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

December Grapevine is Here!

This issue of Grapevine features a special Christmas blessing from all four of our staff members, a new video from Bluffton Sister Care for College Women, Gifts to Honor and Remember and other exciting updates!

Click here to read!

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

You, too?

This is an addendum to Janet’s original post, “me, too”. Click here to read the original post.

I was not prepared for the response I got when I posted my “me, too” story a few days ago. As I said in that initial post: “I tell it so that everyone who hears my story is aware, watchful, and careful to love and protect those who are vulnerable to victimization, or have been victimized.”

I had also not anticipated that with social media being what it is, and “sharing” stories via multiple social media venues . . . there might be someone who would actually put my carefully worded story together and figure out that they knew me back then. I also never considered that a reader might also have been a victim of the very same perpetrator. Continue reading

me, too

Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night by someone banging on your door yelling loudly, “Are you okay, are you okay???” This was a first for me. My upstairs neighbor had probably heard me screaming for someone to help me through our poorly-insulated walls and been startled awake. After a brief apologetic explanation she returned to her home, assured that I was safe. I went back to bed and lay wide awake until I rose at morning light.

I was embarrassed by this incident and avoided running into my neighbor for a few days, hoping to never again speak of our nighttime interruption. My educated guess on what had caused my outburst was this “me, too” movement. The seemingly endless daily reports of sexual harassment abuse and molestation had most likely triggered a flashback*. I’m a “me, too” woman, who sometimes has flashbacks.

Continue reading

After 5 years, Sister Care returns to India and Nepal

This article was originally published by The Mennonite via TMail.

It was “Meena’s story” that most intensely touched the hearts of the 325 women at the All India Mennonite Women conference in 2012. Although it used a fictitious name, “Meena”* was the real-life story of a pastor’s wife whose husband became verbally and physically abusive to her, especially on weekends when he started to worry about the Sunday service.

Many women responded to the story, saying with tears, “I am Meena.” Indian women leaders advised Sister Care teachers, Carolyn Heggen, psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing, and Rhoda Keener, Sister Care director for Mennonite Women USA, to teach that violence against women is a sin and that it is not a Christian wife’s duty to submit to her husband’s violence. Participants said they had never before heard this.

Five years later, in October 2017, Keener and Heggen returned to India**, this time to Nagpur, to train 25 members of the Theologically Trained Anabaptist Women of India (TTAWI) to become Sister Care teachers. To further empower these women as future teachers, Elisabeth Kunjam, TTAWI leader, organized the translation of the Sister Care manual into five languages (Hindi, Telegu, Tamil, Bangla, and Nepali), and printed 2,300 manuals for participants to share in their communities.

In Nagpur, the story of Meena was again read. Women were asked the same question that was asked 5 years earlier, “How can women help Meena?” but this time the question included, “How can violence against women be stopped in Christian homes?” In small groups the women discussed the problem and this time the answer came with overwhelming clarity: “With teamwork.” Women need to band together and work with leaders in the church to stop violence against women.

The group was asked to list some of the problems faced by women in India. Answers included: “The pressure to have sons, women’s gifts are not recognized, the selling of girl children, having money she earns deposited into her husband’s account, restrictions from in-laws, women are not allowed to preach except one time a year on ‘women’s Sunday’ and that is often skipped, wife beating, childhood sexual abuse, unreasonable dowry expectations and the economic difficulties of widows.” These realities of women’s lives stand in sharp contrast to God’s vision presented in Sister Care’s first unit, which emphasizes, “I am God’s beloved daughter.”

Rechal Bagh, one of the event coordinators and president of TTAWI, said, “I trust that women will be helped in their struggles and pain and will be able to help others with this knowledge of God’s way of helping and healing for women.”

A few days later, Heggen and Keener spoke to students at Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India, on the

Montosh Giri talks with Carolyn Heggen at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune. Photo provided.

theme: “How pastors can care for the spiritual and psychological needs of women.” They addressed ways the Bible can be used either to hurt women or to help them heal. Afterward, a student, Montosh Giri, approached carrying a worn copy of Heggen’s book, Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches, from the UBS library. He said that as a pastor he and his wife have a deep concern for the needs of women in their community. Keener offered to ask her husband, Pastor Bob Keener, to be an encouraging pen pal.

Montosh and Bob have begun corresponding. Montosh sent a research paper he wrote on “The Women of Odisha” where he said, “In this world women suffer more than other living beings …I am raising my voice for every woman….”

Men like Montosh bring hope. The Theologically Trained Women of India bring hope. After a Sister Care workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal, a woman wrote on an unsigned paper, “This is the first day I am glad that I was born a girl. I have always dreamed of being a boy.” Having women see how precious they are to God brings hope!

*Indian women oversaw the writing of Meena’s story in 2012, working with Twila Miller who spent many years in India with MCC.
**Funding for these seminars and manuals came from the Schowalter Foundation and many individuals.

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.

“Tell me more.” Inviting more sharing indicates you are available for another layer of information.

“Nothing you say will be shared with others.” We need to feel safe with each other.

“I am here.” You are fully present with the other person. Your body is still and you provide encouragement and calmness through non-verbal communication.

“I will wait until you are ready to share.” Show them that there is no rush; you are a patient listener.

“Although I really want to offer a fix, I will only listen.” Listen and ask clarifying questions only.

“Let me be as Christ to you.” Your devotion to your friend is evident.

Being a generous listener is our access to understanding each other. These days, we are constantly being bombarded by texts, tweets and pod casts, and our capacity for concentration and contemplation is weakened. It becomes difficult to pay attention to the subtle, and the quiet. Listening can help us learn to build bridges in the midst of polarities. It can slow us down so that we are able to consider a third way in times of conflict.

Listening is love. It may be the most meaningful gift your friend might receive in any
given week.

Listening may help us acknowledge the gentle nudges of God’s spirit that surface through our friendships and conversations with our sisters in Christ.

Let’s go deep!


Marlene Harder Bogard is the executive director for Mennonite Women USA. 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.


Sitting in the Silence by Tonya Detweiler

Sitting still has never been my forte. All I have ever known is enough energy to get up and go, stay on the go at full throttle speed, often juggling two or three extracurricular activities or balancing multiple jobs at the same time. I have usually been fortunate to find work and activities that offer flexibility and allow this pace to be possible, and because I usually felt happy, it has often felt like a good way of life.

A few years ago the pastoral team at our church challenged us to “5 Habits of Jesus Followers,” which included weekly tasks such as blessing people not connected to our church, eating meals with others, studying scriptures, practicing journaling, and the fifth one… listening to the Holy Spirit. The first four felt doable, because for doers like me, those are the easy ones. You add them to your to-do lists, get them done, and off you go. But that last one felt more difficult.   We were to spend ten minutes a day sitting in silence to listen to what God might have to say to us, reveal to us, or just to center ourselves around God for ten minutes each day. I liked the concept, but couldn’t we talk about it in small group, or form a bible study, or go to lunch and talk about how we were listening? You get it. I needed to be quiet and practice this discipline most of all. And I knew it.

The first day was excruciating. My mind wandered like a toddler from shiny new thing to shiny new thought and I couldn’t focus on anything. The quietness made me uncomfortable in part because I couldn’t get my mind off of the long to-do list hanging in the balance getting untouched because I was to be listening – for ten long minutes. In those early weeks, I know I didn’t last for more than a few minutes a day before declaring this practice a complete waste of time.

And then one morning during my devotional time, I came across this scripture in Matthew 6 where Jesus says, “Here’s what you do: (I liked his action word choice). Find a secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” Matthew 6:6.

This verse was jam packed with action verbs that I could understand, and yet mixed with the foreign art of just being and listening. It mixed the doing with the listening in a way that suddenly made sense to me. It wasn’t about me. It was about taking the focus off of me, and putting it solely on God. I could be quiet because I didn’t have to “role-play before God.” That sentence hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I needed this practice more than I had ever realized.

With time it has gotten easier, but it has more importantly, gotten more essential as a part of my day. There are still days when ten minutes might as well be an hour because it feels like just that. But there have been times when God has cleared my mind, centered me around a thought that was just what I needed to hear or reflect upon, or there have even been times when this practice of listening quietly to God has guided me towards an action that I might have either missed or miscalculated had I not spent that quiet time listening to God in silence and slowing down just enough to avoid a wrong direction. Of utter importance, it is ten minutes a day when it is not about me. It is about whatever God wants to reveal to me. And that practice of submission has been a healing grace and treasured time that is necessary before I thrust into the craziness of whatever the day may bring.

I am reminded often of the saying, “Don’t let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the voice of the Lord.” How true this is. How true Jesus’ words are that challenge us to find that secluded place where only God’s noise can be heard. It can indeed center us for the entire day on the noise that is yet to come. Listening, in this context, couldn’t be more active or more necessary. And to do that well, we must slow down and often even stop. For then God has room to come in and speak to us without role playing or shouting above the earthly noise that can so easily take over.

Tonya Detweiler serves as the board treasurer for Mennonite Women USA. She was born in West Liberty, Ohio into the Mennonite home of Ray and Mary Hunsberger. Tonya grew up in Newton, Kansas and has fond memories of spending countless hours on her grandparent’s farm. Tonya currently serves as president of Blue Diamond Communities in Goshen, Indiana where she lives with her husband Craig and their blended family of five children. In her free time, Tonya enjoys landscaping, entertaining, cooking and traveling.