#DoneWishing

This article by Marlene Bogard was originally published in Summer 2018 Timbrel. Marlene will conclude her time with Mennonite Women USA July 31, 2018.

I wish I had known about personal boundaries as a young girl. I wish I had constructed my own space bubble. I wish I had been coached on my Circle of Grace. I wish…

As a second grader, my head was pushed against the rough brick wall of our school. Howard mushed his face into me and pressed his lips against mine. I was a skinny seven- year-old and this incident happened on the playground during recess.  It was not OK. A classmate of mine had decided to kiss me, forcefully.  Not OK. I do not remember reporting to my teacher or my mother. Perhaps I did.

Today I wonder, what would your daughters or nieces or granddaughters do or say if that happened to them? Would they be sufficiently trained and empowered to push away, to yell no, and to report the assault?

In almost every decade of my life, I have experienced harassment, inappropriate touch, unwanted sexualized language and jokes. #youtoo?

When the #metoo movement became prominent, I decided to  recite all the ways  I experienced harassment while my husband and I were on a road trip. I began with the recess incident and carried on to the present. At various points in my monologue, he exclaimed, “Really?” and “Wow!” and then, “There’s more?”

“Yes, “I nodded, “All true.”

And I am not alone. I have minimized or shaken off some of these instances over the years, even chalking them up to my clothing selection or my vivacious personality. I have even said the dreaded, “Boys will be boys, and men will be men.” I am done with that kind of reasoning. It was never my fault. I did not ask for it.  I may have not known how to respond, but I will not bear the responsibility of men and boys acting inappropriately.

I wish I had known about personal boundaries as a teenager. The language of boundaries, of  sense of self, of empowerment was absent. No one (church, parent, school) offered advice or guidelines or about dating, about touch, about sexual activity.  Some things were communicated as taboo, but other than a little information about getting my period, there was a huge void. What did I do to fill that void? Act on impulse, surrender to those more powerful, get caught off guard, be driven by some vague notion of morality?

More than you wanted to know? Too much information? I would wager a guess that most of you reading this have had similar or worse experiences while you were growing up.

Recently, our four-year-old grandson proclaimed, “I have a space bubble around me!” His dad explained how his preschool is teaching about a safety zone around each child. With pleasure, I quickly jumped up and invited him to do the Circle of Grace meditation and motions with me.

Circle of Grace is a Christian safe environment curriculum that helps to form and educate children and youth about the value of positive relationships with God and others.

I will be retiring from my position at the end of July. But not before I help lead an event that is designed to help girls and women understand and claim personal boundaries. Because I am #donewishing and we are now proactively empowering girls and women to understand, claim and proclaim their own personal boundaries. I hope to see you at: Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries.

Want to register for our summer event, Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries? Click here for more information!

24/7/365

Marlene Harder Bogard is the Executive Director of Mennonite Women USA. She will retire in July 2018. Previously, she served as Minister of Christian Formation and Resource Library Director for the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA for 25 years while living in Newton, Kansas. Marlene cares deeply about Christian faith formation in all stages of life and is drawn to help folks develop ways of  connecting with God in creative and meaningful ways. Her background includes serving on the Dove’s Nest board, Spiritual Director training, and teaching youth ministry at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.

If you are holding Timbrel in your hands as you read this – congratulations, you enjoy reading on paper! If you are reading this on your phone or computer, thank you, you discovered it on our blog.

For the past 100 years, Mennonite Women has depended on printed materials to share our mission. Our history includes hand-written letters, newspaper articles, phone calls, paper mass mailings, events and magazines. As little as five years ago, our magazine, Timbrel was still considered our primary voice. Today, our social media networks are equally important – to network, share ministry highlights, promote coming events and draw attention to women’s visionary voices. Print was once prominent; now we have many channels through which we stay connected and strong. The times they are a-changing, and MW USA has to be continually on the lookout for ways of reimagining its witness in this digital age.

24/7/365  If you, like most people, have a smartphone, these numbers represent how often you have access to the Internet. Any hour of the day, any day of the week and any week of the year, we can be connected.
1,896  This is how many clicks MW USA received on our Centennial Resources web pages in the last year. Almost 2,000 people read a prayer or story, watched a video, downloaded art or graphics or used a drama.  Because we posted these resources online, anyone could access them with a computer 24/7/365. None of them were available in print form. It would have cost a fortune to print them and mail them.  Posting the resources on our website was a viable way to make them available.
3,420  This is how many people subscribe to Grapevine, our monthly newsletter. Out of 3,420 subscribers, 1,240 recipients open our newsletters within the first 24 hours of receiving it. Grapevine is not available in print, but you can print it yourself, or you can forward this newsletter to anyone or use any pieces for your social media posts, newsletters for your women’s group or congregation. We always need your help to share our resources.
6,437  One week in February, we reached this many Facebook users through posts about our summer event, Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries. This number reaches far beyond the scope of Timbrel.
258 And finally – the Blog:  Mennonite Women Voices.  The idea behind a blog is to post a story, encouragement or testimony that will serve as inspiration for other readers.  The majority of the blogs published on our website do not have another home and are not available in print. We republish blog posts with permission from other organizations. Once in a while we will re-publish an article from Timbrel as a blog. These processes are a way of optimizing content, a way to push around news and inspiration from one place to another, and it is only possible through digital technology and social media.

Every day, my work is dependent upon technology. MW USA has staff in four states and three time zones.  We meet monthly over a video platform. Almost all of my meetings with planning groups and board members take place in this way. Indeed, it is a way of working that many of us could not imagine even 10 years ago, and a fantastic blessing.

It’s Not About You

Editor’s Note: An incomplete version of this article was published here on April 2, 2018. The full article was published on April 10, 2018.

Don, a jovial man in his 50s, called me to announce, “I quit.” As a congregational mentor, his frustration with the 14-year-old youth with whom he was paired had reached a tipping point. “He shows up late to our meetings, grunts in response to my questions, and doesn’t respect me,” Don complained.

In my role as mentoring coordinator, I verbally released Don from his obligations, but inside I was seething. It was Don who needed a serious attitude adjustment. I wish I would have said to him, “Guess what, Don, mentoring is not about you. It’s about going the second mile, it’s about being present for the quirky, and supporting the sometimes raunchy.” I was especially disappointed because this young man, already considered an “at-risk” kid, now had one more adult who appeared not to care about him.

Mentoring is not all warm fuzzies. It might be heartwarming, but it may be gut wrenching and tearful. It is frustrating when a youth acts as though he or she is not invested in the relationship. However, as adults who have consented to walk alongside youth, we are covenanting to be their companion and support. We are not their parents, but that does not guard us from feeling strong connection and sadness when wrong decisions are made. Continue reading

Where is the Future?

One simple question results in a whole lot of pondering.

During Advent, we focus on the future. Trips to the grocery store include items we may not normally purchase, but now we do, for the upcoming feast. We write cards and send gifts, hoping that they arrive before Dec. 25. We plan outings with friends and families that celebrate the season and schedule all manner of festivities. All of this is in the future, until it happens. Then, hopefully, it becomes a blessed memory.

A few days ago as I pushed my four year old grandson in a grocery cart, out of the blue he asked, “Grandma, where is the future?”

My jaw dropped at his question. Not sure how to answer, I mumbled, “The future is before us.” To demonstrate, I headed the cart to the fruit section and proclaimed, “In the future, we are going to look at apples.” Upon arrival at the apples, I noted, “See, now we are at the future,” smiling at my cleverness. Continue reading

In Motion With Marlene: Shhhhhh

This article was originally published in Timbrel, Fall 2017.

Do you hear it? Ticking, engines, chirps, music. Sadness, fear, tension, grief. Inspiration, community, satisfaction, reciprocity.

On my deck, I hear the first set of sounds. I hear the next two sets when I am in a different kind of listening mode, that of prayerful and careful attention to another while they speak.

This kind of deep listening is thoroughly Christian and quite counter-cultural.

Compassionate listening is one of the areas of Sister Care for College Women that is most appreciated. We offer guidelines, do some coaching, and then have the young women experience intentional care with each other in pairs. Here are some of the phrases I encourage them to use as they listen deeply.

“Let me make sure I understand you.” Seeking to fully understand shows how you value the other person. Paraphrasing what they said is one way to ensure this happens. Continue reading

Annual Report Fiscal Year 2017

Greetings Friends of Mennonite Women USA,

Please click the link below to find our Annual Report from our fiscal year ending July 31, 2017.  I hope you enjoy seeing a summary of our year in infographic-style!  As a board and staff, we remain committed to live out our mission statement to empower women and women’s groups as we nurture our life in Christ through studying the Bible, using our gifts, hearing each other and engaging in mission and service.  We are very grateful for your support!

Marlene Bogard
Executive Director
Mennonite Women USA

Read the report here!

Tending and Befriending for 100 years!

This article was originally published in June 2017 for The Mennonite

For 100 years, Mennonite women have gathered to connect. As a result, service, prayer, study, nurture and mission materialized. At the heart of it all, friendships thrived. And naturally, women bore fruit, enlarged their circles and developed sisterhoods.

Author Brene’ Brown, offers this description of this experience of connection:

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they are seen, when they feel heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Continue reading

It’s Time

This article was originally published in Summer 2017 for Timbrel

Complete this phrase:

“ ______ like a girl.” Once upon a time, it was considered an insult to run like a girl, or throw like a girl. Because, well, it was likely perceived that doing anything like a girl was inferior to doing it like a boy.

Thankfully, we are evolving so that such phrases are no longer given much attention or power, right? Today, we can complete the phrase this way: Study like a girl. Invent like a girl. Code like a girl. Debate like a girl. Preside like a woman. Preach like a woman. Lead like a woman. Climb like a woman. Legislate like a woman.

And yet, sexism is alive and well in the broader church and in the Mennonite Church. For example, when my husband Mike and I joined a Midwestern church in the 1982, I called the man who was in charge of the printed church directory and asked him if women could be listed by their first names so that I would not be “Mrs. Michael Bogard.” Continue reading

Weaving a network of leaders, healing, and hope

The article was originally published by Mennonite Mission Network. 

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When Hispanic women gather, big things happen.

Hispanic female leaders from across the United States gathered April 7-8, 2017 at Portland (Oregon) Mennonite Church. They came as strangers and acquaintances and left as friends and a network, trained as Sister Care presenters for Hispanic women in the United States. Sister Care is a ministry of Mennonite Women USA that gives women the tools for ongoing personal healing and for responding more effectively to the needs of others. The seminar was taught in Spanish by Carolyn Heggen with Rhoda Keener teaching through a translator.

Continue reading

Women urged to shed masks and fly

This article was originally published by Mennonite Mission Network. 

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For the past four years, Hyacinth Stevens has envisioned a Sister Care seminar designed for the reality of African-American women. On Apr. 21-22, her dream was realized when she co-led such an event with Cyneatha Millsaps at the Mennonite offices in Elkhart, Indiana.

Sister Care is a ministry of Mennonite Women USA. The Elkhart seminar was made possible through a grant from The Schowalter Foundation and partnership with African American Mennonite Association and Mennonite Mission Network.

Continue reading