Sister Care seminar presented in all 21 Mennonite Church USA conferences

Rhoda Keener and Carolyn Heggen at the Allegheny Conference Sister Care seminar
Photo by Evie Christner

By Mennonite Women USA

The November 1-2 Sister Care seminar in Lancaster, Pa., with 199 women attending was not only Mennonite Women USA’s (MW USA) largest U.S. seminar, it also marked a milestone for presenters Carolyn Heggen, psychotherapist, and Rhoda Keener, MW USA co-director. Over a three-year period, they have presented the seminar in every conference of Mennonite Church USA.

Keener says: “I believe this model is significant because small conferences receive the same input as areas with a much larger Mennonite population. We have gone to Gulf States and North Central Conferences as well as conferences in Kansas and Pennsylvania.”

MW USA leveled cost for local Mennonite women hosts by establishing a flat rate to cover travel expense. A grant from the United Service Foundation also subsidized part of the cost for these 21 conferences.

Since its beginning, 2,700 women have attended Sister Care seminars with over 500 participating in international settings. The international seminars presented in India, Nepal, Guatemala, Mexico, and Colombia focused on training local leaders. More are scheduled for Bolivia, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad.

MW USA has worked collaboratively with Anabaptist Women Theologians Movement of Latin America (MTAL), The Latin American Anabaptist Seminary (SEMILLA), the Mennonite Biblical Seminary of Colombia (SBMC), Mennonite Mission Network, United Mission to Nepal, the All India Mennonite Women, and Virginia Mennonite Missions. The Schowalter Foundation, Mennonite Central Committee, the Latin American Committee of the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries (CIMLAC), and individuals have assisted in funding.

The 64-page Sister Care manual written by Heggen, Keener, and MW USA co-director Ruth Lapp Guengerich has been translated and contextualized into Spanish. Plans are underway for a U.S. Sister Care to be led in Spanish by Latina leaders. Following the first urban seminar in October for women in New York City, Heggen and Keener met with participants to discuss how African American women can contextualize the seminar. In July 2014 Keener and Heggen will present Sister Care at the Native Mennonite Ministries conference in Winnipeg, Canada; after which they’ll discern with leaders ways Native women can contextualize the material.

Sister Care seminars provide women with tools for ongoing personal healing; recognizing and celebrating God’s grace in their lives; and responding more confidently and effectively to the needs of others in their families, congregations, and communities. The seminar has four units:

Claiming our identity as God’s beloved
Caring for self and others
Compassionate listening
Transforming loss and grief
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2 thoughts on “Sister Care seminar presented in all 21 Mennonite Church USA conferences

  1. Lori Witmer on said:

    My heart is grateful for your work. As I traveled among Guatemalan sisters this past August, I heard about the God’s work through Sister Care. How beautiful that God has provided you, Rhoda and Carolyn, health, coworkers to help contextualize this material, and financial backing from MC USA to carry this work globally! God bless you and give you rest as you now return from Bolivia. Lizette and Cesar Flores are friends from Honduras and Hesston College…later we served together in Guatemala! It is neat to see these familiar faces and hear sister’s names as God continues to use them to bring healing to the nations. May God give strength to continue bringing this transforming care to sisters locally and globally.

  2. Rhoda Keener on said:

    Hi Lori, Thanks so much for your words of affirmation for the amazing things that God is doing through Sister Care and the ways that God is opening doors for this ministry. I really enjoyed learning to know Lizette and how neat to know she is a friend of yours. Just a note: While MC USA has been very affirmative of Sister Care, they are not the funders of this ministry. We have found funding through individuals and grants for all of the international trips. Also, Linda Shelly from Mennonite Mission Network has given much time to help organize and coordinate the Latin American seminars. MCC has helped to host on site and to bring women from neighboring countries. We plan to partner with Virginia Mennonite Missions for the Trinidad Sister Care coming in fall 2014. We’ve been grateful to collaborate with many and appreciate the many gifts that have made these trips possible. Thanks for your prayers and these words Lori! Rhoda

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