Raising Our Race Consciousness by Malinda Berry :: Timbrel Winter 2016

by Malinda Berry Malinda is an educator-activist-doer. She’s had teaching roles at Goshen College, AMBS, and for the last five years at Bethany Theological Seminary, Richmond, IN. Her scholarship endeavors include being one of three founding editors of the Prophetic Christianity book series, a project focused on cultivating the scholarship of those connected to the Black Church, the Historic Peace Church and progressive Evangelicalism.She calls herself an “epicurious localvore,” she enjoys worship and prayer that involves our senses, and she loves to knit. This piece originally appeared in Timbrel magazine’s Winter 2016 issue on race.

Race is a quirky thing. We both want to talk about it and don’t want to talk about it, all at the same time. I have learned a lot about race over the past twenty-plus years, and one of the lessons I keep coming back to is how important it is for each of us to develop and raise our “race consciousness.”

Consciousness-raising is a phrase from the 1960s associated with gatherings of women where they would share their stories about their lives about discrimination and oppression they were enduring because they had been born into a sub-culture linked to broader Western culture in which women are necessary but of lesser economic, political, and cultural value than men. Women wondered why her brothers and male cousins were allowed to do what they wanted. Why did the congregation affirm her spiritual gifts but decide not to affirm her to be an elder? Why didn’t anyone, especially her own mother, believe her that the neighbor had molested her?

“Discrimination” and “oppression” are hard words. Hard to speak, hard to hear, hard to chew, swallow, and digest. Why? Because we tend to begin our explanations for life’s difficulties with personal responsibility. This isn’t just a societal or cultural tendency; as Christians we do this all the time. We have baskets full of scriptural references to our moral obligation to accept individual responsibility for ourselves, some more indirect than others: “spare the rod, spoil the child” based on Proverbs 13:24, Jesus’ words in John 6:44 that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV), and Ezekiel’s delivery of a “word from the Lord” in 18:20 that clarifies “The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child” (NRSV). And yet… Continue reading

Undoing Racism: A Conversation :: Timbrel Winter 2016

by Cyneatha Millsaps and Annette Brill Bergstresser (this conversation originally appeared in the winter 2016 issue of Timbrel magazine.

Cyneatha Millsaps (right) is lead pastor of Community Mennonite Church in Markham, Illinois. She’s also a consultant for Illinois Mennonite Conference; coordinated Central District Conference’s 2014 women’s retreat, “Black Mennonite Women Rock”; and was a speaker for Mennonite Church USA’s KC2015 convention. Cyneatha is a graduate of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She is married to Steven; they have seven children and 19 grandchildren. Annette Brill Bergstresser (left) serves as editorial director for Mennonite Church USA and as communications assistant for Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. She has helped organize and lead learning events on undoing racism in various settings. She has a certificate in theological studies from AMBS. Annette, her husband, Deron and their two daughters are part of Faith Mennonite Church in Goshen.

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Cyneatha Millsaps and Annette Brill Bergstresser learned to know each other in February 2012 as partners on the Sankofa Journey, a 1,800-mile cross-racial prayer journey by bus to historic Civil Rights sites across the South. (“Sankofa” is a West African word meaning “looking backward to move forward.”)

Let’s start with the hard question. How do you want to be identified? Black? African-American? White? Caucasian? Anglo?

Cyneatha: I prefer African-American. I don’t mind if people say Black, but to me Black is a color, and African-American is an identity. I want to identify not only with my people of origin but also with who I am here in America—part of a group of people who have suffered and who continue to overcome many different challenges.

Annette: I usually identify as white or Anglo, and as German-American, since my parents emigrated from Germany and that heritage has shaped me significantly.

Many people don’t know how to talk about race. What are practical ways people can be prompted to safely discuss issues of race and racism?

Cyneatha: The Sankofa Journey leaders invited us to be open and honest with ourselves, and their approach has helped me lead conversations on race—trying to get people to a space of just being comfortable. I tell people not to worry about whether they say something the right way, but to just say what’s on their mind, and together we’ll work through their question, thought or concern. The Sankofa leaders made it clear we couldn’t keep tiptoeing around race; we’d just have to talk things through. Continue reading

The Paradox of Belonging: Being a Bridge by Alyssa Rodriguez

This piece originally appeared in Timbrel magazine. For more conversations around race and racism, order your copy today.

by Alyssa Rodriguez

It is just another Tuesday in the health clinic I coordinate. A young mother, a three-year-old boy and an older lady I presume to be the boy’s grandmother walk in for his appointment. Assuming the older woman is the child’s grandmother is the furthest I go in deciding before being told what these individuals’ story is. I have learned better than to assume. In this case I am correct but in the exam room where I play the role of interpreter; we find out much more about their story.

I envision a world atlas being laid out across the table like an accordion, outlining their journey. Just two days before, they arrived to Iowa from Honduras by way of Texas. The boy’s father is still awaiting release from the family detention center where they were held. His mother recalls being placed in an ice-cold holding cell for an undetermined reason and undefined amount of time while there.
What brought them here?” is a question stamped in my mind upon meeting newly-arrived refugees at my job as I often do, yet one I am not always prepared to have answered. It is a question I feel guilty for asking since I know the defense that boils up in me when I am asked the same thing, as though my family hasn’t been here for multiple generations and is supposed to be somewhere else.
For this boy and his parents, the “last straw” that led to a one-way trip north was when he and his mother were walking down the street hand-in-hand and suddenly, a mara of young adult men stopped and shot a man in the face right in front of them. Like the poem, Home* says, “you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.”  Continue reading

What Color is My Hair? by Audrey Ratzlaff :: Timbrel Autumn 2015

by Audrey Ratzlaff Audrey Ratzlaff lives near Peabody, Kansas, with her husband, Aaron, and daughter, Nadia. She graduated from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 2007 with a Master of Divinity degree; served as pastor in Donnellson, Iowa for three years; then returned to her home state of Kansas. She is an active member of the leadership circle at New Creation Fellowship Church in Newton, Kansas. Audrey can be reached here: aaratzlaff@yahoo.com

Once, I led a Children’s Time during worship, asking the youngsters to share everything they knew about me: what they’d been told and what they could gather with their own senses. These were the most polite children—none wanted to mention my baldness. Finally I asked directly, “What color is my hair?” The hesitant and uncertain response: “Clear?”

At other times and places, I have appreciated the approach of young children: “What happened to your hair?” they ask with no assumptions or prejudices. I tell them that my hair was sick and fell out and got into everything (like my clothes, my food, my mouth).

I have alopecia areata. This means my immune system attacks my hair follicles and damages the growing hairs; the cause is unknown. The condition can be limited to the scalp, but sometimes spreads to other parts of the body in an unpredictable cycle of loss and regrowth. In my case, most of the hair on my head has fallen out in patches over the past 14 years, and I have lost most of my eyebrows and some of my eyelashes. Some patches have regrown in varying colors and textures, but if I would allow it to grow, there would still be damaged hair falling out, and the patchwork of color and texture is, to me, not manageable or attractive, so I have chosen to shave my head. Yes, I tried wigs and found them physically uncomfortable. I also felt that I would be more self-consciousness worrying that people could tell it was fake. Continue reading

Online Shop Fulfills Mission of Mennonite Women USA

Mennonite Women USA announces the newly launched online shop added to their website in late June 2015. It was created and developed in response to the needs and desires expressed by their supporters. Instead of having to call the office or send a letter indicating interest for particular materials, the Mennonite Women USA shop has all of their resources and materials available at the touch of a button.

The store is fully functional and responds to customers shopping from their desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone. Now you can purchase as many copies of the latest Bible Study Guide Spark: Igniting Your God-Given Creativity right online for your groups or Sunday School classes.

With the launch of this new digital store Mennonite Women USA is offering bundle pricing for Sister Care materials, too. The discount encourages visitors to purchase their desired materials in a bundle to save money. One such offer brings a 20% savings over purchasing items individually. Continue reading

Finding God’s Laughter Through Clowning with Clown Medics :: Timbrel Summer 2015 :: Humor and the Playfulness of God

This is the Spanish version of an article originally published in English in the Summer 2015 Timbrel magazine. Subscribe to Timbrel today!

La historia comenzó por el año 2005, en la ciudad de Buenos Aires cuándo nació nuestro segundo hijo Bernabé, quién llegó a nuestras vidas con muchas complicaciones (prematuro, con muy bajo peso 1,200 Kg, síndrome de Down). Tuvo que estar en terapia intensiva neonatal como por 3 largos meses. En ese tiempo tuve mi primer encuentro con Payamédicos y pensé que era un lindo obrar de Dios, colorido, con humor y amor. 

Volvimos al Chaco con Bernabé en mejores condiciones de salud, pero el ministerio de visitar comunidades indígenas junto a mi compañero Esteban y nuestra hija Paloma, ya no iba a poder seguir de la misma forma. Berni necesitaba cuidados especiales de salud. Oramos con Esteban y un día Dios trajo a mi memoria la película de Pach Adams y sentí como una confirmación en mi corazón que era por ahí el camino a transitar.  Continue reading

Lici Roth and the Humor and Playfulness of God :: Summer 2015 Timbrel

by Lici Roth. Alicia (“Lici”) Roth is a native of Peru. After 15 years living in different parts of the US, she now enjoys life in small town Kansas. Lici has a degree in economics and experience working in health promotion in marginalized and migrant populations. Now, she’s on the journey of radical homemaking. She enjoys gardening, preserving, biking and doing occasional medical interpreting.

“Let her do whatever she wants to you,” said the ten-year old to her sister one Sunday morning when they showed up on our doorstep before church.

I had asked if I could braid her little sister’s hair.

“Why?” I asked

The older, “wiser” sister answered, “Because it’s you, and we trust you.”

It was true, they did, even the little one who only three months ago, when she got reunited with her older siblings, wouldn’t even shake my hand. Continue reading

Sue Conrad Howes on the Humor and the Playfulness of God :: Timbrel Summer 2015

by Sue Conrad Howes. Sue is an ordained Mennonite pastor and an aspiring comedian.  She is a graduate of Goshen College and holds an M.A. in Speech Communication from Penn State University and an M.Div. from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She and her husband, Michael, also a pastor, live in Lancaster, PA and strive to fill their home with friends, exciting theological discussion, and lots of laughter.

At my seminary, there was a table outside of the library that had old books for sale. One day, I walked by and was taken back because of something on the table. Along with the normal, old, musty, theological books was a sketch of Jesus. I stood and stared at the sketch for a long time, mesmerized, drawn into the magnetism of Jesus expressed in this artwork. Eventually, I saw the 25 cent price tag on the art piece. Joyfully, I put a quarter in the self-serve payment box and put Jesus in my backpack.

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Marian Sauder Egli Responds to Timbrel’s Food Justice Issue

Editor’s Note: There have been so many positive responses toTimbrel’s latest issue centered on diverse perspective on food justice. The following email was sent directly to me by Marian Sauder Egli. She gave permission to have her perspective posted on the Mennonite Women Voices blog.

“I enjoyed every article in the Timbrel spring issue.

I find that refrigeration is an issue in understanding “Food Justice.”  For a couple years I shared a church-owned apartment in Harlem, NYC with a friend. We chose to eat and cook separately since we were seldom there at the same time and had differing food choices.

The refrigerator met apartment code standards but was smaller than anywhere I had lived up to that time.  We couldn’t buy in bulk or make a large kettle of soup to then divide into smaller portions and freeze due to space.  Even while having a clean kitchen, there is an on-going battle with roaches when living in a 5 story walk-up apartment building.  It was better to store dry foods in the refrigerator. Continue reading

Danile Martens on Food Justice :: Timbrel Spring 2015

20150314_140422Danile Martens lives and works in Mishawaka, Indiana.  She is married to John Martens.   She spent 4 years with her family in Cambodia with MCC working in provincial health services.  She is an active member of Kern Road Mennonite Church.  For fascinating reading on sustainable farming practice and theology of creation care she recommends the work of Gene Logsden,  Joel Salatin, and Ellen Davis.

It is winter and a pristine white snowfall flocks on branches, and gathers in swales, covering the pasture in white under a brilliant blue sky.  Soon spring will bring a green flush of grasses and clover, and the calves and their old dams will kick up their heels in anticipation and delight as they move to new pasture.  For now I enjoy the quiet of the morning, watching the dance of cardinals, finches, sparrows and juncoes around  the feeder.  Winter’s comparative leisure contrasts to the months of the growing season, May to October, when work lasts until dark most days. I have learned to accept the long spring and summer working days, at the end of which we have time only to eat, clean up, and fall into bed. We do not live by the clock, but by the rhythm of the seasons.  I find order and beauty in working with the cycles of nature but it is out of step with modern life.

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