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John P. Bender

John Paul Bender of Allentown, PA died peacefully at St. Luke’s Hospice House on October 9, 2016. The third of six children, John was born October 28, 1954, in Iowa City, IA to Ila Hochstetler Bender and Harold Ray Bender. He received a BS degree in Biblical Studies at Eastern Mennonite College, 1978, and M.Div. degree at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, 1983, Harrisonburg, VA. On June 24, 1978, he married Marilyn Kay Handrich in Sarasota, Florida. Together they raised three daughters, Kara, Mikaela, Alisha.

John lived and worked for 30 years as a Mennonite pastor in multi-ethnic, urban settings which started as a one year exchange student in Mexico City. After seminary, he served as a pastoral team member at Broad Street Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, VA; a Church Planter in Raleigh NC; a Pastor in Pittsburgh, PA, and an Interim Pastor at Franconia Mennonite, Telford, PA. He moved to Allentown, PA, to support RIPPLE church and help birth Ripple Community Inc. (www.RippleCommunityInc.org)

John enjoyed reading, camping and hiking, and hosting guests. He was famous for his competitive card playing and his homemade cinnamon rolls. He loved spending time with family and extended family, often making trips to Iowa and Florida. He was the uncle that could be counted on to play whiffle ball and share in jokes and laughter.

John was preceded in death by his nephew Micah David Miller; his father, Harold Ray Bender; his father-in-law, Vergil Handrich; his grandparents: Daniel C. Bender, Maude Swartzendruber Gingerich, John W. Gingerich, Sarah Beckler Hochstetler, and Benjamin Hochstetler; and his uncles: Daniel E. Bender and Paul Marner.

John is survived by his wife Marilyn Handrich Bender; daughters Kara Bender, Alisha Bender, Mikaela Bender Landis; son-in-law Joel Landis; grandson Beckett; Mother, Ila Bender; siblings Nancy & (Glen) Gehman, Ron & (Lorene) Bender, Ileen & (Elmer) Miller, David & (Kathy) Bender, Rose Bender; 17 nieces and nephews; 25 great nieces and nephews.

Services will be held at 10:30 AM on Saturday, October 15, 2016, at Franconia Mennonite Church, Telford, PA, and burial will be at Perkasie Mennonite Church Cemetery, Perkasie PA.

Memorial Contributions in lieu of flowers, John has graciously requested that donations be made in his honor to Ripple Community Inc. (RCI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization affiliated with Ripple church. Ripple is a Mennonite church located in inner-city Allentown, PA, and a member of Franconia Conference. Since 2011, Ripple church has been working to address the spiritual, material, and relational needs of Allentown residents who are socially marginalized due to poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and related challenges.

John and Marilyn moved to Allentown in 2013 to launch RCI, with the goal of expanding the work of Ripple church into the broader community. Like Ripple church, RCI works to build community among people who are socially isolated and overlooked. We are guided by our vision of Allentown as a community where everyone has a role to play, a strong network of social support, and a connection to the place they call home.

To this end, we focus on two interconnected program areas: The Community [Building] Center and the RCI Village. Using simple activities like quilting, crafts, and recycling, our Community [Building] Center brings people from all walks of life together to engage in meaningful work, build relationships, and provide mutual support. The RCI Village, a new program that we are in the process of launching, focuses on addressing the need for community-centered affordable housing in Allentown. In all our efforts, we use the principles of Restorative Practices—a method for addressing conflict and mending broken relationships. You can learn more about RCI at www.RippleCommunityInc.org or by visiting our Facebook page.

Checks should be made payable to Ripple Community, Inc and can be mailed to: Ripple Community Inc. 36 S. 8th Street, Allentown, PA 18101