Berhanu Tesema, and Anita Yang participate in the Philadelphia STEP program. (Photo by Mark Wenger)

STEP Scholarship Fund Receives Gift

Eastern Mennonite Seminary received an unexpected gift this holiday season.

United Service Foundation(USF), a private foundation in New Holland, Pa., sent a check for $21,000 for EMS Lancaster’s Studies and Training in Effective Pastoral Ministry (STEP) program in Philadelphia.

Mark R. Wenger, director of pastoral ministries at EMS Lancaster, had a goal of raising $45,000 to provide scholarships for 15 participants in the STEP program. The check from USF and generous gifts from several other families and congregations allowed Wenger to raise $50,383.

This fund will provide participants with $1000 scholarship for each of their three years in the STEP program.

The STEP program (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral ministry), a partnership between Lancaster Mennonite Conference and Eastern Mennonite University, provides training for people who are licensed for pastoral ministry or who have been encouraged to consider pastoral work, but may not have had college, Bible school, or seminary.

Fund provides needed scholarships

“When we choose to move part of the STEP program to Philadelphia we were aware that urban congregations often have more limited financial resources compared to suburban and rural churches,” Wenger said.

“However, these congregations are also vital and active churches and it’s important to me to provide pastoral leadership training to their leaders,” he continued. “This is the growing edge of the Mennonite Church.”

Diversity adds to program

Sixteen students are enrolled in the STEP program in Philadelphia. For over half of them, English is a second language. There are 3 Ethiopian students, 2 Indonesian students, 4 Hispanic/Latino students and 2 Asian students with a 12 men and four women ratio in the class.

“This is by far the most diverse group I have ever sought to teach or lead,” said Wenger, adding:  “It is scary and exciting, and I also believe it is the future of the global church. I also sometimes feel like it’s a rehearsal for heaven, when people of all nations will be gathered together.”

According to their website, “The United Service Foundation is rooted in the Anabaptist Christian tradition and seeks to grow the Kingdom of God by building and facilitating strong families and communities that practice love, learning, forgiveness, and justice. United Service Foundation is a private foundation of the Edith M. and Victor F. Weaver family, established in 1969. Family members have historical connections with the Mennonite Church.”