Portions of this article were originally printed in the February 13 issue of Mennonite World Review.
We sat around the dinner table at a YMCA retreat center near Buenos Aires: 12 women from nine different countries. We asked how the Sister Care seminar has been shared with others in their countries of Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay — and how this material has impacted their lives.
From the United States, Carolyn Heggen, a psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing and a Sister Care co-presenter, asked questions in Spanish, while Linda Shelly, Mennonite Mission Network Latin American director, translated them into English as I typed the conversation. What we heard amazed us: In the last three years these nine women have worked with others to share Sister Care with more than 2,300 others.
Sister Care co-presenters Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener were in Guatemala October 18-21, to lead an advanced Sister Care training. A version of these reflections from Carolyn Heggen first appeared in the Albany Mennonite Church newsletter.
What excitement there was last month as 34 women leaders from the eight Central American countries (Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala) as well as Cuba and Puerto Rico gathered on at Semilla, an Anabaptist seminary in Guatemala City.
The participants arrived by airplane, by public bus and in the back of pickup trucks. The indigenous women from Panama had walked several hours from their villages in order to take a four-hour ferry and then a bus to Guatemala City. A number of the women said this was their first trip out of their own country. A mother of a 9-year-old daughter told us it was the first time ever she’d been away from her daughter overnight. Continue reading
from Mennonite Women USA
Carolyn Heggen, psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing, and Rhoda Keener, Sister Care Director for Mennonite Women USA, led a Sister Care seminar at Bethel College Mennonite Church for 74 women from Colorado, Indiana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kansas.
Marcene Entz and Karen Andres portray the Mark 2 dramatic monologue, “Carrying Our Friend to Jesus.”
Participant, Elizabeth Raid, shared with her congregation, Bethel College Mennonite Church, her response to the seminar, saying:
“While I’m very comfortable speaking in front of large groups, as an introvert I often resist large gatherings, especially where women are somehow supposed to bond or have a grand time together. The Sister Care seminar had a different feel. Rhoda Keener and Carolyn Heggen provided a worshipful, inspirational setting and facilitated an environment where vulnerability, trust and truth-telling emerged. By sharing their personal experiences and examples during the seminar, they gave credence to what they said and opened the door for others to share more personally around the tables. I experienced and witnessed healing permeating hearts and creating commonality. The oil in my lamp has been replenished. I’m grateful! In an in-between time of my life, I feel renewed and open to what God has in store next for me.”
Participants at the Kansas Sister Care seminar.
Heggen and Keener will lead Sister Care seminars in Kenya and Tanzania in April, Winnipeg in May, Indonesia in June, and an advanced leadership training in Guatemala in October. Marlene Bogard, MW USA executive director, provides leadership for the Sister Care for college women ministry. She led a seminar at Bethel College in February and will lead a similar event at Hesston College in March. Heggen and Keener hope to lead a Sister Care Level 2 retreat in the USA in November. Areas interested in scheduling a seminar or retreat should click here to email Rhoda Keener.
by Mennonite Women USA
Shortly before presenting the first of two Sister Care seminars in Cuba, Carolyn Heggen, psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing, and Rhoda Keener, Sister Care Director for Mennonite Women USA, visited an art museum in Old Havana. They talked briefly to the two dignified women in charge; as they left, one women asked, “Do you have any soap?” Heggen, having been in Cuba before and knowing how scarce and precious soap is, did have two small bars of soap and gave them to the women.
On this lush and beautiful island country, the needs of the people for basic necessities form a stark contrast to Cuba’s outstanding educational system which provides free education for all. Four lane highways with modern busses and Chinese cars travel beside restored 40’s and 50’s Fords, Buicks, and Chevys, all on the same road also traveled by horse-drawn wagons and carts.
The Sister Care seminars held in Camaguey and Havana November 23-28 were hosted by the Cuban Council of Churches. Ninety women participated from 17 denominations including Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Salvation Army, and Quaker churches.
Heggen and Keener began each seminar by asking women to work in small groups to compile a list of the challenges faced by women in Cuba. Continue reading
This article first appeared in the print version of The Mennonite.
by Anita Hooley Yoder
Now this, I thought, is a real “World Conference moment.” I was having a conversation in Spanish with a woman whose family came from a Low German-speaking Mennonite community in Mexico. Although neither of us was speaking our first language, we quickly connected over our interest in ministry among women—I as the writer of a history project for Mennonite Women USA (MW USA), she in her work with “Old Colony” Mennonite women. We also were both familiar with Sister Care, the program of self-healing and mutual support created by MW USA.
The woman I was speaking with, Anna Giesbrecht, had actually gone through the Sister Care seminar twice. Neither of her Sister Care experiences was led by MW USA personnel. Rather, Giesbrecht received the material from Ofelia García, a Mexican Mennonite pastor, and other Latin American leaders. García was trained at the 2013 Sister Care weekend seminar led by Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener in Guatemala. García has since adapted the material for use in many different contexts, including as weekly meetings and as Sunday school lessons for children of both genders. And now Giesbrecht has taken the Sister Care materials to the Old Colony Mennonite women of Chihuahua.
Giesbrecht guided the women through the Sister Care material in 12 weekly sessions. Two pieces of the material particularly caught their attention: Continue reading
by Anita Hooley Yoder
Let’s start with some numbers. Since I began this project last September, I have sorted through 29 binders and folders of material from Mennonite Women USA’s previous co-directors. I have read (or at least skimmed) nine books and 15 scholarly articles. I have spent 43 hours in archives and historical libraries and surveyed 40 years of Voice, Window to Mission, and Timbrel magazines. I learned that “two cents a prayer” became a $95,717 Missionary Pension Fund, that over 200 families served by Mennonite Disaster Service have received quilted wall hangings, and that the International Women’s Fund has supported the studies of 86 different women.
But this project is not really about numbers. It’s about people. Continue reading
This article by Anita Hooley Yoder originally appeared in The Mennonite. Look for a book by Anita Hooley Yoder in summer 2017 about Mennonite Women USA.
Rhoda Keener was a reluctant fundraiser.
“I would tease her that our meetings felt more like therapy sessions,” said Rebekah Basinger, an organizational consultant. “And she’s the trained counselor!”
Basinger started working regularly with Keener in 2003, about two years after Keener became director of Mennonite Women USA (formerly Mennonite Women), the denominational women’s organization of Mennonite Church USA. Basinger shared her understanding of fundraising as a ministry, a spiritual act in itself, not something you just add on to help you do ministry.
“That really resonated with Rhoda,” Basinger said in a January 2015 interview. “She shaped her whole approach to fundraising around that idea. And I really believe that’s been the key to the success.”
The “success” Basinger refers to is the transformation of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) from a floundering organization—like many of today’s church-related groups—to a now stable and relatively thriving one, financially and otherwise.
Maggie Weaver is a sophomore at Goshen College. She is double majoring in English-writing and interdisciplinary: journalism, communications and music. She is from Lititz, Pennsylvania.
On March 20 and 21, I participated in Sister Care at Goshen College. Sister Care is a program of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) that travels locally–as well as globally–presenting women-specific seminars on healing and care for women. The seminar I participated in, piloted by Goshen College, was the first Sister Care specifically focused for college students. Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and Gender Studies and MW USA board member, coordinated the event.
Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener, the creators and organizers of the Sister Care seminars, worked with a focus group in April 2014 to adapt the program to fit the needs of college students. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this group, along with a few other Goshen College students and faculty members.
The main goal for the focus group was to identify the key issues that college-aged women face, so that Keener and Heggen could adjust the Sister Care curriculum appropriately. In small groups we listed the main issues we face as college women; the list that we developed was overwhelmingly large. Later, we narrowed the list down to four topics for the March seminar: self-worth and body image challenges, stress, the cultivation of healthy friendships, and exploring our life mission to shape decision-making.
Walking into the seminar, I found myself becoming anxious for the weekend. I had been so involved in the process, talking about what challenges I, as a college woman, face everyday. I felt as though I had placed a small piece of myself into Sister Care.
I was welcomed into the seminar space with the friendly faces of other Goshen College woman, fresh fruit, and freshly-made chai provided by women from four local churches. I sat down at a table (which had been practically covered with chocolates) and, with growing excitement, waited for Keener and Heggen to begin. Continue reading
Maddie Birky is News Editor at “The Record.” “The Record,” is published weekly at Goshen College during the Fall and Spring semesters, and is produced by student journalists on campus. The views expressed are their own. “The Record” is not the official voice of the student body, administration or the faculty of Goshen College. This piece was originally posted in “The Record” here.
This weekend [March 20-21] starting Friday from 7-9:30 and Saturday from 9-3, Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener will be presenting Sister Care, a project of Mennonite Women USA, in Newcomer 19. A grant given to Keener has allowed this to be a free pilot workshop. Women from Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship, Silverwood Mennonite Church, Waterford Mennonite Church and College Mennonite Church will be providing home-cooked snacks, breakfast and lunch.
“This is not a Mennonite-only event,” said Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and Women’s Gender Studies Mennonite Women USA board member. “Although they have led workshops at Mennonite-affiliated churches nationally and globally (India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Guatemala, Brazil and more), they have worked with women from a wide range of theological backgrounds and adapted it to different cultural contexts.”
At this workshop, ideas such as body image, self-worth, managing stress, making life decisions, and other topics related to college-aged women will be explored. Continue reading