Texas church plant grows from search for deeper faithBy Annette Brill Bergstresser For Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Mission Network
When Karen and Steve Mascho of Gladewater, Texas, first encountered Mennonites in April 2010, they never imagined that 15 months later they’d be planting a Mennonite church in their own community.
Both longtime Texas residents, the Maschos were in northern Indiana having their recreational vehicle repaired when they toured Menno-Hof, the Amish-Mennonite information center in Shipshewana.
“I thought, these people believe what I have felt in my heart for years,” Karen Mascho said.
The Maschos, who had been attending Baptist and nondenominational churches, had been longing for a church whose participants would stay connected throughout the week.
After returning home, Karen read the book she had bought at Menno-Hof and began researching Mennonites online. While looking for resources for a nephew in prison, she discovered the restorative justice programs at Fresno (Calif.) Pacific University, and she and Steve were inspired to begin leading Bible studies in prisons through a program based in Houston.
Steve, who is on disability due to a heart condition, also has been involved with a motorcycle ministry for more than 10 years.
Karen credits the website of Paul Williams, associate pastor of Mechanic Grove Mennonite Church in Quarryville, Pa., and a financial planner, with having deepened her understanding of Mennonites’ faith and beliefs.
“His site was such a blessing to me here, where I didn’t have any Mennonites to talk to,” she said.
An April 2011 visit to Plow Creek, a Mennonite intentional community in Tiskilwa, Ill., clinched Karen’s decision to become Mennonite. But the Maschos couldn’t just move to Illinois. So in May, Karen called Mauricio Chenlo, denominational minister for church planting for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Mission Network.
“I told him we were looking for a church that would share our vision of reaching out to people on the fringes of society, and asked if he could send some missionaries,” Karen said. “He said, ‘If you want a church there, think of yourselves as church planters.’ ”
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