by Ruth Lapp Guengerich, Co-director, MW USA
Mennonite Women USA has been participating in a partnership with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) since 2003, providing pieced and quilted wall hangings for homeowners whose homes were destroyed by natural disasters. The original works of art are presented to homeowners during a house blessing following the completion of their home rebuild.
The wall-hanging Sister Link with MDS has captured the hearts and creativity of women across the church as they create and donate wall hangings. Many completed wall hangings are sent directly to MDS. Of those we are aware of, approximately 200 wall hangings have been donated over these ten plus years. Amish women and Mennonite women in Canada, intrigued by this ministry, have started their own wall hanging projects.
Elaine Good, Lancaster, PA began coordinating this creative ministry in 2003 before it became formalized in 2004. In 2008 Eloise Yoder, Archbold, OH took over the coordination of this Sister-Link from Good, and in 2011 she turned over the collection of completed wall-hangings to Rebecca Sommers, Goshen, IN. Sommers has now completed her term.
In May 2014 Nancy Roynon, Archbold, OH assumed the volunteer position as coordinator of this Mennonite Women Sister Link program. Roynon will continue this ministry from her home in Archbold, OH.
Nancy Roynon said, “Coordinating the Sister-Link Wall Hanging project will be a good way for me to stay connected to Mennonite Women and to ‘meet’ women from around the country. I have been wanting to re-connect with the broader Mennonite Women organization, but am unable to make a large time commitment, so this is a good fit.”
(Left) Rebecca Sommers leafs through an album with photos and stories of wall hangings donated to new home rebuilds by Mennonite Disaster Service.
Upon ending her term with this ministry, Sommers (also former MW USA board chair) reflected on this ministry that was her brainchild. “In the very beginning we thought this wall hanging project would help women connect with the broader church. What I thought was a simple idea quickly blossomed into a “very big deal,’ and a valuable ministry. Women are blessed in making the wall hangings and the homeowners are blessed in receiving an original work of art for their new home.”
Sommers, who serves on the MDS board of directors, has been inspired by the stories the MDS project directors report to her following house blessings. “The brightest part for me over these 10 years of this ministry is the many stories MDS project directors report. The homeowners are filled with joy and gratitude to receive a work of art made by the hands of ‘people we don’t even know.’”
Sommers concluded, “One woman in particular, Margaret Kauffman, Kalispell, MT, has blessed me through email and phone conversations. I have lost track of how many wall hangings Margaret (and her church women friends) have made.”
(Right) Rebecca Sommers shows Nancy Roynon some of the wall hangings waiting to be distributed to owners of home rebuilds.
Roynon’s excitement for this opportunity and about this Sister-Link project bubbled forth: “I look forward to hearing people’s stories and linking the givers and receivers in a mutual blessing. God has given many women the ability to produce beautiful fabric creations and placed in them a generous spirit to share their creations. I once heard Lynn Miller say it was great fun to give away other’s money. I think it will be great fun to link the wall hanging maker with the new home owner in a way that is sure to make our Creator smile. May God bless the work of our hands.”
(Left) Nancy Roynon and Rebecca Sommers share laughter as they exchange stories.