Three women who’ve worked in mission talk about the role of Mennonite women in mission and service today. These interviews originally appeared in the winter 2017 issue of Timbrel magazine. Subscribe to Timbrel here.
Hostetler: Yes. “Particular” mainly in the sense that women make up part of the equation of humanity and therefore are needed to achieve a balance of wholeness in mission — just as their perspective and gifts are needed in all of life.
Pellecer: I don’t think women have a “particular role” per se. Women are in mission because we have been called and commissioned as well.
Lapp: I think this is dependent on each individual’s experience. Since I identify as a woman, I express myself in more feminine ways and feel that I have been socialized within a specific understanding of “woman.” Women are often socialized to be “helpers”, and when I consider women in mission or women in service, it is easy for me to get lost in my need to help. For my own wellbeing and for others’, I will do what I can, and I will challenge myself to do more.
Hostetler: Definitely, yes! In my experience, women have always been given the important tasks of nurturing and caring — especially in the home. However, the “work” of the women was rarely given the same value as that of their male counterparts, and their contributions were severely limited in scope.
In the early ‘80s, when I was asked to consider serving as the first woman elder in our congregation, I realized I had a new openness, which gradually led more and more toward lay pastoring and spiritual direction.
Pellecer: I believe that the role of the Mennonite women in mission and service has changed, specially for Hispanic women. I was present when our first Hispanic female pastor was ordained in Florida. That experience was a great blessing not only for her but for all Hispanic women.
Lapp: Without extensive research, I do not have the information or experience to reply to this question.
Hostetler: Be attentive to and accept the opportunities close at hand, while cultivating the longing to be and to do all that God has gifted and prepared you to be.
Pellecer: I would tell them to start in their neighborhood. Start sharing Jesus’ story through your personal faith journey story. At the marketplace where you buy groceries or at your workplace — engage in a friendly conversation.
Lapp: Mission and service are not actions that occur in the confined spaces of international service work, weeklong youth group service trips or non-profit agencies run by volunteers. Mission and service happen when regular people decide to view their work through the lens of peace work or missional work that addresses the needs in a community.
Read more about Marian Brendle Hostetler in Circles of Sisterhood: A History of Mennonite Mission, Service, and Fellowship in Mennonite Women’s Organizations, available in June from Herald Press.