Our “Faith Travels” Bible Study Guide Author, Marlene Kropf published on MC USA

This year’s Bible study guide from Mennonite Women USA Faith Travels was written by Marlene Kropf. We’re thrilled to see her featured on the Mennonite Church USA’s Menno Snapshots blogs with her piece “Pilgrimage in Any Season” originally published here.

In spring, Chaucer wrote, “folk long to go on pilgrimages.” Nowadays, the desire to go on a pilgrimage might erupt in any season of the year. Ironically, as church attendance continues to decline in the West, the number of people – Christian and otherwise – who go on pilgrimages continues to increase.

Ancient Irish Christians understood that to go on a pilgrimage was “to seek the place of one’s resurrection.” Pilgrimage was an embodied prayer, an engagement of the entire person – body, mind, heart and spirit. Wherever they traveled, pilgrims opened themselves to the movement and direction of God’s Spirit, seeking transformation into Christlikeness.

Recently someone pointed out to me that a pilgrimage has six identifiable stages:

  1. An initial yearning or longing invites us to a particular place or experience.
  2. Then comes preparation for the journey: reading, prayer and discernment, conversation with other pilgrims, checking out websites and deciding what to take along.
  3. We establish an itinerary for our journey: where we will travel, when, with whom and why.
  4. As the journey begins, we eagerly anticipate our arrival, even though we must first endure leaving behind what is known and familiar in order to enter the promised future.
  5. The sacred experience includes the events, encounters and solitude of the journey in which God’s call to new life is made known to us.
  6. At last, we return to our homes – refreshed, transformed and sometimes chastened by all we’ve experienced. Re-entering our familiar lives, we seek to integrate new images and learnings into our call to daily discipleship.

We need not travel far to reap the spiritual fruits of pilgrimage. Favorite places of spiritual pilgrimage today include the Camino in Spain; Celtic sites in Scotland, England and Ireland; the Holy Land; Assisi or Rome; early Anabaptist centers in Switzerland and Holland; or contemporary American settings connected with historical events such as the Civil Rights movement or the forced migration of Native Americans on the Trail of Tears. New pilgrim paths emerge as the desire to encounter these sacred stories continues to grow. For example, in Ireland one can literally walk across the land in the path of Saint Brigid or Saint Patrick. In Scotland and England one can walk on the path of Saint Columba, Saint Cuthbert or on the Canterbury Trail. As people listen deeply to stories of the past, they discern in fresh ways how God’s Spirit is calling us to live today.

Choosing to bike or walk on a Sunday morning to our place of worship can be a spiritual pilgrimage as we pass through familiar or unfamiliar neighborhoods, listening intentionally to the voice of God’s Spirit along the way.

Perhaps one of the richest benefits of pilgrimage is new relationships: encounters with strangers or deepened communion with fellow pilgrims. Praying together morning and night, sharing meals, enduring the rigors of travel and reflecting together on both the inner and outer journeys bonds people and strengthens their faith. They catch a vision of what ordinary church life might be like if the same practices were engaged at home.

Perhaps spiritual pilgrimages can be a key to spiritual renewal in our time.

Just as other spiritual practices in the past called the church to greater faithfulness, it may be that the embodied prayer of pilgrimage is one way the Spirit is working to transform the church today.

If the Spirit is calling you to go on pilgrimage, listen well!

Summer Timbrel :: Education + Miseducation :: You Are Not a Leader Until You Have Produced Another Leader Who Can Produce Another Leader

by Pamela Obonde

Pamela is a wife, mother and community worker who holds a BA in Public Adminstration and Psychology from Marathwada University, India. Pamela is a born again Christian with a passion for women’s and girls’ empowerment. She continues to exercise her passion and calling through a local NGO- Angolo Community Development Centre.  Her work has seen her traverse the vast countryside to reach and work with girls and women both in the remote rural villages and in the urban slums. Pamela is an active member of Family Celebration Church, a local Mennonite congregation which is pastored by her husband, Pastor Patrick Obonde.

I am the third born child of the nine children in my family, six girls and three boys. My mother, being a daughter to a church Pastor, appreciated the importance of education and she vowed her children would get an education despite all the odds that stood in her way. In my culture boys are more sought after to cement any marriage so it was “bad luck” for my mother who gave birth to six daughters in a row. She was ostracized; therefore she moved out of the home away from the ridicule and name-calling from my grandmother and other women in the village.God eventually blessed her with three sons. My parents who were peasant farmers struggled to send all their nine children to school. I was privileged to earn a college degree out of the sacrifice  and pulling together of the community of believers who saw my interest and dedication to learning.

I have been and still am a crusader of girl-child and women empowerment in my community, church and the country as a whole. I am a member of the Alliance of Children’s Rights in Kenya and the Right to Play caucus. I sit on these committees that give an advisory role to the Ministry of Education.

The typical day of a school-going orphaned girl-child in my village (who lives with her grandmother) starts at 4:00 am when the girl has to wake up and take care of the needs of the day like fetching water for her grandmother about 3 kilometers away, come and cook porridge (if there is flour), sweep the homestead and then off to school. Continue reading