This first appeared on author, Sheri Hartzler’s blog, Romanian Notes. Sheri Hartzler lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia where she works as Tutor Coordinator for Skyline Literacy and as director of the Patchwork Food Pantry. She graduated from Hesston and Goshen Colleges with a degree in elementary education and worked for 22 years with Mennonite Media (now MennoMedia) and for 16 years as booking agent for Ted & Company Theaterworks. Sheri is married to Jay Hartzler and a member of Community Mennonite Church. She and Jay recently spent one year as Nazarene Mission Corps workers in Sighisoara, Romania.
They came to Sighisoara, Romania by car, by bus, by train, by plane – 81 women from 20 countries in Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and as far as America, Scotland and India. They came for a conference for women in leadership in the Church of the Nazarene: pastors, professors, and directors of NGOs. It was the first conference of its kind, intended to be a time of encouragement and an opportunity for networking. Many of these women live and work in countries where it is not easy to be a woman and a leader in the church.
My sister, Rita Eby and I were privileged to attend this conference Oct. 30 – Nov. 2, 2014. Even though we were the only two Mennonites, there were also women from the Salvation Army and the Wesleyan Church. Having lived in Sighisoara from August 2013 to August 2014, I had been asked to help with the local logistics of hosting the conference. With Internet and Skype access, I was able to do my work from home in the USA in the fall and then travel back to Romania for the conference itself.
Singing was in many languages and translation equipment allowed for simultaneous translation of the worship services. Stories were shared, there were many opportunities to pray for one another in small and large group settings and workshops focused on topics of Biblical Principles of Ministry, Theological Reflection, Ethical Finance, Networking to Fight Human Trafficking, and Living with Balance and Harmony.
Rita commented about the conference, “Witnessing firsthand the spirit of unity among women from many nations was encouraging. I can still hear women’s voices in at least nine languages praying The Lord’s Prayer together. I especially enjoyed personal testimonies from individuals telling of their work and ministry and the workshops brought new insight in the areas of church planting and ways to network with others to make a difference in the human trafficking crisis.”
Free-time activities included a concert, hikes, and van excursions to neighboring towns of Viscri and Tigmandru where the Nazarenes have developed ministries with the primarily gypsy populations in these villages. The Nazarene Center in Tigmandru is helping the community through greenhouses, a sewing workshop, parenting classes for teenage mothers, and weekly programs for children and adolescents that involve Bible teaching, music education, recreation and hot soup.
For me, it was an invigorating and enriching experience to learn to know women in ministry from so many places around the world. It was good to learn of work in countries where Mennonites are also serving and help make connections between them. I learned in this past year as we worked as part of the Nazarene Mission Corps that Nazarenes and Mennonites have much in common. While the Mennonite peace position is one obvious difference, we serve the same God and want the same results: to bring people to know Jesus as Saviour and to bring hope in situations that seem hopeless.
At the conference and throughout my year in Romania, I was reminded of the power of prayer – and how that power is multiplied when we pray for and with one another.
“Called and Capable” was the title of the conference. May all of us who are women of faith, know that we are indeed called by God and capable of bringing the Good News to all we encounter, whether in America or wherever we are called to serve.
P.S. It was so much fun to return to Sighisoara only three months after we had left. I enjoyed reconnecting with friends and with the children in Tigmandru.
Someone commented that it felt like I had never left … and that’s how it felt to me as well. As we continue to work at finding our place again in the Harrisonburg community, we know that we will always feel like Sighisoara is our second home.