Berks County Staff
Mrs. Sara Bowers
August 18, 2013 to present
“I am so excited to return to my home county and serve alongside you! I was born in Reading and grew up in Oley. I began going to church when I was 10 years old when a cassette tape was dropped off in my neighborhood. On January 23, 2000, when I was 13, I realized my need for a Saviour after watching a video about Rachel Scott who was killed during the Columbine shooting for her faith. I wanted the assurance she had. I was by myself when I believed in my heart that Jesus died for my sin. Such joy filled me, and I couldn't wait to tell everyone! That July I attended Rosedale Camp Groves' camp meetings. One evening the man talked about the "Sinner's Prayer." I asked my sister what he meant. She said, "That's what you pray when you get saved." That's when the doubts began to creep in, because I never prayed. That New Year's Eve right when we entered 2001 I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom at church and said, "God I know I'm already saved, but I'm going to say these words so Satan can't make me doubt and more. I know I'm a sinner. I believe Jesus died for my sin and rose again. And I know He is my Saviour!" I never doubted after that.
Shirley Waid, my Sunday School teacher, introduced me to CEF. She had helped out at camp for many years and invited me to see what it was like. I loved it! I began as a Junior Counselor at day camp and then became a Summer Missionary (2005-2008). During my third summer God used Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" to call me into ministry. The following school year I began working part-time in the Philadelphia CEF office while attending Eastern University for elementary education. I served a fourth summer in Berks County and knew God wanted me to join the CEF staff after graduation. I worked one more semester at Philadelphia’s CEF office before I had to do my student teaching. I loved it but knew I was a Bible teacher and not an academic teacher.
"And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). I believed this to be true, so during my senior year of college I began praying in faith, "God let me be able to stay in Berks County. However, I will go wherever You want me to go." I even asked my church to join me. I was sad when Miss Ruth wrote me a letter informing me that they would not be able to have a second Field Worker, but I trusted God knew best. God then led me to Philadelphia County. Little did I know that four years later He would answer that prayer and bring me home to Berks County!
When Harry Hoffman (Chairman) was first told me Miss Ruth was retiring as the Director, and they wanted me to consider the position, I thought, "I am settled in Philly. I know the people. There is still much to do. How can I leave?" Through prayer God reminded me how I prayed in faith believing that I would work in Berks County 4 years earlier. God also reminded me that I had prayed a few years earlier telling Him that if He would ever call me from Philadelphia, He would replace me first so ministry could continue. Hannah Beatty became a part of Philadelphia’s staff that summer (2013) before I left for Berks County. It overwhelms me to see how God answers specific prayers!
Speaking of specific prayers, I began praying for my future husband Spring of 2008. I met Andy when I gave a ministry update at his church on May 20, 2018. Over the next year, unbeknownst to me, he prayed for me and about me. When I presented there again June 30, 2019, he took a business card and gave me a call. I am so glad he did. We were married on November 24, 2019, my 33rd birthday, and are expecting our first child this September. Andy is a great support to me as I serve as Director."
Mr. Matthew Wear
October 7, 2019 to present
"All of my life I was convinced that I was a Christian. I was raised in the church, was baptized, attended VBS and Christian camps, and therefore was convinced I was a follower of Jesus. Throughout my youth, I avoided most of the temptations that teens give into and was overall one of the “good” kids. However, college would be where I showed my true colors. After years of flunking and making poor decisions, it became rather clear to me that my religion was dead and needed a recommitment. The years following, I would clean myself up and eventually attend Lancaster Bible College beginning in 2017. It was throughout my years of study there that I would finally come to understand the biblical Gospel.
Graduating from Lancaster Bible College in May 2019, I was determined to find where God was calling me to serve. After months of prayer and thought, it became clear that God was closing doors to do pastoral ministry, which was what I had studied for, but He was instead opening doors for me to do
evangelistic work, especially with children. I took it as a sign, and thus applied for the Assistant Director position for CEF of Reading and Berks County, Inc. After months of interviewing and prayerful consideration, we agreed God was calling me to serve with the CEF team of Berks County, and I have been in training here ever since!
Having spent much of my life in the church without understanding the Gospel, I am very determined to share the Gospel with people. I do not believe America is Gospel hardened but indeed Gospel ignorant. I believe children are the greatest missionary field in America, as well as the largest unreached people group. I believe it is crucial to proclaim the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of sins to children before they grow to adolescents. It has been a joy seeing children come to recognize who God is, to understand their need for a Saviour, and see Jesus given as the perfect sacrifice for their sins so they could cling to Him for salvation. God is at work in their hearts.
I recently married my best friend, Sarah Wetzel! We were married on April 25, 2019 at my parents’ house, with all of our invites watching via Zoom because of the COVID-19 restrictions. We are happily married and excited to see what God has instore for the both of us as I serve here in Berks County."
Mrs. Helene Hoffman
March 30, 2011 to present
“I grew up locally in Reiffton. I attended church with my family every week, but it didn’t mean anything. At church they talked about God, but He was far away and distant. As a young child I remember going to our local Oley Fair and receiving a Dial-A-Story card. We hung it on our bulletin board in the kitchen by the sink. After school I always enjoyed calling that phone number and listening to those stories as I stood at our kitchen counter. I still have that original card. It’s been laminated.
In 1981 during my senior year, my working career began. Since I had completed all of the necessary credits, I was part of the school’s business co-op program. I graduated from Exeter High School in 1982. This was the beginning of my becoming an administrative assistant supporting senior executives/management in professional corporate settings.
On December 8, 1991, Mark and I got married on his birthday. Mark had the great privilege of growing up in a strong Christian household where his parents taught a Good News Club in their home. He is an amazing man of God who loves his Lord. We laugh when we think that, as a child, I was actually listening to the voices of my future in-laws and husband as they told the stories with the Dial-A-Story program. His parents faithfully continue to serve the Lord.
Through the years I was still empty deep inside, and something was definitely missing in my life. On a Tuesday evening in February/March of 1994, I was flipping channels on tv while Mark was working late. Billy Graham was on. At any other time in my life I would have just passed it by. However, this time was so different. Every word he spoke made sense, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. This is what was always missing in my life. Jesus was the answer. I now understood that I was separated from God because of my sin, Jesus died on the cross for me personally, and I needed Jesus to be the Lord and Saviour of my life. Before I knew it, I was on my knees. A large weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and I physically glowed for days. “Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Mark and I started to attend CEF Berks’ annual Banquet at the Fleetwood Grange when his parents invited us one year. We enjoyed it and attended every year after that. We have great memories as we enjoyed listening to the speakers, seeing the staff live and in person, catching up with friends, and making new ones. It was always packed full of people who loved, supported, and prayed for this ministry. And remember, don’t pass the food past the dot.
I know how important it is for children to simply hear the Gospel and have it explained to them so that they can understand it at an early age since I walked through it myself. Through a series of events, it was evident that the Lord was moving me away from the corporate world, which I really did enjoy. In 1999 I began volunteering with CEF Berks and added more responsibilities through the years. I was Lynda Vitalo’s helper and counselled with the children at her evening Good News Club at the Salvation Army in downtown Reading. I helped to color and cut out materials for the lessons. In 2000 I began substituting as a telephone counselor for the Dial-A-Story program. I started to fill in for Janice Sands at the office, when she served as the Office Coordinator, while she was away or on vacation. In 2001 I was Mary VanArt’s helper, counselling with the children and teaching the memory verses at her after-school Good News Club at her house. In 2004 I was hired as the 5-Day Club Coordinator for their summer programs, scheduling the backyard clubs at homes and churches and making sure the Summer Missionaries had accurate driving directions (before GPS). In 2005 each week I typed the 3-part carbon donation receipts on their electric typewriter, doublechecked/reconciled the deposits, and took them to the bank after Miriam Rissmiller served as the Financial Secretary. In 2007 I became the Treasurer after Linda Rentschler served.
At one point I began talking to Mark about how great it would be to work part-time and be part of the staff at CEF Berks because of what the Lord was doing there. One weekend he suggested I call Linda Ruth, the previous Director, and let her know what we’ve been talking about. I called her that Monday and told her that if there were any positions available in the future that I would like to be put on the list. She said that there wasn’t a list, but that there was going to be an opening. I told her that I was definitely interested and submitted my resume. She was surprised that I nor Mark didn’t know anything about it. On March 30, 2011 I was hired as the Office Coordinator when Janice Sands moved to Lancaster.
Through these years it has been an honor and a privilege to meet and serve alongside so many wonderful people. When you look back through your life, it’s incredible to see the Lord’s hand every step of the way as He orchestrates the events in His story as only He can.
I will always remember the very first child that I counselled with. He had raised his hand at the Invitation, so I asked if he had a question or if there was something he wanted to talk about. He said, “I need God in my life.” Dylan H. certainly understood God’s Word as we talked through the Counselling Cards. He made his own decision, asking Jesus to be his personal Saviour, and becoming part of God’s family that afternoon. The memories of the children that I’ve met through the years are so special and sweet to me. They are such great kids. Many have deep questions. Many are going through some really tough times.
What an incredible opportunity our team has here at CEF Berks. We get to be a tiny part of the Lord’s great big plans as the children hear God’s Word (the only Truth to hang on to), the Good News of the Gospel (the best news ever), and explain how they can begin a personal relationship with the Lord and have their lives changed right now and for all of eternity. Now that’s what’s going to change our city of Reading and Berks County. The Lord will do it as He changes one heart and one life at a time.”
Mrs. Mary Christman
May 30, 2017 to present
“When I was little, we went to church. Then we stopped going for a long time. In 1997 God used a cassette tape to bring us back to church, which is the same church I currently attend. I accepted Jesus as my Saviour March 11, 1997 at 2:23am. However, I went my own way making wrong choices. Just like the lost sheep God pursued me.
The next several years were hard, and I know it was God who got me through. My faith grew as I began attending Sunday School and church with my parents. I began helping my Mom teach children’s Sunday School and even filled in as a substitute teacher for the adult class. Once a month I would teach missions to the children. Through this I discovered my burden and passion for missions, but never considered doing missionary work myself.
I started volunteering at the Boyertown Community Library in 2010. It was a joy working in the children’s section shelving books, movies, and other items. I also started volunteering in three Good News Clubs in 2014. I love working with children. In October of 2015 I fell and broke my ankle. During my recovery I became even closer to Jesus. In all the times I stepped away from Jesus, He never gave up on me. He kept bringing me back to Himself. I am so thankful!
I married a good Christian man, Jim, on February 14, 2015. We attend church together and seek to put God first in our marriage. I am regularly spending time with my Saviour. I have grown in my faith and love Jesus more than ever! He has taught me to depend on Him for all my needs.
Early 2017, I felt like God was preparing me for something. I did not understand what it was until my sister, Sara, asked me to pray about serving with her. At first many excuses popped into my head of why I could not serve. For every excuse I came up with, God reminded me of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The more I prayed, the more God made it clear to me in various ways that this is what God has been preparing me for. I am excited to see how God will use me as the Ministry Assistant to reach the boys and girls of Berks County with the Gospel!"