January 2021 Update Newsletter

The Butterfly Project

By Roberta Maxwell

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for you.”

“Teacher, I miss my family,” moans 9-year-old Flavia again.She and her cousin Shona are usually the first to greet me, arms open for hugs before I’m even out of the car!

I struggle to form an answer to Flavia’s lament, as the family she “misses” forced her to perform sexual acts with men, as seen in photo evidence. Even her mother and toddler sibling are visible in the disturbing images. This is why, when the judge insisted that he see Flavia in person to verify her identity, she was barred from seeing her mother. Yet this is the family that Flavia “misses.”

Although all 33 of our current Butterfly girls have backgrounds of sexual abuse, the perpetrators vary from offending fathers, stepfathers, and uncles. The trafficking facilitators have been threatening neighbors and even mothers or aunts so deranged by poverty and numbed by their own abuse to sell their children online. For safe and loving families, the girls experience heightened emotions, especially during the Christmas season. The complexity of desiring belonging, even to an abusive family, is a heart-wrenching dilemma. When Flavia whimpers again that she misses her family and weeps during the New Year’s midnight fireworks, I knowingly hold her a little tighter and recognize her longing is to be cherished by those she values most.

Ishya fell in step with Trevor, surprising him with her direct and simple statement: “I want to know more about Jesus being in charge of my life.”

Since she became a Butterfly more than two years ago, Ishya has stretched several inches. At 13, she’s transforming into a radiant young woman. One day last June I found her uncharacteristically crying inconsolably on her bed. Later, I discovered it was not only the anniversary of her arrival at the Butterfly home, but also a recent rescue that triggered her outpouring of grief. Now, I pay more attention to dates as intake anniversaries and family members’ birthdays can evoke deep sorrow and loss.

Ishya’s desire to understand what it meant to follow Christ came just after we took her and 22 other Butterflies, ages 12 and above, on a three-day retreat to an idyllic Christian camp in a sprawling coconut grove three hours from Manila.

Two spring-fed swimming pools with a slide! A dining room with all you can eat! No chores! No school! What a paradise! Girls spent hours romping in the pool, searching for hidden “sardines” after dark, burning marshmallows, and then savoring their first s’more.

Testimonies shared by three of our staff in morning and evening devotions brought tears and tender moments of worship.Holy Spirit was especially present as girls declared “When all I see are the ashes, You see the beauty . . . “ in their favorite song, “The Battle Belongs.”

These smiles say it all! After nine months of quarantine: no face-to-face school, no church services or youth group, no weekly soccer games on Faith Academy’s sprawling field, no birthday trips to the mall, no movies in the theater rewarding good behavior, NO GOING OUT for kids 17 and below . . . We relished every moment!

We are especially grateful to FMC for the mission festival gift that funded this trip! THANK YOU! But the best thing is that last Sunday, Ishya welcomed Jesus into her life!
Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for you,” is my 2021 theme verse.

Praise God He is fulfilling his purpose in Ishya’s life! May Flavia also find the true belonging she was made for in Jesus. For more information on The Butterfly Project, write to Roberta Maxwell .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).†

“Stop calling it Child Pornography; it’s Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). Pornography is a term defined as adults engaging in erotic behaviors in pictures, video, and/or writing, intended to cause sexual excitement. When children are involved, it’s not pornography. It’s sexual abuse, and it’s a crime.”
-Child Rescue Coalition

Closet Tours

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Belly laughs and giggles erupted from our son’s bedroom, so I peered my head around the door jam. Four kids sat on his bed while he proudly displayed a flannel shirt on its hanger. “What’s going on in here?” I asked, surprised to see all the kids crowded together in one bedroom over Christmas break.

“We’re taking closet tours!”, my oldest explained, “Spontaneous closet tours!”, and they burst into laughter again. They went on, telling how they explored each closet, the owner explaining the contents, pulling out items to showcase, arguing the purpose of some, and bringing out long-lost items from hidden back corners. It made me smile, watching them candidly share the deepest corners of their rooms.

Honestly, I related. The last several months have felt like a spontaneous closet tour of my own life, revealing and exposing deep hurts, disappointments, and character flaws to those close enough to see the junk being drug out of the corners of my heart. For a girl who’s pretty good at shoving things back into dark corners, dragging personal wounds out in front of an audience takes a lot of humility.

Unfortunately, this is a humility I can’t muster up on my own, which is perhaps why the spontaneous part was necessary to bring it all out. With circumstances out of my control, my emotions have been on parade without my control. Boy, it’s been HARD and my pride has taken a hit.

In the mess of me dragging out all my stuff to sort through in front of people, I discovered one beautiful gem. My very own set of “brothers and sisters” on their knees, sifting through the menagerie of my stuff beside me. Sometimes, I hash out parts of my heart and life with pride (like those five laughing kids!) but sometimes I fall on my face in humility, wondering how I ended up here. The people beside me show me what love is, what redemption is, what healing is, what hope is. The valuable gem discovered in my mess of a closet isn’t something I own, it’s something we have together.

In 1 Peter, the beginning of Chapter four has a subtitle in my Bible called, “Steward’s of God’s Grace.” I feel thankful for those trudging this season alongside me, stewarding God’s grace and loving me well in difficult times. Lovers of Jesus don’t scoff or wonder about all the junk drug out of my heart...they just love.

Through the earnest love of God, my own closet tour will not devastate me. It only shows me that love covers a multitude of sins. For this, I am humbly and eternally thankful. †

Among Our People

Betty Sprunger spent the night in the hospital due to a procedure (vertebroplasty) she had on her back.
Lena Nagel was in the hospital for several days.
Renee Liechty was in the hospital for COVID.
Clyde Wulliman was in the hospital for COVID †

Notes of Appreciation

Thank you for your prayers, your notes with encouragement, and especially this month for your generous gift to us. We are most blessed and very grateful. Deb continues to meet with our neighbor, Sandy. They enjoy weekly lunches and pray together for their families. Sandy has a Catholic background and loves the Lord. Deb has been used by the Lord to encourage and help Sandy spiritually. My good friend, Jeff, has had a burden for many years about his son, Shane, who has a big drug issue, causing his arrest and 20 days in jail. He then found a year-long residential rehab facility where he has been the last month. There is evidence of the Lord working. Pray with us that God would draw Shane to Himself and deliver him through the addiction.

We are so blessed to be partnered with the people of First Mennonite Church.

Thank you, Bob Reusser

I thank those in the congregation who helped make Christmas enjoyable. The “Magnetic Nativity” scene of 12 days before Christmas was prepared by the children and parents and represented biblical characters from the manger scene, which brought smiles to our faces at Swiss Village. The metal door frame was the perfect place to display the children in costume at the manger. It was appreciated to include the child’s picture and name, Nativity Character, parents, local grandparents, and great-grandparents names to identify each child. Alive Sunday School, Sunshine Hour, and every church service helps us feel a part of the worship time, and I thank everyone and pray for a continual blest ministry for all of the staff for 2021.

-Julia Liechty

I want to thank our church family for the many acts of kindness shown to us during Neva’s battle with cancer, and then after her glorious entry into Heaven.
All the prayers, many cards, food brought in. The people of First Mennonite are truly a caring group of people. Thanks to the many visits of Pastor Jim Schwartz, and thanks for the beautiful memorial service on December 22nd. God is so good.

Thank you, Derryle Pharr †


Neva Pharr, 79, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at her home surrounded by her husband and family after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

She was born on December 22, 1940 in Berne to the late Sherman VonGunten and the late Naomi (Sprunger) VonGunten. Neva was united in marriage to Derryle Lee Phar on July 31, 1986 at the First Mennonite Chapel in Berne. She was an active and faithful member of First Mennonite Church in Berne. Her activities included Sunday School teacher for the 2-3 year old children, various food committees, Women in Mission, and quilting. Neva graduated from Berne High School in 1958 and became a well-known seamstress. Along with doing alterations in her home for many years, she worked for Custom Floor & Wall as a seamstress and at Stan’s Men’s and Women’s Apparel.

She is survived by her husband of 34 years, Derryle Pharr of Berne, 4 children: son, Tom (Celia) Dull of Berne; son Mike (Rona) Dull of Cicero, Indiana; daughter, Rhonda (Shane) Reynolds of Decatur, Indiana; 3 stepchildren, Rick (Song) Pharr of Coolmont, Tennessee, Rita (Mike) Bolinger of Warren, Indiana, and Tony (Jang) Pharr of Decatur, Indiana. Neva has 13 grandchildren, 7 step-grandchildren, 6 great-grand children (with 3 more on the way in 2021) and 10 step-great-grandchildren.

Miriam Jeanelle (Kuhns Zehr) Liechty, 92, passed away January 3, 2021 at Swiss Village in Berne.

Miriam was born Feb. 14, 1928 in La Junta Colorado to Anna (Shupe) and Allen Kuhns. She was the youngest of nine children. She attended high school at the Hesston Academy, and graduated in 1950 from the La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing. After graduation, she was employed at the Mennonite Deaconess Hospital in Beatrice, Nevada where she met Edmund Zehr. They had three young children and one on the way when Edmund died suddenly in 1957. Miriam then relocated to Goshen, Indiana where she trained to become one of the nation’s first Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. Miriam accepted a position at the Caylor-Nickel Clinic in Bluffton, Indiana and moved her young family to Berne where she met and married Robert “Bob” Liechty. He adopted her four children and they were blessed with two additional children. In addition to the Bluffton Clinic, Miriam worked as a Nurse Anesthetist at Jay County Hospital and at Swiss Village as a nurse. She also received training and certification in tax preparation and helped many people through her small business, Liechty Tax Service.

Miriam and Bob were married nearly 60 years. During retirement they enjoyed traveling internationally and throughout the U.S. in their motor home. They spent many winters in Florida and Texas where they made many friends volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.

Miriam is survived by her loving husband, Robert “Bob”; her six children and their spouses, Edward (Mary Purves) and C. Daniel (Naomi Wilansky) Liechty, Mary (Peter) Graber, Martha (Paul) Conrad, Margaret (Phillip) Sprunger, and Janet (Philip Martens) Liechty; 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Lena Nagel, 92, of Berne passed away Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at Swiss Village in Berne, Indiana.

She was born on November 10, 1928, in Berne, Indiana to the late Menno Eicher and the late Leota (Sprunger) Eicher. She was united in marriage to Conrad A. “Connie” Nagel on August 5, 1950 at First Mennonite Church in Berne, and he preceded her in death on January 17, 2020. Lena was a faithful member of First Mennonite Church in Berne. She taught Sunday School and participated in the choir for many years. She started and operated Nagel’s Catering for many years. In addition, in the fall of 1975, Lena was one of the founding members of the Edelweiss Flower Shop in downtown Berne. Lena was instrumental in the family farming operation.

Lena is survived by two daughters, Becky Jackson of Berne and Julie (Joe) Adams of Berne; two sisters, Nancy (Donald) Graber of Berne and Amy (Robert) Wechter of Ligonier, Indiana; four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Roy Liechty, 60, of Berne, passed away on January 7, 2021 after an extended illness.

He was born on July 22, 1960 to Grover and Edna (Norr) Liechty, who have preceded him in death. Roy is also preceded in death by a sister, Loise and a nephew, Brent Wilson. He is survived by his sisters, Helen (Bruce) Glick, Sarah Wilson, Linda (Marvin) Schwartz, and Joan (Jeff) Mitchener; a brother, Richard (Linda) Liechty; and 12 nieces and nephews. Roy worked as a farmer and a trucker for the Amish. †