Sea Metaphor Teaches Mennonite Women USA Leaders Women’s Gifts

Winter 2012

SARASOTA, Fla.—A group of Mennonite Women USA leaders met Feb. 24-25 at Bahia Vista Mennonite Church in Sarasota, Fla., for a retreat titled PREP (Preparing, Resourcing, Encouraging and Praising). Tables beautifully decorated with live fish, shells, candles and tulle the color of the sea helped focus the discussion on “Gifts of the Sea: Adapting for Change and Diversity.” Ruth Lapp Guengerich, Mennonite Women USA Co-Director, provided leadership for the seminar. Dawn Yoder Graber and Doris Diener from Southeast Conference were led worship, using Colossians 3:23-24 as the Scripture for the weekend: “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it. … You serve the Lord Christ.”

Two congregations shared creative approaches for inviting women across generations to participate in congregational women’s groups. The weekend concluded with a boat ride on Sarasota Bay, during which participants watched dolphins and learned about the bay’s natural habitat. When the marine biologist guide cast a net into the bay to troll “gifts from the bay,” participants were reminded that God lifts people from the seaweed and debris of life to show how individually and collectively they are significant gifts to the world.


More from Marian Egli – Illinois Mennonite Conference Mennonite Women

PREP – 2012

While sitting at tables decorated with shells, fish, candles, and tulle the color of the “sea,”  33 Mennonite Women staff and conference leaders from nine states, reaching from Montana to Florida, met at Bahia Vista Mennonite Church, Sarasota, FL, February 24-25, 2012, to worship and ponder together on the theme, “Gifts of the Sea: Adapting for Change and Diversity.”  There is a pearl in each one of us. Like shells we weather many situations and sometimes we break or have holes, yet beauty and strength remain.

Dawn Yoder Graber of Southeast Conference led worship based on Colossians 3:23-24:

“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.”

Dawn called us to live fully and in every task we do, “to live to the glory to God.”  Doris Diener from Southeast Conference led us in singing.

Attendees affirmed the format for Timbrel, A Postcard and a Prayer, and the Women’s Bible Study Guides. We were reminded of the need for financing Timbrel.  We were encouraged to give subscriptions to friends. Our conference resource persons will be asked to further promote resources available from Mennonite Women USA.

MW USA former board chairperson, Rebecca Sommers, is now coordinator of the Sister-Link Project in which women make wall-hangings.  They are given to home-owners when Mennonite Disaster Service has a house-blessing for a restored home. The wall-hangings are a gift of Mennonite tradition and a way to say “we care.”

During table time we shared together about Sister Care Seminars and our experience with Mennonite Women USA within our own conferences. The delicious meals and snacks provided by women from Bahia Vista were life-sustaining as was the fellowship.

Luann Horst from Franklin Conference, PA, and a PowerPoint presentation from Bethesda Mennonite Church, Henderson, NE, Central Plains Conference, showed new ways to have inter-generational gatherings for women. At Bethesda they schedule activities during the winter months bringing women together without a commitment to monthly meetings.

During our “Mote Marine” boat ride we watched dolphins gracefully surface in and out of the water. A marine biologist told us about the natural habitat of the Sarasota Bay. She cast a net into the bay as we trolled for five minutes. Upon pulling in the net, she reverently showed us the “gifts from the bay”; little fish, conch living in their shells, and sponge being researched for medical use. God lifts us from the seaweed and debris of our lives, and treasures and wants to show how individually and collectively we are significant to our world.


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