Dec 30, 2012

Taryn and Nathan Dirks

Nathan and Taryn Dirks, Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers and recipients of our Pennies and Prayer Legacy Fund, are settling into their home in Gabarone, Botswana, where they are working with the African Initiated Church (AIC) teaching Bible and building relationships. Pray that they will feel at home in Botswana and develop close and meaningful connections there.  (Witness Worker Update 2013)  

You can email Nathan and Taryn at and follow their blog at

Christina and Darnell Barkman

We've received Christmas greetings from Christina and Darnell Barkman, Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in the Philippines.  They are recipients of our Pennies and Prayer Legacy Fund.  Follow their daily activities and hear about their challenges and prayer requests on their BLOG. They share some fantastic photos!  

Christmas away from Home

Spending Christmas away from extended family and long-time friends can be a difficult experience and we hope this first Christmas away has not been too difficult for the two families we are supporting through Mennonite Church Canada's Witness Program -- Christina & Darnell Barkman with Cody and Makai and Taryn & Nathan Dirks.  I recall the Christmases of '02, '03, and '04 when my husband and I were in Santa Cruz, Bolivia serving a 3 year term with MCC.  Making new friends and learning a new culture and language were extremely challenging and my heart goes out to both families as they serve God in the Philippines and in Botswana.  

To read more about the Barkman's and the Dirks' please see the next two posts.  

Dec 24, 2012

A Christmas Prayer

Loving father,
Help us to remember the birth of Jesus, 
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wisemen.
Close the doors of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Our best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

~~ from the executive of Mennonite Women Canada

Dec 19, 2012

Advent Series in Vineland, Ontario

This Advent at Vineland United Mennonite Church, our pastors, Ross Penner and Greg Dueck, are presenting a series of sermons called "The Grandmothers of Messiah". Ross was inspired by a quilt designed and stitched by Brenda Suderman of Winnipeg which was on display at the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly in July of this year.  The following is a description of the quilt written by Brenda.

Great Mothers of Jesus Quilt - Matthew 1:1-17

This quilt is a visual representation of the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew.  Five women--Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary--are included in this genealogy linking Abraham to Jesus, breaking the pattern of the 42 generations of men.  Each of the men is represented by a dark rectangle, and the women's names are spelled out giving them visual and theological significance.  I chose to spell out Bathsheba's name in pale letters to signify that she is not explicitly named in Matthew's genealogy, but described instead as the wife of Uriah.  

Too often these women have often been dismissed as prostitutes, called sexually deviant, or marginalized as outsiders.  The writer of Matthew clearly wanted to signify to his first century readers that these women had a place in the story of the patriarchs and their faithfulness to God.

What these women have in common are some obvious facts:  they are all mothers of sons, although none of them appear to be mothers before their stories appear in the Old Testament accounts, and they use ordinary objects like clothing or a red cord to advance their situations.  

Matthew includes them in his genealogy to present a message of God working in unlikely circumstances and unusual characters to achieve God's purpose, setting the stage for a young women like Mary to become the mother of Jesus.

I made this quilt for an assignment in a master's level course in the Old Testament I took at University of Winnipeg.  It has been on display at the University of Winnipeg, Providence College, the offices of the Canadian Council of Churches in Toronto and at the Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Vancouver in 2012, as well as in my home church in Winnipeg.

***Brenda Suderman is a journalist and quiltmaker currently completing a Masters of Arts degree in theology at the University of Winnipeg.  She writes for the faith page of the Winnipeg Free Press and is a member of Home Street Mennonite Church.  You might want to check out her blog HERE

Dec 14, 2012

2013 Lenten Guided Prayer from Mennonite Spiritual Directors of Eastern Canada.  Sign up to receive an individual and group prayer guide, based on the lectionary, for Lent.  A great potential women's group resource!  More information here.

Wow!  What a deal on a great book!  Now, only $4.99!  Order here.

Dec 13, 2012

Memories of a Childhood Christmas

Christmas Memories! 
I asked four women from my church community for a Christmas memory. 
Here is what they shared. 

Have a blessed Christmas.

Erna (82):  
On Christmas Eve, we children each put a clean plate at our place at the kitchen table and then went to bed. Early on Christmas morning, mom would waken us. We all got dressed and gathered at the kitchen door. Dad was waiting there with the coal-oil lamp. We entered the kitchen together and went to the table. On our plate was an orange, candy and peanuts and a small unwrapped present. 
We understood that the present was from Nate Claus. When I got older, mom told me that Nate Claus was just a story; I was a bit sad that he wasn't the source of my gift. 
We played with our presents while dad and my older brother did the farm chores. When they came back in, we had breakfast and got ready for the sleigh ride to church to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Jean (65): 
Because both the extended families lived quite a distance from our home, Christmas visits in either direction were rare. We celebrated at home by ourselves. 
On Christmas Eve, we children each put out a stocking for Santa to fill. The next morning, our stockings contained nuts, an apple and one Mandarin orange as well as our gifts. For many years I received a new pencil, a new eraser and a box of eight new crayons. It was a special gift because I loved to color. My September school crayons were already worn down with the paper pulled away. Whether or not I received a coloring book didn’t matter as much as having crayons with sharp points again. 
Dad oversaw the eating of the oranges. We had to lay out and count each segment before we could eat them. By eating our orange slowly and carefully, Dad taught us to really enjoy the taste of those special Christmas oranges.

Marlene (47): 
In my childhood home, the focus of Christmas was the presents from Santa Claus and being happy as a family. Granny didn't come every year but when she did, we were especially happy to have her with us.
My mother owned a shiny green housecoat that she wore only at Christmas. She did this for many years, and so it became a tradition to have mom in her green housecoat as we opened our gifts on Christmas morning. 
When our son was 4 or 5 years old, he was very excited that we were celebrating Jesus’ birthday. As his mom, I was really pleased that the message got through. I was an adult before I understood that Christmas is a Christian celebration of Christ’s coming, so I was grateful to God that my child was developing that awareness in his life. 

Ruth (24): 
In our family, we always wrapped our Christmas gifts to each other in nice Christmasy paper and we opened those gifts on Christmas Eve. 
One year, the 12-year old me was more than a little puzzled when there was no wrapped gift from my parents but only a simple white envelope. I was upset until I opened the envelope and found a printed clue. When I figured that out, I found another clue which led me to the living room sofa. There, tucked behind the cushions was my gift: a .22 shotgun. It had been too long and cumbersome to wrap, so mom made a game of hunting for it instead. Perhaps that was in keeping with the hunting that I’d learn from my dad. Both the game and the gift are a special memory for me. 

Dec 11, 2012

Have you written something for this year's Christmas program?

The Resource Centre welcomes submissions of original Christmas readings, liturgies, etc.

We share 2000 electronic files - from our offices and from our churches - via our website.

Why not add your material to the mix?  Please send to

For more information, click here.

Merry Christmas to all!

PS - leave a comment if you've found something from our website that's been useful for your planning -
we love to hear from you!

Dec 1, 2012

Along the Road to Freedom

Artist Ray Dirks has a new exhibit paying tribute to Mennonite parents - mainly women - who fled Russia under Stalin for the safety of Canada.  The exhibit is entitled "Along the Road to Freedom" and runs until January 26, 2013 at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery .  It honours Katherina Dirks Peters, sister to Dirks' grandfather and more than two dozen other women like her, whose stories should not be forgotten.  Click on Along the Road to Freedom  to read more. 

Nov 26, 2012

The 2012 Sask Women in Mission Retreat

The annual fall women’s retreat sponsored by Sask Women in Mission was held on October 19 & 20, in the Timberlodge at the beautiful Shekinah Retreat Centre.

The retreat began on Friday evening with a fall-themed banquet. Following that great meal, we played a get-acquainted game where we placed ourselves on an imaginary line in answer to such questions as: Do you prefer dogs or cats as a pet? Would you rather watch a movie or read a book? and Would you rather watch curling or hockey?  It was a humorous way to get us moving before settling down to listen to the speaker. 

Our guest speaker was Dora Dueck, historian, editor and writer from Winnipeg. The intertwined stories of Jesus’ healing of the two women who interrupted his journey, (Mark  5:21-43) formed the basis for Dora’s presentations.  Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30 are God's call for us to rest and to be renewed: "Come to me and I will give you rest... Take my yoke and learn from me." 

For her first presentation, Dora explained what the needs of the bleeding women were and asked us to consider what our needs are. Her answer to the question, “What does the REST to which Christ calls us look like?” was that rest sees the big picture, listens, forgives, has done the most difficult thing, and believes that I am loved deeply by God. We sang, "Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art; I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.... For by thy transforming power thou hast made me whole." 

Friday evening ended with a discussion of Dora’s prize-winning novel, This Hidden Thing. Book club enthusiasts enjoyed the discussion and everyone was glad when the author herself read several selections from her book. 

Saturday morning began with stretching exercises led by Marian Hooge Jones. She made them fun with scarves and sing-along choruses. Through out the day, women could browse and buy from some craft tables and from Ten Thousand Villages. The crafters were Dora Wiebe from Glenbush with pieced blankets, some made of fun fur, Barbara Schmidt, Waldheim, who works with wool, and Lois Siemens from Superb with her calligraphy and prairie photos.  Nola Scofield, doing massages, replaced the pedicurist who was unable to be present. Her fifteen minute “back rubs” were a soothing delight for $10.00.

Barbara Schmidt with her felted and knitted items from angora wool. 

Calligraphy artist and photographer, Lois Siemens, with her cards and bookmarks.

In her second presentation, Dora invited us to consider what new or ongoing work and what challenges are before us. She continued to illustrate Christ's call to rest and renewal with personal stories. RENEWAL in Christ, she said, travels lightly, is not afraid of change, takes time (and space), usually grows out of dissatisfaction or crises and finds energy in the larger vision (and mystery) of God’s work in the world.  

Our final session on Saturday afternoon was given to prayers, lighting candles and offering each other bread and juice in a service of holy communion. 

Approximately fifty women attended, which was a disappointing number for us. A local woman had planned to attend only on Friday evening, but after hearing Dora she  rearranged her Saturday schedule and came back for the day. Her comments, plus other evaluations, indicated that those fifty women had had an inspiring time. One women appreciated the juxtaposition of rest and wrestling, another the reminder that she is God’s beloved daughter, that will be her mantra. 
And so we praise God for another wonderful women’s retreat. 

Nov 23, 2012

Books for Christmas

Christmas Ideas

from Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre

$25 here

$12.99 here

$17.99 here

$19.95 here

$14.95 here

$5.00 here

WMCEC’s "Celebrating Women" Fall 2012

This year’s "Celebrating Women" event was hosted by the Niagara Cluster and held at Vineland United Mennonite Church.  The local planning committee consisted of Linda Wiens, Dorothy Hamm, Hilda Regier, and Yvonne Vanderlee, with special assistance from Bev Bless and Carolyn Odell who helped with catering the meal.

The auditorium was decorated with an autumn theme.  There were take-home centre pieces for the birthday girls, as well as individual gifts of spices for all attendees.  The spices, placed on every table, blended with the d├ęcor and created a pleasing scent that added to the good food and wonderful fellowship.  Our combined voices sang the Doxology as the table grace and set an uplifting tone for the afternoon.

As to the program itself, Linda Wiens introduced Florence Jantzi, WMCEC Program Committee Chair, who welcomed us on behalf of WMCEC and thanked the Niagara Cluster for hosting this event.  After an opening prayer, Florence introduced Liz Koop, President of Mennonite Women Canada, who shared briefly about the 60th Anniversary luncheon held in Vancouver, July 2012.  A time of looking back and looking forward was presented in a vignette written by Carol Penner and Naomi Unger.  Liz reminded us of some of the goals of MW Canada: to strengthen the connections we have, to make new connections and to restore/heal old connections.  Tools they are using for this are through their website, blog and “Connections” newsletter that is produced twice a year.  New brochures have been made up along with magnets that each woman attending received.  One of MW Canada's projects for this year is to help with the cost of the third “Mennonites Everywhere” video.  (see blog posted on Nov 2)  These videos are designed to dispel some common Mennonite stereotypes both within the Mennonite Church and in the broader community.
 Diana Lantin and Annie Schultz 

Annie Schultz lead us in singing “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”, followed by special music by Diana Lantin, both from Grace Mennonite Church, St Catharines, singing “Morning Has Broken” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  What great gifts these women have!

Linda Wiens and Dorothy Hamm introduced the "Celebrating Women" part of the program by sharing what a difficult task it was to narrow the worthy recipients down to 4 women. The multi-generational recipients ranged in age from 22 to  90.  During the presentation we were reminded that we unknowingly influence others with our lives and actions.  The honourees were: Irma Kaethler, St. Catharines United Mennonite Church; Lorna Rogalski, Vineland United Mennonite Church; Sandy Rempel, Vineland United Mennonite Church; and Ellery Penner, Niagara United Mennonite Church.  These inspiring women were presented to the gathering along with highlights of their past, current and future aspirations.  All received flowers, chocolates, certificates and our admiration.  Well done ladies!

Front row:  Irma Kaethler, Lorna Rogalski, Sandy Rempel, Ellery Penner  
Back row:  Linda Wiens, Dorothy Hamm

Diana Lantin, accompanied by Annie Schultz, blessed us with a unique musical arrangement of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” to the tune of “The Rose”, followed by “You Raise Me Up”.  Truly inspiring!

Laura Mullet Koop
Linda Wiens introduced the guest speaker, Laura Mullet Koop from Quest Christian Community in St. Catharines.  Laura used the text from 2 Corinthians 4:7 exploring the image of treasure in clay jars.  She reminded us that we are like clay jars and the treasure that we carry is the presence of God.  As we experience changing times, Laura challenged us to slow down and pay attention to the treasure of God's presence within.  In doing so, we allow for greater wisdom and understanding to guide us. 

Annie Schultz led everyone in singing “Take My Life”.

Kathryn Good, WMCEC Personnel Co-ordinator, chaired the short business portion of the meeting.  She indicated a number of women have agreed to take positions on the executive as Personnel Co-ordinator, Communicator, and Program Committee Co-ordinator.  These names will be affirmed at the Spring Enrichment Day, in Tavistock, on April 20th, 2013.

This wonderful event was closed with a reading entitled “One Flaw” and singing “Blest be the Tie”.

Submitted by Linda Wiens, St. Catharines, ON

Nov 21, 2012

Prayer for Peace

With Christmas just over a month away, many of us have already started decorating our homes and thinking of what this Christmas season will hold for us.  

As we hear reports of the unrest and tragic loss of life in the middle East we cringe knowing that many of the places we so deeply associate with the birth of the Prince of Peace are ringing with air raid sirens, not carols of the infant king.

How do we celebrate the One who came to dwell among us, when missiles level the dwellings of our sisters and brothers?

The following prayer was written by Rick Cober Bauman (Executive Director of MCC Ontario) late last Saturday night after an especially grim newscast.  Thankfully all MCC workers and partners are unharmed, but deeply concerned that conditions may worsen. 

And when your prayer ends, and you return to thinking about Christmas, reach for the MCC Christmas Giving Catalogue, "Gifts of Love and Compassion". Choose ways to share the Love of Christ even in the face of war.

Prayer for Peace from a Distance

Lord of Heaven and Earth, even from a distance, we sense the blast of missiles and the stench of explosions.

Yet we cling to your promise of peace.

 Lord of Heaven and Earth, even from a distance, we feel the loss of children and mothers.

Yet we hold to your promise of never leaving us.

 Lord of Heaven and Earth, even from a distance we pray that all your children from Gaza to Syria, from Cairo to Jerusalem may sleep unafraid.

Yet we lament the tanks, and rifles and warplanes that explode the night with terror.

 Lord of Heaven and Earth, even from a distance we can hope, because we pray, that your peace will prevail, that your people will choose life, true life in you, Giver of all Life. 


Rick Cober Bauman
Executive Director, MCC Ontario