Update Newsletter

July 2020 Volume 43 Number 8

New Faces in the Church Office
The new church offices this summer welcome two new faces calling the swivel chairs, copy machines, and file cabinets home. Joanne Neuenschwander and Jen Meyer took positions in the church office to filling the gaping holes left by Renee Liechty who retired in February and Judy Moser who will be retiring in August. Because the church offices have been closed, these two new faces haven’t been able to introduce themselves in person as office staff, so they agreed to introduce themselves through the Update.
Joanne’s job began just as rumblings of the Corona virus shook the country. A few weeks into her new job here, and the pandemic completely shut down church as we knew it. Joanne embraced the challenge with a smile and determination to run the office efficiently.
The job is going well for Joanne. She enjoys working in the office at First Mennonite as it has given her a chance to meet people she never knew before. She calls the church staff “wonderful” and the congregation “extremely welcoming” which she genuinely appreciates. Joanne loves the new church offices. You will find her new desk in the beautiful new space, where she is the first thing people will see as they enter in the office doors.
Joanne’s favorite task so far in the church office is working on the Praise & Prayer Sheet and the bulletin. She especially loves delivering them to the residents at Swiss Village, because she knows they will fervently pray for those in need.
Her office duties include:
• greeting and helping people as they come in the door
• answering the telephone
• compiling the Praise & Prayer sheet and the bulletin
• getting and sorting the mail
• keeping members’ and attenders’ records up-to-date
• tracks the events at the church, ensuring everything is scheduled in Elexio, the software program,
• with other numerous responsibilities.

This long list of tasks doesn’t overwhelm Joanne. She’s worked as an administrative assistant for most of her working life. She served at the Berne Chamber for 7 years, then moved to Editorial Assistant at House of White Birches for 7 years. Lastly, I was the Executive Assistant at the Bank of Geneva for 11 years before taking this job.

Joanne first learned about the job from Floyd Liechty, a man she worked with years ago when she was the Executive Assistant at the Berne Chamber of Commerce. She grew to know Floyd quite well there and has always admired his love of the Berne community. With encouragement from Floyd, Joanne applied for the administrative job and landed the position shortly after.

Cheering Joanne through the process is her husband Doug and children Cory (age 39) and Kyle (age 34); daughters-in-law Laura (Cory) and Megan (Kyle); grandchildren Ella & Eli (Cory) and Emmy & Evie (Kyle). She says, “I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE being a grandma!” In her spare time, Joanne and Doug love visiting and spending time with their boys and their families! She also loves to fish (she always throws them back) and she loves watching sports, even golf! Joanne is an avid Indianapolis Colts fan, along with the IU Hoosiers and Notre Dame!

The other new face in the church office belongs to Jen Meyer, hired to train under Judy Fox and acquire her duties upon Judy’s retirement next month. Jen’s husband Joe encouraged her to apply for the position when it was posted and her sister, Jessica Hill, and friend, Lydia Fox, agreed she would be a perfect fit. She accepted the job knowing the working relationships in the officer were wonderful and she is excited to serve the congregation through the many ways the job allows.

Her job includes tracking funds, so she is learning the ropes for depositing offering, paying bills, running payroll, sending missionary giving, and every other way the church receives or pays out money. Her new desk sits inside the new bookkeeper office, a windowed office just inside the main office entrance. She says you’ll always find an adding machine with white-out or correction tape in use on her desk.

Jen married Joe Meyer 17 years ago and they have two boys, Haden (12) and Colby (10). Outside of her new job, Jen enjoys cooking, baking, taking walks, and reading. One secret she’s willing to share is her love of anything peanut butter and chocolate and the great boos she feels when receiving a note of encouragement…just in case anybody wonders! First Mennonite is blessed to have Joanne and Jen working hard in the offices. When the offices open up, stop in to see the new space and greet them with a smile. Tell them thanks for introducing themselves in the Update. †
Renovations Near Completion
The church offices look beautiful with their new configuration! You’ll find Pastor Jeff’s office in the corner where the prayer room used to sit. The prayer room will move directly below in the future. The first door to approach in the newly renovated offices will find you facing the desk and friendly face of Joanne Neuenschwander, our newly appointed office administrator. There is seating available there, along with the copy machine and other office essentials. Pastor Jeff’s office entrance is just inside the door of the main office. The new Bookkeeper’s office is inside the main office and set apart by windows. Jen Meyer is training under Judy Fox to take over her position when she retires in August.

Deadheading My Petunias
“As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.”
Romans 4:17
My lavender petunias hang from heavy, drooping pouches on our porch and this year their stunning blooms catch the attention of many visitors. “How do they get so big?” many ask. I usually tell them I bought them that way, which is partly true. I purchased them because I too was amazed at how big the pouches managed to push out petunia blooms. The truth is, through the natural capabilities of blooming and my efforts of watering and deadheading daily, the blooms thrive. If it weren’t for my ongoing work, they would quickly die off and become eyesores rather than the beautiful cascading, eye-catching blooms our family and visitors enjoy.

While I pulled the brown slimy, decayed flowers off the plants the other day, I couldn’t help but wonder how God must do the same to me. If it weren’t for His ongoing work in my own life, the ability for blooming would quickly fade. Some of these decaying areas of my life, however, seem more comfortable to keep around: hobbies which used to provide life and beauty but now only offer guilt and obligation, old ideas about society or systems which used to be true but can no longer fit into my mind transformed by Christ, old relationships which were once beneficial but now seem dead are all the slimy, brown, decaying strings hanging around my current blooms.

What I once believed to be a beneficial relationship, I now realize was only beneficial when I was gaining from it. I’ve learned to serve better, love deeper, and communicate with more encouragement which means the relationships which used to serve me aren’t as high a priority anymore. I’ve also learned after loving and serving, my systems of justice change because I see more through the lens of Christ than I did before. Furthermore, hobbies I used to spend hours on brought me great joy at the time, but now seem more like an unspoken point of pressure that I must uphold a love for something I’m no longer passionate about in order to maintain the hobby to validate my previous investment.

These are the dead things.

God’s hand is near, longing to gently pull away the decay in order to open up the blooms for something new. Allowing God’s hand to tear away involves trust. Trusting He knows what to remove in order to create a new thing in me, something that blooms in abundance. My own petunias continue to grow more bountiful each week and the same is true in my spiritual life. When I allow God to pull away, He offers more room for me to bloom.

He is ready to “call into being things that were not,” so the future of one who trusts looks absolutely stunning. How are you blooming this week? Allow Him to pull away the dead in order for you to flourish in the new. Your growth and capabilities promise abundant in the gentle hands of God. †

Edward L. Fox, 84, of Berne, Indiana passed away Monday morning, June 29, 2020, at Swiss Village. He was born on October 9, 1935 in Adams County, Indiana to Herman and Martha (Habegger) Fox. Ed was united in marriage to Joyce Elaine Lehman on April 20, 1957 at the First Mennonite Church and she preceded him in death on October 19, 2019.
He served on the South Adams Art’s Council, Berne Public Library Board, and was a bus tour guide for the Berne Chamber. He retired from Berne Furniture with 53 years of service as an upholsterer.
Ed loved music having sung in quartets, Chancel Choir, Swiss Days musicals, Mennonite Choral Society, and the Edelweiss singers. He enjoyed his family, gardening, traveling, and genealogy.
He is survived by two sons, Thomas (Kathy) Fox and Jonathan (Mary) Fox both of Berne, Indiana; daughter, Mary (Jeff) Veal of Indianapolis, Indiana; two brothers, Byron (Milly) Fox and David (Judy) Fox both of Berne, Indiana; sister, Carol (Rex) King of Decatur, Indiana; seven grandchildren, Emily (Tim) Ludden, Matthew (Jill) Fox, Alexia (Ben) Schamp, Blake (Lyndsey) Fox, Nicole (fiancé, Antonio Garcia) Veal, Chad Veal, and Christina Veal; and a great-grandchild, Blakelyn Fox.

Among Our People
Miriam Liechty was at Bluffton regional for tests.
Ernie Steiner had hip replacement surgery on June 29th.
Neva Pharr had gall bladder surgery and returned to the hospital a few days later for further tests and a procedure to help alleviate pain.
Fred Wulliman had surgery for stomach issues on July 2nd.
Bryce Christy spent several days at Bluffton Regional for tests.
Charlie Habegger had valve replacement surgery on July 8th.
Lona Shuey had outpatient surgery at Lutheran on July 14th.
Deb [Bob] Reusser had surgery for a detached retina on July 15th.
Jim Dennison had a stress test July 20th. †

Wednesday Nights This Fall
Wednesday evenings this fall look different. We will begin in a similar fashion, but must be creative when considering ministry during a pandemic. With guidelines from the CDC and church leadership, the Adults Ministries Committee has decided on the following schedule:
• August 5th: Prayer Walk, groups of 2-3 sent out to pray for neighborhoods in Berne or sent to pray around our church grounds for the people and programs here. There will be no program in the chapel on this night.
• August 25th: Fall Kick-Off with Larry Wirtz will happen in the sanctuary with no evening meal.
• September: Professor Matt Harmon from Grace College will teach in the chapel.
• Electives: To Be Announced. The Adult Ministries Committee is discussing the possibility of conducting Bible studies through RightNow Media in an online group format. †

Renovations Near Completion
The church offices look beautiful with their new configuration! You’ll find Pastor Jeff’s office in the corner where the prayer room used to sit. The prayer room will move directly below in the future. The first door to approach in the newly renovated offices will find you facing the desk and friendly face of Joanne Neuenschwander, our newly appointed office administrator. There is seating available there, along with the copy machine and other office essentials. Pastor Jeff’s office entrance is just inside the door of the main office. The new Bookkeeper’s office is inside the main office and set apart by windows. Jen Meyer is training under Judy Fox to take over her position when she retires in August.

Down the office hallway, also accessible through a second office entrance, you’ll find the newly renovated offices of Chris Hyman and Debbie Neuenschwander, the children’s pastors. Youth Pastor Bill Helmlinger’s office is also renovated here. Pastor Jim Schwartz’s office is a new addition to this wing, and can be found directly beside Pastor Bill’s office.

Brent Hyman’s office is still located behind the choir loft, but has also been newly renovated.

All are happy to be in their new beautiful spaces, but are still moving in and adjusting to the new space. With all the renovations, comes a lot of old office equipment the church hopes to sell through an auction. The dates and details of the auction are to be determined, so look for further announcements about these items.
In addition to the renovations, the chu
rch has also installed automatic hand-sanitizer dispensers at the three main entrances. With all the changes, one thing remains the same: First Mennonite loves its staff, members, and meeting place and will continue to steward all aspects with care and safety. Welcome to all the new changes! †

Michiana Relief Sale
The Care Commission met recently and were informed that the 2020 Michiana Relief Sale has been cancelled this year due to Covid-19. Currently, plans are being made to sustain the contributions to Mennonite Central Committee from the funds that are normally generated through this event. The Care Commission discussed our church's involvement at their meeting and have ideas "in the works" that need to be implemented and announced, so look forward to hearing more soon!

Besides our local efforts in the works there is information on the Michiana Relief Sale website. This information includes details about an online auction on September 18, 2020, a separate quilt auction on September 26, 2020, and a virtual running race. Learn more about raising money for Mennonite Central Committee at www.mennonitesale.org. †

Adopt a Senior or Young Adult
Several Seniors filled out information about themselves in order to be “adopted” by a person or family from the congregation. Many of them are headed off to college or into the work force and could use encouragement from their church family! Please consider adopting a senior.

How to Adopt a Senior: Contact the church office, Pastor Bill Helmlinger, or the Young Adult Sunday School teachers, Tim and Lana Shoaf. You can request a specific young adult or be assigned a young adult per their recommendation. You will be given their information to fulfill the encouraged guidelines for adopting a senior.

What it means to Adopt a Senior: By adopting a senior, you are committing to:
• Praying regularly for this young adult as they venture into whatever is next for them.
• Agreeing to connecting with them through email, call, or text about once per month.
• Send a care package once in the fall and once in the spring to encourage them and treat them with some of their favorite things (provided on the information sheet)!
• Visit the student in their world one time over the course of the coming school year, regardless if they are on a college campus, in the work force, or serving elsewhere.

Encourage other young adults to participate! Please encourage any young adult, graduating from high school since 2016 to sign up to be “adopted.” They don’t have to be in college or even live out of town to sign up! They will be encouraged throughout the year by the person or family who sponsors them. Sign-ups will last through August. †