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.

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

We Help Make the Circle Complete :: Hyacinth Stevens on MW USA

This article by MW USA board member Hyacinth Stevens, first appeared in AAMA News: African American Mennonite Association’s spring edition of their newsletter published in March 2015.

Prior to becoming the AAMA representative on the Mennonite Women USA Board, I had very little connection with the work of the organization.

Mennonite Women USA is doing some great things! The organization is diligently working to live out its mission to empower women and women’s groups as we nurture our life in Christ through studying the Bible, using our gifts, hearing each other, and engaging in mission and service. (Adapted from the Mennonite Women USA Mission statement.)

The vision statement of Mennonite Women USA gives an invitation for diverse voices of women to be heard and celebrated. However, I realized that there are some voices missing. Over the last few years, Mennonite Women USA as an organization has been shifting its image to match its vision. This is not an organization that is fashioned for a select group of Mennonite women, rather for all Mennonite women!

The vision of the organization invites women across generations, cultures, and places to share and honor our stories, care for each other, and express our prophetic voice boldly as we seek to follow Christ.

I would like to extend the invitation to our AAMA congregations and networks to explore some of the resources Mennonite Women USA is using to impact women on a global level. This invitation is not just to utilize resources but to contribute our voice, our hands and culture to the circle of global impact Mennonite Women USA desires to have. Continue reading

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