Fellowship Deaconry Blog

Sharing Updates and Stories from Fellowship Deaconry Ministries
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A Conversation With Renee Hartford

This week we sat down with Renee Hartford, Director of Sunshine & Infant Care.


Where are you from?

I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas and my husband and I have lived in New Jersey for the past nine years.


How did you end up here?

My husband and his father franchised a company from Kansas City up to New Jersey in 2008, and that’s what brought us here.  I was a graphic designer before and I didn’t like my job. I heard about an opening here with the toddler program just starting, so I applied and got hired as the first toddler teacher here.


What do you do day-to-day?

I am both the head teacher and director for the preschool. This means that I am responsible for working with the teachers on lesson plans and curriculum for the kids, giving tours and helping new families join our program, working with the families in our program to provide them a place that they love for their children to be at, continuing to improve the school and the programs we offer, as well as all the other little things such as the preschool budget and keeping our name out in the community.  I am a jack of all trades.


What are some of your hobbies/interests?

I have two little girls, so right now a lot of family time is really important to me when I’m not working. When I do have some spare time, I also really enjoy cooking or trying new foods. My favorite place to be is Colorado. It is where I was born and my family hopes to eventually live there someday.


What is your favorite TV show or movie?

For TV shows, it’d be This Is Us on NBC. And for movies, I’d say P.S. I Love You with Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler.


Do you have a favorite scripture?

Hebrews 11:1

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

When things aren’t going right, just hold faith. Be sure about what you want out of the situation.


Any leaving thoughts?

I like that my job never allows for a dull moment. I have a graphic design background and I like that I get the chance to be creative and have fun with kids but at the same time I also spend time doing finances, and spreadsheets.


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A Conversation With Matt Bowman


This week we sat down with a newer member of the Deaconry staff, Matt Bowman.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Blairstown up in Warren County, New Jersey. My parents have a 70 acre hay farm there that I grew up on.


When did you start at the Deaconry?

I started at the Deaconry on May 1st of this year and I officially took over the ropes course on July 1st.


How did you end up here?

Someone told me that the Deaconry was potentially looking to hire, so I sent Executive Director Joel Davis my resume back in January. We began talking and eventually there was an opening and now I’m here.


What is your role here at the Deaconry?

I wear a couple of different hats. I’m the ropes course manager, the hospitality coordinator for retreat guests, and I assist Joel with various other projects.


What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I am an outdoors kind-of guy. I love hunting. In the Fall and Winter I mostly hunt waterfowl, which is like ducks and geese. I also like to go hiking and skiing. I’ve hiked all around the Delaware Water Gap, which is where I grew up. I would love to one day go to some of the national parks out west.


Do you have any favorite scriptures?

Philippians 1:6

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Everyone is somewhere along their journey and nobody has really arrived at the end of their destination. Knowing wherever you’re at, God is working with you.


Any leaving thoughts?

The people working here are really great. I get to work in a couple different departments, so I interact with almost everyone here. I really enjoy being out on the ropes course. I’ve been doing it for a couple of years, but I really started to get into it this past year. Come pop in and visit!




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A Conversation With Sister Ruth Rhenius

For the fourth edition of “A Conversation With,” we sat down with a longtime member here at the Deaconry, Sister Ruth Rhenius.

Where are you from?
I was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, but moved to Germany as a child and lived there for almost 20 years.
How did you end up here at the Deaconry today?

I returned to the United States in 1947, and a week later I was introduced to the Sisters of the Fellowship Deaconry in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Through this contact, I became a Christian and came to know that God had a purpose for my life. The hymn “Trust and Obey” by John H. Sammis attracted me to the ministry as a servant of God. I then started at the Deaconry in July of 1950.
What is your role here at the Deaconry?
I learned to submit myself to Jesus in every situation. Whether it be youth and children’s ministries, translation and language ministries, evangelism or teaching the Gospel, I’m a jack of all trades!
What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I enjoy sowing the seed, cultivating, and harvesting! My favorite spot to go would be Mt. Camelback, Pennsylvania. What a view!
What is your favorite scripture?
Matthew 6:33

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Any leaving thoughts?
May the Lord make me a blessing!
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A Conversation With Shanti Fabiunke

For this week's "A Conversation With" we picked the brain of Shanti Fabiunke, one of Fellowship Deaconry’s most energetic staffers.


Shanti, where are you from?

I was born in Morristown, New Jersey. I grew up in Basking Ridge, Bernardsville, and Millington.


When did you start at the Deaconry?

In 2000 I started running the Sweet Shop in the summers part time. I began full time in 2007 helping with the Conference Center, the Sweet Shop, and the Bookstore. It was definitely a busy time, but now I am solely focused on the Conference Center.


How did you end up here today?

I've been connected to the Fellowship Deaconry for most of my life. When I was a child, I was a camper at Day Camp Sunshine. Later in life, I was brought back here after I married my husband Martin, whose family worked for the Deaconry. After he served in the Navy for several years and worked for T-Mobile, he was asked to come back and work for the Deaconry. He said yes, and I came along with him. Once all of our children were old enough to be in school, I came to work full-time as well.


What is your role here at the Deaconry?

I manage reservations for the conference center. I book retreats, facilitate the organization of the groups coming and the facilities being used, and make sure that everything runs smoothly from check-in to check-out. 


What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I really love reading and photography. When I want to get away and regroup, one of my favorite places to go is Barnegat Light House on Long Beach Island, NJ.


What is your favorite scripture?

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Any leaving thoughts?

What amazes me is how I constantly hear from both groups and individuals who come onto the property that they feel the peace of God here. And to me, that is amazing. They come from wherever they come from and they can feel it. God is working here. He has been for many many years, and I believe He will continue to do so into the future.

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A Conversation With Sister Maria Baha

What is your name?
Sister Maria Baha
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Hawthorne, NJ.

How did you end up here at the Deaconry today?
There was a German church not far from my home. My grandparents, being German, only wanted to go to a German church. So my mom took them every Sunday to the German church in Clifton. I was a little kid, so I was taken along. I grew up in that German church, went to their Sunday school, and later I came to know the Lord there. That was a church planted by the Fellowship Deaconry. From there I was led to Camp Sunshine at 11 years old, and then I became a volunteer spending summers working here. Later the Lord told me he wanted me to serve here as a Sister.
What is your role here at the Deaconry?
Right now I am responsible for the care of the Sisters as their Housemother, and I am also the Director of Liberty Corner Mission. Most of the Sister’s are getting older and do not drive, so I arrange for rides and doctor’s appointments. There’s so much to do regarding Social Security, Medicare, and insurance issues. As Director of Liberty Corner Mission, I see that we send out prayer and news letters and collect donations. We send these to the missionaries in Japan and Taiwan, for their ministries and support, as they need it. I go to the field every couple years to see how things are going and try to encourage and bless them. I help put together the newsletter BRIDGES, which is a quarterly publication. We also organize an annual mission conference in the Fall, called CROSSroads. This is a three-day weekend event held here at Fellowship Deaconry Ministries.
What is a favorite Scripture?
Isaiah 43:1-3
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Any leaving thoughts?
Serving Jesus in life, and trying to honor him in all things is the ultimate in living. There’s nothing greater and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. And though I’ve failed Him many times, His love and forgiveness are always there to pick me up again. I wouldn’t switch places with anyone. When he tells us to do something, He desires obedience from us. If we give Him a yes, He will always lead us in the way He wants us to go. He came to give us life, so now that life belongs to Him. If I were to die today, I would have no regrets, because He gives fulfillment. I’m totally satisfied with Jesus and His way with me.
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A Conversation With Head Chef Paul Davis

What is your name?

Paul Davis


Where are you from?

I was born in Trenton, NJ, but I grew up mostly in Hillsborough, NJ.


How did you end up here at the Deaconry today?

I had a bit of a complication during a routine surgery two years ago. I was in between jobs while I was recovering and I was contemplating what God had for me next. I received a call from my father, Pastor Joel Davis, saying there was a cook position open at the Deaconry, so I agreed to pursue that opportunity. God slowly turned it into what it is now, which is me being Head Chef and running the dining room.   


What is your role here at the Deaconry?

An average day consists of menu planning, inventory and quality control, making sure that all of our food is fresh and up-to-date, keeping a standard of excellence when it comes to cleanliness and safety standards. More than that, building a team attitude of love and service - food is about comfort, love, and nourishment. We build each other up the same way that I view my menu. We’re here to refresh and rejuvenate people, and we do that to each other as well as the dining room.


What is your favorite scripture?

Proverbs 3:5-6


Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.


Any leaving thoughts?

There is an amazing light that shines here at the Deaconry. Over the years, perhaps not all have witnessed that light, but we are called to let our light shine. We are moving in amazing direction. God is doing great things here, and He is going to continue to expand upon that. We’re here for the community, we’re here for the area, we’re here for the world, and we’re here for the people. God is doing great things at the Deaconry.

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Obeying God - Being Led Step by Step

Obeying God Step by Step

“Even when it seems inconsequential”  (Acts 8:26-40)

By: Rev. Joel E. Davis

Talk about a revival! Scripture tells us Philip went to a town in Samaria and the entire town was saved, people were healed, and the Apostles Peter and John deemed the town worthy of a visit, just to name a few of the events. In the midst of this outpouring of blessing, an angel brought Philip an odd instruction (v.26): “Head toward the road that leads south.” Philip obeyed (v.27).

In the NIV, v.27 says, “… on his way” Philip encountered an Ethiopian eunuch (v.28). The Spirit gave Philip another odd instruction (v.29), to “stand near the chariot”. Philip obeyed (v.30).

Then, overhearing the eunuch reading from Isaiah, Philip engaged with him and, as the Lord allowed, the eunuch was saved and baptized (v.37). This eunuch went home rejoicing. Tradition tells us he brought the Gospel to Africa! Then the Spirit lifted Philip and delivered him to a town on the coast. A major miracle (v.40)!

Perhaps you noticed that the instruction Philip first received from the angel (v.26) was not the goal. It was while he was “on his way” that Philip encountered the eunuch. Afterward, it was the Spirit Himself who transported Philip to the coastal town, interrupting Philip’s journey toward the road to which he was instructed to go. Could it be that the instruction in v.26 was meant merely to get Philip moving?

Philip obeyed in ways that could have seemed inconsequential to him at the time: “Go to a road.” “Stand near the chariot.” He was led step by step to the place where God wanted to use him, and the eunuch was saved, with the result that possibly millions of others in Africa heard the Gospel.

Sometimes, the day-to-day tasks needed to keep Fellowship Deaconry Ministries running and moving forward may seem inconsequential. Things like mowing the lawn, painting a room, repairing a pipe, cleaning, and then cleaning again, might feel insignificant in the moment. But then we hear the testimonies from our guests who encountered God while here, or that 135 children made a confession for Christ at Day Camp Sunshine, or that many came to salvation during a retreat. Who’s to say God may not use one of them like that “Ethiopian eunuch” in some way, at some time?

Thank you for honoring the Lord and this ministry with your support. Even if your prayer, your gift, or your volunteering to help us with our work here might seem inconsequential now, remember Philip! One day your obedience may result in millions coming to salvation.

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Staff Spotlight - Chris Hendrickson

Chris Hendrickson joined Fellowship Deaconry Ministries as the Assistant Director for Day Camp Sunshine in June 2015. This year he will also be taking on a new role as Coordinator of CORE GAP Year, a new ministry that will be launching in 2018. He has an energetic spirit and is a great mentor to the youth attending camp.

One of his main responsibilities as the Assistant Director of Day Camp Sunshine, is to train and supervise the staff.  In the summer when new international Day Camp staff arrive he is eager to get to know them and their cultures.  He also enjoys showing them around and sharing American culture and history with them. Before Chris worked at the Fellowship Deaconry, he was the Physical Education teacher at Good Shepherd Christian Academy in Washington, NJ.

Outside of work, he is interested in puppetry, photography and travel.  He enjoys going to puppetry conventions and learning more about this unique craft.  He is an an avid hiker and is passionate about nature photography.  Some of his favorite places to photograph include water elements, such as oceans, brooks and lakes.  

His most memorable travel adventures are a recent road trip across America to Yellowstone National Park, on which he fell in love with the City of Saint Louis.  As well as a missions trip to Chile in South America, where their team leader left them in their host's home without a translator.  That evening they realized how much can be communicated without words and only charade-style hand gestures.

A passage of Scripture that resonates with Chris is 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” For him, this is a passage to live up to as he mentors youth.

If you see Chris around campus, be sure to say hello and ask him about his most recent adventure!

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