Twila Yoder on The Work of MW USA and the Woman Who Ushered Her In

by Twila King Yoder, Harrisonburg, Va. Twila is the East Coast representative on the Mennonite Women USA board of directors. She is a member of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church where she serves as Team Leader for her Sunday school class. She works as the Assistant to the President and Corporate Secretary to the Board at Eastern Mennonite University. Twila and her husband, Steve, are the parents of four adult children and have four grandchildren.

In 2016 I will complete my second term on the Mennonite Women board. Eight fruitful and meaningful years that have blessed me in so many ways. These years have been fruitful as MWUSA launched Sister Care. I remember the intense and deep discussions as Rhoda Keener shared the vision God had placed in her heart… a vision that women would have the opportunity to learn how to care for one another in healthy and meaningful ways. I remember the times of prayer and searching as we deliberated over the feasibility of such an endeavor, both in terms of the monetary cost, as well as the physical, spiritual and emotional costs of those who would ultimately lead the seminars.

And what a fruitful ministry it has become!

Just a few short years ago we could not have imagined that Sister Care would be provided in every MCUSA conference – in some more than once, and that Sister Care would become a sought-after training and ministry opportunity that would travel to the far reaches of the globe! It has been exhilarating and humbling to realize what God has done and continues to do as a result of those earlier tentative steps of faith, and the way God continues to provide the resources necessary to carry out this ministry. We will never know fully the impact of Sister Care on the global Mennonite Church and beyond.

At one of the first meetings I attended, MW held a strategic planning retreat, inviting a wonderfully diverse group of women from across the country, representing a wide range of ages, racial ethnic groups and walks of life. In our time of discernment, it was noted that women seemed to be losing ground in terms of filling leadership roles. The discussion was reported in the church press and ultimately resulted in a women in leadership audit and the Women in Leadership Project. That conversation took place in 2009 and continues to be a relevant concern across the denomination.

I also found deep meaning in the work of MWUSA when, in 2009 Mennonite Women USA partnered with Mennonite Central Committee and the Peace & Justice Commission of MCUSA to bring a resolution on human trafficking to the Mennonite Assembly delegate body. When the resolution was presented I was sitting at a table with a delegate from the Phoenix area. I was deeply moved as she shared about her work “on the ground” with victims of human trafficking in her own community. The relevance of the resolution took on new meaning.

My invitation to serve on the MW board came at the urging of a dear friend, Evie Hertzler.

Evie preceded me as the East Coast representative on the board. She and I lived in the same community and attended the same church, Harrisonburg Mennonite, but our paths had crossed many years before. When I was growing up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s in West Liberty, Ohio, Evie was a school teacher there. She and her family attended one of the other Mennonite churches in town, but she and my mother, who was active in the Women’s Mission and Service Commission (WMSC) learned to know each other. Some years later, when my parents moved to Illinois to take a pastorate there, my mother was looking for someone to take her role as president of the Ohio Conference WMSC. Mother invited Evie, who responded and became deeply committed to the work of WMSC and later Mennonite Women USA. When Evie and Don moved to Harrisonburg, Va., Evie and I connected and developed our own meaningful friendship. It was devastating when Evie was diagnosed with Lou Gerig’s disease in the Spring of 2007. By the time she was diagnosed, the speech impairment was already obvious. But she continued to do all that she possibly could to live life to the fullest each day.

At the time of Evie’s diagnosis, she was serving on the Mennonite Women board; the third year of a 4-year term. Her husband, Don, devoted all his time and attention to making sure Evie was able to accomplish everything her heart desired. I’ll never forget seeing the two of them at the Mennonite Assembly in San Jose in July 2007. In the few short months since her diagnosis, Evie’s mobility was beginning to decline. But with Don’s assistance, she not only traveled across the country to attend, but navigated the mammoth convention grounds, from the dining tent to the main session halls. At one point, I stepped out of a session and happened to meet Evie in the hallway, accompanied by a couple other women from the MW board. She was beaming! In her hand, she held a purple gift bag. With a smile from ear to ear, a moist gleam in her eye, and intensity in her voice, she reached in the bag and said, “LOOK what they gave me!!” It was a purple prayer shawl that the MW board had presented to her just moments before. She was overcome with gratitude and joy.

Evie died in early June 2008, almost a year after that encounter in the hallway, and after many visits and times of sharing together. It would require another blog post to tell the story of Evie’s insistence (and persistence!) that I be invited to serve as the East Coast representative on the MW board when her term expired, even though some questioned whether I would be too busy to serve. But the invitation was extended, and I said yes. What a gift that has been to me!

And after Evie died, Don gave me the well-worn purple prayer shawl. What a treasure! And what a reminder of God’s provisions: for a fruitful and meaningful life for Evie; for guidance in the work of MWUSA.

Virginia Conference :: Annual Mission’s Day

Join area Mennonite Women at the Virginia Conference Annual Mission’s Day on May 2, 2015 hosted at Trissel Mennonite Church in Broadway, Virginia.

The theme is “Mission Work” lead by guest speaker, Eve Knupp missionary in Jamaica.

Marian Sauder Egli Responds to Timbrel’s Food Justice Issue

Editor’s Note: There have been so many positive responses toTimbrel’s latest issue centered on diverse perspective on food justice. The following email was sent directly to me by Marian Sauder Egli. She gave permission to have her perspective posted on the Mennonite Women Voices blog.

“I enjoyed every article in the Timbrel spring issue.

I find that refrigeration is an issue in understanding “Food Justice.”  For a couple years I shared a church-owned apartment in Harlem, NYC with a friend. We chose to eat and cook separately since we were seldom there at the same time and had differing food choices.

The refrigerator met apartment code standards but was smaller than anywhere I had lived up to that time.  We couldn’t buy in bulk or make a large kettle of soup to then divide into smaller portions and freeze due to space.  Even while having a clean kitchen, there is an on-going battle with roaches when living in a 5 story walk-up apartment building.  It was better to store dry foods in the refrigerator. Continue reading

Postcard & a Prayer :: April Email Newsletter

Enjoy April e-news from Mennonite Women USA!

It is an easy way to get all the latest information, reflections and images that cover all our national and international happenings from our Sister Care seminars to our upcoming Timbrel coverage and giving tree. We also include a pertinent prayer, excerpts from women in the greater church and content relevant to Mennonite women everywhere.

Sign-up today, stay connected each month!

MW USA April Email 2015

Kitchen Table :: April 2015

by Pam Risser

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NIV)

Recently, I had the privilege of being the recipient of this “burden bearing” in a number of ways. Our daughter, Amanda, who suffers from Rett Syndrome, was scheduled for a surgical procedure at Hershey Medical Center. Although minor, it did require general anesthesia and at least a one night stay in the hospital. I was carrying a certain level of anxiety as I usually do whenever we face surgeries for her.

Continue reading

Sowing Sisterhood :: The First Volume of Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly

This is Volume 1 of the Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly Newsletter ‘Sowing Sisterhood.’ It was created and designed by Kim Litwiller and Shannon Unzicker. Kim is the Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference and the Co-Coordinator for Illinois Mennonite Women. Shannon is the Great Lakes representative to the board of Mennonite Women USA.

Download the PDF of Sowing Sisterhood.

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Out on a limb

by Berni Kaufman

This morning, I went to the car to get a Claritin. This effect on my allergies is not a favorite part of the prelude to spring in Kansas that I enjoy. However, as I walked from the office building to my car, I was arrested by the beauty this tree! (No pun intended. As I took this picture, I was facing the county courthouse and jail.)  This stop-and-take-notice moment was definitely of God. Throughout my life, symbols of nature have been a way in which God calls to me.

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Sister Care Goes to College :: Creating Affirmation Through Community by Maggie Weaver

Maggie Weaver is a sophomore at Goshen College. She is double majoring in English-writing and interdisciplinary: journalism, communications and music. She is from Lititz, Pennsylvania.

On March 20 and 21, I participated in Sister Care at Goshen College. Sister Care is a program of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) that travels locally–as well as globally–presenting women-specific seminars on healing and care for women. The seminar I participated in, piloted by Goshen College, was the first Sister Care specifically focused for college students. Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and Gender Studies and MW USA board member, coordinated the event.

Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener, the creators and organizers of the Sister Care seminars, worked with a focus group in April 2014 to adapt the program to fit the needs of college students. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this group, along with a few other Goshen College students and faculty members.

The main goal for the focus group was to identify the key issues that college-aged women face, so that Keener and Heggen could adjust the Sister Care curriculum appropriately. In small groups we listed the main issues we face as college women; the list that we developed was overwhelmingly large. Later, we narrowed the list down to four topics for the March seminar: self-worth and body image challenges, stress, the cultivation of healthy friendships, and exploring our life mission to shape decision-making.

Walking into the seminar, I found myself becoming anxious for the weekend. I had been so involved in the process, talking about what challenges I, as a college woman, face everyday. I felt as though I had placed a small piece of myself into Sister Care.

I was welcomed into the seminar space with the friendly faces of other Goshen College woman, fresh fruit, and freshly-made chai provided by women from four local churches. I sat down at a table (which had been practically covered with chocolates) and, with growing excitement, waited for Keener and Heggen to begin. Continue reading