In Motion with Marlene: Invite Them to Leadership!

This column originally appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Timbrel magazine. To stay up to date, subscribe to Timbrel here.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

With the waters of baptism still moist on my brow and freshly commissioned by the band of Jesus Freaks who nurtured me in my outspoken faith, I decided to step away from a secure nest of Mennonite thought and practice and from my home community of Mountain Lake, Minnesota.

After high school, I searched for an evangelical college, tag-teamed with my Youth for Christ friends and decided on Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

Here I discovered professors who spoke unabashedly about their faith. Daily chapel services and weekend prayer groups. The Psalms were read at the beginning of every biology class. My friends and I spoke freely of our faith, our longings to be in God’s will and we worked hard to be holy and consistent in our daily quiet time. I was in the best place possible. Plus, I was preparing through my studies to be a missionary!

But then, I met this guy who asked me many questions and then I started remembering.

A conservative Christian, he was questioning faith, affluence, and his worldview. He asked me about what I believed and how I was raised. He wondered about the Mennonites, Anabaptists and discipleship. In our ever-deepening conversations, I realized I was missing some things that had become dormant in my years away from home. I loved my life as an evangelical, but where were the conversations about peacemaking and social justice?

Together we read books that turned both of us on our heads. I remembered how I was raised, the theology of my family, church and tradition; a theology that went beyond personal piety to whole-life discipleship. I once again claimed my Anabaptist, Christian, Mennonite faith. Our friendship blossomed, we fell in love and have now been married almost 40 years.

Since then, Mike has remained committed to the church he was convinced was the right fit for his faith: the Mennonite Church. His path of seminary, pastoring and teaching has been honorable and steadfastly faithful. For me, I have served the Mennonite church as a camp director, area-conference minister, administrator, librarian and presently in my role as executive director of Mennonite Women USA. We have given our adult lives to this church, what is now Mennonite Church USA, but it was not what either of us imagined at age 18. 

The stepping away from what is familiar, the confusion about beliefs, the struggle about identity and life direction in young adulthood, are normal. Those of us who pay attention to the way faith develops throughout the stages of life understand this and expect it. Most of us need to have a time away to test, to re-evaluate what we truly value about our faith and the way we were raised. One of our sons at age 25 reflected, “I am not sure I value where I was raised, but I really do appreciate how I was raised.” He came to this conclusion after being gone from home for six years.   

This past year, I have been privileged to give leadership to three Sister Care for College Women events at Goshen, Bethel and Hesston colleges. One of our sessions provides guidance on answering the question: “What shall I do with my one precious life?” In each group, I ask the college women to reflect on what they wanted to be when they were 10, compared to what their aspirations are as 18- to 21-year-olds.

As girls, some envisioned being glamorous adults: ballerinas, athletes, actresses. But the majority of the women answer that presently they are studying for helping professions. We will be blessed with excellent social workers, nurses, teachers, psychologists and ministers. We will have faithful engineers, veterinarians and writers.

As the next decade rolls in, I believe these young adult women will indeed be leaders in their chosen professions. But let’s not lose sight of what they might be for our church as well. Encourage them to ask questions, let them wonder, listen to them, and most importantly, invite them to leadership. That’s what happened to this Jesus Freak from the 1970s. I was given opportunity to both fail and thrive. I was encouraged and mentored and invited to be a leader.

And I said yes.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Marlene Bogard is Mennonite Women USA executive director. Previously, she served as Minister of Christian Formation and Resource Library Director for the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA for 25 years. She currently lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband Mike.

Postcard & a Prayer :: August Email Newsletter

Enjoy August e-news from Mennonite Women USA!

Check out our new format to get all the latest information, reflections and images that cover all our national and international happenings from our Sister Care seminars to our upcoming Timbrel coverage. We also include a prayer to bless your day, excerpts from women in the greater church and content relevant to Mennonite women everywhere.

Sign-up today, stay connected each month!

MW USA August Email 2016

Mennonite Women USA Hires New Communications Manager

Mennonite Women USA, a constituency group of Mennonite Church USA, is pleased to announce that Dawn Araujo-Hawkins of Kansas City, Missouri, has been appointed communications manager, following the resignation of Claire DeBerg.

Araujo-Hawkins, a member of Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City, Kansas, has a degree in magazine journalism from Ball State University and a master’s in religion from Cincinnati Christian University. She has worked as a religion journalist since 2010, freelancing for a variety of publications and most recently serving as a staff writer for the Global Sisters Report — a special project of the National Catholic Reporter.

In 2015, Araujo-Hawkins was named a Handa Fellow in Interreligious Communication, and in June 2016, she won the American Academy of Religion’s award for best in-depth newswriting on religion. She is a member of the Religion News Association and the International Association of Religion Journalists.

Araujo-Hawkins comes to MW USA with a strong desire to promote women’s voices within Mennonite communities.

“I am a fan of women’s ministries, regardless of church or denomination,” she said. “However, as my personal faith journey has led me to Mennonite Church USA, I have felt increasingly called to serve with an Anabaptist organization and publication.”

Araujo-Hawkins will assume the role of communications manager on July 18, 2016.

Our “Faith Travels” Bible Study Guide Author, Marlene Kropf published on MC USA

This year’s Bible study guide from Mennonite Women USA Faith Travels was written by Marlene Kropf. We’re thrilled to see her featured on the Mennonite Church USA’s Menno Snapshots blogs with her piece “Pilgrimage in Any Season” originally published here.

In spring, Chaucer wrote, “folk long to go on pilgrimages.” Nowadays, the desire to go on a pilgrimage might erupt in any season of the year. Ironically, as church attendance continues to decline in the West, the number of people – Christian and otherwise – who go on pilgrimages continues to increase.

Ancient Irish Christians understood that to go on a pilgrimage was “to seek the place of one’s resurrection.” Pilgrimage was an embodied prayer, an engagement of the entire person – body, mind, heart and spirit. Wherever they traveled, pilgrims opened themselves to the movement and direction of God’s Spirit, seeking transformation into Christlikeness.

Recently someone pointed out to me that a pilgrimage has six identifiable stages:

  1. An initial yearning or longing invites us to a particular place or experience.
  2. Then comes preparation for the journey: reading, prayer and discernment, conversation with other pilgrims, checking out websites and deciding what to take along.
  3. We establish an itinerary for our journey: where we will travel, when, with whom and why.
  4. As the journey begins, we eagerly anticipate our arrival, even though we must first endure leaving behind what is known and familiar in order to enter the promised future.
  5. The sacred experience includes the events, encounters and solitude of the journey in which God’s call to new life is made known to us.
  6. At last, we return to our homes – refreshed, transformed and sometimes chastened by all we’ve experienced. Re-entering our familiar lives, we seek to integrate new images and learnings into our call to daily discipleship.

We need not travel far to reap the spiritual fruits of pilgrimage. Favorite places of spiritual pilgrimage today include the Camino in Spain; Celtic sites in Scotland, England and Ireland; the Holy Land; Assisi or Rome; early Anabaptist centers in Switzerland and Holland; or contemporary American settings connected with historical events such as the Civil Rights movement or the forced migration of Native Americans on the Trail of Tears. New pilgrim paths emerge as the desire to encounter these sacred stories continues to grow. For example, in Ireland one can literally walk across the land in the path of Saint Brigid or Saint Patrick. In Scotland and England one can walk on the path of Saint Columba, Saint Cuthbert or on the Canterbury Trail. As people listen deeply to stories of the past, they discern in fresh ways how God’s Spirit is calling us to live today.

Choosing to bike or walk on a Sunday morning to our place of worship can be a spiritual pilgrimage as we pass through familiar or unfamiliar neighborhoods, listening intentionally to the voice of God’s Spirit along the way.

Perhaps one of the richest benefits of pilgrimage is new relationships: encounters with strangers or deepened communion with fellow pilgrims. Praying together morning and night, sharing meals, enduring the rigors of travel and reflecting together on both the inner and outer journeys bonds people and strengthens their faith. They catch a vision of what ordinary church life might be like if the same practices were engaged at home.

Perhaps spiritual pilgrimages can be a key to spiritual renewal in our time.

Just as other spiritual practices in the past called the church to greater faithfulness, it may be that the embodied prayer of pilgrimage is one way the Spirit is working to transform the church today.

If the Spirit is calling you to go on pilgrimage, listen well!

Summer Timbrel :: Education + Miseducation :: You Are Not a Leader Until You Have Produced Another Leader Who Can Produce Another Leader

by Pamela Obonde

Pamela is a wife, mother and community worker who holds a BA in Public Adminstration and Psychology from Marathwada University, India. Pamela is a born again Christian with a passion for women’s and girls’ empowerment. She continues to exercise her passion and calling through a local NGO- Angolo Community Development Centre.  Her work has seen her traverse the vast countryside to reach and work with girls and women both in the remote rural villages and in the urban slums. Pamela is an active member of Family Celebration Church, a local Mennonite congregation which is pastored by her husband, Pastor Patrick Obonde.

I am the third born child of the nine children in my family, six girls and three boys. My mother, being a daughter to a church Pastor, appreciated the importance of education and she vowed her children would get an education despite all the odds that stood in her way. In my culture boys are more sought after to cement any marriage so it was “bad luck” for my mother who gave birth to six daughters in a row. She was ostracized; therefore she moved out of the home away from the ridicule and name-calling from my grandmother and other women in the village.God eventually blessed her with three sons. My parents who were peasant farmers struggled to send all their nine children to school. I was privileged to earn a college degree out of the sacrifice  and pulling together of the community of believers who saw my interest and dedication to learning.

I have been and still am a crusader of girl-child and women empowerment in my community, church and the country as a whole. I am a member of the Alliance of Children’s Rights in Kenya and the Right to Play caucus. I sit on these committees that give an advisory role to the Ministry of Education.

The typical day of a school-going orphaned girl-child in my village (who lives with her grandmother) starts at 4:00 am when the girl has to wake up and take care of the needs of the day like fetching water for her grandmother about 3 kilometers away, come and cook porridge (if there is flour), sweep the homestead and then off to school. Continue reading

Summer Timbrel :: Education + Miseducation :: The Problems of the Urban Poor Are Everybody’s Problems :: Ellie Roscher

This is an excerpt from Ellie Roscher’s forthcoming book Slowly by Slowly, Spring 2017, Viva Editions, which chronicles a girls school started by Abdul in Kibera, a slum in Kenya.

Ellie Roscher is the Director of Youth and Story Development at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities. Author of How Coffee Saved My Life and forthcoming Slowly by Slowly, she is also an editor, blogger, speaker and teacher. Ellie earned her MA in Theology from Luther Seminary and her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Minneapolis with her spouse and son, and you can find more of her work at ellieroscher.com.

 

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

–African Proverb

When Asha’s father, Jaffar, was ten years old, his grandmother made him promise to name his first daughter after her. He lived up to his promise. Asha’s great-grandmother was a stern, independent woman who never had a husband. She didn’t give into societal pressure to marry, and instead raised her children and grandchildren on her own. Asha’s dad tells her she looks like her great-grandmother. “I even share some of her mannerisms and habits,” Asha said. “Like I caught her spirit. I am proud to be her namesake.”

Asha’s mother, Zubeda, was born in Uganda, the granddaughter of a parliament member. At age ten, she was forced to come to Kenya as a refugee during the Idi Amin era. Zubeda’s mother was very educated, but lost all her documents in the war and could not prove her status in Kenya. They lived in a tent provided by the UN in a refugee camp on the border of Uganda and Kenya for a few years where Khadijah taught her daughter Zubeda to plait hair and cook samosas to make money. Zubeda stopped going to school in the eighth grade. Khadijah opened a restaurant while her husband worked as a driver for the Saudi Arabian embassy. They sent Zubeda to Kibera to stay with relatives. There she met Jaffar and has stayed with him ever since. She never went back to school, but Asha remembers thinking her mother was very smart because she spoke English.

KGSA-Ryan-8191

Asha asked, “Why did you leave school in the eighth grade?”

Zubeda said, “I don’t like talking about my past. Maybe you will look down on me because I am not educated.”

The war was hard on Asha’s mother. Zubeda says the sounds of bombs and gunshots are still in her head thirty years later. Asha worries about her.

“The life she lived, I understand,” Asha said. “She didn’t go to school. She was so young when she married my dad and had me. I think I trapped her in a life she didn’t want.”

 

Asha’s family, like many families in Kibera, did not have a toilet. Continue reading

Summer Timbrel :: Education + Miseducation :: Former MW USA Board Member Regina Shands Stoltzfus Wins Spirit of Justice Award

This article originally appeared on the Goshen College news blog.

Regina Shands Stoltzfus, assistant professor of peace, justice and conflict studies at Goshen College, has been awarded the 2016 Spirit of Justice Award by the State of Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC).

The Spirit of Justice Award is the ICRC’s highest honor. The award was created to recognize Hoosiers, who inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, have devoted their personal and professional efforts to creating social justice in the State of Indiana.

Shands Stoltzfus will be honored at the 25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Indiana Holiday Celebration on Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Indiana Statehouse, as well as at Goshen College during MLK Day celebrations on Monday, Jan. 18.

“I am grateful for the affirmation of work that I have long felt called to,” Shands Stoltzfus said. “I am even more grateful, however, for the many mentors and co-laborers I have in my friends, colleagues, family members and of course, my students. We are in this together – no one does it alone.”

Continue reading

Postcard & a Prayer :: June Email Newsletter

Enjoy June e-news from Mennonite Women USA!

Check out our new format to get all the latest information, reflections and images that cover all our national and international happenings from our Sister Care seminars to our upcoming Timbrel coverage. We also include a prayer to bless your day, excerpts from women in the greater church and content relevant to Mennonite women everywhere.

Sign-up today, stay connected each month!

MW USA June Email 2016

Love is a Verb: Got a Mantra?

 

This post originally appeared on the Mennonite Church USA website on June 13.

Marlene Bogard serves as executive director of Mennonite Women USA and lives in Salem, Oregon, where daily she takes her cute little doggie on walks over the bridge, beyond the rippling creek and past the tall trees. She is married to Mike, has two adult sons and one adorable grandson. She is a fan of strong coffee, warm conversations and happy people.

Got a mantra? I am always on the hunt. Seems like I need a phrase, a song, a scripture to tame my ever-wandering mind. I have embraced many mantras over the years. Funny thing is, the mantra itself continues to morph. It’s never static, always evolving – like my faith, like my discipleship, like my yearnings.

What good is a mantra? It is an anchor, a north star, a grounding of sorts. When I become overwhelmed with anxiety, frustration, grief or confusion, I need to find a home, a safe room, a cozy place near to the heart of God.

A definition of a personal mantra: Continue reading

Claire DeBerg Resigns from Mennonite Women USA

Claire DeBerg submitted her resignation to the Executive Director and Board Chair of Mennonite Women USA on March 21st. DeBerg has worked for Mennonite Women USA since 2012 starting with the title “Editor” and calling for a new job title of “Communications Manager” that would better describe the scope of the position.

During her time with Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) DeBerg led the design and launch of their new website, redesigned Timbrel magazine, led the redesign efforts for Mennonite Women USA branding from brochures and business cards to name tags and banners and launched and maintained the majority of their social media profiles: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

“We are grateful for the ease in which Claire utilized the social media avenues so the MW USA presence could be known in many more ways,” says Kathy Bilderback, MW USA board chair. “As part of our mission, we hear and share the stories of empowering women and Claire did an excellent job in allowing those stories to be seen and heard while always connecting to our resources. It has been such a gift for us to have Claire be part of our ministry and team.”

DeBerg has maintained the organization’s mission to focus on a platform of communications welcoming diverse voices in terms of country of origin, race, demographics and economics. She recently led the organization in opening their first online shop where sales of Sister Care materials, Bible Study Guides, t-shirts and more are available. In her quest to make Timbrel magazine available and accessible DeBerg helped launch the ability to purchase print subscriptions online.

“I am deeply grateful for having the honor of working with and for all Mennonite women these last 3 ½ years,” says DeBerg. “The work is guided by a profound mission and vision which will continue to inspire me even as I pass the torch.” Executive Director Marlene Bogard is leading the search committee to discover DeBerg’s replacement.

“Claire has a way of putting a bit of sparkle into her work,” says Bogard. “Her personality, faith, ideas and imagination have helped Mennonite Women USA be a bright spot in our denomination.”

DeBerg looks forward to expanding the freelance writing contracts she’s maintained for the last ten years as she recently opened her Minneapolis writing agency, Cicada.

“I love powerful communication and working for Mennonite Women USA gifted me numerous opportunities to move in the Anabaptist space equipped with purpose and grace—and that is priceless. Because of how I was nurtured and trusted in this organization, I feel empowered to bring that learning to enrich my work with my Cicada writers.”

DeBerg graduated with a BA in English from Bethel University in 2001 and earned a Master of Arts in English Creative Writing from University of Northern Iowa in 2005. She was a professor of English for three years before launching her commercial freelance writing business in 2007.

She is a member of Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Minneapolis, MN, is mother to Harold and Gloria and wife to Darren. She has completed her first novel and is working on her memoir. She blogs at clairedeberg.com