Bob Muth - Education for Life

bob muth.jpg

Bob Muth’s focus in attending Lancaster Friends Meeting is, in large part, on education, and how Quaker values can enhance the educational experience for young and old alike.

Education is a theme that has continued throughout Bob’s adult life. Born in Philadelphia, Bob attended high school in Trenton, NJ, and received a scholarship to Lafayette College after graduation.  Bob then received a scholarship for postgraduate ministry training, one of seven Rockefeller Brothers scholars to be selected that year.

However, his divinity education was interrupted by military service, mostly in Korea. Upon his return, Bob decided that law school was a better fit for him, and applied to Columbia Law School. After receiving his law degree, Bob worked for a law firm in Washington, DC., after which he worked for 35 years for a mining company with a New York headquarters.

Bob moved to Bucks County, PA, where his first child, Christopher, was born. And that’s when Quakerism entered the picture (Bob attended Methodist and Episcopal churches as a young person but didn’t consider himself particularly religious until later in life, which is one factor in his leaving ministry training for law school).

Seeking a quality education for his son, Bob enrolled Christopher in Newtown Friends School in Bucks County, about which he had heard good things. This went extremely well, for Bob’s son became a successful student in both the Friends School’s, and subsequently in the George School’s, supportive environment. This prepared his son for success throughout his life. Having witnessed the excellence of Friends education, Bob later enrolled his daughter Jennifer in the George School, and she too did very well.

Bob began going to Quaker meetings while his son was at Newtown Friends; he liked the atmosphere and later served on the board of George School for ten years. As head of their finance committee, Bob introduced the school to Cambridge Associates, a consulting firm for non-profits, which resulted in thoroughly restructuring the school’s financial development.

Bob has attended LFM for nine years, but there’s more to the appeal of Quakerism than education for Bob. As he puts it, “Quakers are good people… people I enjoy being with.”

That’s the big reason why Bob is moving to Kendall Village retirement home this year. “I can be with people I can rely on,” he says, “people who are well-educated and also kind.”

Regarding education, Bob is focused on the future, promoting the idea of having LFM partner with Lancaster’s Stone School, now a private, non-sectarian institution. In this way, the benefits of a Quaker educational environment may be made more readily available to the Lancaster community.

Meet the Isaac Family

isaac family.jpg

Lancaster Friends Meeting is a place where we can be enriched by learning about each other’s stories. We were fortunate to have Isaac Abongela and Rebeka Andjelani share their story with us during a Forum several weeks ago. Included in their story was how the Friends Meeting was started in their home town of Abeka, in the Congo.

Isaac explained that the Friends Meeting started in Abeka, Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1981. It was an outreach of the Burundi Friends Meeting in Kibimba, Burundi.

The pastor from the Burundi Friends Meeting, Pastor Bamboneho Etienne, visited the Congo regularly to assist in starting this new Friends Meeting. Subsequently, Quaker missionaries from America (Robert [last name unknown] and John Morris) also visited, as well as a Burundi Quaker living in America (Kaman Kikweba). They came to encourage the new Friends Meeting. Larger groups of Quakers from the Burundi Meeting came to Abeka as well, and stayed for longer periods of time. All of these visitors convinced many people in Abeka to become Quakers.

Isaac had grown up in the Methodist Church, as had Rebekah. When he heard the visitors from Burundi, and the American missionaries, telling him about Quakers, he was “so happy.” He wanted to become a Quaker. He was particularly interested in their peace stance. Isaac said, “The world needs peace!” Isaac was able to convince Rebeka to become a Quaker also. Isaac explained that this was because she loved him; Rebeka agreed, with a laugh.

Isaac’s father gave his house as a gift, to become the home of the first Friends Meeting in Abeka, Congo, though he himself never became a Quaker.

In September, 1991, the Abeka Friends Meeting received a document from the Congolese government authorizing the Abeka Friends Meeting. By that time, there were about 400 Quakers gathering in Abeka.

In 1992, Calvin Coday and his wife, Twila, came to Abeka to live with Isaac and his family. They were Quaker missionaries from Kansas. They built a hospital in Abeka. Twila Coday was a doctor, and Calvin built the hospital with the help of many people in the area, even people from other churches. There was no hospital nearby, so people liked this project.

Isaac and Rebeka were married in the Quaker Friends Meeting in Abeka, Congo in 1995. Isaac became very involved in the Abeka Friends Meeting. He would sing in the choir and was also the choir director.

The Abeka Friends Meeting was somewhat different than the Lancaster Friends Meeting; there was preaching, singing, and prayer. Quakers would decide to follow Jesus, the Son of God, and new believers were baptized with water. Isaac noted that “The Quaker world is very big and very diverse.”

Isaac noted that, currently, the Congo has six monthly meetings; Abeka, Baraka, Urira, Atungulu, Mikenge, and Kigongo. Isaac speculates that there are 4,000 Quakers in the Democratic Republic of Congo at this time. Isaac and Rebeka invite Quakers in the Lancaster Friends Meeting to visit the Quakers in the Abeka Friends Meeting in the Congo, whenever possible. Many of us hope we will be able to do that some day.

Things became more difficult for Isaac and Rebeka with increased conflict in the Congo. Isaac and Rebekah had to flee the Congo and lived in a refugee camp in Tanzania for 20 years.

There were Quakers from Burundi and from Abeka, Congo, in the refugee camp. Isaac became a pastor in the Friends Meeting in the refugee camp in Tanzania, and worked hard to “teach the people the word of God.”

A few years ago, Isaac, Rebeka, and their children arrived in America. Isaac and Rebeka have four children here in Lancaster (Mmunga, Asukulu, Twila, and Peter), and an older daughter who lives in Missouri. Isaac and Rebeka miss their family and their Friends Meeting both in the Congo, and in Tanzania. They are hoping that more family members will be able to join them in Lancaster before too long.

Lucy Scanlon


Lutheran Community Services

Lucy Scanlon has been busy since graduating from Muhlenberg College in 2016 with a Bachelors in Neuroscience.  She spent a year volunteering through Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Wilmington, Delaware, from August 2016 until the end of July 2017.

Lucy joined a group household of other Lutheran Volunteer Corps participants.  She volunteered at Lutheran Community Services (LCS), a non-profit organization serving low-income families in Wilmington with emergency food, housing, and other services. Lucy worked providing assistance with housing as well as in the food assistance program.  With the housing program, Lucy would “Help people pay their rent for a month due to things out of their control like getting sick, hours at work dropped, car failure, medical bills, or changing jobs…”.  Lucy noted, “Most people did not have emergency funds for these types of life events.”

Lucy enjoyed working with the food assistance assignments which included various pantries that provided food to people in need.  The Quaker schools in the area would do food drives to assist in stocking the food pantries.  This was just one of a variety of sources for the food pantries.  Lucy noted, “it was usually best to donate money [for the food pantries] because it was more efficient, and it was more likely that we would know what people would want.”  For instance, the pantry would receive Gefilte Fish from the community but it might be unfamiliar to the pantry users.  Lucy noted that “around Passover, a lot of Kosher food was donated.”

Lucy said she loved her job.  She enjoyed the chance to work in a non-profit, to “experience what it was like but not commit myself for the rest of my life… see if it’s something I like.”  She added that the volunteer experience was “great for getting used to going to a job, paying rent on time, getting used to being an adult, and being independent.”

Lucy lived with four other people who were also in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps program.  There were expected challenges with this situation including, “clash of personalities, trying to cook meals together with different dietary needs, etc.”  Besides the volunteer work assignments, there were opportunities to participate in “community events, cultural festivals, and getting involved with activities happening in Wilmington.”  Lucy learned a lot about herself and also some about city planning: “I learned that I don’t like living in a city, at least not right in the middle of the city.  I lived by a highway that cuts Wilmington in half.  The design isolates chunks of the city.”

Lucy noted that her overall experience was a good one, “I 110% recommend this to others.”  She encourages others to participate in service years through agencies like AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Quaker Voluntary Services, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, etc.  If the volunteer agencies are government funded, one can get a write-off on student loans.

Next steps for Lucy might include graduate school.  Lucy is thinking about going to graduate school for a degree in Public Health.  She noted, “One of my huge interests is spread of disease and things that are environmentally caused and disproportionally affect one socioeconomic class over another…what factors are involved.  I love looking at statistics of this stuff.”  For the time being Lucy is local and we can often talk with her at meeting to learn more about this interesting year she had.

LMM Kids Share Christmas Joy

YWCA delivery.jpg

LMM elves visit the YWCA

Lancaster Quaker Christmas Elves delivered 55 gift boxes and bags full of goodies to the YWCA in Lancaster. These gifts are to go to the residence of 40 adults and 12 children ages from 3 months to 14 years of age. Elves are from left to right on the front row Tessa Bieber-Locke, Joanna Fitts, Demi Spitko-Lind, Eli Newman, Caelan- Spitko-Lind, Noah Fitz. Second row left to right Diana Bieber-Lock, Michelle Spitko Lind, and Tabea Fitz. They sang Christmas carols and songs for many of the residents.

Josh Hummel


Have you ever wanted to hear more about some of the activities our young adults are involved in?  I talked to Josh Hummel to find out about what he has been up to.

Josh began an interesting assignment with AmeriCorps in July 2016, ending in June 2017.  His assignment was to work with FEMA.  Josh explained, “There are two branches of FEMA: the traditional, labor-oriented FEMA (fighting fires and floods, etc.) and the technology-based piece of FEMA (assessing damage, estimating cost, writing grants).”  Josh was assigned to the latter.

Josh explained some of his assignments in this way, “If a bridge would go out, we would assess the damage, take measurements, and recommend repair or replacement.”

During his time with FEMA, there was flooding in Louisiana, so this is where Josh and his team were sent.  At this assignment, he would go door to door to reach people affected by the flooding.  He would find out if people were in need of assistance.  He would input their information into a computer and determine eligibility for services.

The team relocated from Louisiana to Charleston, South Carolina, when Hurricane Matthew came through.  There, Josh’s tasks involved “surveying beaches, water pumps, sewer ways, taking measurements, and estimating costs for repair (a rough estimate), and getting funding for repairs.”

Josh was on a team of other volunteers, about eight people.  They were somewhat mobile as they had to go to where the disasters were occurring and never really stayed in one place for long.  Sometimes their accommodations were dorm rooms.  They each received a stipend for food
and expenses.

The part of this program that Josh really liked were the “friendships and travel.”  He enjoyed going directly to “affected areas, where people are, and helping them, making a difference, having an effect on the community.”  Being out in the community in this way was much more interesting to Josh than being stationed in the field office.

Josh is thinking about participating in this program again at some point.  He would like to do the more traditional FEMA work next time so he could be involved in more physical activity, which he prefers.  He likes, “being out and doing things.”

Josh’s adventures did not stop when he finished his FEMA assignment in June 2017.  He was offered a chance to go to China, live with a family friend, and be a classroom assistant helping Chinese children to learn English.  Josh jumped at the chance because he really likes, “cultural exposure; seeing new things, places, and people.”  He also was interested in seeing how he liked teaching.  Josh began his adventure in China in September 2017 and is still there.  The latest news is that Josh was promoted to full-time teaching in a Chinese classroom.  This will really give him a chance to see how teaching suits him. At some point, we will see Josh back at the Meeting House, when he returns from his adventures.  I’m sure he will have some interesting stories and pictures to share.

Sara Hernon-Reeves

sarah h-r.jpg

A Year with Quest

QUEST is a program that offers an intentional living community opportunity, free room and board, a small monthly stipend, a job in a social service field, and an opportunity to live into Quaker values such as simplicity (trying to live on a lower wage).

QUEST not only admits Quakers to their program, but also admits people who are interested in learning about Quakerism. Sara explained, “I was the only Quaker in the program”, meaning she became the go-to person for her housemates when they had questions about Quakerism.

QUEST participants were encouraged to feel a part of the Quaker community in the Pacific Northwest by attending yearly and quarterly meetings and by going to the Friends Meeting that was affiliated with QUEST. Sara did note, “I wanted to go [to these meetings] but I was often so busy with work.”
Another piece of the QUEST program was that people from the broader Quaker community would lead topics once monthly for QUEST participants. These included such subjects as learning the history of Quakerism and learning about Quaker SPICES (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship).

During her year in QUEST, Sara shared a house with five other QUEST participants. The household shared home management tasks such as weekly chores, budgeting, and grocery-shopping. They would eat at least one meal a week together. This could be “complicated – meeting everybody’s dietary needs,” she explained. House meetings were regularly scheduled as a time to check in on what was going well in the house, and to problem-solve if issues came up. Sara enjoyed the other participants in the program and those friendships have continued.

During her time with QUEST, Sara worked at Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, an agency working to end homelessness through policy. First, Sara worked as a Voter Engagement organizer. Sara trained and led people to do phone banking and door knocking to assist in electing state candidates for office who were endorsed by Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. These candidates were called, “Housing Champions.”

Following the election in November 2017, Sara began working on the Resident Action project, also through Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. Sara participated in a listening tour with people in low income apartments and public housing to find out what their challenges were. Sara would report findings back to the policy staff who would then come up with an agenda for the legislative session.

Sara also worked on training people in community organizing; helping people find their voice. This job involved “a lot of relationship-building, understanding group dynamics, and constant communication. It challenged me to be a better listener and communicator.” Sara noted that this also job required a big emotional investment as it involved listening to life stories about challenges people faced with housing and then trying to get these people interested in doing the work with the Housing Alliance, for change.

Sara said the community organizing job taught her that “it’s okay if people can’t stick around to do the work – but keep the doors open – it might evolve into something different.” She also noted, “I do like talking to people” as part of her work tasks.

Reflecting on her experience, Sara said, “I loved it. I had never lived on the west coast before, and this was a chance to explore a new place and meet new people.” She enjoyed the Pacific Northwest location, but there were about seven months of cloudiness/rain. The bus system in Seattle was great and public transportation is promoted. A drawback is how expensive the city is to live in.

Sara noted that she learned she does enjoy meeting and talking to people and found the Resident Action project to be the most fulfilling of her work assignments. Sara said she was exposed to issues through her work: “because of tech companies, the city has grown in the past 10 years and now we see the number of homeless people skyrocket. Something big in the state needs to change or we will keep making homes for gigantic worldwide organizations instead of for people. People are getting out. The legislature is not taking it seriously.”

Sara said, “I did grow as a person and with questioning more my role in society. I have more questions to figure out; am I doing enough to create a more just society? This is hard to truly answer.” She continued, “Social justice – justice in general – will be a necessary component in whatever I do.”

Sara would recommend the QUEST program to others. To be eligible for QUEST, one does not need to have a college education, but some type of experience is necessary. One does have to be 20 years old or older. It is important to be able to live in intentional community, for instance to be able to handle arguments, and to live with other people around all the time. One needs to be professional in the interview. Initially there is a QUEST interview with the QUEST director, and then a site interview with the director of the job one is identified for. Some of the sites other QUEST participants worked at were: REACH (a case-management program for people who were homeless and drug and alcohol addicted), an Immigration law firm, A permanent housing apartment for previously homeless senior men, and Friends of the Children (a program that assisted children who were struggling in school).