When Deusilene Milhomen and Valéria Alvarenga from Brazil attended the Sister Care seminar in Bolivia in November 2013, they immediately began to dream of bringing this resource to their country. This meant translating the Sister Care manual into Portuguese. Milhomen, from Gama near Brasilia, asked a local teacher, Vera Lúcia de Silva Oliveira to translate; another church member, Marcelo Sousos Santos edited and formatted the manual, and 500 copies were printed. In January 2015, Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener led a Sister Care seminar for 55 women in Curitiba, Brazil with some of the women traveling over 1,500 miles to attend.
Milhomen and Gladys Siemens coordinated the seminar with Milhomen representing the Alianca Evangélica Menonita (AEM) and Siemens Associação das Igrejas Menonitas do Brasil (AIMB). Hans and Miriam Peters of the host church Igreja Menonita Ágape coordinated logistics.
Linda Shelly, Latin American Director for Mennonite Mission Network, also assisted in planning, and attended the event. She said, “I’m very glad to have this resource in Portuguese. With the complication of language, Brazil is too often left out. It means a lot to the women to have Rhoda and Carolyn here doing this workshop.”
One woman responded to the seminar by writing: I learned that we don’t need to pass through suffering alone.” Another woman wrote: “I was needing a time of healing. I loved the idea of ‘God with skin.’ I’ve had people who were the presence of God in my life. I feel challenged now to be that for others.”
Carolyn Heggen noted: “Fortunately, the warmth of the women’s welcome and response matched the summer heat they are now experiencing in Brazil. The animated worship music, dramatic presentations of Scripture and liturgical dances enriched the material we shared and energized our time together.”
At the conclusion of the seminar 13 women were invited to the front for prayer. Each leader received packets of Sister Care manuals to take to her congregation and community. Milhomen is already planning to lead a seminar at the Itatiaia Mennonite Church on February 16-17 and in North Brazil on May 16 and 17. Siemens stated that many women from the AIMB churches have asked when she will teach Sister Care in Curitiba.
The Sister Care manual is available in four languages: English, Spanish, Kek’chi’ and Portuguese. Sister Care is a ministry of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) and has been shared with over 3,200 women in the USA, Canada, India, Nepal, Guatemala, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. Participants of these seminars have taught the material for many more women throughout Central and South American multiplying this healing ministry.
The manual was shared with Vic Wiens from Mennonite Brethren Mission, who responded: “This will be a significant resource now available to the Portuguese-speaking world, Mennonite and beyond. I have at least 10 women in mind in Brazil, Portugal and Angola that could use this material.”
MW USA’s expenses for this seminar were funded through a grant from United Service Foundation. The Latin American Committee of the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries also assisted through the funds they provided to the Latin American Women Theologians Movement for the translation and printing of the manuals.