Church growth spurs major building project

Sonido de Alabanza changes landscape of Chicago suburb

Sonido de Alabanza Associate Pastor Sergio Nava, Treasurer Gina Ramirez and Senior Pastor Esdras Ferreras survey the site where their new church will be built.

Sonido de Alabanza Associate Pastor Sergio Nava, Treasurer Gina Ramirez and Senior Pastor Esdras Ferreras

A church is too big for its building. For Sonido de Alabanza of Cicero, Illinois, that’s nothing new.

What is new is the solution – a home that’s ready to grow along with the congregation. A new two-story building will welcome more than 1,000 worshippers on Sunday mornings.

It also will serve as a hub for a variety of activities throughout the week – English as a second language and computer classes are possibilities.

Sonido de Alabanza (Sound of Praise) will move out of its current facility, a former American Legion hall in the same block, as soon as the new building is ready.

The new structure is being built with the idea that a third floor could be added later. For example, the elevator shaft goes to the third-floor level, which is now the roof. And from the roof, it’s easy to spot the skyscrapers that make up the Chicago skyline.

The view gave Associate Pastor Sergio Nava an idea – to place a table and chairs on the rooftop, where people can reflect on their faith while enjoying the cityscape. “They could read the Bible and look at the Chicago skyline,” he said.

The church outgrew its current facility, where it moved in 1996 after occupying a more traditional church building in Cicero.

“We were exploding at the seams” before the 1996 move, noted Senior Pastor Esdras Ferreras, and the same thing happened again.

Sonido de Alabanza has grown from 12 people in 1981 to more than 1,200 today.

Sonido de Alabanza’s major construction project was financed in part through an Everence® church loan, in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Missions. Our annuity program funds our church loans. Find out more at


Simple roots to shared fruits

A story of one family’s humble upbringing and heartfelt impact


A tough year on the family farm meant money was tight when Betsy McCrae was growing up with her parents and sisters in southeastern Colorado.

“We lived very frugally,” recalled the former pastor of Glennon Heights Mennonite Church, Lakewood, Colorado. “We never had much money.”

Many years later, that farm in rural La Junta, Colorado, helped Betsy’s parents, Melvin and Clara Headrick, enjoy a comfortable retirement and contribute to their favorite causes.

When Melvin and Clara wanted to retire from farming, they donated the farm to a charitable trust, through Everence®.

Their property donation provided retirement income for them, and the money left after they died was designated for charities they had supported all of their lives – including Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp.

It was “a perfect fit for their situation,” noted Trust and Financial Advisor Dennis LeFevre, CFP®. Betsy said, “That land – with the water rights attached – was so valuable.”

Betsy grew up feeling connected to other parts of the world. Her mother was born and raised in India to missionary parents, and her dad served with Mennonite Central Committee in Europe after World War II.

As a child, “We’d always pray for these missionaries, and half the time, we never even knew who they were,” Betsy said. She recently decided to go into the mission field herself, carrying on the connection she’s always felt to other parts of the world.

Betsy said she enjoys working with Everence because she feels like she’s talking with people who are on her side – and help her invest funds in responsible ways that reflect her own values.

Want to hear more about how donors like Betsy and her family support the missions and ministries closes to their hearts? Watch the video.

To learn more about how you can make a heartfelt impact through generosity, visit or call us at (800) 348-7468.


Pitching in to aid Puerto Rico recovery

Effort includes volunteers, chapter grant, investments

Keith Witmer helps with construction in recovery efforts for Puerto Rico.

Keith Witmer, Market Operations Manager, measures gables for a storm-damaged home in Aibonito, Puerto Rico.

The people of Puerto Rico have never been far from the minds of many at Everence® as recovery efforts continue in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Maria roared into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, destroying homes, schools, businesses, roads and bridges, and knocking out power across the island.

Everence sent two groups of volunteers – a total of 15 people – to the island in 2018 to help with Mennonite Disaster Service restoration projects.

“The work was hard, but it was extremely meaningful,” said Keith Witmer, Market Operations Manager for Everence in Central Penn. “It provided noticeable hope to the community” of Aibonito.

The Central Penn member chapter donated $1,000 to support MDS in building stronger and safer homes, in cooperation with Mennonite Church conferences in Puerto Rico.

Everence members support relief efforts in Puerto Rico and other areas when they invest through our mutual fund family, because the funds share a commitment to community development investing*, known as CDI.

Investment dollars are channeled as loans to underserved communities through CDI options integrated into our investment portfolios and funds.

Residents of lower-income neighborhoods often have the hardest time recovering from disasters, for a number of reasons.

“The people most affected by disasters often are in communities in disadvantaged areas, where accessing capital and resources to rebuild can be difficult,” said Mark Regier, Everence Vice President of Stewardship Investing.

“That’s why we dedicate more than 1 percent of our mutual fund family assets to community development investing,” Regier added.

*Everence channels investment dollars as loans to underserved communities through community development investing options integrated into our investment portfolios and funds.


Pastoral Financial Wellness Program expanded

Second Lilly Endowment grant helps launch phase two

Basin and towel on a chair

Everence® expanded our Pastoral Financial Wellness Program to credentialed and active pastors from our more than 30 affiliated Anabaptist and like-minded denominations and church networks.

The new guidelines took effect in January 2019, made possible, in part, by a second grant of $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc.

“We very much appreciate this additional support from the Lilly Endowment,” said Beryl Jantzi, Everence Stewardship Education Director and Program Manager for the Pastoral Financial Assistance Program. “With this second grant, Everence has the opportunity to help alleviate financial pressures for even more pastors, so that they can continue following their calling to the ministry.”

The Pastoral Financial Wellness Program includes three components:

  • Direct financial assistance grants to help pastors alleviate debt burdens.
  • Financial education events on such topics as retirement planning, debt reduction, financial planning and clergy taxes.
  • Financial planning subsidies toward the cost of a first-year Everence comprehensive financial plan.

The first time Everence received a Lilly grant, in 2015, the Pastoral Financial Wellness Program was available only to pastors within Mennonite Church USA and Conservative Mennonite Conference.

One pastor who benefited from the program’s first phase said, “I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of Everence and the Lilly Endowment for a debt reduction matching grant and an educational event led by Everence.”

The pastor said the grant helped him eliminate his seminary debt. And he enjoyed an educational event, where he and his wife boosted their financial literacy and relaxed with other church leaders and spouses.

For more information about the Everence Pastoral Financial Wellness Program, contact your local stewardship consultant or visit


A genuine communiter builder

Everence honors the life of Ked Dejmal

Ked Dejmal works at a construction site. (Photo provided by Chuck Fairchild)

Ked Dejmal works at a construction site. (Photo provided by Chuck Fairchild)

Ked Dejmal was one of those people every church needs. When there was work to be done, you didn’t have to ask Ked twice about helping. He was there.

“He was a good and faithful servant,” said Chuck Fairchild. Chuck was a friend of Ked’s and fellow member of Eugene Friends Church, Eugene, Oregon.

“He was very others-oriented,” said Sheri Hagen, one of Ked’s daughters. “He was a real people person.”

Everence® supported the life and work of Ked Dejmal with our 2018 National Journey Award, which recognizes people who model Christian stewardship. Ked died in March 2018 at 83.

Ked’s curious nature came to life in his interest in finding ways to keep learning, through real-life experiences beyond the textbook – even though he was a teacher. Got a few acres to spare?

Why not start a Christmas tree farm?

The farm even helped fuel Ked’s passion for education. “The Christmas tree farm helped put my sister and me through college,” said Ked’s daughter Lynette Andersen.

Ked taught science to junior high/middle school students. In retirement, Ked and his wife, Nina, joined Volunteers on Wheels, which matches volunteers with churches or church camps needing help with construction or repair projects.

Financial matters interested Ked too. He served as Everence stewardship advocate at Eugene Friends Church for more than 20 years and brought in Everence advisors and representatives to talk about money management.

Ked promoted use of the Everence Sharing Fund, which supplies matching grants to help churches lend a hand to people in need in their communities.


MyNeighbor delivers major impact

Nonprofits get over $345,000 through credit card program

We have both personal and business MyNeighbor credit cards.

A MyNeighbor credit card generates donations with each purchase.

Nonprofits received more than $345,000 in contributions in January 2019, thanks to users of the MyNeighbor credit card from Everence® Federal Credit Union.

“Through the MyNeighbor program, we are encouraging and supporting our members in helping them spread generosity in our communities,” said Ken Hochstetler, President and CEO of Everence. “In one year, our members generated over $345,000 for local and global charities – that’s a significant impact!”

Since its launch in April 2017, the MyNeighbor program has generated more than $552,000 for charities, churches, schools and other types of nonprofits.

Individuals and businesses generate reward dollars for their favorite nonprofits whenever they use their MyNeighbor credit cards.

Each time you buy groceries, pay bills or make other purchases, Everence will donate 1.50 percent of the purchase total to the charity of your choice. Then, in January, Everence writes and sends checks to the selected charities.

One MyNeighbor card user from Pennsylvania said he and his wife are grateful to be able to donate to their church by using their card, rather than earning cash back as is common with other credit cards.

“Cash back is basically just benefiting us,” he said. “We’d rather contribute that money to our church than our next credit card bill.”

To learn more about the MyNeighbor program, talk to your local Everence representative or visit