Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

ymca-logoA YMCA under construction in Fort Wayne has jasoninvited St. Joseph United Methodist Church to launch a worshiping community in its new facility, which opens later this year.  The church, under the leadership of Rev. Russ Abel, has tapped its associate pastor, Jason Morris, to lead the project.  The Cabinet appointed Pastor Morris to the church last summer with the specific purpose of planting the new congregation.

There are other communities, such as Dayton, Ohio, in which similar relationships have developed between YMCAs and United Methodist churches, but we believe this is the first in Indiana.

The idea began years ago, when St. Joseph UMC voted to purchase 29 acres of land just a quarter of a mile east of the church’s landlocked property.  Rather than relocate the entire church to this larger site, which they named Praise Park, the church caught a vision of becoming a church with multiple locations, including Praise Park.

A few years ago, the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne decided to purchase land for a new location and the land chosen just happened to be adjacent to Praise Park.  After ongoing conversations, the Y and St. Joseph agreed to enter into a partnership.  The Y invited the church to launch a new weekly worship service in its new facility.  The church, on the other hand, invited the Y to use its acres of recreational fields at Praise Park.  And now Pastor Morris and St. Joseph have the opportunity to serve not only the estimated 8,000-10,000 new Y members who will be frequenting the Y’s new location, but also to serve the yet-to-be-reached population living nearby who would never be attracted to St. Joseph’s original facility.

God clearly had something beautiful in mind years ago for that part of Fort Wayne.  What future does God have in mind for your church and community?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

IMG_0054Rev. Sergio Reyes, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, was apologetic.  His Fort Wayne United Methodist Church has started a new faith community in another state–Ohio.  He was apologizing to the West Ohio Conference’s superintendent of the Northwest Plains District, the director of new church development, and the pastors of the two United Methodist churches in Hicksville, Ohio, explaining that he hadn’t meant to start a new congregation, it just sort of happened.

A couple from Sergio’s Fort Wayne church lives in Hicksville, Ohio, about a forty-minute drive.  They drive to Fort Wayne because Getsemani offers worship in Spanish, which they prefer.  They asked if Pastor Sergio would lead a bible study in their home this spring on a Saturday night after the workers at the local egg farms were done with work.  “Could we invite some friends and co-workers to the bible study?” they asked.  And the study grew quickly to 12 people, then 30 people, and now around 50 people, including some children!

Sergio explained to the West Ohio United Methodist leaders that the bible study group has run out of space in the house and can’t grow any more unless they find a bigger place in which to meet.  The group of leaders quickly acknowledged that God was truly moving and that one of the two Hicksville UMC buildings surely could be made available.

So pray as this ministry moves from a house to a church.  Pray that the host congregation will welcome the newcomers, nearly all of whom are brand new Christians, with Christ’s love.  Pray that God’s spirit will continue to touch not only the lives of the fledgling Hispanic congregation, but also the host congregation’s members and all the residents of the Hicksville area.

Sergio says that the people are hungry for the word of God, and already attenders to the bible study are asking him to start new bible studies in other parts of northwest Ohio.  Of course, his hands are already more than full with all the church planting going on in Indiana as well as co-pastoring his Fort Wayne church with his wife Rev. Janie Reyes.  But someday, who knows, God may raise up leaders from the Hicksville bible study who will help expand the movement throughout our sister state.  Praise God!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Jesus spoke of the power of giving a person a cup of cold water, a seemly insignificant act of kindness.  With the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the gift of clean water is anything but insignificant.  Although the government and other agencies are providing water for residents, an I.D. is required in most cases.  This requirement, in particular, has meant that many residents without I.D.s haven’t been able to get help.

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Thanks to Christians who take Jesus’ words about giving the gift of water literally, truckloads of bottled water are being distributed by churches to anyone in Flint; no I.D. is required.  Recently  one of the Indiana Conference’s new church plants, Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower), led by Esequiel and Suri Becerra, joined forces with a nearby Chicago-area church and delivered a truckload of donated bottled water.

James says, “Faith without deeds is dead.”  Clearly the Torre Fuerte congregation and many others take this seriously.  What about your congregation?  How is it putting its faith in action?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

imagesI was talking with Rev. Tim Helm, pastor of Hanfield United Methodist Church, about his church’s second ministry site that’s located in an inner city setting.  How is it that his church, located in a rural setting, would have members investing in a low-income part of nearby Marion, Indiana?  He said, in part, it had to do with them having a change of heart, of them falling in love with a neighborhood that God seemed to be inviting them to be neighbors to.

So, how does a church help its members’ hearts to change?  Pastor Tim said it happened as members engaged with their new neighbors face-to-face on their turf.  He went on to give this example…  The church was going to hold a carnival in the inner-city neighborhood and so members were going door-to-door, offering free tickets for the children.  When asking one man how many tickets he needed, the members were struck by the fact that he had to think about it, the number varied from week to week.  Eight.  He needed eight tickets because he would have eight children–his own kids plus nieces and nephews–in the house the week of the carnival.  The members began to realize just how hard it must be not only having eight children in one house, but to know that the kids come and go depending upon life circumstances.  And their commitment to and love for reaching this neighborhood grew exponentially!

How is God changing your heart?  Who are the neighbors you have a growing concern for sharing God’s love with?  Is your church being called to leave its comfortable neighborhood to enter a new one for the sake of the Gospel?  What’s your next step?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

UnknownWhy has McNatt United Methodist Church in rural northeast Indiana nearly tripled in size the past two years?  It still has the same part-time pastor, Rev. Bill Van Haften, who’s served the church the past 18 years.  It still is located on the same county road, far from any town.  It still has the same organist and pianist (who’s 85 years old!).  So what happened?  Why is it attracting lots of new people, including families with young children?

Pastor Van Haften says a great deal has to do with the church’s focus.  It is pretty much focused on prayer and serving others, including folk outside the church, and not much else.  This focus on prayer is central to the church.  In fact, the church’s Pastor-Parish Relations Committee leads in this area.  It meets twice a month to pray!  Prayer is central to the Sunday morning worship service.  When someone is in the hospital, the congregation holds their hands toward the direction of the hospital and prays for that person.  And, they always want to know the results!

A retired pastor, Rev. Fred Kellogg, began praying for the church to experience revival twelve years ago.  Pastor Van Haften says that it’s happening.  The church now has a dozen or so who help preach, each time a new ministry is started it explodes with growth, they’ve just hired a young member to serve as youth director, and attendance has risen from 40 to 110 each Sunday.  The pastor says he’s never seen a church so much of one mind–on praying and serving and worshiping God.

Does your church have a clear focus?  Is prayer a part of it?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

 

 

 

 

East Chicago Strong Tower-141227aWhen looking for a cross cultural mission opportunity, the teens of Delphi UMC discovered that they did not have to travel far in order to have a meaningful experience.

Though few realized that East Chicago is indeed a part of Indiana, this cityscape and culture proved to be much different from the Indiana they know. The group, led by Micah Hudson, was excited to enter Torre Fuerte, and was warmly welcomed by Pastors Esequiel and Suri Becerra along with many others from the congregation. On Sunday both groups enjoyed the holy moment of sharing in worship together. Though the music began in Spanish, the group from Delphi quickly realized they knew the tune and could sing along in the English version of the worship chorus. Then Pastor Esequiel was kind to lead a bilingual service and expressed his appreciation for the group’s presence. Following the service, the kindness of this Hispanic church plant extended as they provided an authentic lunch for the teens of Delphi.

After lunch the teens were ready to begin the work they had come to do. The Delphi teens wanted to invest in the teens of Torre Fuerte. They did this by raising money to purchase the materials for the drop ceiling in the youth chapel and by installing it themselves. This building experience turned out to be as foreign as the encounter itself, but with some great instruction and lots of ladders, the group was soon hammering, wiring and placing tiles until they looked back at the completed project.

In the meantime, there was another delicious meal shared together, many dodge ball games between the teens of both churches, and personal stories shared amongst all of these new friends. The Delphi UMC teens were blessed to find this meaningful cross cultural experience so close to home and will long remember the passion and kindness of Pastors Esequiel and Suri and the people of Torre Fuerte.

Submitted by Jen Hudson, member of Delphi UMC
Post script…
The teens had such an amazing time there.  I got to go along as well and it was such a privilege to talk to the pastors and get a sense of their heart and passion.  Our group has promised to return by spring and put in the floor for their youth chapel as well.  Another awesome thing that came out of it is that pastor Esequiel was so excited about what we were doing that he mentioned he would like for our two groups to partner for a mission trip together in the future.
It was really a blessing for all of us! — Jen

Kristo's-131020aSt. Joseph United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been spearheading a non-attractional church plant on the Fort Wayne’s south side the past few years called Kristo’s Hands and Feet.  Steve Mekura, the effort’s leader, recently reviewed an updated discipling plan with leaders from St. Joseph.  What the leaders discovered was that Kristo’s wasn’t a project that simply flowed from the mature Christians of St. Joseph to the non-believers and new believers in the south part of town.  God turned it around and now the Kristo’s project is actually challenging and shaping how St. Joseph members view disciple making where they live too.  Typically God, huh?

Here are comments from one St. Joseph member…

“The conversation completely changed for me when Steve started describing his formalized discipleship plan.  My heart was not open to the idea.  I thought our mission field is filled with people that often aren’t home, miss events, etc… there is no way we’re going to be able to convince them to stick to such a plan. I was skeptical that the idea of laying it out in such an intentional way, to people who have only begun to walk with or understand Christ, was way too much to ask.

“Then I started thinking about myself, “How would I react if someone from our church leadership asked the same of me?” What if there was something to hold me accountable for areas my personal spiritual growth is struggling and how I could be discipling others – which would both elevate my growth and impact others.  The thought was still terrifying and seemed like a huge undertaking – but the possibility of the growth it could bring began to be exciting.

“Then the conversation turned to responsibility … if I’m spiritually responsible for discipling those around me through the church activities I participate in, how does that change the way I act? What if everyone had that change in mentality, so that we are all discipling each other?  Putting aside the community for a moment, how would that change the culture of Saint Joseph?  What would it look like if instead of saying, “I get to hang out at camp with 27 senior high youth,” the conversation changed to the challenge of discipling them?  What if when we returned from camp, someone held me accountable for each person and asked what conversations I had with them … how I helped them grow for Jesus.  It would change the dynamic completely.  It could change the dynamic of Saint Joseph completely.  If it spread across Fort Wayne, it would change Fort Wayne completely.

“I commented that following Christ was never supposed to be easy, but we tend to make it very easy.  Maybe it’s time to make it more of a challenge.  Steve’s comment about ministry doesn’t end when he crosses Coliseum stuck with me too.  We need to be engaged in ministry at all times.

“The way God is leading us is consistent with what I felt at camp this year as well.  God loved us first, which the speaker turned into a verb: firstlove.  My takeaway from that week was, “Firstlove. Love first.” If we combine a genuine love for everyone with an intentional missionality focused on making true disciples, the possibilities are pretty exciting.

“Now, we do have to be careful not to make ministry a corporate chore. It still needs to flow out of a joy and not a duty … but if God is giving us joy by serving him, it may be important to formally recognize that comes with duty and responsibility as well. – Ryan”

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development