March For Our Lives: Youth Lead by Madeline Smith Kaufman

Madeline Smith Kaufman participated in the March For Our Lives, a march protesting school shootings, in Chicago, Illinois on March 24, 2018.

When people ask, “How was the march?”, I have no idea how to respond. How do I sum up my experience at the march into the neat, short, positive sentence that people expect? For me, the march was empowering, terrifying, inspiring, unifying, validating, and fun. I could expand on each one of those words. To me, the march was much more than just saying, “It was amazing!” Continue reading

Maundy Thursday by Berni Kaufman

There we were, eight of us around the table. We came from different homes, different activities of the day. What we had in common was that we were all from the same church, around this table to observe Maundy Thursday. The table was modestly dressed with eight bowls, spoons, cups and napkins. A soup tureen, basket of sliced homemade breads and a pitcher of water. The centerpiece was a  platter and goblet, which held a small loaf of bread and juice respectively. Each of the seven other tables was laid out like ours in our large fellowship hall. Yet, in this moment, the awareness of our one table of eight was quite intimate. After a prayer of blessing, the fellowship was as warm as the soup and as comforting as a slice of homemade bread. At the conclusion of the meal, three of the four children made their way to a classroom to play. The fourth made her way around the tables on all fours, crawling being her mode of mobility.

From our seats at the table, we were guided into a service of scripture and song, remembering the last week of Jesus’ life. We shared the bread and juice that had been specially prepared, served on hand-thrown pottery, sets of which were made for these holy occasions. During a time of extended silence, we were invited to foot washing. Others remained at the tables to reflect. As we reconvened at our tables, the pastor brought the service to a close. Continue reading

Every Day Worship: Energizing in Every Way by Carol Penner

Carol Penner is the author of Every Day Worship, the Mennonite Women USA 2018 Bible Study Guide. Every Day Worship will be available for purchase beginning in June 2018. 

Worship is inspiring. Take last Sunday; even as I walked towards the church building, I could hear the music floating through the windows, calling me. As I slipped into my seat, I saw the whole congregation gathered. There was something there as we waited for the presence of God together.

Throughout that service, I felt emotion welling up in me at different points, something deep was being touched. The welcome from the worship leader, the scripture that told us about Jesus, hearing the voices around me singing in parts, the story the preacher told, the sharing time, the prayer where we asked God to help us. And the benediction that told us to go in peace. Continue reading

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

Faith and Caring in the Digital Age by Teresa Boshart Yoder

Teresa Boshart Yoder, East Coast representative for the MW USA board, reflects on our spring theme, Faith Formation in the Digital Age.

I have to begin my sharing with a very honest confession, I am not technologically savvy. I’m actually surprised my two daughters and son-in-law haven’t requested payment for services rendered for iPhone help, TV remote control training and general “I don’t understand this and what I am supposed to do?” Just last evening when my daughter Nicole brought over a DVD for us to watch, she was frustrated that our DVD player wasn’t Blu-ray. Apparently you can’t play a Blu-ray DVD in a regular old DVD player. Who knew? Certainly not me! I received another lesson on what technology my husband Lonnie and I need to update to “keep up with the times”.

As I have pondered why I need to keep up with the times, what that means and will it benefit me in any way, I have come to some interesting conclusions. I have heard all the warnings about technology, how it is stunting the communication growth of young people and how it will harm families and their fellowship. I also understand that technology can be dangerous for people who struggle with addictive personalities and they may need some help with appropriate use and control. I also know that when the telephone began to be widely used in the last century, warnings about how it would destroy Christian families followed closely behind. To my best knowledge, I don’t believe that happened (maybe I should google it). Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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