Mennonite World Review
March 4, 2019

By Rhoda Keener and Carolyn Heggen, Mennonite Women USA

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia — After nearly four years of planning, Mennonite Women USA led a Sister Care leadership training seminar Jan. 28-30 in Yogyakarta, where a 2006 earthquake left more than 5,700 dead, tens of thousands injured and hundreds of thousands homeless.

It was a fitting location for the Sister Care seminar, which helps women heal their own trauma and trains them to help others.

Sessions were led by Sister Care director Rhoda Keener and Carolyn Heggen, a psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing.

The 89 women who attended came from the islands of Java, northern and southern Sumatra, Bali and Papua. They represented two of the three major Anabaptist groups in Indonesia — GKMI and GITJ — as well as four women from local evangelical congregations. They traveled by boat, plane, train, bus and car, some for days, to get to the retreat center.

Many of the participants were pastors or pastors’ wives. Although pastors’ wives often do not have theological training, there is a strong expectation for them to serve in the church because of their husband’s role. Women talked about the challenge of responding to the many demands placed upon them and the difficulty and need to set limits. 

A group of pastors who attended comprise PUAN, the women theologians’ leadership group in Indonesia. They spoke of the need for additional resources for pastors and expressed a desire to spend more time studying the MCC booklet Created Equal: Women and Men in the Image of God by Linda Gehman Peachey.

Women were particularly touched by the exercise of writing their life timeline. They said they had never been asked to think about the chapters of their lives and who was the face of Jesus for them at difficult or painful times. After the exercise, Pastor Wara asked the women to stand and hold their life timeline as she prayed for them.

The seminar concluded with a closing blessing inviting women to come in pairs to first anoint themselves with water from a bowl representing their tears and then move to a beautiful bowl of water representing Jesus’ living water and anoint one another.

Indonesia is the 17th country where MW USA’s Sister Care seminar has been shared. The manual Sister Care: Equipping Women for Healing Ministry has been translated into 13 languages. The seminar was funded by the Schowalter Foundation and gifts from individuals.