ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church fire will long be remembered as the dominant event to occur on the church scene in 2004.
But behind the scenes, ministry occurred in a variety of environments and settings.
Main Street Ministries
With less than a year of full-time service as director of Main Street Ministries, Lillian Bookless said 2004 was exceptional in many ways.
“We had a great year,” said Bookless, who took over as director March 1. “It’s always very challenging, but there’s a lot of reward in it when people receive the care, attention and encouragement they need. Then you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.”
The organization’s mission statement is, “To demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to those oppressed physically and spiritually by providing physical and spiritual resources in a supportive environment.”
Main Street Ministries aims to be an oasis in the hard times of life.
“We sit down and interview people to see who our help will go to,” Bookless said. “It doesn’t have to be from our county, but if we feel they’re coming here with sincere desires to see changes in their life, we want to reach out.”
Bookless said aid isn’t based on income, but finances normally are the driving force for program participants.
Between 25 and 30 people live at Main Street Ministries.
“We’ve been pretty much full this past year,” Bookless said.
Always facing the challenge to keep the facility in good shape, Bookless aid the MSM board “works very hard at fulfilling our needs.”
Volunteers are key to the ministry’s effectiveness, according to Bookless.
“If they have a skill, we’re interested-all the way from mentoring children and adults to people who can swing a hammer, paint, do electrical project or even people that know how to sew,” she said. “If they have a talent, it’s amazing how we need it.”
In June 2004, Main Street Ministries reestablished the local food bank. Since then, business has been brisk.
“In the past six months since it opened, we served 71 families with a total of 104 boxes,” Bookless said.
But Bookless’s primary challenge was to simply get the program back on solid ground.
“We got the ministry stabilized again,” she said. “It was in flux because there wasn’t a director, so everything was in a holding pattern.
“I think the accomplishment just to get back on our feet, re-open the food bank and just start doing everything in a more systematic way is the most gratifying.”
But Bookless said plans for 2005 are already surfacing.
“We’d really like to see the clothing ministry reestablished-that would be huge,” she said. “We’re also looking to have a different facility, if possible, to store objects as we collect them.”
Among the items on her collection list are appliances and furniture.
Also on her radar is implementing a youth program.
“This would be for kids who aren’t plugged into churches,” she said. “That’s important to us, and we hope this program will lead to some of those kids making different choices so maybe we can avoid some of the same kids coming back with a family of their own in five years.”
Any donation is accepted, but Bookless said the MSM always welcomes cash. All donations are tax deductible.
While serving as pastor of Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church, Gaylord Goertzen also leads the Hillsboro Area Ministerial Association.
Goertzen said 2004 was a surprisingly good year for HMA.
“We had much better resources in 2004 mainly because of the Sons of the American Legion,” Goertzen said. “They donated nearly $3,000 from their Toy Run, which is fantastic.”
Goertzen said the Legion asked that the money be used for families with young children.
Proceeds from the annual Community Thanksgiving and Palm Sunday services generated about $2,300.
“We take an offering at those services,” he said. “We also get money from Sunday schools and things like that along with individual donations.”
Goertzen said the goals of HMA are for “the ministers to fellowship together” and “to work together to meet the spiritual and physical needs of people in our community.”
Donations provided help to roughly 50 families, or about 150 people.
“The needs are greatest during the winter with people not being able to pay their heating bills or needing coats or things like that,” Goertzen said. “We also have people traveling through that we help with lodging, food and clothes.
“Our goal is to limit our help to people just one time of the year because we don’t want them to become dependent upon us, but rather to get them over a hump,” he said.
Although no specific goals are set for calendar year 2005, Goertzen said the goal of HMA is always to meet the needs of the people.
“We also want people to know how much we enjoy our fellowship as pastors,” he said. “We’re different denominations but we’re one in Christ.”
Two congregations experienced a change in pastoral leadership in 2004.
Tim Sullivan resigned from the Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church to become a district minister with the denomination. He was succeeded by Steve Schroeder, who was formally installed as the new pastor earlier this month.
John Ryding completed a 22-year tenure as pastor of the Zion Lutheran Church in summer. While the search for a permanent replacement continues, Clark Davis is conducting weddings, funerals and hospital visitation and the Sunday morning preaching duties are being shared by guest ministers from the area.
The Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church, meanwhile, continues to meet for Sunday services in the high school and middle school while it makes plans to build a new facility.
Don Ratzlaff, HMBC moderator, said a planning committee elected by the congregation is interviewing several architects. The goal of the committee is to select an architect and a building site by the end of February.
If the planning process proceeds smoothly, construction on a new building could begin in September or October, he said.