We are excited to have an esteemed list of bloggers writing for The Mennonite on a monthly basis.
Lauren Francisco works with creative art intervention throughout South Africa. She has an intense passion for the creative arts (especially music). Upon completing her Masters in Clinical Social Work from George Mason University, she formed a partnership with her home church, Calvary Community Church (C3) in Hampton, Virginia, and Mennonite Mission Network, to continue in her pursuit to help individuals recognize and express their pain, joys, and complications in life.
Lauren served and interned as a child and family therapist in private practice and has come to believe that the therapeutic process should encompass “building what’s strong,” while traditionally individuals want to focus on “fixing what’s wrong.” Whether a client, friend, family member or colleague, she strives to help individuals and families discover and build upon their character strengths.
Tim Nafziger is passionate about gathering people with shared values to work together for change in our communities and our world. He builds websites, takes photos and works with organizations interested in engaging more deeply with their supporters. He has written chapters in Widening the Circle: Experiments in Christian Discipleship; Fear or Freedom?: Why a Warring Church Must Change; and 118 Days: Christian Peacemaker Teams Held Hostage in Iraq. Tim lives with his wife Charletta in the Ojai Valley in southern California.
Byron Pellecer was born in Guatemala City where he began his Christian faith journey as follower of Christ in a Mennonite Church. He is married to Hildalejandra, a native from Nicaragua. His two children Bj and Jessica were born in Miami, where the Pellecers lived for 23 yrs, until moving to Harrisonburg, Va., in the summer of 2009 where they lived for five years. In the fall of 2013, Byron and Hildalejandra moved to Wichita, Kan. where they currently reside.
Pellecer is an ordained minister within the Mennonite Church USA and he has served the Church in many capacities. He begun his theological training at the Instituto Biblico Menonita de Guatemala and attended several courses at the SEMILLA program, (Latin American Anabaptist Seminary). In addition, he holds a degree in marketing.
He also attended Centro Internacional de Consejeria Cristiana for his training in Christian Counseling in Miami. Most recently in 2013, Byron graduated from Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va., with a Masters in Divinity.
Byron’s passions include church planting, leadership development and serving as a Lead pastor. Currently, he is serving in Iglesia Menonita Aposento Alto as church planter and lead pastor; a combined effort of Western District Conference, Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, Mennonite Church of the Servant and Hope Mennonite Church Above all, Byron loves God, his family and friends with all his heart. He loves to have a great time and living life to the fullest.
Kevin M. Ressler, M.Div. grew up in, left and now lives again in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Melissa, and daughters, Acacia and Iriana. He has spent his life in the wrestle between the Mennonite Church’s proclaimed aspirations and it’s lived failures. He categorizes his relationship with the church “not inherently the same as my relationship with faith. My wrestling with God is as Jacob: it defines me and in so doing influences how I influence the church but at it’s core it is a personal struggle.” He has come to understand that the brokenness of the church emanates from the reality that the church is a disorganized reflection of all of its people’s disparate wrestling with God.
He focuses particularly on the intersection of narrative through poetry, playwriting and essay. His belief in humanity overrides his doubts in people. His core desire for society is a deep hope for more intimate relationships not just amongst friends and family, but strangers and enemies. He recently ran for Mayor of his hometown, he is Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of Lancaster, and serves on a variety of boards including Everence Financial Credit Union and the Executive Board of Atlantic Coast Conference of MCUSA. But beyond those things, he just wants to be a good steward of his resources building a world of Shalom without castes of haves and have-nots.
Jessica Schrock Ringenberg is on the pastoral team at Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, Ohio, where she lives with her husband Shem and three children. Although she graduated from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind.; Goshen (Ind.) College; and Hesston (Kan.) College, her upbringing was less than typical Mennonite. This gives her energy as she ministers within the Mennonite Church to help distinguish between what faithfulness looks like and how it differs from (Mennonite) cultural conformity.
Ben Wideman is Campus Pastor for 3rd Way Collective, a campus ministry at Penn State University launched in the fall of 2014 by University Mennonite Church. Ben spends his time creating spaces for peace, justice, and faith on campus. Ben and his family live in State College, Pa., where they enjoy spending time outdoors, discovering community events, and connecting with their congregation at University Mennonite Church.
Elwood Yoder teaches history in Harrisonburg, Virginia at Eastern Mennonite High School.
Elwood has written seven books, including congregational histories and historical novels. Elwood is Editor of Shenandoah Mennonite Historian, and Today, a publication of Eastern Mennonite School. He writes a history column in the Virginia Mennonite Conference Pathways periodical.
Elwood and his wife Joy attend Zion Mennonite Church, Broadway, Virginia, where they raised their three children who are now young adults. Good music keeps Elwood’s soul alive and well. Whether it’s classic rock from the 1970s, gospel bluegrass, or leading hymns and contemporary music at church, the music and lyrics keep him going.