Volume VII | Feb. 2020-Mar. 2020
Shenandoah Journal
A Publication of the Shenandoah District Church of the Brethren
In this Issue: Calling the Called in Focus
District E xecutive Minister John Jantzi: Priests Together
Many, if not most of us, have taken baptismal or membership vows. In “For All Who Minister,” vow number three states, “Will you be loyal to the church, upholding it by your prayers and your presence, your substance, and your service?"*

First Peter 2:5-9 lifts the image of all of us being priests, carrying the message and healing of Jesus into our world. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”**

These two images include all of us who follow Jesus, those who chose to pursue a calling into the set-apart ministry, and those who use their call to service in a variety of ways. In this month’s Shenandoah Journal, there are call stories from four individuals. Two of these traces the path into set-apart ministry while the other two describe calls leading into different professions.
“A people belonging to God” indicates that our life is not our own. At the center of our decision to follow Jesus is to allow our life’s work and function to be determined by that commitment. Our “call” is to listen carefully to the voice of God, often through our brothers and sisters, and shape our commitment as “priests” to follow that call.

This understanding is central to the Church of the Brethren. It is not that we diminish the importance of the set-apart ministry but that we lift to a high level the call of all who are members of the body of Christ through our local congregations.

I believe this is key to congregational and denominational renewal. Renewing our baptismal vows, particularly vow number three, provides the foundation for congregational vitality.

Contained in this article, you will find a link to a “Calling the Called” brochure and registration form. This event is geared specifically for those who are considering a call into the set-apart ministry. However, this retreat could benefit any of you who are grappling with the question of “what’s next” in your service to Christ. I ask you to read carefully and think who in your circle of friends and acquaintances in your congregational life would benefit from such a time.

The registration form is self-explanatory and can be filled out and returned to the address listed. If there are additional questions, I welcome phone calls or face to face conversations regarding your interest. This must be and is for me of the highest priority for congregational life.

Serving Christ Together,
John Jantzi
Shenandoah District Executive Minister

*For All Who Minister, 1993, Brethren Press.
**New International Version, 2005, Zondervan.
Musings from the Moderator
by Marty Barlow
District Moderator Marty Barlow
As our Christmas gift to each other, my sister Karen and I gave each other a ticket to the Kennedy Center for My Fair Lady. Karen volunteered to drive. When we could see the Kennedy Center out the car window, her GPS instructed us to take a left into the Center, but we missed it, continuing straight onto Rock Creek Parkway. It was pitch dark by now, and the traffic was fierce and unforgiving. The woman's voice on her GPS kept saying, "Make a U-turn... "
There were no opportunities to make a U-turn even though we desperately searched for one. When we got into downtown DC traffic, the GPS frenetically reminded us every 20
seconds or so, "MAKE A U-TURN.... THEN A SHARP LEFT." We found a place to make the U-turn, but the sharp left we were instructed to take next had orange cones blocking off all traffic. Even so, the GPS continued to insist, "MAKE A U-TURN as soon as you can do so safely AND THEN A SHARP LEFT." The GPS lady was getting more persistent.
I said to Karen, "Why don't you turn your GPS off, and I'll see what my Googlemaps tells us to do." She agreed and I turned on my phone. My Google-maps lady said in a reasonable tone of voice, "proceed 3/10 of a mile to 23rd street NW and make a slight right turn." That sounded good. Right then, Karen's GPS kicked in again and shouted, "MAKE A U-TURN … AND THEN A SHARP LEFT!" My lady responded "continue ahead 3/10 mile ..."
It was dueling GPSes!  
I said to Karen with some intensity, "Turn your lady off!" She yelled back, "I thought she WAS turned off! I don't know why she keeps talking." At this point, one of us said, "What I wouldn't give right now for a good old fashioned paper map and a place to park to look at it!"

We got to the Kennedy Center in plenty of time for the play, and we enjoyed it! But this experience reminded me of the times we are living in. One side yells, "turn around," and the other says something different. I think we all need to remember we do have maps, old fashioned maps. You know what they are!
But we also need to be willing to park. Without a place to park, we just keep going in circles, reacting to the loudest and most persistent voice. Parking might mean getting to a quiet place away from phones, TVs and other gadgets and then praying for guidance for how we can best be God's voice and the hands and feet of Jesus.
Receiving the Call: Four Unique Stories
by Brenda Sanford Diehl
1) Marty Barlow:
Calling, Gifting, and Potential for Success
The District's Calling the Called process invites people to take time out of their schedules and reflect upon how they may be called by God to serve in the future. District Conference Moderator Marty Barlow was a part of one such retreat. In a recent interview, Marty talked about her experience. "A number of years ago, I participated in a District program similar to what is now known as Calling the Called, and every church was encouraged to call out folks who had interest or gifts for ministry. Many of our current pastors were part of that emphasis." 

For Marty, the calling she discerned was different from others there who eventually entered the set-apart ministry. She recalls, "I came out of that experience feeling not a call to set-apart ministry so much as a call to be active and receptive to providing worship leadership and other lay leadership when given the opportunity." As a result of the process, other realizations were gained. "I also became much clearer that my work as a professional counselor was one way I had to be doing God's work," she said. Initially, Marty, "…had considered other careers…" but when she began her education and training in counseling, she "…felt immediately comfortable and excited about the possibilities for healing." She stated,"I had a good feeling about my potential to do this work well." Marty's experience illustrates the presence of three important factors found in lay and set-apart ministry: A calling from God, gifting shaped by training and education, and the potential to do ministry work well.

Based upon Marty's personal journey to serving in lay ministry, and ministry to the community through her role as a professional counselor, she had the following observation about finding God's direction: "I think mainly God calls us to do what we love, what we have gifts and excitement for. Generally, God does not call us to do what we dread – although there may be moments and incidents in our lives which are exceptions to this."

To facilitate the calling and gifting God placed on her life, Marty said, "I do believe it is essential for us to stretch ourselves to do the highest level of preparation we can, and not expect God to give us inspiration without our best efforts" In addition, she noted, "In terms of hearing God's call on our lives, I think we need to make room in our lives so that the voice of God can be recognized. God speaks not only through the Bible and other devotional disciplines, but also through all of our daily experiences--good and bad, our trusted relationships, our struggles, our pain, and our family concerns--but we need to make enough space that we can recognize a calling when it comes to us. Without our tuned-in alertness, God's call can evaporate unnoticed into the noise of our disorder lives. I think this may be what is meant by 'praying without ceasing.'" 

When Marty embraced the call to professional counseling, there were moments she felt God's hand upon her. She reflected, "I have experienced many moments in my counseling practice where I thought 'that was an inspired moment. That was God helping us out.' For example, there have been more times than I can count when I asked a question or made a comment that seemed at the time to be 'off-the-wall' even to me. But suddenly, as a result of that question or comment, everything opened up, and the client and I both felt we had made a significant breakthrough." These are the moments in serving others that reaffirm chosen directions, but there are also other moments that initiate questions and bring on challenges.

Regarding the challenging times, Marty said, "I think we all have dry spells. For me, often, they would come when deeply sad or painful things happened for my clients, and I was unable to be helpful. I tried to notice and 'own' the discouragement and move through it as one does with any severe grief occurrence. I would talk with colleagues (and they would talk with me when they had similar difficulties) about how hard it felt sometimes.

Since Marty's experience that weekend, she has embraced ways to serve at both her home church and at the District level. She has experienced the calling to use her gifting and is realizing her potential for success in ministry as a professional counselor and lay leader with God's guidance and help.
2) Janet Elsea:
"If It's Not a Call...It'll Kill You"
When asked about her calling to set-apart ministry, Pastor Janet Elsea said, "It fell into my lap." For many years she focused on her husband Henry's ministry. Janet recalled, "I was not your typical pastor's wife. I helped Henry, who was bi-vocational (i.e., worked another job while pastoring), and I went with him every time I could. I was continually being asked to teach and counsel, so it kind of fell into place."

One day, someone asked a difficult question that challenged Janet and inspired her to pursue licensing to the set-apart ministry. "I had been an Alcohol Safety Awareness Project case manager some years before and had done some counseling through my work experience," she stated. Yet, the time had come for her to step into a more significant role and obtain her credentials. It was not long afterward, Henry said, "Tell me again why you're not licensed." 

Janet, her husband, and son, Henry, III, together went through earlier ministry training known as the Reading Program in the West Marva District, and she took a class with Jim Miller in Brethren Beliefs and Practices once back in the Shenandoah District. She remembers, "I was district board chair, and people encouraged me for years to enter the ministry. It was ongoing, and the only thing that held me back was being told for years that 'women didn't belong in set-apart ministry.'"

Looking back at those years, Janet admits having "…little inklings along the way from the time I was saved." She went to church every Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday night. Her passion for studying scripture after her salvation experience was intense. "When I was baptized, I was given a Bible, and I studied it so much that it fell apart within one year," she said. Later, she taught fifth grade Sunday School and became the youth director at Calvary Church of the Brethren, which was Henry's home church. Their older son, Justin, was in the youth group there, and when they moved to W. Va., they attended Tearcoat Church of the Brethren. Janet recalls, "I was teaching over 30 teens, and we bussed in the tough kids from the local area." These experiences laid the foundation and Janet eventually entered the set-apart ministry.

Her husband, Henry, was called to ministry by Ken Dolan while in W. Va. After they moved back to the Shenandoah District, Janet was called to the set-apart ministry as Henry's associate at Mt. Pleasant and spent three months serving as interim pastor at Valley Pike. After Henry's first retirement, she accepted the call to Pleasant Hill, which was her first solo pastorate. Today, she and Henry co-pastor at Barren Ridge Church of the Brethren.

What is crucial to living life in set-apart ministry is "knowing that you know" you are supposed to be there, Janet observed. "I know I was called, and that has kept me. If I didn't believe I was called…," the consequences went unnamed as she looked back. Janet elaborated, "If it's not a call--if it's a vocation--you can't do it. It'll kill you if you're not called. The call is a different animal." She advised, "You have little control over a calling. If you say when you're retired that you're going to do this and this and this, God laughs." He has a plan for everyone that may or may not line up with human expectations.

Janet's advice to those considering the call is two-fold: "You have to--if you love Jesus enough--be there whenever someone calls," and "Find your path. Take counsel; don't do anything without taking counsel. The' attaboys' are not always there, and pastors need the support of elders and other pastors."
3) Sam Sabbagh:
The Doors Prayer Opens
When it comes to finding where God is calling, one way to know is the obvious: "Doors that open can be a clear answer that I am in God's will. How can I miss, right?, observes Children's Services of Virginia, Inc. founder Bassam "Sam" Sabbagh. Not only is Sam a Christian business owner, but he also serves in the role of moderator and church board chair for the Calvary congregation.

Prayer has been the cornerstone for all the services his business has undertaken since he opened his doors in 1992. To ensure he is following God's plan, Sam not only looks at open doors but closed doors, as well. "I pray that God will slam the door shut or open the door wide so that I stay on the correct path."

Sam's path has evolved over time. His journey began in Jordan, where he described himself as "…a little boy with no hope." Yet, God had a different plan. Sam first came to Kansas City College and Bible School on a student visa. It was there that he fell in love with his future wife, Fran, who was from Mich., and two years later they were married. Sam studied psychology at Olivet Nazarene College in Ill., and at Central Michigan University. He worked in Mich. for ten years as a social worker at a Christian residential facility for boys and girls.

Over the years, Sam's family, who lived in the mid-Atlantic region, asked them to consider moving closer, and after much prayer, he and Fran felt they should leave their home in Mich. He came to Virginia and worked as a program director at a private residential facility for youth. After ten years of service in that facility, God led him to start a new business in Winchester. He recalls, "Despite the fine working position I had, the Lord guided and directed me to start a simple, humble thing here." 

When Sam opened his doors, Children's Services of Virginia, Inc. started to provide Treatment Foster Care and adoption services, primarily for children who had been abused or neglected. They have been working hand-in-glove with area departments of social services to place children in caring homes. Sam reports he has witnessed miraculous improvements in hurting children as a result of God's grace and successful placements.

Children's Services of Va., Inc. is not your typical Christian business. Although many Christians work for the agency and serve as foster families and adoptive parents, the market is not strictly for believers. The programs are licensed by the state and open to people of any faith or no faith. This reality does not lessen the potential impact for God's kingdom that the work provides.

As the Treatment Foster Care program grew, it became clear that this agency needed to provide Counseling Services to the community. Therefore, in 1999, this agency was licensed by the State of Virginia to provide counseling services in the northern half of the state. under the name of Crossroads Counseling Center Inc. (CCC). The two companies became subsidiaries of the parent company Gatehouse of Virginia, Inc. "One of the most current and most needed services provided at CCC is substance abuse," Sam noted. This is another cause for prayer as future ministry focus is needed in this area.

Sam has watched programs ebb and flow over the decades and tries to be in a position to respond as needs change. "When there is a need...I pray, and He doesn't always answer the way I expected," he said. If the leading of God is not clear, Sam says, "Simply, by way of faith, we wait for what the Lord has."

"During dry periods—there are always conflicts and challenges surrounding us—we need input. People must continue to believe; to pray," Sam has found. "A beginning is always good, but there are challenges." At present, finding staff and foster families are among the most difficult challenges, and the demand for services is different than in previous years." 

Sam reflected, "The business has been through a number of shifts, and God has led us in different directions. Sometimes there is no plan, but we are trusting and praying, knowing God will lead us." Sam believes, "The key is this: it's not what a person thinks, it's prayer, and the Lord will guide and direct. We trust the Lord, and the Lord has a totally different idea, which is better. It's all in the hands of the Lord, and we pray every day."

The calling for Sam came in the form of open doors and through seeking the Lord for guidance. He serves God through a business that improves the lives of children and families and through his willingness to serve his congregation as the moderator and church board chair. There is a multitude of ways God can call Christians into His service. May the Lord continue to call the called.
4) Bernie Fuska:
"You Would Make a Good Priest"
Timberville Church of the Brethren Pastor Bernie Fuska began his story about being called into the set-apart ministry by stating, "I was not born and raised in the Church of the Brethren." So what path did he take to find his calling to be the pastor at Timberville? 

Growing up as a young boy in the Catholic Church in Johnstown, Penn., Bernie was often encouraged by members of his congregation who said, "You would make a good priest." Years later, he found himself attending Saint Francis Catholic Seminary in Lorretto, Penn., outside of Johnstown. After his third year in seminary, he decided that being a Catholic priest was not for him because he realized having a family was something he truly desired. 

This decision led him to a period of soul searching. He found his way to the Church of the Brethren through the mentoring of Pastor Fred Swartz, who served at Harrisburg Penn., and Pastor Wendell Bohrer of Johnstown, Penn. While in Harrisburg, Bernie lived with a family who welcomed him and enabled him to find the next step along the journey through their love and care. Bernie recalls, "They showed me 'warm Brethren hospitality' during the year I lived with them." Experiencing love and traditional Brethren hospitality firsthand, Bernie was naturally drawn to Brethren congregations.

When he returned to Johnstown, he was baptized as an adult at Walnut Grove Church of the Brethren in December 1973, the 250th anniversary of the first Brethren baptisms in Germantown. On the day of his baptism, he was asked by Pastor Wendell Bohrer to pray the benediction. Bernie responded to this unexpected request by reciting what he knew--the peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. 

That is how it all started. According to Bernie, he was "strongly nourished there" at Walnut Grove by Pastor Bohrer, who routinely involved him as a worship leader. Bernie recognizes now how important it was to be called to ministry from within his home congregation and given opportunities to develop ministry skills.

Although Bernie holds a master's degree in pastoral ministry from St. Francis University, he obtained a great deal of his Brethren education through an accelerated three-year reading course. Bernie remembers, "I pored over every Brethren book I could buy and read from the Mack religious bookstore in Johnstown." 

In April 1974, at Walnut Grove's recommendation, Bernie was licensed to the ministry. His first sermon on the day of his licensing was entitled, ironically, Answering the Call. He chose the 'count the cost' passage from Luke 14. It was a scriptural passage he got to experience personally because his choice to enter ministry in the Church of the Brethren caused difficulties with his family. 

Eight months after becoming licensed, he served as interim pastor at Pleasant Hill from October through December 1974. He became their full-time pastor on January 1, 1975. The second of his three pastorates was at Scalp Level Church of the Brethren, from August 1986 to 1992. His third pastorate has been at Timberville Church of the Brethren, where he has served since July 1992.

"Should I have done something different?" he recently asked. "There's no way to accurately speak of the blessing I've had over the years. "He and his wife, Debbie, serve in complementary positions as Debbie heads up the preschool program at Timberville. Bernie estimates the preschool has impacted their attendance, "Between 30 to 40 percent of the families at Timberville have some tie to the preschool program."

Bernie has witnessed changes in his ministry over the years. He had the opportunity to foresee some of the changes in advance after attending a Johns Hopkins spiritual life training program at the invitation of Chaplain Clyde Shallenberger, a Church of the Brethren minister and chaplain at Johns Hopkins. One of the speakers at the conference stated that by the year 2000, a pastor's ministry would be primarily to the older population. True to the prediction, a lot of Bernie's time now is spent ministering to older congregants.
What Bernie has learned is, regardless of the primary age group you are working with, people need both a 'fisher of men' and a shepherd. In fact, at a deacon workshop one time, Bernie talked about the role of pastors as 'fisherds,' a name he coined that combines the image of 'fishers of men' and shepherds. He has discovered there's a lot more to evangelism than merely catching fish; there must be a discipleship plan throughout the life of a Christian.

Bernie acknowledged there are messy moments and dry spells in ministry, but he has discovered how to cope. "I've learned two things about dry spells. The first is making time to be still and quiet in the presence of God. Often, I have to go somewhere else to make this happen. I've gone out of town and stayed at various places where retreats or sanctuary may be found. Secondly, I need to have a person with whom I can bare my soul and not worry about how it will be received." Bernie said his wife, Debbie, and a pastoral colleague are the people he can go to and can trust.

The call to the set-apart ministry had a few twists and turns throughout Bernie's life. Yet, one thing is clear; he has experienced the calling in community. From those who told him as a young boy that he would make a good priest, to the mentors and host family who helped him through the transition into the Church of the Brethren; from the pastor who routinely involved him in worship services, to the congregation that recommended him for licensing, the role Bernie would play in the set-apart ministry was obvious to others and encouraged through their participation. 

Through 45 years of ministry, Bernie has walked in his calling, drawing on all the unique experiences of his life. He still recites the words of his first benediction at every baptism he performs, and it is the last prayer he prays every night before going to sleep--the peace prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
Calling the Called
Calling the Called 2020 will be held Apr. 17-18, at Brethren Woods (4896 Armentrout Path, Keezletown). This event is jointly sponsored by the Virlina and Shenandoah Districts and is intended to provide the opportunity to explore what it means to be called by God to ministry, especially the set-apart ministry. Click here for a brochure and here for the registration form .
Calling the Called Committee: Dana Cassell, Marty Doss, Rebecca House, Tim Harvey, Nathan Hollenberg, John Jantzi, Harvey Leddy, Amy Vilelle, Tom Powers, and David Shumate

Questions? Contact your local District Office:
Shenandoah District:
Phone – (540)-234-8555
Virlina District:
Phone – (540)-362-1816
The Shenandoah Journal is a publication of the Shenandoah District Church of the Brethren. It is distributed six times per year on even-numbered months. If you have questions, comments or need assistance with subscribing, please contact:
Brenda Sanford Diehl, MPA
Director of Communications
Shenandoah District Church of the Brethren
POB 67
Weyers Cave, VA 24486
(540) 234-8555