New Sister Care teachers commissioned for North America

Eight new Sister Care presenters are certified to teach North American seminars following an October 25-27 training in Bel Aire, Kansas led by Sister Care developers, Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener.  Heggen says, “We are touched by the life experiences and passion for healing ministry of these new presenters.  Because of their varied circles of relationships and their many connections, we anticipate they will open new doors for the sharing of Sister Care.”

Since its beginning in 2008, the Sister Care seminar has been shared by MW USA with 4, 300 women in 16 countries; these women, in international settings, have taught thousands more. The manual, Sister Care: Equipping Women for Healing Ministry, written by Heggen with Keener, is available in 12 languages. The seminar provides women with tools for ongoing personal healing and for responding more effectively and confidently to the needs of others. 

Cyneatha Millsaps, MW USA executive director, and Berni Kaufman, executive assistant, will provide ongoing support for the new presenters who will work in pairs, and logistical guidelines for groups who host seminars.  Keener and Heggen andKeener will continue teaching international seminars.

Millsaps said: “Mennonite Women is excited about certifying 8 new women for facilitating our Sister Care Seminar. We have reached thousands of women in the last 10 years; with the additional teachers at this very critical time in the history of our church and country, the need for SisterCare is more important than ever. We believe God is about to do something new with and through women.”

Meet the new North American Sister Care teachers:

Alicia Manning, Williamsburg, Virginia, of Calvary Community Church (C3 Hampton) is an educator, minister, therapeutic foster parent and caretaker. Through her work and life experiences, Alicia helps others unpack the pain of trauma and embrace a healing, restorative mindset rooted in a biblical understanding of who we are in Christ.

Grace Tijerina, Brownsville, Texas, serves as a pastor and church planter. Having faced difficult issues in her own life and found healing, it has become very important to Grace to walk with other women in their journeys of healing.“My heart just opens up when I see or hear about women going through difficult situations.”

Hildalejandra Pellecer, Grand Prairie, Texas, is a member of the executive board of Iglesia Menonita Hispana. “I see the need to have someone who can help understand some of the pain and sorrow that our sisters face in life and are often not able to express to others.” Hildalejandra feels called to help bring healing in women’s lives.

Hyacinth Stevens, West Haven, Connecticut, is the Pastor at King of Glory Tabernacle in the Bronx, NY and works as the Program Coordinator in New York for MCC East Coast. As part of her pastorate she begana mentoring program for young women and teenage girls in the community around the church.  Hyacinth brings a passion for transformative discipleship. 

Jill Swiers Baker, Albany, Oregon, fiercely believes in the power of positive friendship and deep laughter and the healing that those can bring.  In her job as a high school counselor she works hard to provide services and support practices that lead to better mental health for her students. She is a healer at her core and feels called to healing ministry.  

Marta Castillo, Norristown, Pennsylvania, is a pastor passionate about connecting people with a gracious God. She finds the Sister Care materials speak essential truth into women’s lives at any life stage. “Sister Care gives us the opportunity through Scripture and storytelling to learn about God’s love and healing power.” 

Sandy Drescher-Lehman, Green Lane, Pennsylvania, is a spiritual director and pastor at Methacton Mennonite Church who counts it a privilege to walk with people through the joys and difficulties of life. “My calling is to connect people to the unconditional and abiding love of God that I’ve experienced my whole life. My challenge is to live a balanced life of work and play, exercise and rest.”

Twila Lehman, Albany, Oregon, brings her love of teaching and people to SisterCare. In her work as a community college instructor, she had the opportunity to advise, teach, encourage and support her students. As a facilitator with SisterCare, Twila is excited to equip women with tools to care for and support each other through life’s journey.

Coffee and Conversation

Two weeks ago, women from Emmaus Road and Fairhaven Mennonite Churches gathered on Saturday morning at the Berne Dinner in Berne, IN for fellowship and conversation. The thirteen women, with ages ranging from their 30 to 90-years-old, spent two hours discussing issues facing our children and the churches response. Cyneatha Millsaps, MW USA executive director, led the conversation with concerns of young white males and the messages they are receiving about themselves and how those messages could shape their futures. Cyneatha spoke as an African-American mother who has seen the results of young black males living into negative and disparaging words describing their character. Cyneatha has been warning the church and leaders who seek to bring about a just racial and equitable society to be mindful of how we invite our young people into the conversations. As the conversation deepened, women who work in the local schools shared their concerns for this issue as well. Educators spoke about the levels and numbers of young people dealing with depression, thoughts of suicide, domestic violence, etc. Issues like these and a growing poverty rates demand a response from the church. If you would like to host a coffee and conversation in your area with Cyneatha Millsaps or other leaders of Mennonite Women USA, please contact Cyneatha at 316-281-4395 or the MW offices at 316-281-4396.

International Women’s Fund: Eliver’s Story

Eliver Omondi is an International Women’s Fund Scholarship recipient.

Glory be to the living God, my sisters in the diaspora. 

I am indeed overwhelmed by God’s grace that has allowed me to be a part of your scholarship program. It has been well with me in my studies. My course title, Higher Diploma in Psychological Counselling, at Kenya Institute of Professional counselling, Kisumu Campus, has impacted me mightily. 

During the week, I work as a teacher. On Saturdays, I go to college and then come back to prepare for church on Sundays. I am 51-years-old and the mother of five young-adult children (two sons and three daughters).  I am sometimes overwhelmed by my family responsibilities. Nevertheless, in Africa we believe that women are strong multi-taskers.

Eliver Omondi (left) presents during a Sister Care seminar in Musoma, Kenya.

I was ordained as a pastor in July 2018; I am the National Women’s Secretary General. Women’s ministry is my passion; my team and I have integrated Sister Care into our agenda. 

My husband, who is also a pastor, supports my ministry. Despite many challenges, we love the Lord and profess God as our saviour. May I thank International Women’s Fund [Mennonite Women USA] for what God has put into your hearts. We appreciate the work.

Thank you,
Eliver Omondi

This letter has been edited for clarity

Healthy Boundaries conference in Colombia

Read Mennonite Mission Network’s article on this event by Danielle Klotz.

Blessing each other: Ester Bornes and Alix Lozano forefront

The Movement of Anabaptist Women Doing Theology from Latin America (MTAL) hosted a conference on Healthy Boundaries November 6-9 attended by 33 women from the Andean region of South America.  The workshop was led by Alix Lozano and Ely Soto who adapted materials from Faith Trust Institute.  The workshop included developing an understanding of the importance of healthy boundaries in ministry, especially in preventing sexual harassment and abuse. As a group of women leaders, the participants thought both about the limits that they need to draw and keep in their own leadership roles, and also how they work with their churches in processes of establishing practices that help keep everyone safe and are understood by both leaders and the congregations.

33 women attended the conference.

Linda Shelly, MMN Latin American Director, said, “Having worked with Sister Care and hearing many women’s stories of harassment and abuse makes this Healthy Boundaries work with MTAL a natural step in many contexts. I anticipate that the work the MTAL women have done in experiencing and sharing Sister Care will help them to multiply this in many different ways.”

Mennonite Women USA and Dove’s Nest partnered to provide a conference on Healthy Boundaries held in Nebraska in July 2018. 


Celebrate by Cyneatha Millsaps

Christmas is the season when we celebrate the birth of a king. The Christ child entered this world to save everyone and every living thing. I often think of what it meant for Mary to know that she was responsible for this important little life. She was given the assignment for all generations. I am sure Mary worked extremely hard to raise a compassionate, intelligent and loving young man. Our family has welcomed another little one into our clan; Ava was born September 10. I think of her mother (and father) and wonder if they truly grasp the responsibility that has been given to them. Every child born should be considered, the child that will save a nation. The child that will free a people. How much different would our world be, if everyone saw every child as the Christ child? I encourage all of us to begin to see our children as not simply gift for us, but shepherds for the world. How would you prepare them for the important task ahead?