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hope for churches in stress

Deep Values

Habecker Mennonite Church is located amid the farmland of Lancaster County (Pa.). Yet this rural church teems with bicultural life and vitality. What accounts for this anomaly?

Nine years ago Habecker Church was in decline. Diminished by two splits, 35 members, mostly older, were disheartened. Deeply-held values—such as prayer, hospitality, and service—were dormant, without focus or impetus.

Then an older couple in the church agreed to host a refugee family overnight. As things go, one night stretched into six weeks. Others rallied to help and Habecker Church embraced ministry to this displaced family.

One refugee family led to another. Over two summers, the congregation received a new family every two weeks. Hosting was demanding, with unceasing tasks related to clothing, housing, furniture, transportation, medical appointments, ESL classes, employment, tax returns, and green cards (1 Peter 4:9-11; Hebrews 13:1-2).

The pastor had spent nine years as a teacher in Africa and could apply cross-cultural skills to leading a bicultural church. As she preaches in simple English, people lean forward to hear and understand a language new to them.

Today 150 people worship at Habecker Church, 30 original members and 120 Karen (kare-iń) people, a persecuted minority from the mountains of Myanmar (Burma). Once a month, when worship is in the Karen language, 50 more Karen attend—200 people in all.

Clearly, this resurgence was an act of God. Yet the people, on their part, were ready to practice longstanding values of prayer, hospitality, and service in radical new ways.

Could such a turnaround occur at your Church? Probe for the deep values that stir your hearts. Then ask the Spirit to open new ways to express these values in current ministry.

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