Church.”

Cutting through all my questions, an unanticipated comment provides an answer. What is Church? These moments are Church. Church is something beautiful, something beautiful that lives.

We are Church.