The Lehigh Valley is home to some of Franconia Conference’s thriving congregations that operate on very limited funds. In order to aid those congregations work in music ministry and with children and youth, Franconia Conference provided a Missional Operations Grant (MOG) to both Whitehall Mennonite Church and Ripple-Allentown to aid them in maintaining an MCC East Coast service worker to provide music and youth ministry.
This service worker, Danilo Sanchez, has been an asset to the Lehigh Valley and the broader conference. Here is what Pastor Rose Bender of Whitehall had to say about the work this MOG is supporting:
“Whitehall Mennonite Church (WMC) is a small but vibrant congregation with an increasing Karen refugee population. Some Sundays, it feels like the children and youth outnumber the adults! It is a great ‘problem’ to have, but it has continued to be a challenge for me as a pastor that is only to work 20 hours a week to navigate this and support our youth. When we dreamed about working with other small Anabaptist congregations several years ago, we still weren’t sure how we would financially be able to support anyone who could be a youth minister to our young people. We are so grateful for Danilo Sanchez’ work with the Lehigh Valley Youth. With the support of RIPPLE, WMC, Franconia’s Matching Grant, and MCC East Coast, we have been able to support Danilo for this missional experiment with the Lehigh Valley Youth. He is able to work with youth from RIPPLE, Vietnamese Gospel, WMC, and the broader Karen Community. He has also done volunteer work in the community to connect with kids outside the church. Urban youth ministry is very different from other youth ministry and we are learning together how to start a relational, intergenerational youth ministry from the ground up. It’s challenging and messy. It requires flexibility and contextualization. This is work and these are kids who would not be getting the attention, support, and pastoring without the support of MCC and Franconia Conference. We are grateful for this on-going commitment to support folks on the margins! And look forward to what God will do in year 3 of this experiment!”