PANDORA — Sometimes, it really is who you know. That is the case for St. John Mennonite Church. Their upcoming Missions Festival which will feature speakers Stuart and Jill Briscoe.
Wally and Wanda Geiger, head of St. John Mennonite Church’s mission board and retired missionaries themselves, have been friends with the Briscoes for a long time.
So, when they asked if Stuart and Jill Briscoe could fit the festival into their busy speaking schedule, the Briscoes agreed to do it.
Both originally from England, Stuart and Jill Briscoe did not start out in full-time ministry. Jill Briscoe was a school teacher and Stuart Briscoe worked as a bank professional. In 1959, he felt called to full-time ministry, so they both stepped away from their careers.
After working for several years traveling with Torchbearers, an international ministry that shared the Gospel in other countries, while Jill Briscoe stayed home with the couple’s three children, Stuart Briscoe became the senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wis., in 1970. He spent 30 years in this capacity. While there, the church not only grew, but also planted several sister churches. In 2000, he stepped down as the senior pastor, and he and his wife became the church’s “ministers-at-large.”
Stuart and Jill Briscoe now travel the world to bring encouragement and resources to churches. In addition to his speaking, Stuart Briscoe has written more than 40 books.
Jill Briscoe is also an accomplished author and speaker, having written more than 40 books herself. She also speaks and teaches around the world with her husband, in addition to being the executive director of “Just Between Us,” a magazine aimed at encouraging women in ministry.
“We are thrilled to get them,” said Julie Stratton, wife of the Rev. Dave Stratton, one of St. John Mennonite Church’s associate pastors. “They are really hard to get. They are in Turkey right now, but they are willing to come to little Pandora, Ohio.”
The Mission Festival has been an annual event for a long time at St. John Mennonite Church, and each year they try to bring in speakers, as well as, missionaries. For instance, last year featured Galen Burkholder, the international director of Global Disciples, a ministry that helps train and equip believers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
“We couldn’t find an exact number of years we’ve been doing this,” said Stratton, “but it’s been off and on for years. Our church has a very strong emphasis on missions.”
This emphasis is so strong that Stratton said that 25 percent of the church’s budget goes toward missions. The church’s adult Sunday school classes, called Adult Bible Fellowship, all meet together on the second Sunday of every month to hear missionaries speak.
“We put missionaries before our congregation every month,” said Stratton.
The Mission Festival will kick off on Saturday morning and go through Sunday evening, with several different events planned.
Saturday morning Jill Briscoe will be speaking on, “Eight Choices that Create a Love that Lasts” at a brunch which will run from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. During that time, the plan is that she will speak in two 40-minute blocks with a brunch served around 11 a.m. There will also be time to worship and for fellowship.
“We don’t have that completely confirmed yet since the Briscoes are still in Turkey,” said Stratton, “but we wanted to give Jill plenty of time to talk. We are hoping the men will baby sit.”
That evening it will be the men’s turn with Stuart Briscoe speaking on “Being a Man of Real Impact,” at a dinner that will take place from 4 to 6:30 p.m. The evening will also feature Tom Rode, a chaplain with Athletes in Action at Ohio State University giving a challenge.
Sunday morning, Stuart Briscoe will speak at both the 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday morning services and the couple will both speak during the Sunday school hour at 9:45 a.m. at St. John Mennonite Church.
“Those are open to anyone who’d like to come,” added Stratton.
Sunday evening, they will both speak on the topic of reaching out to others at an evening banquet that will be held at Ebenezer Mennonite Church in Bluffton, who is partnering with St. John Mennonite Church for this weekend’s events.
The missions committee started planning the Mission Festival about nine months ago, and they are excited to bring the Briscoes to Pandora. Stratton anticipates that each of the events will be sold out.
The theme of the weekend is “Impacting the World,” and Stratton hopes that people leave with practical tools to do just that.
“We want people to leave with practical tools, to be encouraged, and to feel empowered with confidence on how to share with others,” she said. “With Jill’s talk, we hope women will leave knowing how to share the love of Christ in meaningful, practical ways.”
7 a.m.: Men's leadership breakfast for pastors and elders, Bluffton. Call for details.
9:30 a.m.: Women’s brunch featuring Jill Briscoe, St. John Mennonite Church, 15988 Road 4, Pandora. $6.
4 p.m.: Men’s dinner featuring Stuart Briscoe, St. John Mennonite Church, Pandora. $6.
8:30 a.m.: Service, St. John Mennonite Church
9:45 a.m.: Fellowship hour
11 a.m.: Second service
6 p.m.: Missions banquet, Ebenezer Mennonite Church, 8905 Columbus Grove Road, Bluffton. $10.
• To purchase tickets, call St. John Mennonite Church at 419-384-3680 or Ebenezer Mennonite Church at 419-358-8588. Tickets are also available at The Black Lab Trading Co., 121 N. Main St., Bluffton.