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.

Walking in the Light of God

Sister Care was in Argentina last week for an enrichment training. On Saturday, Jan. 21, the 31 women from eight countries sang “Walking in the Light of God” and also marched as Martha Basualdo read Carol Penner’s “A Prayer for Times Like These” in Spanish, which you can read below.

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Sister Care goes to Guatemala

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.

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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

Postcard & a Prayer :: September Email Newsletter

Enjoy September 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 September Email 2016

The Global Connections of Mennonite Women USA :: by Anita Hooley Yoder

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