Fellowship Deaconry Blog

Sharing Updates and Stories from Fellowship Deaconry Ministries

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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Update on S.H.I.L.O.H Committees

In March, the  S.H.I.L.O.H. meetings came to a close when each committee presented their recommendations. The Staff had experienced a time of learning from one another during those eight weeks of brainstorming, envisioning changes and praying together. It opened our eyes to many new and creative ideas for enhancing the experience of the guests of Fellowship Deaconry Ministries.

The conclusion of this meeting marked the beginning of the plan development phase. With the formation of a strategic planning committee, we began to compile and review the recommendations, in order to guide and shape the improvement process. These tactical plans are for all our ministries and range from upgrading our campus to increasing ways we can better connect with and serve you!

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S.H.I.L.O.H Committees

Director Davis has begun an unprecedented project at FDM by calling the entire staff, along with the Deaconry Sisters and our volunteers who are visiting from Germany, to gather into these specific committees. We have formed six committees to kick off this project: Systems, Hospitality, Infrastructure, Leadership & training, Outreach and Housing. Put them all together and they spell S.H.I.L.O.H. 

Through evaluation and prayer each committee is asked to bring forward up to five recommendations that they believe FDM should undertake to improve operations, appearance and guest service. 

Director Davis says there is inspiration to be taken from Nehemiah chapter 3: Remember, Nehemiah had been sent to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall: In chapter 3 we have a list that describes how particular sections of the wall, and individual gates, were rebuilt and repaired by different segments of the population. Taking a lead from Nehemiah, each group is focusing on repairing a different “section of the wall”. Each group is focusing on an aspect of the FDM operation by identifying problems, and recommending solutions. A final review will be conducted to identify which projects should become part of a strategic plan. 

Everyone is excited and feeling encouraged, and we look forward seeing to the results. 

We cannot do this alone and are in need of your help to bring these changes into reality. King Artaxerxes provided the financing for Nehemiah’s project, the people provided the labor, and the Spirit of God provided the protection against mockers and enemies. 

Your partnership is essential in the form of volunteering, continued financial help (for materials, supplies, signs, new printed matter) and continuing to intercede for us as we pursue God’s purposes for the Deaconry. Please pray about how you can help us in this process, and consider signing up for volunteer opportunities.

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The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength

In our last issue of Seasons our Board Chair, Fred Schumm, alluded to Nehemiah. In this issue, we also allude to the book of Nehemiah in several places. The Nehemiah example continues to resonate at Fellowship Deaconry Ministries. The book of Nehemiah recounts a stirring episode in the history of Israel. There was a material task to literally rebuild walls and repair gates in Jerusalem, but there were spiritual issues too. After having been defeated by Assyria and Babylon, most Israelites had been scattered to the winds or carried off into captivity, including the priests and Levites. After 70 years, and a partial return to the land, the inhabitants of Jerusalem had forgotten the Word of God, and the joy of His presence. In Nehemiah chapter 8 we learn that after the walls had been repaired Nehemiah and Ezra called for a holy day in Jerusalem. Ezra mounted a platform to read the Word of God aloud to the people. Their hearts were pierced, and they wept, as they realized that they had wandered away from worship, and had broken the Law. But Ezra and Nehemiah admonished the people to not grieve: “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." 

The people were being instructed that it is a good thing to discover they had wandered off of the path that leads to joy. When God allows us to observe (or be reminded) that we have lost track of His Presence in our endeavors, we rejoice that He has intervened to get us back on track.  Here at the Fellowship Deaconry, we rejoice that God has impressed upon us to institute Staff Devotions on a mandatory basis: Every Friday, at 10:15, everyone at the Deaconry (including volunteers, part-time employees, regular staff and the Sisters) gather for Bible study and prayer. We structure our work schedules on Friday to make sure to attend Devotions for this hour. Along with prayer for Deaconry needs, this is the time when we, as a group, pray for you, and lift the Prayer Requests that have come into us from you by email, through our web site, or by personal contact. Jesus is at the center of what we say, and we are determined that He be at the center of what we do. “… the joy of the LORD is [our] strength."

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New Sunshine Camp Bus Program

“If we can’t bring inner city kids to Day Camp Sunshine, let’s bring the camp to them!” was the idea that sparked the initiative for Sunshine Camp Bus (SCB).  Todd Haraldsen, Director of Sunshine Day Camp, and Chris Hendrickson, Assistant Director, are committed to sharing the Gospel. There were 135 kids who professed faith in Christ over the summer of 2016. We offer camp scholarships to families in need, which has proven to be very powerful. Yet camp scholarships only help us serve the children who are able to get to our place. 

Todd and Chris have developed an amazing solution: stuff a vehicle with basic day camp equipment and two counselors, and bring day camp to churches in Newark. The idea is to connect with churches in the city who may have a facility, but not the means to offer day camp recreation to kids in the area. The Fellowship Deaconry (FDM) will partner with such churches and send our “Sunshine Camp Bus” to them for a day. The church will provide space and volunteers and FDM will provide the rest.

Ms. Shelly Bell, a member of our Board of Directors, and an activist for Christ in the Newark area, loves the idea.  Ms. Bell believes there are many churches that would be on board with the program, and who would be willing and able to pay a daily fee to cover the costs.  Countless kids would hear the Gospel and have what may possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience God reaching out to them, even if they can’t get to camp.

Our estimated budget to get this program up and running is $75,000. Our needs to jump start this program are: a vehicle (bus or large van), equipment and two additional counselors.  If you have an in-kind donation, maybe an extra bus or sports equipment you want to donate, we can use that too! Once we are running, the participation of local churches will sustain the program.  As our “Sunshine Camp Bus” thrives in Newark, we hope to expand the program to other areas, including, possibly, Patterson and Trenton.  We’ll see how the Lord leads. If the Lord gives you any ideas, or moves upon your heart to help start this program, let us know. If you have any questions or an in-kind donation, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or you can donate online at



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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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