Loving our Neighbors | Amando a nuestro prójimo

This article by Tammy Alexander was originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of Timbrel, Finding Sanctuary. The Spanish version is available at the bottom of this post.

Loving our neighbors: Sanctuary, dignity and safe spaces

Edith Espinal calls Columbus Mennonite Church home—in a very literal sense. She has not left the church building since October 2, 2017. She sleeps there, eats there and spends all of her days inside the church walls. If she leaves, Edith is at risk of being deported and separated from her family and from the community she has called home for more than a decade.

Edith is married with three children, two of whom are U.S. citizens. She had applied for asylum, citing threats of violence in Mexico. Gaining asylum can be a difficult legal process, given the challenge of proving the existence of threats and violence to a judge’s satisfaction. Her initial application and an appeal were denied and she was forced to buy a plane ticket to Mexico for October 10. Edith chose not to leave but instead to seek sanctuary—to live inside a church where immigration officers generally will not conduct enforcement operations.

Columbus Mennonite had not declared itself a sanctuary church before it came into contact with Edith. It was due to existing relationships with other churches and organizations in Columbus, Ohio, that they heard of Edith’s interest in seeking sanctuary. These relationships have continued to be key: local congregations deliver meals and handle fundraising to help the family pay bills, now that they have lost Edith’s income. One church provided a laptop for the family. Another organization handles media contacts.




Edith Espinal is welcomed into sanctuary at Columbus Mennonite Church. Photo courtesy of Columbus Mennonite.

In opening its doors to Edith, Columbus Mennonite became the first church in Columbus to provide sanctuary in recent years and the first Mennonite congregation to publicly have someone living in sanctuary. On the church’s web site, the decision is explained in light of God’s calling to love one’s neighbor:

“We have welcomed Edith Espinal into sanctuary in our church building. Edith is a neighbor. Edith is a mother. Edith is a child of God who fled violence and sought refuge in our country many years ago and wishes to stay united with her family in this city that has become her home.

“When Mennonites tell our history we remember a time when we too sought sanctuary from violence, and came to places like this country. Now we are in a position to offer sanctuary.”

According to Columbus Mennonite member Melonie Buller, the church has discovered that caring for Edith means much more than meeting her physical needs. Buller says they had to ask, “What is it that she needs to be healthy and feel like she still has dignity and respect as a human being? How can we help facilitate that?” Before the deportation order, Edith had been an active person with a job where she frequently interacted with others. Being in sanctuary is a bit like being in prison, or at least under house arrest, Buller explains. Providing exercise, human contact and purposeful work are vital. Equally important are paying attention to her mental health and spiritual needs.

Edith now walks the church stairs almost daily with staff. One member is providing private yoga classes. She is also learning to knit, has joined a comforter-making group and made angel costumes for the Christmas pageant. She uses the church kitchen to cook for her family three to four nights per week and organized and managed the cooking for a recent fundraiser.

Like Edith, 60 percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. have lived here for more than 10 years. Under the Obama administration most long-time immigrants without a criminal record were not considered a priority for deportation and many were allowed to stay, provided they checked in regularly with immigration officials. Now, under the Trump administration, those same individuals are being detained and deported.

For the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, there are few paths to legalization. Most would have to return to their countries of origin for 10 years and apply to return in a process that is far from guaranteed. A 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill would have provided a path to citizenship, albeit a long one. The bill passed in the U.S. Senate but stalled in the House.

Without passage of immigration reform and with an upsurge in enforcement, the need for sanctuary is likely to increase. Immigrants take refuge in churches because they are considered safe spaces under Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directives that restrict immigration enforcement operations at so-called “sensitive locations.” Such locations include churches, schools and medical facilities. However, as the directives are not law, they could be changed—or simply ignored, as there are no specific consequences for violating the policy.

Two recent stories have exposed cases of immigration enforcement occurring inside a children’s hospital in Texas, in clear violation of the directives. In one case, a couple who brought their infant son for emergency surgery were processed for deportation. In another case, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was removed from the hospital after emergency surgery and detained for several days.

Twenty senators and 84 House members wrote letters to DHS expressing their deep concern over violations of the sensitive locations policy. If families continue to be targeted at medical centers, parents could avoid taking their children to the hospital altogether, leading to needless suffering, serious health complications or even death.

Equally troubling are arrests at courthouses which are not considered “sensitive” locations. Immigration enforcement officers have arrested victims of domestic violence in court seeking protective orders and parents seeking custody of children. Such actions have a chilling effect on the reporting of crimes and on the ability of immigrants to appear in family court.

How can your church respond to the complex needs of immigrants in your community? Not every church can provide sanctuary but all can become active with local organizations that support immigrants. And members can encourage their representatives in Congress to keep sensitive locations such as churches and hospitals safe and to treat immigrants with dignity and compassion (see washingtonmemo.org/immig).

Putting a welcome sign in front of your church is a good first step in following God’s call to love our neighbors. What will your next steps be?


This yard sign was the brainchild of Immanuel Mennonite Church, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and has been reprinted in batches by people across the United States. MCC photo/Brenda Burkholder.

Tammy Alexander is the Senior Legislative Associate for Domestic Affairs at the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, focusing on immigration and the environment. Tammy speaks and writes on U.S. policy related to these issues and meets with congressional offices and Administration officials to convey MCC’s perspective on public policy. She has co-chaired the Interfaith Immigration Coalition since 2011. Prior to joining MCC in 2007, Tammy worked as a propulsion engineer on the space shuttle program from 1996-2004. She holds a Master of Arts in International Development from American University and engineering degrees from Purdue University and the University of Tennessee Space Institute.



Amando a nuestro prójimo: Santuario, dignidad y espacios seguros

Edith Espinal se refiere a la Iglesia Menonita de Columbus como “su hogar”, en un sentido muy literal. No ha salido del edificio de la iglesia desde el 2 de octubre de 2017. Ella duerme ahí, come ahí y pasa todos sus días dentro de los muros de la iglesia. Si Edith saliera, correría el riesgo de ser deportada y separada de su familia y de la comunidad a la que ha llamado su hogar durante más de una década.

Edith está casada y tiene tres hijos, dos de los cuales son ciudadanos de EE. UU. Ha solicitado asilo citando amenazas de violencia en México. Obtener asilo puede ser un arduo proceso legal, dadas las dificultades para probar la existencia de amenazas y violencia de manera satisfactoria ante un juez. Su solicitud inicial y una apelación fueron denegadas, y se le obligó a comprar un pasaje de avión a México para el 10 de octubre. Edith decidió no irse y optó por buscar “santuario”: vivir dentro de una iglesia, donde los funcionarios de control migratorio generalmente no actúan.

La Iglesia Menonita de Columbus no se había declarado iglesia santuario antes de entrar en contacto con Edith. Fue debido a relaciones existentes con otras iglesias y organizaciones de Columbus, Ohio, que oyeron del interés de Edith por buscar santuario. Estas relaciones han seguido siendo claves: las congregaciones locales llevan comida y realizan la recaudación de fondos para ayudar a la familia a pagar las cuentas, ahora que ha perdido el ingreso de Edith. Una iglesia aportó una laptop para la familia. Otra organización se ocupa de los contactos con la prensa.

La Iglesia Menonita de Columbus brinda santuario a Edith Espinal. Foto cortesía de la Iglesia Menonita de Columbus.

Al abrir sus puertas a Edith, la Iglesia Menonita de Columbus se transformó en la primera iglesia de Columbus en dar santuario en los últimos años y en la primera congregación menonita en tener públicamente a alguien viviendo en santuario. En el sitio web de la iglesia, la decisión es explicada a la luz del llamado de Dios a amar al prójimo:

“Hemos acogido a Edith Espinal brindándole santuario en nuestra iglesia. Edith es prójima. Edith es madre. Edith es una hija de Dios que huyó de la violencia y buscó refugio en nuestro país muchos años atrás y que desea permanecer unida a su familia en esta ciudad que ha llegado a ser su hogar.

“Cuando los menonitas contamos nuestra historia, recordamos una época en que también nosotros buscábamos un santuario que nos protegiera de la violencia y llegamos a lugares como este país. Ahora estamos en posición de ofrecer santuario a otros”.

Según Melonie Buller, miembro de la Iglesia Menonita de Columbus, la iglesia ha descubierto que cuidar de Edith implica mucho más que atender sus necesidades físicas. Buller dice que tuvieron que preguntarse: “¿Qué es lo que ella necesita para mantenerse saludable y sentir que aún tiene dignidad y merece respeto como ser humano? ¿Cómo podemos ayudar a facilitar eso?” Antes de la orden de deportación, Edith era una persona activa con un empleo en el cual frecuentemente interactuaba con otras personas. Estar en santuario es un poco como estar en prisión o, por lo menos, bajo arresto domiciliario, explica Buller. Proporcionar ejercicio, contacto humano y un trabajo con sentido son aspectos vitales. Igualmente importante es prestar atención a su salud mental y necesidades espirituales.

Ahora Edith sube casi a diario las escaleras de la iglesia como ejercicio. Una miembro le está dando clases privadas de yoga. También está aprendiendo a tejer, se ha incorporado a un grupo que confecciona edredones e hizo disfraces de ángeles para la obra de Navidad. Usa la cocina de la iglesia para preparar los alimentos para su familia tres o cuatro noches por semana y organizó y dirigió la preparación de la comida para un reciente evento para recaudar fondos.

Al igual que Edith, el 60 por ciento de los 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados que se encuentran en EE. UU. han vivido aquí por más de 10 años. Bajo la administración Obama, la mayoría de los inmigrantes que residían aquí desde hacía largo tiempo y no tenían antecedentes penales no eran considerados una prioridad para la deportación, y a muchos se les permitió quedarse, siempre y cuando se reportaran regularmente a funcionarios de inmigración. Ahora, bajo la administración Trump, esos mismos individuos están siendo detenidos y deportados.

Para la gran mayoría de los inmigrantes indocumentados, existen pocos caminos hacia la obtención de un estatus legal. La mayoría tendría que regresar a sus países de origen por 10 años y solicitar el retorno en un proceso que dista mucho de estar garantizado. Un proyecto bipartidista de ley de 2013 para la reforma integral del sistema migratorio habría proporcionado un camino, aunque largo, hacia la ciudadanía. El proyecto fue aprobado por el Senado de EE. UU., pero quedó estancado en la Cámara de Representantes.

Sin la aprobación de una reforma migratoria y con la intensificación de los controles, es probable que la necesidad de santuarios aumente. Los inmigrantes se refugian en iglesias porque son consideradas espacios seguros según las directivas del Departamento de Seguridad Interior (DHS) que restringen las operaciones de control migratorio en los denominados “lugares sensibles”. Dichos lugares incluyen iglesias, escuelas e instalaciones médicas. Sin embargo, dado que las directivas no son ley, podrían ser cambiadas o, sencillamente, ignoradas, ya que no hay consecuencias específicas por violar dicha política.

Dos historias recientes han expuesto casos de control migratorio ocurridos dentro de un hospital de niños en Texas, en una clara violación de las directivas. En un caso, una pareja que llevó a su pequeño hijo para una cirugía de emergencia fue procesada para su deportación. En otro caso, una niña de 10 años con parálisis cerebral fue sacada del hospital tras una cirugía de emergencia y estuvo detenida varios días.

Veinte senadores y 84 miembros de la Cámara de Representantes escribieron cartas al DHS expresando su profunda preocupación por las violaciones a la política de lugares sensibles. Si se continúa persiguiendo a las familias en centros médicos, los padres podrían dejar de llevar a sus hijos a los hospitales, lo que acarrearía sufrimientos innecesarios, graves complicaciones de salud o incluso la muerte.

Igualmente perturbadores son los arrestos en tribunales, que no son considerados lugares “sensibles”. Los oficiales de control migratorio han arrestado a víctimas de violencia doméstica que acuden a los tribunales para pedir medidas de protección y a padres que piden la custodia de sus hijos. Dichas acciones ejercen un efecto disuasivo sobre la denuncia de delitos y la capacidad de los inmigrantes para comparecer ante tribunales de familia.

¿Cómo puede responder su iglesia a las complejas necesidades de los inmigrantes de su comunidad? No todas las iglesias pueden ofrecer santuario, pero todas pueden actuar en conjunto con organizaciones locales que apoyan a inmigrantes. Y los miembros pueden instar a sus representantes en el Congreso a mantener seguros los lugares sensibles como iglesias y hospitales y a tratar a los inmigrantes con dignidad y compasión (véase washingtonmemo.org/immig).

Colocar un cartel de bienvenida afuera de su iglesia es un buen primer paso en el seguimiento del llamado de Dios a amar a nuestro prójimo. ¿Cuáles serán sus siguientes pasos?




Este letrero de jardín fue ideado por la Iglesia Menonita Emanuel de Harrisonburg, Virginia, y ha sido reimpreso en lotes por personas a lo largo y ancho de Estados Unidos. Foto CCM/Brenda Burkholder.

Tammy Alexander es la Asociada Legislativa Principal para Asuntos Nacionales de la Oficina del Comité Central Menonita de EE. UU. en Washington, concentrándose en inmigración y medioambiente. Tammy habla y escribe sobre las políticas de EE. UU. relacionadas con estos temas y se reúne con gabinetes legislativos y funcionarios de gobierno para expresar la perspectiva del CCM acerca de las políticas públicas. Ha copresidido la Coalición Interreligiosa de Inmigración desde 2011. Antes de unirse al CCM en 2007, Tammy trabajó como ingeniera de propulsión en el programa de transbordadores espaciales desde 1996 a 2004. Obtuvo un “master of arts” en Desarrollo Internacional en la American University y títulos de ingeniería en la Universidad Purdue y el Instituto Espacial de la Universidad de Tennessee.

International Women’s Fund: Febri’s Story

Hear from Febri Kristiani, an IWF 2017 recipient and student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.

I was born in a small village called Karang Gumul. This little village is located in Klaten, Central Java, Indonesia. Indonesia is a very diverse country with different religions, language, and culture. I am part of the minority, I was raised in a Catholic family and was in a lower socio-economic class. Growing up as the minority in a poor family was hard. I was surrounded by people who always said, “Never dream a big dream, you will fall apart and get hurt badly if it does not come true.” They said, “Just finish high school, get a job, help your parents, get married and then stay home to take care of your children. Don’t try to do more than that; no one does that; it’s too impossible for us.” Growing up in this kind of society, I became a little girl who had no confidence and always felt that I was not enough. I was so scared and intimidated: what if what they said is true – is it impossible for a little girl like me to get a good education and make a difference? My parents told me the same thing, because they knew they would not be able to send me to college and they just did not want me to be disappointed. As a little girl, I was quite stubborn. When I was 10 years old, I kept telling my parents that I wanted to go to school out of the village. I was scared, but I could not resist my desire to dream a big dream and make a difference.

While I was growing up, my family experienced a lot of difficult circumstances. One of my sisters had cancer for a number of years. My family had to go back and forth to the hospital and send her for treatments, which caused financial hardship. This sister died when I was 8 years old. Because of the financial issue, my parents were not sure if they could send me to a school outside of the village. With all the prayers and hard work of my parents, they finally sent me out of the village for middle and high school. I was the first person in my village who went out from our village to get a better education.

As a village girl, going to town was not easy, especially because I was a minority and poor. I had a hard time building friendships because of the socioeconomic gap between me and my friends. My self-image was not developing well. I barely had self-confidence. When I was 17 years old, my parents sent me to live with my uncle’s family. My parents expected them to help me find a college and pay for it, because that is what my uncle had promised to my mom. Unfortunately, they didn’t help me but instead forced me to work for them. During that time, I thought of God as an unloving God, because God took away my sister and because no one wanted or loved me. My dream fell apart; I could not see the future, and I was so desperate.

I went back home and decided to live with my oldest sister. At that time, I started to attend a Mennonite church. It was not my first time to hear about Jesus because I grew up Catholic, but it was my first time to hear and understand that Jesus loves me and never leaves me alone. I had my personal encounter with Jesus, and not long after that, I decided to be baptized. Six months later, I decided to go to seminary because the feeling of God’s call was so strong. My parents were not sure about my decision because they did not have the funds to support me financially. They were also wondering what kind of future I would have by pursuing seminary program. By the grace of God, I got a full scholarship for my seminary program. This brought such a comfort to my parents and a confirmation that this decision was in the will of God. Again, I was the first person from my village and my family who went to seminary.

During my seminary program, I did children’s ministries inside and outside of the church. I went to some villages and an orphanage to teach an after-school program. I chose to start this ministry because there are so many children in those villages and in the orphanage who lack hope for the future and are afraid to dream big dreams because of the fact that they came from poor families. My passion was and is to empower and encourage them so they have hope for the future and see that there is nothing wrong with dreaming a big dream. On the weekends, I served in the church children’s ministry as a mentor and a teacher.

During that time, I had an opportunity to serve God and others in another country, the United States. The International Volunteer Exchange Program with Mennonite Central Committee placed me in South Hutchinson, Kansas. There I served at a retirement community, Mennonite Friendship Communities, as part of the pastoral team and as an assistant to the chaplain. I also was a children’s pastor assistant at Journey Mennonite Church. Through this opportunity, I learned more about God and experienced God’s presence in another context and culture. I also learned more about myself and my passion. This opportunity strengthened my calling, especially by doing some chaplaincy work in the nursing home. God has called me to those who are in need of love and hope, to share God’s compassion and salvation through Jesus Christ.

Through the hardship that I have experienced and through the opportunities that God has given to me, God had affirmed my calling to serve God and others, to do his mission in this world, to share his love and compassion through the salvation of Jesus. After I finished my seminary program with a Bachelor of Theology, I decided to pursue a Master’s program in seminary for pastoral care and counseling. Since Indonesia does not have a Mennonite seminary with this program, I did some research about Mennonite seminaries. I found Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, which has a chaplaincy program. By the grace of God and with the support of local churches and organizations here in the USA, I became an AMBS student. I am pursuing the Master of Divinity in chaplaincy. The focus of this program is restoring personal and corporate health in spiritual, relational, emotional, and physical aspects. This program will certainly shape my calling and help me to engage with ministry fields inside and outside the church. This is my first year at AMBS, and I am still in the process of discerning where God wants me to serve. However, I know that my heart is eager to serve God outside the church doing chaplaincy work. I am willing to serve God wherever he sends me, either in an organization, school, or hospital. Once again, I am the first person from my little village who pursuing education out of the little village and out of my country. I’m on the other side of the world in response to God’s calling. This calling involves inviting others toward the reign and the kingdom of God – to make this world a better place by sharing God’s love and compassion, working for peace and justice, and empowering and encouraging those who are hopeless and lost.

“What God wants first of me is myself. That means to say that His will for me points to one thing: the realization, the discovery, and fulfillment of myself, my true self in Christ …. Not in the absorption and disappearance of my own personality, but its affirmation and perfection … We do not give up the idea of seeking our own good, we simply seek it where it can really be found: in a good that is beyond and above ourselves.” – Thomas Merton

Unexpected Fertility: A reflection on the Parable of the Sower by Valerie Showalter

Preface: Recently, I was invited to “dig” into the Parable of the Sower from Mark 4 and to share my reflections with fellow church-lovers and leaders at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s School for Leadership training. I was asked to share, in part, because I would identify myself as a lover of the earth and a mediocre gardener. As I acknowledged when I first shared this, I recognize that much of my knowledge about gardening is the result of experience passed down through my family. Yet, the gardeners and farmers of my family have accumulated that knowledge primarily as settlers on the land of peoples systematically displaced by European conquest and occupation. So, my reflections are interwoven with my own background in brokenness, and I hold that tension within me.

The parable of the sower is familiar enough to most of us to know – without even reaching the interpretation of the parable – where the story is headed.

If there’s anything gardeners know and can agree to, it is this: that one must resist predictable explanations and expectations when it comes to seeds. In honoring that, I want to resist the traditional, flannelgraph-worthy punch line of this parable: that some people are “good” because they’re prepared for the Gospel and some people are “bad” because they squander the Gospel. Continue reading

Sister Care strengthens women leaders in Cuba

Two years after Sister Care seminars were first presented in Cuba, Carolyn Heggen, psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing, and Rhoda Keener, Sister Care director for Mennonite Women USA, returned to Havana, this time to bring the level 2 Enrichment materials and training for women who had attended a previous seminar. It was inspiring to hear that since 2015, these 28 women had taught over 600 others.

Keener and Heggen also traveled to Palmira in central Cuba (in a ’58 VW van) to teach Sister Care level 1 to an Anabaptist group of 36 Brethren in Christ (BIC) women who had not participated in 2015. This connection was facilitated by Jack and Irene Suderman, Ontario, and Bonnie Klassen, MCC Area Director for South America, Cuba, and Mexico.

One of the participants in Palmira, Deyli Milían Pérez, a pastor from Caibarien Villa Clara on the northern coast of Cuba, shared her story with Keener as Klassen translated. Continue reading

International Women’s Fund: Shabnam’s Story

Hear from Shabnam Bagh, an IWF 2017 recipient and student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. 

Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

My name is Shabnam Pratik Bagh and I am from India. I am married to Pastor Pratik Bagh. Professionally, I am a nursing lecturer and have been teaching in a nursing college and giving practical training in hospital settings. I feel called to teach and serve people. As I am married to a pastor, I have had the opportunity to see the skills that are required to minister a church. It made me see a need in my life to be theologically trained to serve people both physically and spiritually. While I was still discerning about doing seminary my husband, Pratik was admitted to Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary for a master’s degree program. Thus, I too came along with him, leaving my job and my profession. Being here in the seminary setting and after attending few seminars, I realized that it’s the opportunity for me to do seminary studies. And, AMBS is the best place for doing theology being a Mennonite.

I discerned that together with my nursing the seminary education could equip me well to provide a better service to my community. For my master’s degree at AMBS I have chosen Theology and Peace (MATP) as my concentration. I have two visions behind choosing this training; one is to teach the women in a congregational setting and bring awareness and encouragement to women for an elevated participation in the church. Secondly, as I have chosen the peace studies, as I want to use that in a nursing context and work for bringing God’s shalom among people with different religious and ethnic background. I think ministry is not limited only to church or seminary setting, but there is a great need for us to be a witness for Christ in different contexts (as for me it is nursing) and become an instrument for teaching God’s Peace and love in the world.

It is a real blessing to be able to receive the seminary education. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of people like you who have made it possible for me to do this training. I am very grateful for your concern and support towards my study. Please uphold me in your prayers so that I may be prepare well and used by the Lord in all my capacity.

Thank you so much to you all again. I deeply appreciate it!

With many prayers and blessings,


January Grapevine is here!

Grapevine is our MW USA monthly e-newsletter. Each issue features a prayer, important updates and news, and a recap of our most popular content!

Click here to view this month’s issue!


International Women’s Fund: Esther’s Story

Hear from Esther Mahagachi, an IWF 2017 recipient and student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. 

My name is Esther Muhagachi and I am married to Bishop Amos Muhagachi. We are blessed with four children: Violet (24), Victor (22), Grace (20), Peace (15). I have been working for 10 years as Director of Grace and Healing Ministry Dodoma (GHMD) under Tanzania Mennonite Church. In this role, I have been supervising the health team that helps people living with HIV/AIDS and the most vulnerable children in the community. I also provide counseling and guidance to people living with HIV/AIDS, encouraging drug adherence, prevention of infections, and facilitate the trauma healing and mentorship program within the diocese. In addition, I am also in charge of the Stand with Students program for the most vulnerable children registered in the program

Currently I am working towards a Masters of Art in Christian Formation (MACF) at AMBS

I am so thankful for the support I received from Mennonite Women USA. I really appreciate your support because I am staying on campus with my husband and our youngest child, Peace, who is studying at Bethany Christian School. We are so humbled by the care and support we are receiving at AMBS we feel at home even though we are far away from home.

Joining the seminary is a blessing to my life and I can say it is a dream coming true. It was my inner call to serve God in church ministry, but some obstacles and discouragements delayed me. I believe this is the right time that God wants to use me. I am ready for His work in any way that God wants to use me. I decided to come to the seminary to learn more about how I can respond to God’s call. Pray for me as I am pressing on to the ministry that God has called me to do.

Thank you so much once again,

God bless you.

Jochebed – Celebrating 20 Years of Timbrel

Did you know that Timbrel was first published in 1998? With Cathleen Hockman-Wert as editor, the publication takes it name from the story of Miriam and her timbrel. The following poem by Judith Miller was printed in the very first issue of Timbrel, January-February 1998 on page 7.


Mother of Moses  of Aaron     of Miriam

Did she live to know them

To go with them

Out of bondage    across the dread sea Continue reading

Remembering Maxine Fast

I remember meeting Maxine Fast on my second trip to Newton, Kansas in November of 2000. I was just starting as the Mennonite Women executive director and knew very little about denominational organizations, or the General Conference (GC) or Mennonite Church (MC) women’s organizations. I was 49 years old and had just left a job as a psychotherapist so I could work in the Mennonite church.

As a former MC member, I didn’t know anyone in the GC church offices where the Mennonite Women office was located. With lots of doubts swirling through my head about why I gave up my job in mental health to do something so nebulous as attempt to lead a denominational women’s organization, I found my way to the home of Maxine and Orlando Fast in Newton, Kansas.

Maxine and Orlando often hosted out-of-towners and their home became my regular place to stay in Newton, sometimes for a week or longer. Each arrival was met with a warm welcome. I joined their morning ritual of a devotional reading and prayer before breakfast and then set out for my day at the office. Maxine was always ready to greet me with genuine questions about how my day went when I returned in the evening. Our emerging friendship became more special when we discovered we shared the same birthday, June 15. We talked about the differences in the ways we grew up in the MC and GC churches, particularly in regard to beliefs and practices regarding the role of women in the church. Continue reading