Shannon Musselman Unzicker (pictured on left), Benson, IL, is an active member of the Mennonite Church of Normal where she presently serves on the Creation Care Committee. She teaches a primary Sunday school class and participates in the local Moms in Touch. A social worker, Shannon is presently a fulltime mother of four children.
About five years ago, the mother of one of my son’s classmates invited me to join a prayer group that was being formed for our elementary school. She explained that she would be one of the group leaders, and that the group of mothers would be meeting two mornings per month in her home to pray for our children, their teachers and the other students.
I was flattered that she had asked me, and thanked her for the invitation. I told her I would let her know in a week or so, but in my head, I was already thinking, “Nice of her to invite me, but I just don’t know if that’s ‘me.’ I will probably have to pray out loud in front of a group…not something I am very comfortable with.” Later, other reasons to justify turning her down ran through my head:
“Praying with others who I don’t really know all that well? Too intimate.” I thought.
“No one else in the group is Mennonite…I’m sure that some of my beliefs are a lot different than theirs, and that would be awkward.”
But, as I took more time to reflect, I remembered that my pastor had told me a few years ago about how just such a group had been important to her when her children were young. I began to reconsider. It would be a way to meet other women in our community, something that was difficult for me, since I was still at home with my youngest child most of the time. And I felt I never had enough time for prayer, especially being at home with young children.
Then one morning, God presented me with this idea: “This new thing may not be “you,” Shannon, but what if it’s Me? Would you be willing to try something that is Me?”
I wrestled with that for a while. Saying no because an idea made me uncomfortable–that approach made sense in relation to something destructive, hurtful, or in direct opposition to my beliefs. But this could be an opportunity to encounter God in a new way, and to serve God in a new way. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Bible offers many examples of how God’s calling for action or following Jesus’ teachings made people uncomfortable. We are often uncomfortable with what God calls us to do, because it is not our way, or our will, but God’s.
I decided to give it a try.
As you can probably guess, saying yes to this new thing that I didn’t think was “me” has profoundly impacted my life. I have seen God at work in many ways, both big and small, through prayer and my connections with this group of women. In fact, I even ended up starting (and leading) a similar prayer group for our junior high school that following year. None of those “what ifs” that ran through my mind ever materialized, and even if they had, I am confident God would have provided what I needed to negotiate any bumps in the road.
I had a similar experience with Mennonite Women USA.
In 2009, my congregation’s Mennonite Women group received an invitation for women to attend one of the first Sister Care seminars, to be held in Elkhart, Indiana. Our group encouraged any interested women from our congregation to attend, and to then share more about the experience after they returned. So although I was not able to participate in our group’s regular monthly meetings, and felt like I didn’t really “qualify,” they assured me that I was going with their blessing, and I am deeply grateful.
The seminar was very powerful, and offered many things that I knew women needed to hear. After talking with Rhoda Keener afterwards, and sharing my interest, she informed me they were hoping to offer a seminar in Illinois soon. I agreed to help make it happen, and through that process, I began to learn more about Mennonite Women USA.
The seminar was held in the summer of 2011, and a few weeks later, Rhoda asked if I would be interested in serving on the board of Mennonite Women USA as a regional representative. I was caught a bit off-guard, since my involvement with MW USA had started only recently, through Sister Care. And again, my initial thoughts were:
“Mennonite Women board member? Hmm..that’s not me.” And I quickly came up with my list of excuses:
“I don’t sew, or quilt…I don’t meet regularly with a women’s group…I probably wouldn’t be a good fit...”
But as I took time to pray and reflect about the opportunity, I soon realized that this could be another example of something that “wasn’t me,” but was God, wanting to work in me and through me in a new way. You can guess where I am going with this, right?
I said yes.
I am now in my fourth year as a board member, representing the Great Lakes region. I continue to be impressed by the dedication of our staff members and board members, and humbled by the faithful giving of our donors. I encourage you to visit our website, subscribe to Timbrel magazine, and to our monthly e-newsletter, “Postcard and a Prayer.”
Join us in learning about the new things God is doing through Mennonite Women USA.