This is the first of a monthly post series from a different member of the Mennonite Women USA board of directors. Kathy Bilderback is the new board chair.
As I step into this new role as Chair of the Board for Mennonite Women USA, I am drawn to the organization’s logo of the vine with the verse from John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (NIV) I especially hold tight to the phrase “apart from me you can do nothing.” It’s humbling to admit that I can do nothing. The fact is: I am a doer. In my stubbornness and sense that I know what’s best, I often push forward to do whatever I think needs to be done. There are times when my head is sore from hitting the wall hard when I realize I really can’t do it all. I am learning that before I “do” I must first “be”. I must first be nourished by the Vine and recognize that in my attachment, I am no longer just me but I am God’s child, and only in being a branch on the vine does God produce fruit.
I’m amazed with the years of testimony of women’s work and how God has been leading and empowering women around the world. As we remain in God, we can do all things because Christ strengthens us. It gives me great hope to be so rooted and nourished by a God who calls women to lead. We women tend to be very busy being mothers, wives, cooks, CEOs, sisters, presidents, caregivers, women led by God.
We have worked hard and long for the right to vote, the right to work outside the home, the right to hold positions of authority, and yet we are still struggling for equality and justice in the professional, religious, and civic worlds. There are times when I see that we have made great progress; however too often I see and experience the inequalities and abuse that continues just because we are female. I am saddened and then I turn to the nourishment of the Vine to remain connected and fed, knowing that Christ did not seek power or fame but only sought to do the will of his Father. And it meant the cross and death for him but in the end he was the victor.
But Christ also allowed the unclean woman to touch him. He did not rebuke her but he healed her. Christ allowed Mary to sit at his feet with all the men and learn from him. He did not send her away to her “proper” place. Christ continued to break down the walls for women. He called out their name and gave them a place with God and a place of belonging in the world.
It is always such a joy for our MW USA board to meet each spring. We are attached to the Vine but we are also attached to one another. In many respects we connect to all the women around the world when we hear reports from international Sister Care and we offer scholarships to women seminarians in many other countries. I recognize our value to be connected and nourished by the Vine but also realize that we nourish one another when we name the women who touch us with their stories and their lives. During our search process for a new executive director, I was in awe with the amazing gifts of leadership found in women in the Mennonite Church. While I recognize that we are not on equal ground yet with men, we are still sharing our connections to the Vine and our connections with each other. And there is great power and strength in that.
I draw strength from the Vine, being called by God, given a name, and being touched with healing and power. It is in this connection where we thrive and share the fruit of God’s growth in our lives and in the beautiful ministries of Mennonite Women USA. I’m grateful each day for the opportunity to be connected and observe God’s work among and through women around the world.