On July 7, 2017 at 7PM, Rev. Lucas Hanna was installed as the new undershepherd of First RP Church of Beaver Falls.  Lucas faithfully served as pastor for many years at the Covenant RP Church in Meadville, Pennsylvania. In May of 2016 the congregation was informed that Pastor Steven F. Miller was needing to retire due to his recent diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease (or ALS). Though the congregation had only been able to enjoy Pastor Miller’s ministry for 22 months, by God’s grace, he had accomplished much and positioned the congregation well for the transition to another teaching elder.

At the same time that First RPC was beginning to pursue candidates, Lucas and his family were beginning to explore whether God might call them to long-term service in South Sudan. In November of 2015, Lucas had traveled to work with our missionaries near Aweil, South Sudan, to help with the training of pastors. Lucas returned and began to make plans with the RP Global Mission board to go back to South Sudan with his family for a six-week exploratory trip. Upon returning, the desire to serve in South Sudan remained, but it didn’t seem that the timing was right yet for the entire family to make that move. Lucas began to discuss with the RP Global Mission board the possibility of his using short-term service in South Sudan to aid in the work of training the pastors of the Aweil Community Church. These short term trips would be four weeks in length and would occur three times in a twelve month period in 2017. In the fall of 2016, the board agreed to explore this short-term solution over an eight-month period beginning in early February of 2017.

Lucas’ interest in missions resonated with the congregation at First RPC and we issued him a call in December. For the last 9 years we have been blessed to have had some of our own members serving in South Sudan (the Dan & Natalie Faris family), so we were already passionate about and desirous of supporting that work. The idea of sharing our pastor occasionally to labor in South Sudan also presented the Session with opportunities to more effectively shepherd the Faris family. It seemed that God was opening a door that might yield many benefits to the congregation, fulfill a desire of the Hannas, and benefit the ongoing work in South Sudan.

The Hanna family was blessed to be able to sell their home in Meadville very quickly and the congregation invited them to move into the newly renovated manse in early April of 2017. The Hannas used this time ahead of the installation to get acquainted with the church members and to begin to establish relationships in the community. In late May, Lucas returned for his second trip to South Sudan. A third one month trip to South Sudan is planned for the latter part of 2017 to complete his present arrangement with the RP Global Mission board. Beyond that the board and the Session will evaluate the suitability of one or two trips continuing each year.

We rejoice at the marvelous way that God works and His faithfulness and support through times of challenge. We give thanks to Him for His amazing plans that could not only meet the needs of the congregation, but also meet needs among His churches in South Sudan, and also provide support and encouragement for Lucas’ family during his times away.

Rev. Matt Filbert