Pa. cell-church planters reap rewards from risk

Couple see evidence of changed lives after hearing a call to deeper engagement

May 6, 2019 by and

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NEW HOLLAND, Pa. — After a monthlong series of prayers while walking around the city of Nanticoke a year ago, Michael and Lori Deckman learned that no matter how many miles they logged on one path, God often leads in a different direction.

Mountain Top, Pa., cell church members participate in LMC’s Celebration of Church Life on March 16 at Petra Church in New Holland, Pa. Front row, from left: Christina Roche, Peter DiMarco, Lori Deckman, Gabriel Deckman, Debbie Mollendor and Dawn Drumm. Back row: Gabriel DiMarco, Michael Deckman, Caleb Deckman and Bruce Wikert. — Laurie Oswald Robinson for MWR

Mountain Top, Pa., cell church members participate in LMC’s Celebration of Church Life on March 16 at Petra Church in New Holland, Pa. Front row, from left: Christina Roche, Peter DiMarco, Lori Deckman, Gabriel Deckman, Debbie Mollendor and Dawn Drumm. Back row: Gabriel DiMarco, Michael Deckman, Caleb Deckman and Bruce Wikert. — Laurie Oswald Robinson for MWR

Michael Deckman was already assistant pastor for Nanticoke Christian Fellowship, a congregation of LMC (formerly Lancaster Mennonite Conference). So it seemed likely they ought to move from their home 30 miles away in Mountain Top to Nanticoke to be closer to their ministry base.

They did the prayer walk to become more acute listeners to the Holy Spirit.

“We did our prayer walking once a week during that month, but we didn’t hear anything,” Michael Deckman said. “Finally, near the end of the month, a vision appeared, but it wasn’t about moving to Nanticoke.

“After praying some more, it seemed God was calling us to a deeper engagement right in Mountain Top, as well as right in the center of our home as a new cell-church plant.”

This year the Deckmans opened their home in the city of 7,000 residents in north-central Pennsylvania.

“We knew that in planting a cell-based church, which is more intimate than a regular church setting, you can get into the mud with people, into the real deal of their lives,” he said. “In faith, Lori and I made the decision to act on our vision, to embrace the risk and receive the rewards.”

They have been hosting a weekly gathering of up to 15 people on Sunday afternoons for worship, prayer, Bible teaching and fellowship. In time, they hope to multiply this cell into other cells.

“After we decided to launch our cell group, we heard from our son, who works at a local barbecue shop, that a psychic came into the store,” said Lori Deckman, a wellness consultant. “She said her goal was to get invited into all the homes in Mountain Top. . . . She booked out a year and a half ahead already. . . .

“Of all the things we recognized as potential risks of obeying God, the occult didn’t even make our list. But then we realized that [Satan] was making a counter move to what God wanted to do.”

Dissolving darkness

So far, the couple said, they have not experienced overt repercussions from psychic activity. Rather, they are witnessing how Christ’s light is dissolving darkness. One example is the unfolding story of their new friend Bobby, who owns a pastry shop in the community.

“My wife and I and our two boys befriended Bobby and his family,” Michael Deckman said. “One Saturday, I went to their shop for coffee and a sandwich and talked with him about God.”

Bobby said he believed in God but had spent much of his life angry at God because of his father’s early death. Due to his grief and anger, Bobby led a violent life­style. He felt the unrest in his life was a sign God was punishing him for his violent deeds.

“I invited him to our cell group the next evening,” Deckman said. “As soon as he walked in the house, he stopped in his tracks, looked to his right and to his left, and said, ‘It is so peaceful in here. I am on edge all the time. But I am so relaxed here. I can’t explain it, What’s going on?’

“I told him it sounded like the Holy Spirit was working on him and that it seemed God wanted to speak to him.”

After Deckman prayed for him, Bobby began weeping and said he suffered constant pain due to nerve damage, but since he walked into the Deckmans’ house, the pain was gone.

Deckman said to him, “Bobby, you know we aren’t doing anything, it is God. God wants to move in your life.”

Bobby has come back several times. He is forging a stronger relationship with Christ and making new friends, including Peter DiMarco, a core member of the cell group who lives in Hazelton, six miles from Mountain Top. DeMarco is the director of development for another local church but regularly attends the cell church as well.

“I learned Bobby grew up in New York, just like I did, and we immediately bonded,” DiMarco said. “He was searching for some peace. I told him I had been there, too, 20 years ago, but that God came into my life and loved me unconditionally.”


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