Welcome to my blog, or should I say to the ramblings of an old man. I doubt that my ramblings are of much value, but at least I have an opportunity to share them. So, please be kind and humor me. If nothing else of value stands out in these thoughts, I hope that you at least sense the value I place on a daily walk with the Lord. That walk is what has provided me with motivation and a sense of purpose throughout my lifetime. My prayer is that you, too, are experiencing this direction and joy in daily living which is available to everyone who puts his trust in Christ. So, thanks again for joining me. Please don't go without leaving some comments here so I can get to know you better as our paths intersect today in this blog.
We had just finished a good week at Pinebrook. This one was a vacation week and we had enjoyed the speaker and also being with a number of good friends. It was a good week. But since we had been away at Pinebrook 3.5 of the past 4 weeks, we decided to head home a day early. And to avoid traffic we left early, right after breakfast. We were driving south on 33, listening to a cd of last week's speaker. As we approached Wind Gap a few cars put on their turn signals to exit the four-lane highway on the right. I pulled into the passing lane, going about 60 mph. Suddenly I saw some object in my lane that covered about 3/4 of the lane. I hoped it was cardboard, Dianne thought it was metal, and we now think it might have actually been concrete. I had a split second to react. I wasn't sure if the cars had cleared on my right and there was little room between the object and the guard rail on the left. I swerved to the left, missed the guard rail, but caught the object in the front on the passenger side. If I had hit the object dead on, I think we might have rolled the car or lost control of it. I could have also hit the guard rail and bounced back into the lane of traffic. But the Lord protected us and I was able to control our damaged car and get off the road to the right, at the far end of the on ramp access from the highway below. I knew we had damage and there really was no shoulder to get off because of the guard rail. It wasn't safe where we were so I made a decision to try to back down the access road. I realized I could cause more damage to the car by driving, but there was no other choice. Several drivers coming up the ramp passed us, but none stopped to help. Despite the fact that I had my flashers on and stopped when a car was approaching us from behind, one lady was upset at me and made all sorts of hand gestures to us as she passed us. No good Samaritans were there. Finally I backed down the ramp only to find a divided highway below blocked our access to possible help across the road. So I decided instead to try to head towards Wind Gap because we could see a car lot there. We finally limped into what turned out to be a Chevy dealer. The service folks there were very kind. They looked at the car and said we'd need two new tires and a new wheel. However, they couldn't locate a new or used wheel, so they decided to try to straighten our bent one in hopes of getting us the final 100 miles to home. It was a long wait for us in a small crowded waiting room with nothing to do. Three hours later and $350 poorer we headed home, arriving there safely 6.5 hours after we had left Pinebrook. PTL! We still need a new wheel and a new wheel cover. And we're not sure if Toyota will find any additional problems when they check it out for us on Monday. If they don't, we might get by for another $300. But we thank the Lord for so many things - we were able to avoid hitting it head-on, we were able to stop safely at an access road, we were able to get the car down the rmp backwards, there was a good garage close by, we were able to get competent help, we were able to get home the same day, and most important, neither of us were hurt physically. It could have been a much more serious accident. And for those of you who insist on using your cell phones when you drive (I never do), if I had been talking on a cell phone I could never have reacted in time to avoid hitting it head-on. We don't know why the Lord allowed this to happen to us, but we do know He protected us. We have learned to pray every time we leave for a trip, for lives can change drastically in just a second. Thank the Lord that our lives are in His hands. And we will be heading back to Pinebrook again soon - maybe we'll see our wheel cover on the next trip.
My oldest granddaughter, Taylor, recently was part of the international Teens Involved competition sponsored by Word of Life. We are proud that her poem won first place in the Junior High Prose division. Here is her poem, "He Is", for your consideration.
Hear the screams -
"Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God"
Hear the groans -
They forced him to carry his own cross
Read the sign -
This is Jesus, King of the Jews
"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
When Jesus cried again
He gave up his spirit
The earth shook
And rocks split
Holy people that were once dead
Rose to life
Hear the screams -
He was the Son of God
Hear the groans -
Of people weeping
Read the sign -
He is dead
Three days passed
Till the angel came down from heaven
He rolled away the stone
And sat on it
A violent earthquake crumbled the ground
His clothes white as snow
The guards shook
And became like dead men
Hear the screams -
He has risen!
Hear the praise -
He is alive!
Read the sign -
He IS the Son of God
Jesus has risen
He came back to life
He has beaten sin
And death itself
Jesus was, is, and is to come
He died but he came back
He went to heaven
And is still living
Hear the screams -
Hear the praise -
Read the sign -
He is to come
He died for you
Because he loves you
So you won't
So you can live
He rose again
So you can have eternal life
He was -
He is -
He is to come -
He WILL return one day, and take the saved to their new home
Our second pastor, Pastor frank Herb, took a group of six teens to visit our denomination's Berean Bible School, in Allentown. The teens included four of our charter members. The boys, left to right, are Dan Sheffy, Robert Minning, and Barry Kauffman. In the front row, on the left we believe is Esther Rankin. We think the next girl is Janet Brooks but we aren't sure about the third young lady.
Here is the work on the waterslide that we built (at our home in Millersville), then tore down and sent to Hungary where out mission team reassembled it for use in the WOL camp there.
There are so many other outstanding memories of 60 years of ministry in Lancaster, but I've tried to limit myself to just a few.Probably one of the most impressive signs of growth and God's blessing upon this church was the fact that in 1958 Annual Conference approved the young Lancaster congregation as a self-supporting church.This was an amazing accomplishment in only eight years, that few churches have been able to match.
In 1959, the denomination changed its name from Mennonite Brethren In Christ Church to Bible Fellowship Church to better define its doctrine and ministry.In 1972 elders were elected to replace the Official Board and in 1991 deacons were first elected.
I think one of the unique things has been our heart for missions.As a church we have always attempted to give more than a tithe of our annual budget to support missionaries. Presently about 13% of our budget goes to missions. The denomination has its own sending board and in past years it has been reported that we have supported more missionaries per denominational member than any other denomination in the country.We also are part of a unique consortium of area BFC churches that annually attempts to send out church members to the mission field and also to share in their support.Summer mission trips have often been a part of our ministry, including a major trip in 1994 when a team of 36 from our church went to Hungary to construct a water slide at a Word of Life camp in Toalmas.In 1997 a team of 12 went to Brazil to help the Millers construct a building.Others have since gone out individually or in teams, including teams to minister in North Dakota with Bill Aukamp, to West Virginia, and teams of our youth to minister to Indian tribes in North Carolina. And our Awana program annually raises thousands of dollars to support 14 clubs it has adopted around the world.
Softball has always been a means of outreach and fellowship.In the early years we played informally against a number of other area churches.But in 1973 the Lancaster County Fundamental Church Softball League was formed with leadership from our church. We have been part of that league ever since then and the church has had many successful teams.A few years ago we actually had two teams in the league.Recently our teams have even participated in state softball tournaments, one year finishing third and this year fourth.This year's team, coached by Craig Kauffman and Dennis Landis, recently won the regular season championship of the league. In 2007 our softball field was named HA Kauffman field in honor of Horace Kauffman, one of the early organizers of the league.
In 1971, Gary and Marlene Varner established a church library that has grown over the years. Later Linda Yuill served as librarian for many years and expanded the services to our church family. Today it has a great supply of books and audio and video materials for all ages.Numerous other ministries have been developed over the years, such as Marriage Savers, in response to the needs of those we minister to.
Over the years our church family has often enjoyed a week of fellowship together during the summer. In the early years many families journeyed to Allentown to attend services at Mizpah Grove. They often shared a large moving van with the York church to transport furniture, stoves, beds, and ice boxes to Mizpah. There they stayed in tents with wooden floors and enjoyed stirring music and preaching. Later, after the denomination purchased Pinebrook, they attended there staying in much more comfortable motel rooms. Some years over 120 of our adults and children spent a vacation week together there. Excellent programs for the entire family, many recreational opportunities, and guest Bible teachers and musicians make this a special week.
The ladies have annually enjoyed a time of fellowship at a weekend retreat and in recent years married couples have shared a weekend as part of Marriage Savers. Bible studies for women are now taught twice a year. Small groups meet twice a month in homes and there are now regular programs for college and career, singles, women, and men. Many attempts are made to provide for fellowship and spiritual growth in keeping with our church name and mission.
Sixty years have passed quickly and in many ways we have changed.We have grown from worshipping in a tent to modern multi-purpose buildings on a beautiful piece of property.We have gone from a single staff member to a multi-person staff.Most of our church leaders have changed.Our budget has grown to nearly one million dollars annually. Our style of worship and music have changed and our schedule of services has changed.But what hasn't changed is our desire to worship the Lord, to be true to the Word of God, to meet the varied needs of those who attend, and to reach the lost, not only in Lancaster County, but also around the world.
My prayer is, that if the Lord should tarry, 60 years from now, Faith Bible Fellowship Church, with a new generation of leaders, will continue to make this their mission.For that was the vision of the founders in 1950.Great is God's faithfulness!
Picture is of 2007 church softball team which won the league championship.
Please check in tomorrow for some more pictures and final thoughts
Our Sunday School graduation in 1954. Pastor and Mrs. Koch are in the back row on the right. Terry Kauffman and Horace Kauffman are on the left. The puppets have been used annually in Awana to help raise thousands of dollars for Awana clubs which we have adopted around the world.
Clearly one of the strengths of Faith Bible Fellowship's ministries over the years has been its outreach to children.In the early days we had a strong connection with Child Evangelism Fellowship that carried over to the church.Women, such as Dolly Kauffman, attended CEF training classes, conducted weekly clubs in their homes, and taught in Sunday School.As an elementary student I first became involved in children's ministry by helping her teach her club.
Selma Burdess was trained by CEF and has remained involved with them for many years.She also faithfully led our Beginner's Department for many years until retiring a few years ago.Betty Matthews lovingly taught younger children for many years and Pat Durco Thermilus continues to teach and lead our children today, as does Marie Jones. Patty Laxton ministered to our young children before moving to Maine. Aletha Kauffman and Dianne Kauffman taught juniors for many years. These and many more folks faithfully ministered to several generations of our children.
As a teenager I led the elementary children's department and later, when I was married, Dianne and I directed and taught this group for many years. Several years we took over 30 of our juniors for a week at CEF's day camp.Recently, under the leadership of Laura Parke, our church has annually sent large groups of our children for a week at Victory Valley, our denomination's children's camp.For many years Sharon and Dave Winters enthusiastically led the children's department in Sunday School and they challenged the children to complete summer projects which helped them grow spiritually.
Vacation Bible Schools have always been a key outreach, from the early days in the tent meetings to the exciting programs now held each July.We often had rally type VBS's led by folks such as Katherine Hershey and the Greiner Family. For many years our family led the programs as part of our family ministry.In recent years Kim Spangenburg and a large group of volunteers have continued to expand this vital summer outreach with an exciting summer program.New programs such as the Easter Egg Hunt and the Fall Family Festival have been well attended.
In 1974, after attending a convention, Pastor Dunn returned with a desire to start a bus ministry.For several years a variety of busses and limos were used to bring in dozens of city children.In turn, a new Wednesday night ministry was begun which for several years allowed us to reach and teach children of various backgrounds and cultures.
In the years following that, a number of different children's programs were explored but nothing seemed to meet our needs.Then in 1980 Pastor Thomann suggested that we consider Awana.After meeting with an Awana missionary we decided to hold a three-month training class. If at the end of the class the Lord would give us 12 leaders who were willing to commit to the ministry, we would begin Awana.In January, 1983,the Lord provided us with more than 20 and Awana took off.Since then about 250 different men and women have been trained and certified and have served in this ministry.And during that time thousands of area children have been reached for Christ.Dianne and I have had the joy of leading this program for 28 years and 18 leaders have now served in Awana for 20 or more years.
Clearly, as Faith Bible has made ministering to children a priority for 60 years, families have been reached and strengthened, leaders have been developed, and individuals have come to know the Lord and grow in Him.
Picture is of some of our Awana clubbers who have earned Sparky and Timothy Awards.
Music has always been a vital and outstanding part of the ministry of Faith Bible.In the very early days piano players were often scarce, but the Lord always provided when there were needs.There were a number of times that the church had to "borrow" a neighbor to play the piano, but folks like Ginny Carroll, Dora Gehman, Beth Weiss, and Helen Warfel Dusman often played.Sharon Irwin Gantz was a beginning piano student when she began to play for me as I led the children's department and she continues to play for us today.
Dave Shickley, an outstanding pianist, took over as our regular piano player and choir director in the sixties and continued in that capacity for about 15 years. Pat Durco Thermilus also has played both organ and piano since those early years. Dianne Kauffman became our first regular organist when we received our first organ in 1969 and she has played both the organ and piano regularly since that time.Marlene Varner was a regular on the piano for many years and now her daughter, Sharon Winters, plays keyboard in the praise band.A number of years ago, after moving to Lancaster, Karen Groff also became a regular organist.Iin recent years the Lord has blessed us with so many more and today we have nine or ten who take turns playing preludes and offertories.
We have also been blessed with many excellent instrumentalists.Ginny Carroll was a great cello player in the early days.Dick Matthews has played a beautiful sax here for almost fifty years.Pastor Thomann has blessed us with his trumpet.Others have played trumpets, trombones, clarinets, French horns, flutes, violins, and a variety of other instruments. Several of our teens have excelled in Teens Involved. And of course, we now have a number of string and percussion players who share in our praise teams.These have been led by Mark Guthrie and Pastor Thomann.
We have been very blessed with many outstanding vocalists from the beginning of the church.As a teenager I organized and directed our first choir in 1958 and since then we have had many talented choir leaders – Dave Shickley, Mark Guthrie, Pastor Thomann, Katie Wieand - and choirs who have presented outstanding cantatas and special concerts.Numerous special vocal groups have ministered to our congregation over the years – Dianne and I sang duets for years, the Kauffman Trio (Dianne, Jeanne, Kendy),the Matthew Sisters, the Mixed Quartete (Gary and Marlene Varner, Dianne and I), male quartets, Pastor Thomann and Tara, Trio of Pastor Thomann, Tara Wise, and Wanda Kilby, and numerous others.
And we have certainly been blessed with many outstanding soloists.It would be impossible to list all of those who have ministered with vocal solos, but there are several who stand out who have really been outstanding.The first of these was Dick Burdess with his beautiful baritone voice.Then there is Wanda Kilby who has ministered to us for many years. And one would also include Shawn Davidson, Brian Frable, Craig Tress, and most certainly, Katie Wieand.
God has blessed Faith Bible for 60 years with gifted musicians who have used their gifts to lead us in worship.And that certainly has been one of the things that has made Faith Bible a special place to worship.
Picture is of our transition facility at the former Calvary Church
The backbone of the 60 years of Faith Bible Fellowship has been the ministry of our pastoral staffs and the leadership of committed elders and officers.All of our pastors have been true to the Word and have openly taught God's truths.The founding pastor, James Koch, set a good foundation and met the needs of a new family that included many young Christians as well as numerous mature Christians.He related well to the members and spent time with them developing unity and goals.I especially remember spending time with him and his wife as they would take me along to various places such as Mizpah Grove.
In 1954 Annual Conference assigned Frank Herb Jr. to be our second pastor.He had a special connection to us because he was a son of the Lebanon church and was known by many of our folks who had previously attended there.He was a very strong Bible teacher and his solid pulpit emphasis was vital to our young growing congregation.
In 1958 we were assigned our third pastor, Rudy H. Gehman.And unlike our previous pastors, he came to us with many years of experience and this was important for our maturing congregation.His son, Richard Gehman, a college student while his dad was our pastor, later became a veteran missionary to Kenya and an author of several books. In 1961 we were stunned when the Lord suddenly took Pastor Gehman home with a heart attack while he was preparing for the final night of our VBS.
Two months later, Annual Conference appointed Norman Weiss as our fourth pastor.This was our first real experience with a pastor who had young children and we enjoyed seeing them grow and develop their musical talents.
At Annual Conference in 1967 we were informed that our fifth pastor was to be John Dunn.I knew most of the pastors in our denomination at that time and I admit that I was very disappointed when I heard this announcement.He was not known as a great preacher, he had pastored small churches, he wasn't dynamic, and he had a slightly deformed arm.But what I didn't know was that he had a heart for people.Soon we didn't even think about his handicap because people responded to his caring ministry.His influence in Lancaster still is affecting lives today, even though he is now in heaven.After a battle with cancer, Pastor Dunn announced his plans to retire in 1979. Incidentally, the Lord saw fit to heal his cancer and he lived a full life before the Lord took him home in 2009.
On July 13, 1980,thirty years after our first service, we approved a call to David Thomann to be our sixth pastor. With the exception of one year, he has served with us for the second thirty years of our existence.In 1986, he felt the call to become Director of the Pinebrook Bible Conference.During that year we struggled to find a new pastor.I devoted my time to finding weekly replacements for the pulpit, leading the services, and taking care of the church business while our pulpit supply committee interviewed numerous candidates.Thankfully our attendance and giving remained steady during that time and in fact we even gained some new folks.Then, a year later, Pastor Thomann accepted our call to return to Lancaster where he has faithfully served since that time.
In December of 1980 we called Pastor Dunn to return as our Pastor of Visitation and he teamed successfully with our new young pastor until 1987 when he moved to Florida. During the past thirty years we have also had a number of other men who have served in various capacities on our pastoral staff.And we are thankful for their ministry to our church family. Today we have four pastors on our staff.
But as I said originally, one of the strengths of our church has been the strong lay leadership, especially our elders.My father served in this capacity for 58 years.Richard Matthews has now served for 51 years.I served for 34 years, my brother Terry for 31, Monroe Kreisher for 22, Ken Malick for 20, Allen Minnig for 19, and Ted Cundif and Steve Groff for 16.Numerous others have now served for 10 or more years.Various folks have served as deacons, as elected officers and as directors of various ministries.
I thank the Lord that for 60 year He has called wise men and women to serve at Faith, and they have responded to His call.Sound preaching and wise leadership, yielded to the Will of God – a strong formula for God's blessing upon a ministry.
Former teacher/administrator (39 years) in public schools. Awana Commander (30 years). Financial secretary at church. Judge of elections locally. Married for 50 years. Father of three sons and grandfather of seven. Fan of Penn State football.