My Son :: The Honorary Mennonite Woman

When I accepted the offer to join the staff of Mennonite Women USA little did they know they were getting a 2-for-1 deal. Two DeBerg’s for the price of one! What a steal.

Harold has been my faithful office partner while I work from my home in Minneapolis and do all the Timbrel editing, correspondence, proofing, designing and communications my job requires. I could not have designed a better situation like the one I find myself in with Mennonite Women USA. This is an organization that is respectful of where women find themselves.

I was determined to be with my son and continue breastfeeding while working. It has been a wonderful and wild journey working alongside my son for Mennonite Women USA. He has been with me to all our staff retreats, conferences, convention and even Women in Conversation.

I can guarantee you I’ve written emails with a nursing baby on my lap. I promise you I have taken a phone call from Ruth trying to whisper during the whole conversation so I wouldn’t wake my sleeping beauty. I was 15 minutes late to a call once with Lois because I had fallen asleep while nursing Harold down for a nap. When I finally called her and apologized she said, “Oh, that’s wonderful. You need to nap. Good for you.”

I am just so supported by this organization in both my gifts but also my family life. It is a risk for businesses and organizations to allow people to work remotely. Will they get the work done? Will they be honest with their time? Are they wearing pajamas on this call? I can answer all of those questions for myself: Yes. Yes. Yes.

But here is the thing…Harold stopped nursing at 2 and a half. And now there are other people in my house (ahem husband, daughter) who can put him down to sleep (oh the freedom!) and for the first time I am not bringing Harold along with me to the MW USA Staff Retreat and board meeting in a few weeks. My heart is a little lonesome for my dear travel companion.

So for a fun little change, here is a picture tour that will explain why Harold is an honorary Mennonite Woman:

Here he is under my desk with the box of Timbrel I received from the previous editor:

IMG_1802 Continue reading

MW USA Board Member Serves Sabbatical at The Corrymeela Community

Beth Martin Birky, editorial advisory council board member takes sabbatical from Goshen College to live and serve with an intentional community in Ireland.

Hear from Beth about her purpose and hopes for her month-long sabbatical. The Corrymeela Community holds to these purposes: Embracing Difference. Healing Division. Enabling Reconciliation. The following is a short profile Beth submitted to the Corrymeela staff newsletter: Continue reading

Interview with Carol Knieriem of Dove’s Nest

I had the great fortune of sitting down with Carol Knieriem from Dove’s Nest to learn more about how this important organization was born and what we can look forward to in its growth and development.

Carol, tell me, how did you get connected with Dove’s Nest?
I’m vice director of a local organization that acts as special advocates for abused children having received court-appointed monitoring. I recruit and train volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system. We meet with the children and we talk with anyone involved in that child’s life. We even talk with professionals who are working with the family. Volunteers then write reports to the court about what’s going on and they advocate on behalf of the child. Continue reading

Carolyn Heggen New Sister Care Co-Facilitator

Women leaders hope to translate, contextualize materials for other cultures.

by Heidi Martin for Mennonite Women USA

Carolyn Holderread Heggen, psychotherapist specializing in women’s issues, trauma recovery and healing, has accepted a role as co-facilitator of Mennonite Women USA’s (MW USA) Sister Care.

During the past year she provided leadership in the revision and expansion of the manual and seminar, collaborating with Rhoda Keener and Ruth Lapp Guengerich.

“Sister Care brings together the best of our theology and psychological understandings in practical ways that are accessible for lay women,” Heggen says. “It provides training women can use for their own healing and as they reach out to help others.” Continue reading

Sister Care Expands to [Compassion] Care in Portland

Men join women for seminar

Published: February 14th, 2012, by: Annette Brill Bergstresser of Mennonite Church USA.

By Joan Kropf

Some came because their wives wanted them to, others because they are in leadership positions and their congregations encouraged them to. But the underlying reason men participated in a [Compassion] Care seminar for the first time was the same reason women have been coming to Sister Care: to be better equipped for caring ministry.

So the harmony was four-part for the Jan. 20-21 seminar in Portland, Ore., with men adding their voices to the hymns and their insights to the discussions. Continue reading

Sister Care Seminar Breaks New Ground with Inclusion of Translation

By Emily Ralph, first published in The Mennonite, May 2012.

SOUDERTON, Pa.—One hundred and thirty women gathered for training and fellowship at Souderton Mennonite Church on March 23-24. The Sister Care seminar, developed by Mennonite Women USA, was sponsored by Eastern District and Franconia Conferences as part of their continuing work to equip and train congregational leaders.

Souderton’s Sister Care seminar was groundbreaking for Mennonite Women USA; it was the first time the seminar used materials translated into Spanish. Spanish-speaking participants were also equipped with translation headsets. As a result, the seminar was well-attended by Spanish-speaking members of Philadelphia Praise Center, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life, First Mennonite Church of Brooklyn, and Mennonite Evangelistic Tabernacle, New York City. Continue reading

Quilting Stories :: Marie Harnish



The idea for making a Mennonite Woman t-shirt quilt began after an MW USA board meeting about a year ago as we discussed the question of “What does a Mennonite woman look like?” As I collected MW USA Marie quilt story dovet-shirts from family, friends, and local thrift stores for other quilts, I realized the potential for many different themes, especially with the plethora of shirts with Bible verses on them.  Last spring, I attended a Sister Care Seminar in Goshen, IN, discussed the MW USA booth for the MC USA Convention, and kept looking at an MW USA Christmas card with images of women above my computer.  Slowly, the vision of a t-shirt quilt came together, using images of women from all over the world, doing all kinds of work.

I invited church women, friends, family, and the MW USA board and staff to look for t-shirts with primarily Christian images of women and girls of all ages and generations from many countries doing whatever their “work” may be, including praying, cooking, preaching, sports, laughing, doing sign language.  The images could be drawings, paintings, or photos including vine and leaves like MW USA logo or other vine/branches/fruit.  I hoped for a world map and to be inclusive of all abilities, including handicapped persons.

MW USA Marie Harnish Quilt Story backingIn addition to images I was interested in words and Bible verses such as John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Other appropriate slogans, such as “I am a Mennonite Woman…” and words such as friendship, love, peace, and the names of countries where Mennonite women live were also important.

My friends offered shirts and I visited thrift stores, checking all the t-shirts for images or words.  At the 2013 MW Spring board meeting, I received a few more shirts, including two from Africa and one printed up for MW staff that said “I am a Mennonite Woman watch me__________.”  This latter was an excellent addition. Carol Epp at MC USA graciously sent me a purple convention shirt for volunteers.

A few weeks later, I visited Fanni Birky in Goshen to see her quilting and help her get started on her MW USA Marie Harnish Quilt Story quiltinggranddaughter’s t-shirt quilt. I explained the need for backing fabric, so she checked her supplies and donated an entire bolt of fabric that matched perfectly with the Sister Care images of the t-shirt!

Slowly themes, images, colors, and prayers started emerging from the design. “To the Glory of God” was perfect for the top. For visual movement in the design, I placed 12”x12” squares diagonally from bottom to top, balancing the colors. The SC shirt is central due to the images and colors. I placed small squares of color around it to add more visual, circular movement.  I purposefully placed together many other images and words with a variety of messages, but I would like for you, the viewer of the quilt, to find your own Mennonite women stories.

The backing also has a story to tell. I pieced together the purple sections to show an image of a woman praying or praising God, or perhaps an angel, inspired by my mother-in-law, Linea Reimer MW USA Marie Harnish Quilt Story pillowcaseGeiser, who loved angels.  When she died in 2010 of cancer, she was looking forward to “being with the angels”.  (Linea was a very close friend of Fanni Birky who donated the backing as well.)  What images do you see in the backing?

Cathy Franks from Carmel, IN, used a long arm machine quilter to quilt each t-shirt block and outline the images, adding unique designs inspired by the t-shirts. The choice of multi-colored green thread creates delightful designs to view from the back as well.

As I looked over the remaining t-shirts, the duplicate image of “One Body, Many Parts” from I Corinthians 12:12, with three overlapping hands of different skin tones covering the world became potent. This image seemed essential for the pillow case, with smaller squares and rectangles of corresponding colors from the quilt surrounding it.  I chose the binding to connect the many colors, especially the different greens.  It became another circular image connecting Mennonite women from around the world.

I loved designing the quilt. When I laid it out on my bed to view, I realized I would have a hard time letting go of this particular quilt.  With my signature on the back of the quilt, I also mentioned the MW USA Marie Harnish Quilt Story Bible Study Friendssupport and encouragement from my Women’s Bible Study at First Mennonite Church. I pray that the person receiving this quilt will feel the love, prayers, and connections to other Mennonite women around the world.  Sister Care is alive and well!