December 2017 Volume 41 Number 1
Special Christmas Memories
One of my favorite memories of Christmas time was making cookies and candy with my grandma. As I got older, I took an interest in cooking and baking. My grandma was a great cook and loved to cook for her family and friends. Grandma and I started baking cookies together when I was about 12 and continued to do it through my college years. It was one of the activities I looked forward to the most about coming home during the holidays. Sugar cookie cutouts were always made, but otherwise Grandma let me pick out a few different recipes that I found in her cooking magazines. Admittedly, they sometimes looked/sounded better in the pictures than they looked or tasted when we made them, but we didn’t care. We enjoyed trying something new and spending the time together. She had a glass rolling pin that I thought was so special. Now that she is gone, I have that special rolling pin and hope to carry on the tradition of baking cookies together with my children and hopefully, one day, even my grandchildren.
A special Christmas memory I have was the first year I hung lights outside my parent’s house. I was in junior high, and one evening while Mom and Dad were running errands, my younger brother, Daniel, and I were home and got the idea to decorate the house with the extra Christmas lights we had. We climbed all over the porch and the roof, decorating in a style heavily influenced by C.W. Griswold. I recall my parents being a bit concerned upon arriving home that evening, as from a distance, the lights appeared as though a fire truck was parked in the front yard. In spite of the initial concern, we were “re-hired” to complete the job in successive years.
I don’t remember much from my childhood. But the childhood awe of one memory refuses to fade in my mind. The day after Thanksgiving dawned. It was finally time! The tree was up. The “Alvin and the Chipmunks” Christmas album was playing in the background, and I was ready. My three-year-old eyes were almost popped out of my head as my mother opened the box. Mom began to take crumpled newspaper out of the box and slowly unwrapped something. “Be careful,” she said as she handed me a figurine. More pieces were unwrapped and I arranged them under the tree in delight. My favorite part of Christmas was finally set up. The Nativity was in place. Over the next month I would rearrange the figures, re-tell the story and lie under the tree gazing at the Nativity in awed wonder. At some point Mom would tell me how she painted the figurines herself, and I would be in awe of my mother’s talent. There was just something about the beauty of the Nativity and the story that drew me to the same spot time and again. I never got tired of playing with the figures or telling the story. It didn’t hurt that there were sparkles on the angel, and I love sparkles. Apart from the actual figurines, I loved to listen to Dad read the story on Christmas morning. There was something about the story that just drew me to it. The timeless beauty of the story still awes me. My tradition has changed a bit now. I no longer lie in front of the tree and play with the figures, but I still love the Nativity. I pull the figurines out and tell the Christmas story out loud as I set it up. This gives me great joy, but it’s more than just the fact that I’m setting up the Nativity. The nostalgia of it isn’t the full reason for my joy. This year I pulled out my figurines and smiled as I remembered the moment I received them. Upon moving out of my parents’ house they bestowed upon me a gift. I opened the box to discover a great treasure. The Nativity that now sits under my tree is the one I grew up playing with, the one my mother put her love into as she painted it all those year ago. †
Christmas Isn’t Always Merry
Everywhere we go we are reminded that it is the Christmas season. Our churches are decorated beautifully as well as our homes. Stores display Christmas items and decorated trees. Christmas music is in the air, such as “Happy Holidays” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” But for some people Christmas may not be merry but instead very difficult. Why is that?
Christmas is a time for family celebrations, but there is not always harmony in families. Some are dealing with illnesses while others may be taking treatments of some kind, or possibly waiting on surgery.
Still others are enduring the loss of a loved one. They may just be coping and trying to figure out how to make it through the holidays. I can remember so well after my loss how very difficult this time of year was. It took me several years to be able to enjoy Christmas once again. How does one adjust to one less person at the family Christmas dinner, or an empty chair while opening up presents? And how does one cope with family issues, illnesses, treatments, surgery or loss when hearts are heavy and don’t feel like celebrating?
I believe we do that by remaining hopeful. Psalm 10:17 reads “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.” God hears the cries of our hearts and carries us when we have no strength. In faith, we can give our broken and hurting hearts to the One who heals and restores. We can be hopeful that we will get through the difficult times, and with God’s help we will.
So as we celebrate this Christmas season I would like to encourage everyone to be sensitive of those around you who are hurting. Maybe put an arm around their shoulder, give them a hug, or just let them know that you care. Sometimes there are no words, but the caring touch of another brings hope. I believe the greatest gift we can give to someone is praying for them.
Who knows…you may be the one next year who is hurting and needing the extra care. †
When God Comes Near—Let’s Be Here!
Why were the shepherds so excited out in their fields on that Christmas night? Because a heavenly being suddenly appeared in front of them and they were the audience for a glorious light-and-song dazzle show in the sky? OK, that would have been pretty exciting! But the real cause of their excitement was that, after four hundred long years of silence from the Almighty, God had come near! To them! They knew of His promise—and this was it! Yes, at Christmas God came near, came to dwell among humankind. And He has not left! Even for us today, His heart’s desire is to have a close and personal relationship with each one who comes to Him. So where is our excitement for this? No way were the shepherds “ho-hum” about this news! As those who have received His invitation to come and worship, let’s not be ho-hum about our opportunity to come near to this very personal God and learn of Him.
In January and February, we are looking forward to new things during midweek Wednesdays. In the chapel, Marcia Cressman will talk about “Time Well “Spent”; Steve Lehman on “I’ve Heard That Before”; Pastor Jeff on “The Tension of Following God”; Megan Linthicum on “Consistent Faith in an Unpredictable God”; and Heidi Lehman on “The Bible and Art.”
Three elective classes, all for both men and women, begin January 3.
Malcolm Stauffer and Michael Mosser are going to lead a class based on the Chip Ingram book, The Real God. Popular culture says, “It’s all about me,” that love means self-satisfaction, that status and appearance are what count. We’ve created a god in our minds who only faintly resembles the God of Scripture. Ingram wants you to know the real God. You will see God in a new light. You will pray and live with a renewed purpose as you see God as He longs to be seen.
Jessica Lehman will lead a group looking at pro-life issues, using the DVD resource Life Is Best by Scott Klusendorf. We live in a culture of confusion and debate regarding the single issue of “life.” As Christians, we need to properly understand the biblical view of life and have a solid intellectual grounding in areas such as abortion. Life Is Best provides us with tools to engage in the debate and to answer objections persuasively.
Kent and Becky Lehman continue our ongoing parenting series with the topic “Parenting: What Does the Bible Say?” They will look at what the Bible says about some of the most challenging questions about parenting: Whose kids are these? Someone must have switched them at the hospital. What is God’s design for the family? What are the responsibilities of grandparents, parents and children within the family? What should discipline look like in a Christian home? What if I have a prodigal child, or what if I am the prodigal child? What does it mean to respect our parents, and how do we not exasperate our children? What do I do if I’ve blown it as a parent? How do we shape the will of our children? What if my family is a mess? What if my parents were a mess? Why doesn’t my family look as good as everyone else’s? What if I’m so tired I don’t care that the kids just started the house on fire? This will be a discussion class appropriate for all ages from old to young. We encourage parents and grandparents to come to this class as a family, and bring your older children along with your Bibles.
God does not want a silent and distant relationship with us. He has come! He wants to be near to all who call upon Him and who draw near to Him. We invite you to make room for Him in your Wednesday night schedule. Come! †
MCC Meat Canner
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and to welcome in 2018, the Peace and Service committee are making the last preparations for the MCC Meat Canner.
In the Bible it says to feed the hungry, and this is an opportunity for each of us to do that in a tangible way. Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, there is a time slot for you to help. Starting each morning at 5 with a need for meat cutters to help cut turkey into cubes, the mobile canner unit will be ready to be staffed by 6 a.m. and the first finished cans of turkey will be ready to be wiped and labeled by 9 a.m. Volunteers are needed to fill these stations all day until around 9 p.m. on Friday and then on Saturday till 3 p.m.
There is a job for all ages, from the littlest to the oldest; if you come we will find a job you can do. Come for an hour or two, half a day, or all day, but we need help to take 12,000 pounds of raw turkey and turn it into cans ready to ship to those in need here in our area, throughout the USA and around the world.
So, mark your calendars for January 26 and 27. We look forward to working together to feed those who are hungry!
We are still in need for housing for two of the Canner boys. Contact Jeff Lehman at 589-8173. †
Among Our People
Lynn Steenburg was admitted to Adams Memorial Hospital Nov. 13 for knee replacement surgery. She returned home Nov. 21.
Roy Liechty was admitted to Lutheran Hospital Nov. 15. He had surgery on Nov. 18. He returned to Markle Health Care Nov. 23.
Jenn Helmlinger was admitted to Adams Memorial Nov. 22 with severe abdominal pain. She had her gall bladder removed Nov. 24 and returned home that day.
Ryan Mounsey entered Lutheran Dec. 9 for treatment of complications from surgery. He returned home Dec. 11.
Howard Flueckiger was admitted to Adams Memorial for tests Nov. 9. He was transferred to rehab at Swiss Village Dec. 15. †
Notes of Appreciation
I want to thank my church family for the prayers, cards and visits I received during my hospital stay and move to Swiss Village. They were all much appreciated.
God bless each one of you.
Dear brothers and sisters of First Mennonite Church of Berne,
We want you to know that your $3000 gift to the Ayta Cluster Bible translation project will go a long way in Kingdom currency! These funds will be used to purchase about 100 solar audio players which will allow Ayta people to listen to God’s Word in their own languages. It’s especially useful for those who have little or no access to electricity and internet. People often gather to listen in groups, so these units will be well used. As a primarily oral culture, accustomed to hearing,
not reading, we trust that God will use this method to give clear understanding to the hearts and minds of Ayta people, and that many will come to know Him and receive the salvation and hope that He offers. Some portions of the New Testament have already been recorded in audio form in these languages, and soon the whole New Testament will be available. The translation is being finished up as I write by a team of Ayta believers who have committed many years to this task. We anticipate that by this time next year, the translation work will be complete! Thank you again for your generous gift, and may the Lord bless your church and give you great joy this Christmas!
Director, SIL Philippines
On behalf of the Ayta Bible Translation team †
Curt Albert Claassen, 99, of Berne entered the presence of his beloved Savior and Lord on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at Adams Memorial Hospital in Decatur. He was born on September 28, 1918 in the family farmhouse in rural Whitewater, KS to Edward and Catherine Claassen. He was married on June 1, 1944 in Dallas, OR to Olga Schultz. He joined First Mennonite Church on May 16, 1976.
After graduation from high school, he attended the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University) where he studied Bible in preparation for mission work. During a summer, he sang tenor in a quartet, which toured in several states. It was at Biola that he met his wife while working in the school cafeteria. In later years, he studied at UCLA, completed a Bachelor’s degree at Goshen College and studied at Denver Seminary.
They left for missionary service in India with the General Conference Mennonite Church in December 1945 where they served the churches of Mauhadi, Janjgir, Champa and Korba until 1973. Their faithful service to the Indian church included village evangelism, mentoring Indian evangelists, teaching in a Bible school, preaching and teaching, nurturing Christians in scattered villages and planting new churches in Korba’s urban industrial areas. They travelled by oxcart, bicycle and jeep.
Extreme disappointment was theirs when, in 1975, their visas to re-enter India were denied. He was then invited to join the staff of the First Mennonite Church in Berne, where they quickly felt at home and were warmly embraced by the Berne community. Their gifting suited them well with his roles of associate and visitation pastor and hers of hospitality and prayer. Both loved to encourage young people to walk well with Jesus. He continued on staff at First Mennonite Church for 20 years, until 1995.
His zeal for Jesus Christ characterized him with joy, love and kindness, which touched everyone around him. He “never knew a stranger” because he was interested that each person he met should know Jesus. A firm handshake accompanied his heartfelt, “The Lord bless you richly!” His deep trust in God brought a steady peace even when things were difficult. As he often said, “There’s nothing to fear.”
From a very young age, he played hymns and gospel songs on the piano, continuing to do so until just prior to his death. Always, it was his desire that the music glorify God. His playing will continue to bless all through a CD recorded by Tara Steffen when he was 92.
He is survived by four sons, Lloyd (Gail) Claassen of Seattle, WA, Gordon (Yarna) Claassen of Modesto, CA, Eldon (Jan) Claassen of Fort Wayne and Loren (Patricia) Claassen of Columbus, OH; six grandchildren, Josh (Ashley) and Caleb (Mari) of Finland, Anna (Jake) and Sarah of Fort Wayne, and Ken and Kyle of Columbus, OH; two great-grandsons, Aaron and Niko; two great-grandchildren expected in 2018; and two sisters-in-law, Verbena Claassen and Martha Claassen.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife in 2010, nine brothers and three sisters.
Visitation was 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, December 19 at First Mennonite Church followed by a memorial service at 7:30 p.m. Officiating were Pastor Jerry Flueckiger and Pastor Jeff Linthicum. A private family burial took place on Friday, November 24 at MRE Cemetery in Berne. †