It doesn’t take very long for Brother William Sankan’s evangelist heart to become apparent. At a Souderton, PA, diner, he shares his faith with a kind smile and a gentle probing of the server’s spiritual framework. Sitting nearby, Eleanor (Nell) Ruch’s energy for outreach becomes equally visible, equally quick. Whether the needs are spiritual or temporal, she is quick to sense opportunities and match them with resources and connections – and also leave a contact card for anyone to follow-up.
The separate journeys of William and Nell serve as a wonderful illustration for the environment into which the recently launched Hearts that Care ministry was founded. William’s family history begins in Kenya as part of the Maasai tribe. His undergraduate studies at Scott Theological College, when BFC missionary Dr. Richard Gehman was Principal, prepared William to be ordained in the Africa Inland Church. He led local church-planting efforts and translated Scripture into the Maasai language for the Kenya Bible Society.
Ultimately, he and his wife Christine pursued further educational and job opportunities in the USA, relocating with their three children.
As that journey continued, William served and led ministries in Texas, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, where he connected with Nell and joined Bethany Bible Fellowship Church, Hatfield, PA. Nell’s Ziegler family had longtime roots in Hatfield with the Bethany. Hatfield remained “home” for her and her late husband Russ, except for their helping plant the BFC of Newark, Newark, DE.
Both William and Nell sensed significant
need in the Hatfield area where demographic shifts have seen large employers, such as meat processing plants, replace the history of farms and smaller enterprises. This has created new direct and indirect employment opportunities for first and second generation immigrants and others who relocate into the greater North Penn area for opportunities.
Statistics show that more than 25% of children in the Hatfield Elementary School come from homes/families where English is not the first language.
Beyond the immigrant community, there are many needs which exist where family, economic, and other challenges have been heightened further by COVID. The Hatfield Village Apartment complex (Hatfield Village) was prayerfully selected as the initial focus of Hearts that Care (HtC). Hatfield Village has nearly 1,000 apartment units and there were already a few connections with Bethany BFC.
HtC is affiliated with Bethany and the size of Hatfield Village seemed to be a great way for outreach to immigrants and indeed all neighbors, with Bethany providing a foundation and prayer support that the local church body will grow and be strengthened.
The unofficial launch of HtC in March, 2020, by William, Nell and friends began only a few days before COVID forced many ideas to be put on hold. But God’s wisdom allowed the intervening year to be one of further planning and unexpected blessings as a prayer team of over 60 people from Singapore to Florida lifted the many needs of HtC to God.
• Unexpected connections with Hatfield Village residents and staff allowed a better focus on outreach opportunities (and became an unexpected means of outreach itself!). We learned that the closing of their communal facilities due to COVID truly impacted their sense of community.
• Generous support from friends related to costs associated with printing and mailing outreach materials and the hard-working team of folks who personally address each letter!
• A stronger network of supporters prepared to help when needs arose from Hatfield Village including a connection with Modern Day Missions (www.modernday.org).
A small team of volunteers helped create an ‘infrastructure’ for Hearts that Care, including a logo and communications materials focusing around an introductory letter, and a return card. The packet included a list of potential ways in which HtC could serve as well as a space for free text. The team was blessed with input from Chaplain John and Laura Studenroth who “serve as a gift of the Kutztown BFC to the faculty and students of Kutztown University.” The strength of relationships in the BFC beyond Hatfield and Kutztown was evident, including volunteers from PA churches/church plants in Gettysburg, Harleysville, Quakertown, and Red Hill.
Nearly one year later, the formal launch for Hearts that Care happened at Bethany BFC on March 28, 2021. The next day the first mailing occurred with a target of 1/3 (400) of the apartments. By God’s great kindness, His first gift to us was a woman who had been praying to find a new church following her relocation to the area from out-of-state! She received the letter/ card and showed up a few days later on Easter Sunday. Nearly one month has passed and cards have trickled in as we prepare to make our second mailing. The requests have been diverse – requests for food pantry contacts, learning English, rides as well as some kind encouragements and offers from folks to help Hearts that Care!
One of the exciting surprises has been the outreach opportunities which exist simply by telling others about Hearts that Care, even if they are not residents of Hatfield Village or the Hatfield area! Whether it has been the maintenance team at Hatfield Village who have been immeasurably helpful, or the individuals William sees regularly on his exercise walks, or even the woman who gave a small cash donation to HtC after overhearing discussions about the ministry at the Souderton diner. These opportunities have been a true blessing. Going forward, the Hearts that Care team would ask specific prayers for our next mailings, physical strength, and financial support for Chaplain William as he balances his part-time job, family responsibilities and HtC outreach/evangelism efforts. Pray also that the Hatfield Village manage-ment would look upon our efforts with favor and that Hearts that Care would become a model for outreach and evangelism in other geographies.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.
article by James Stoudt, a friend of Hearts that Care. For more information on Hearts that Care, contact Elenor Ruch at email@example.com