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Our History

64 Years of Joyfully Reaching the Children of Tioga County

 

When Jesse Owen won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics and Margaret Mitchell published "Gone with the Wind", a man named J. Irvin Overholtzer respond to God's call to win boys and girls to Christ, thus establishing the ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship. A year later, in 1937, he made the first contacts in Eastern Pennsylvania, and CEF of Eastern PA was officially organized in 1938. 

The ministry of CEF of Eastern PA grew in the surrounding years, and the state headquarters bounced around locations in the center of the state, moving to Lancaster in 1951 and Harrisburg in 1976. 

But, up here in Tioga County, cradled in the Northern Appalachian Mountains and surrounded by forests and farms and small towns, CEF came a little more slowly.

In 1955, Mable Ruth Wray, under the headship of CEF of E PA State Director Helen Odenwelder, organized a ministry and committee in Tioga County. A year later, the ministry of CEF in our county gained its charter of recognition. And, in 1959, we were officially incorporated as CHILD EVANGELISM FELLOWSHIP OF TIOGA COUNTY. 

Fondly known as CEF of E PA's "Northwestern Outpost," CEF of Tioga County didn't receive our first full-time in-county director until 1961. Miss Maria Johnson, sent up from the state headquarters, arrived on July 1st and stayed on as director for over 35 years. 

Starting from our early years, CEF of Tioga county's ministry relied heavily on in-school and after school Good News Clubs. In the 1961-1962 school year, 25 clubs were held through our ministry, and 592 children attended. According to records, there were 7,435 children living in Tioga County at the time. 

But the ministry didn't end with the school year - it never does! Summer ministry continued in 1962, as it had for the previous years, with seven weeks of clubs held from Osceola to Roseville to Blossburg and beyond. The tradition of summer missionaries has continued off and on throughout the years, with as many as eight summer missionaries and trainees serving in the county at one time. This ministry has allowed us to reach the homes and neighborhoods of children in the local area by teaching lessons on lawns and porches. 

CEF of Tioga County's summer ministry has also included Good News Day Camps, which began in the early 1970s. The original camps were held in the Wellsboro and Knoxville areas. CEF of Tioga County has held camps at as many as five different locations in a summer. 

Speaking of locations, did you know that our headquarters was originally located in Mansfield? We didn't move to Wellsboro and our current location until 1974 (which was still earlier than the McDonald's next door). We have stayed in the same location ever since. 

In 1997, J. Sue Sawyer came on as field worker for Tioga County under Maria Johnson. She later transitioned to becoming county director in 1999. She served as director until Bob and Alison Horne came in 2011, then served as interim director after they stepped down in 2016. Sue was followed by Miss Louisa Self in January of 2018. Our current director, Garion Erway, came on as Full-Time Field Worker in August of 2018 and transitioned to the position of director in February 2020. 

Throughout over 60 years of ministry, CEF of Tioga County has used clubs, rallies, teas, camps, banquets, open air, fair presentations, and more to share the gospel with the children of our county. We are so thankful for what God has done, and we look forward to what He will continue to do up here in the "Northwestern Outpost" of CEF of E PA. 

Timeline:

  • 1936 - CEF founded by Mr. J. Irvin Overholtzer

  • 1938 - Officially organized in Eastern Pennsylvania

  • 1956 - CEF of Tioga chartered 

  • 1961 - CEF of Tioga received first full-time director, Maria Johnson

  • October 1974 - CEF of Tioga headquarters moved from Mansfield to Wellsboro

  • 1984 - CEF of Tioga made Good News Story House

  • 1988 - the State Board of CEF OF E PA, INC. voted unanimously to disaffiliate with CEF Inc. and become an independent CEF ministry

  • 1997 - Sue Sawyer came on as field worker

  • 1999 - Sue became director

  • 2018 - Garion Erway stepped up as full-time field worker

  • February 2020 - Garion became director

For more information on the history of CEF of Eastern PA, visit http://cefepa.net/

PURPOSE

  • To evangelize children whom no one is reaching with the Gospel

  • To train children in the Word of God

  • To provide a systematic program of follow-up of children led to Christ

  • To conduct Good News Clubs, Released-Time Classes, 5-Day Clubs, Open-Air Work,Rallies, Camps, Fair Ministries, and other activities

  • To provide training for teachers who will be involved in CEF OF EASTERN PA, INC. and/or other children’s ministries

  • To provide visual aids, teaching materials, and other literature

  • To build up every Bible-teaching church and Sunday school

  • To cooperate with every fundamental organization but to be completely independent of them.