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
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
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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
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
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. Continue reading
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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. Continue reading
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
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