Ponder – Why am I scared?

The image of the snakes illustrates my thoughts. The picture shows a snake I encountered on a hiking path at Camp Friedenswald this summer. The first image is the actual photo. The second photo illustrates what my mind saw (a big, more threatening snake). I think it is only fair to tell you, the snake did not bother me at all. It held its ground. I, on the other hand, got a running start and leaped over the snake. Silly, I know, but I fear snakes.

As I was preparing for a speaking engagement at a local Mennonite Church, I was confronted with some of those deep-seated fears and anxieties we often don’t realize we have until we are faced with them. I was to speak at the church’s family camp outing at a local State Park. The park is only 25 miles from my home, but I had never been there. I had heard of it, but never had reasons to visit. So, I thought it would be good for me to visit the State Park and sit in that space for a while to allow the Spirit to show me what direction I should go for the gathering. This is a typical way I prepare for sermons, so I thought nothing of it.

I toured the park, asked the staff questions, and admired its splendor. It is a beautiful park. I thought about maybe having my family gather there for our family reunion next summer. A very positive and uplifting experience. As I began to leave the park, I noticed some changes in my thoughts and awareness.

As I was pulling out of the park, several trucks with large campers attached were pulling in. My first thought, I wonder how long they are planning to stay? Then I pull off into the street heading back to the highway and noticed 4 or 5 pick-up trucks one right after the other. Maybe only one had a flag on it, but I noticed my anxieties rising about where I was. I quickly began to think whether my family knew where I was. I began wondering about who uses the park and how would they feel about me being there.

Camping, hiking, etc. are not typical activities for African Americans, especially here in the Midwest. I remember when Oprah tried to encourage African Americans to visit the national parks. She sparked our curiosity, but I don’t think attendance amongst my community rose much. I believe it has much to do with our anxieties about safety, welcome, and not knowing much about nature and the animals who call it home.

I know my fear and anxiety are irrational, but they have deep roots. My fears about being harmed in rural areas of our country come from a history of lynching and torture of black bodies who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. African Americans have learned over the centuries that we are not welcomed in many spaces. That our very presence in some areas invite a hatred that is deeply embedded in racism. Our community has internalized those traumas associated with that history and we find it hard to shake. This is what led to my experience of fear even when there was no immediate threat.

I relaxed when I was back in a more populated area. But the emotional experiences are still there, leaving me to ponder, why am I scared?

Honoring our history, celebrating the present by Denise Nickel

Denise Nickel is the Central States representative for the Mennonite Women USA board. Denise is a member of Tabor Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas. She is active with the worship team, children’s ministries, deacon and women’s Group. She is secretary to the principal of Goessel Elementary School. She and her husband, Elton have three children and seven grandchildren.

As I near the completion of eight years on the Mennonite Women USA Board, I have been reflecting. Our programs sometimes change or even end in order for us to grow as an organization. One of these is the Sister Link program, which bridged Sisters in the U.S. with those in Central America. It was time to bring that program to completion and continue those relationships in other ways. Another change is MW USA leadership; the former board chairs and executive directors have been instrumental in shaping our organization. We are now anticipating the gifts that Cyneatha Millsaps, our new executive director will bring.

The Sister Care program, developed by Rhoda Keener, former MW USA Executive Director and now Sister Care Director, has gone international. The program has also ministered on our college campuses and Sister Care Enrichment has been developed to take foundational Sister Care seminars to a deeper level. Former executive director, Marlene Bogard, embraced the celebration of MW USA’s Centennial year in a number of ways. One way that MW USA has been visible was the publishing of our history in “Circles of Sisterhood” by Anita Hooley Yoder. It is a must read!

There are a number of women in the Bible we can see as our model for Mennonite women. One of these women is Phoebe. In Romans 16, Paul says that Phoebe has been proven as a leader for others and for him. She was a deacon in her church who exemplified leadership skills, faith, integrity and maturity. Her material wealth was a tool for ministry, as were her personal gifts and abilities. She had a servant’s heart. She gave so that others could grow. Following Phoebe’s example, the MW USA Board strives to discern ways we can help others, whether it is raising money to fund further studies for women theologians through the International Womens’ Fund, sewing wall hangings for the Heartwarmer project with Mennonite Disaster Service, encouraging Conference level women and women’s groups, or giving a prophetic voice through Timbrel and wisdom from the Bible Study Guides and Grapevine. We know from Phoebe’s story that even a small act of service can have a tremendous impact on someone else.

Just like the ministry of Phoebe and other women in the Bible can inspire us, the Mennonite women who came before us have influenced us. If you have read the book “Circles of Sisterhood”, you will have noticed that our history is rich proof that Mennonite Women have NOT been quiet. We are proof that a trail of impressionable footprints have been left behind and have paved a way for the present and those coming in the future. The singer LeAnn Womack has stated, “if we want to be remembered and leave legacies to those whom we’ve touched and will be leaving behind, the difference we can make is showing love, one person at a time.”

Women’s groups have evolved from sewing circles into unique (Sister) Care groups. Some groups have disbanded; some have a new focus, but even those that have disbanded keep some form of service and sisterhood relationships through their church or conference. MW USA strives to provide resources and develop programs that will meet the needs of older women, younger women and the future for girls in a variety of cultures and in many areas of life.

Woman of the Month by Kathryn Aschliman

In response to your invitation to “Send an email to our office to let us know how you are part of this royal tribe of Mennonite Women USA,” I am moved to write about an attempt at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana to maintain contact with women who no longer are able to attend our monthly Mennonite Women Work Day.  To assure them that they are not forgotten, we  select a WOMAN OF THE MONTH to whom we extend our love and for whom we offer prayers throughout the month. Continue reading

Postcard & a Prayer :: November Email Newsletter

Enjoy November e-news from Mennonite Women USA!

Check out our new format to get all the latest information, reflections and images that cover all our national and international happenings from our Sister Care seminars to our upcoming Timbrel coverage. We also include a prayer to bless your day, excerpts from women in the greater church and content relevant to Mennonite women everywhere.

Sign-up today, stay connected each month!

MW USA November Email 2016

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

MEDA to launch “Women Empowering Women” groups

by MEDA 

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) will launch two women’s groups in May. The groups, called “Women Empowering Women with MEDA,” will meet quarterly in Lancaster and Souderton, Pennsylvania, and promote the importance of women’s economic empowerment as a catalyst for positive change in the world.

Ruth Leaman, regional director of resource development at MEDA, will coordinate the groups.

“Women in developing countries often face social and economic adversities beyond our comprehension, and yet have an amazing drive to rise above these barriers when given the opportunity to do so. After a recent all-women’s trip to a MEDA project in Ethiopia, I noticed a phenomenal connection between the Ethiopian women and those on our trip. We shared a strong bond and there was mutual respect and understanding. The women on the trip have a vision to share these meaningful connections with others,” says Leaman.

Another woman who went on the trip to Ethiopia shared this story: Continue reading

Women Meet to Tell Their Sacred Stories

By Anne M. Yoder, Coordinator, EDC/FMC Sistering Committee

On March 12, 2016, over 35 women met together for a Day Apart, held at Towamencin Mennonite Church. A large group came from Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, a church located in South Philadelphia that is made up primarily of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and Latin America; other attendees came from various Mennonite churches in Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conferences.

This gathering was a bilingual retreat that gave the opportunity to reflect on the theme “Sistering for Life.” The term “sistering” refers to a practice in carpentry in which structural repairs are made by attaching new wood beams to weak (sagging, cracked or twisted) joists to make the original stronger. All of us are strong at times and can help those who are weak; all of us find it difficult to make it on our own at times and need others to support us. Sistering is a gift that we embody as God’s women who are following Jesus throughout our lives.

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The program’s theme was fleshed out in various ways. Songs were led in Spanish and English by a team from CAF and by Dorothy Beidler. A meditation was given by Ana Rosa Hernandez on Proverbs 17:17 (“A friend loves at all times, and a [sister] is born for a time of adversity.”) and Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”) Four women — Linda Esh, Dania Hernandez, Ligia Canavan, and Jenny Duskey – were designated to tell a story of being sistered. From them came accounts of loss, sexual abuse, stepping into unknown territory during a move, and Continue reading

An April Fool’s Funny: Seeking Names for New Women’s Groups :: Ladies of the Evening?

On this April Fool’s Day we’re seeking fun (and funny!) ideas for naming Mennonite women’s groups…leave a comment with your group’s name or name idea! This story inspired us to gather names of groups from the US and Canada:

One Mennonite Women’s group in South Dakota called themselves “Ladies of the Evening” because it was made up of women who worked during the day and could not meet with the Mission Society group during their daytime meeting, hence “Ladies of the Evening.” (hahahahaha!)

Below is a list of different group names found in a history book of Canadian Women in Mission by Esther Patkau. Patkau notes that what may be the earliest Mennonite sewing circle in Canada called themselves the “Wohltätigkeitsverein” (charity organization). Here are more: Continue reading

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.

Sowing Sisterhood :: Volume 4 of Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly

This is Volume 4 of the Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly Newsletter Sowing Sisterhood.’ It was created and designed by Kim Litwiller and Shannon Unzicker. Kim is the Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference and the Co-Coordinator for Illinois Mennonite Women. Shannon is the Great Lakes representative to the board of Mennonite Women USA.

Download the PDF of Sowing Sisterhood or read below!

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