Coffee and Conversation

Two weeks ago, women from Emmaus Road and Fairhaven Mennonite Churches gathered on Saturday morning at the Berne Dinner in Berne, IN for fellowship and conversation. The thirteen women, with ages ranging from their 30 to 90-years-old, spent two hours discussing issues facing our children and the churches response. Cyneatha Millsaps, MW USA executive director, led the conversation with concerns of young white males and the messages they are receiving about themselves and how those messages could shape their futures. Cyneatha spoke as an African-American mother who has seen the results of young black males living into negative and disparaging words describing their character. Cyneatha has been warning the church and leaders who seek to bring about a just racial and equitable society to be mindful of how we invite our young people into the conversations. As the conversation deepened, women who work in the local schools shared their concerns for this issue as well. Educators spoke about the levels and numbers of young people dealing with depression, thoughts of suicide, domestic violence, etc. Issues like these and a growing poverty rates demand a response from the church. If you would like to host a coffee and conversation in your area with Cyneatha Millsaps or other leaders of Mennonite Women USA, please contact Cyneatha at 316-281-4395 or the MW offices at 316-281-4396.

#DoneWishing

This article by Marlene Bogard was originally published in Summer 2018 Timbrel. Marlene will conclude her time with Mennonite Women USA July 31, 2018.

I wish I had known about personal boundaries as a young girl. I wish I had constructed my own space bubble. I wish I had been coached on my Circle of Grace. I wish…

As a second grader, my head was pushed against the rough brick wall of our school. Howard mushed his face into me and pressed his lips against mine. I was a skinny seven- year-old and this incident happened on the playground during recess.  It was not OK. A classmate of mine had decided to kiss me, forcefully.  Not OK. I do not remember reporting to my teacher or my mother. Perhaps I did.

Today I wonder, what would your daughters or nieces or granddaughters do or say if that happened to them? Would they be sufficiently trained and empowered to push away, to yell no, and to report the assault?

In almost every decade of my life, I have experienced harassment, inappropriate touch, unwanted sexualized language and jokes. #youtoo?

When the #metoo movement became prominent, I decided to  recite all the ways  I experienced harassment while my husband and I were on a road trip. I began with the recess incident and carried on to the present. At various points in my monologue, he exclaimed, “Really?” and “Wow!” and then, “There’s more?”

“Yes, “I nodded, “All true.”

And I am not alone. I have minimized or shaken off some of these instances over the years, even chalking them up to my clothing selection or my vivacious personality. I have even said the dreaded, “Boys will be boys, and men will be men.” I am done with that kind of reasoning. It was never my fault. I did not ask for it.  I may have not known how to respond, but I will not bear the responsibility of men and boys acting inappropriately.

I wish I had known about personal boundaries as a teenager. The language of boundaries, of  sense of self, of empowerment was absent. No one (church, parent, school) offered advice or guidelines or about dating, about touch, about sexual activity.  Some things were communicated as taboo, but other than a little information about getting my period, there was a huge void. What did I do to fill that void? Act on impulse, surrender to those more powerful, get caught off guard, be driven by some vague notion of morality?

More than you wanted to know? Too much information? I would wager a guess that most of you reading this have had similar or worse experiences while you were growing up.

Recently, our four-year-old grandson proclaimed, “I have a space bubble around me!” His dad explained how his preschool is teaching about a safety zone around each child. With pleasure, I quickly jumped up and invited him to do the Circle of Grace meditation and motions with me.

Circle of Grace is a Christian safe environment curriculum that helps to form and educate children and youth about the value of positive relationships with God and others.

I will be retiring from my position at the end of July. But not before I help lead an event that is designed to help girls and women understand and claim personal boundaries. Because I am #donewishing and we are now proactively empowering girls and women to understand, claim and proclaim their own personal boundaries. I hope to see you at: Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries.

Want to register for our summer event, Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries? Click here for more information!

Carrying our message internationally

Rhoda Keener is the Sister Care director for Mennonite Women USA and a former MW USA executive director. She lives in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania with her husband Bob. Rhoda is the co-editor of She Has Done a Good Thing: Mennonite Women Leaders Tell Their Stories.

I remember receiving an email from Jana Oesch in 2010 asking me to speak at a women’s retreat in Idaho. I wrote back saying, “The speaking I am doing right now is Sister Care. Would you like to host a Sister Care seminar?” A year later Carolyn Heggen and I led our first seminar together in Caldwell, Idaho. One email can change so much.

I am often amazed as I work from my home in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, that I am communicating with people all over the world. I can correspond via email with Elisabeth Kunjam in India, Milka Rindzinski in Uruguay, Sun Ju Moon in South Korea, Pamela Obonde in Kenya, or Tran Diep in Vietnam.  Without the Internet, I don’t know how Sister Care International could exist and grow.

The Latin American Sister Care seminars began through Carolyn Heggen’s personal friendship with Olga Piedrasanta, an instructor at SEMILLA, and then continued with assistance from Linda Shelly of Mennonite Mission Network. Linda’s relationships with the women leaders in Central and South America enabled her to guide the planning of another nine seminars.

When Carolyn and I arrived in Havana in late January of 2018, our host, Midiam Lobaina from the Cuban Council of Churches, asked if we needed a projector and screen for our presentations. When we said, “No, we are quite low tech,” she breathed a sigh of relief. It is the photos that we share on Facebook and other social media platforms that connect the Sister Care ministries around the world.

After teaching an Enrichment seminar in Bogota last spring attended by women from five countries, I received an email from Linda Shelly sharing what women in Rumococha, Peru are doing with the Sister Care material.  Cielo Arguelo attended the Bogota seminar; then taught women and children in Rumococha that they are beloved daughters of God by creating a motto that says, “Soy una mujer amada por Dios” or “I am a beloved woman of God”.

A ministry is only as strong as the love and trust that form its base. Much can be built and sustained with long distance electronic communication, but there is no substitute for face-to-face conversations and time together.

Whatever form of communication we use, what remains important is that we know and believe we are beloved daughters of God.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Timbrel, Faith Formation in the Digital Age. To subscribe to Timbrel, click here.

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

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

A Christmas Reflection

The first Christmas … a holy event. 

Mary, a young girl — a teenager — was on the threshold of adult life. She was promised to be married. Mary was dreaming of what might be when she receives word that rocks her world: You have been chosen by God to become a mother. And the child she was to bear, she was to share with the world. Imagine Mary— a young girl who was probably excited, likely scared. Honored, to be sure, and confused. And through it all she remained open. Mary was called to host this holy event.

Continue reading

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.

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

 

 

Special Invitation to the “Empowering Women” event with Mennonite Women USA

Dear Mennonite woman,

Yes, that’s you! We are delighted to invite you to a special summer event designed to resource you!

Empowering Women: Money, Health and Faith is a resourcing event that will take place August 12-13, 2016 at Peace Mennonite Church in Aurora, Colorado, just east of Denver.

In previous years, this kind of event was called PREP (preparing, resourcing, encouraging, praising) and was held specifically for area-conference women leaders.

This year, this event is being opened up to all women, because, let’s be honest – who among us doesn’t need to be empowered with regards to our understanding of money and our personal health?

So… come…it’s for all women!

 

MW USA PREP 2016 poster 2016.05.17

Here are two documents you will want to open:

1. A colorful poster. Please print and post in your church.

2. An information and schedule sheet.

Please forward both of these documents to any women you think might be interested.

 

What will happen at this event?

  • Networking
  • Friend-making
  • Worship
  • Inspiration
  • Nurture
  • Eating
  • Education
  • Empowerment

Who are the presenters?

Rhoda Blough, of Denver and Teresa Boshart Yoder of Harrisonburg, VA. As staff of Everence, they bring passion, experience and tools for us to understand our relationship with money and our personal health. These professionals will provide handouts, books, journals and other resources.

Registration

This is easy! Just click here to register.

Space for 75 women will fill up fast. Spread the word, get registered by August 2 and read your information sheet.

Then…add your prayers to ours for a fantastic weekend.

-Marlene Bogard, MW USA Executive Director & Berni Kaufman, MWUSA Executive Assistant

You’re Invited to the Spring Supper of the South Central and Western Districts Mennonite Women

MW USA executive director, Marlene Bogard, is the keynote speaker for the 2016 Mennonite Women Spring Supper hosted by South Central and Western District Mennonite Women groups.

When: Thursday, March 17, 2016

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Where: Whitestone Mennonite Church, 629 Crescent Drive, Hesston, KS 67062

Theme: “Making Connections: friendship, faith and women today”

Marlene Bogard serves as executive director of Mennonite Women USA. She works from her home office in Salem, OR, and daily walks her cute little doggie up a hill, over a creek and beside tall trees. She regularly cuddles and reads to her grandson and is very grateful for that opportunity, but she still misses Kansas and all the wonderful Mennonite women who live there.

More highlights:

  • Music provided by Whitestone Women’s Quartet.
  • Full Meal provided by Whitestone Youth Group of Ham, Potatoes and more
  • Only $10 payable at the door

RSVP TODAY here:

email here: ksmennonitewomen@gmail.com

or

call here: 620-327-8201 (Angie at Hesston College).

This event is sponsored by Mennonite Women organizations of South Central and Western District Conferences. The offering will fund the WDC project:  The International Women’s Fund scholarships that help women around the world receive training and education for church leadership. Make check out to:  Mennonite Women USA for WDC project OR to South Central Conference.