From the November 12, 2007 issue of the Canadian Mennonite:
Introducing a new feature: When the Mennonite women’s magazine, Timbrel, recently decided to shift from being a bi-national to a U.S.-oriented publication, I approached Canadian Women in Mission to find a way to not lose those stories of Canadian women and Christian faithfulness. Together, we developed a feature page devoted to these stories that we’ll be publishing six times a year. The first edition is on page 30 of this issue. (Editor/Publisher, Tim Miller Dyck)
Women walking together in faith
Pennies, passion and prayer continue to pay dividends
by Irene Klassen
The lowly penny has been ridiculed and scoffed at, yet songs and books have been written about it, so its value cannot be over-estimated.
During the Depression of the 1930's a penny or two was often all a housewife could save from her meagre income from selling butter and eggs. Even so, these women had a zeal for missions, and compassion and concern for the missionaries who, after giving up their personal life, went to the mission field, and who, when their work was done, returned penniless. Out of this compassion the Two Pennies and a Prayer project was born.
In 1935 the Women’s Missionary Association (WMA) in the U.S. adopted the Missionaries Pension Fund of the Mission Board as one of its projects. The intent was to create an endowment to be paid to the pension fund. Each WMA member was asked to donate two cents a week and pray. By 1945 the endowment fund had grown to $22,600.61, with more than two-thirds of it coming from the penny project.
When Canadian women organized Canadian Women in Mission (CWM), as well as a number of provincial groups, they picked up the project and for many years faithfully designated $1.04 per member annually to this project. Even as the amount seemed so small, the importance of the additional prayer was emphasized.
By then, government and other pension funds had been established and returning missionaries received a regular income from these sources. Although groups continued to donate to the fund, it seemed insignificant and its origin was forgotten. So, it just lay there silently while it accumulated interest.
When U.S. Mennonite women and CWM separated in 2003, the fund was divided and the portion that CWM received was $70,341.15. A decision had to be made to use these “Pennies for Pension” or “Pennies from Heaven” to honour the spirit in which they had been given. After a period of discernment and prayer, it was decided that this fund would support women doing ministry through Mennonite Church Canada’s Christian Witness Council.
The fund has been given the new name of Pennies and Prayer Inheritance Fund. Donations to the fund can be made through MC Canada.
Irene Klassen has been involved with Women in Mission for 55 years, during which time she served as Canadian vice-chair of the General Conference Women in Mission from 1983-92.
This fund gives us an opportunity to share our blessings with others. In a country where many have more than enough, we can invite friends to contribute to it financially as their gift to women today, on milestone birthdays, anniversaries, memorials or celebrations of achievement. The gift is given twice as women celebrating women support other women. This fund is about giving that keeps on giving. What a blessing! --- Audrey Mierau Bechtel, Saskatoon, SK
Our mothers and grandmothers had a vision of helping missionaries with physical and spiritual needs, and in 2007 CWM has the same vision for healing and hope. Today we are so much closer to the whole world, and have access to information at a speed that still astonishes. With today’s technology we can see results as they occur. We have turned this rich legacy of caring for others to sup- porting women sharing their gifts in making the gospel of Jesus Christ relevant to people wherever they are. --- Evelyn Buhr, Edmonton, AB
As with the widow’s mite, a few pennies bless others. Through this gift, we “employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (I Peter 4:10). My hope is to see this fund increase and that our daughters and granddaughters can continue sharing to engage the world with the reconciling gospel of Jesus Christ. --- Shirley Redekop, Floradale
--> The testimonials come from three CWM executive members. Page coordinated by Leona Dueck Penner.