Our Bloggers

Bloggers for The Mennonite, Inc., contribute Advent and Lenten devotionals, Friday five things and other entries on The Mennonite blog.

 

David and Leann Augsburger are two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.

Lauren Francisco is director of outreach and communication for C3 Hampton (Calvary Community Church) in Virginia, and is a creative consultant for multiple nonprofits. Dedicated to her mission of “building what’s strong,” while traditionally consultants aim to “fix what’s wrong,” she creatively finds ways to intervene while highlighting the strengths of those with whom she comes in contact.

Although Lauren’s background is in clinical social work with a concentration in family and child therapy, she has intertwined her passion of cinematography, art therapy and writing to help tell the stories of those who may need assistance, while intervening on their behalf. Most recently, she spent three years living and assisting local communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, via the implementation of an education plan that involved building a resource center, which has drastically improved the literacy rate as well as addressed the lack of creative arts in the public education system. Whether playing acoustic guitar for children stateside or abroad, or exploring new and old places throughout the continents, she strives to connect with all people, regardless of background, belief or lifestyle.

Lauren holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, and a master’s degree in clinical social work from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Joanne Gallardo is pastor of faith formation at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship and interim campus pastor at Goshen College, both in Goshen, Indiana. Originally from northwest Ohio, Joanne is a graduate of Goshen College and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. Besides church work, Joanne has spent part of her career working in mental health. In her spare time, Joanne writes, sings in a women’s choir and enjoys spending time with friends.

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 director of the Center of Anabaptist Leadership and Learning at Hesston (Kansas) College. She and her husband, Shem, and three children live in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, near Kansas City, where they own a business. Jessica’s passion is envisioning, disturbing and equipping the church. 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.

Regina Shands Stoltzfus teaches at Goshen (Indiana) College in the peace, justice and conflict studies and the Bible, religion and philosophy departments. Regina is co-founder of the Roots of Justice Anti-Oppression program (formerly Damascus Road). She has worked in peace education with Ohio Conference of the Mennonite Church, Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Mission Network. She has a master’s degree in biblical studies from Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Chicago Theological Seminary.

Ben Tapper has a master’s degree in public affairs and an M.Div. He is a chaplain at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, co-founder of the Hear Me Project and blogs at Invisible Truths.

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, Pennsylvania, where they enjoy spending time outdoors, discovering community events, and connecting with their congregation at University Mennonite Church.

Elwood Yoder teaches history and Bible at Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

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 in 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.