Jul 29, 2013

Women walking together in faith - July 2013 - "Part of a sweet, sweet sandwich"

Being unable to link this article to the Canadian Mennonite, we will just "Copy & Paste" this time!
In the future, Mennonite Women Canada's page "Women Walking Together in Faith" will be listed on their "Current Issues' link list which will enable us to link directly to the article on their website. Waltrude 

Page 15

Canadian Mennonite Vol. 17 No. 14

Women Walking Together in Faith
Part of a sweet, sweet sandwich
By Myrna Sawatzky
A few years ago, when I was considering retirement from my work as a palliative care nurse, I wondered how I would find challenging new things to do. I laugh about that now, for when I retired in March 2012, several months after my mother had her second stroke, in the blink of an eye I was sandwiched!
Yes, sandwiched: That time in mid-life when you find yourself caring for, and providing the “filling”/con­necting point between the older and younger genera­tions within your family, as you parent your parents and your teenaged/young adult children, and are often also honing new skills as a grandparent. That means you don’t have a lot of extra time for yourself, which can result in some negative feelings in our me-centred society.
Finding the “sweetness” in that sandwich filling is quite a challenging step-by-step process. You feel your way minute-by-minute at times, and then slowly, very slowly, you start a new rhythm.
In my case, my mother’s second stroke in 2012 was far more devastating than the first one, a year earlier. Suddenly, our family, me in particular, needed to be there for her a lot, and it wasn't an easy transition, because, as my mother’s doctor stated, she was “tenaciously independent.” She loved to drive, entertain and shop; after her first stroke, she even drove to Manitoba by herself to attend her great-grand­daughter’s wedding! So I knew it would be a hard day when she could no longer drive.
Consequently, I was often plagued with questions and tensions about how much I should do for her, or how much say she should have in decision-making, and still be safe. Suddenly, all the on-the-job training related to my palliative care work, and the challenges of raising teenagers a few years earlier, became very helpful. And the hours spent praying for my teenagers at home on their own when I worked the night shift, now shifted to praying for my mother, at home alone, in assisted living.
Increasingly, I relied on the teachings of my mother and grandmother,  to always know where my help comes from. Psalm 121 was a favourite scripture text of my grand­mother. In the King James version then used, it begins, “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.” A picture in my bedroom beckons me to pray when challenges arise: “Be still and know that I am God.”
On the day when my mother said, after a longer than usual break between my visits, “I missed you so much,” tears welled up in my eyes and I felt sad for her in her new, very challenging and definitely unchosen life. Suddenly, all the times she was angry because of the changes, which tried my patience, simply melted away, and felt “worth it,” just as they did in similar circumstances while parenting teenagers.
Nowadays, when I’m asked if I miss my former work in palliative care, my reply is, “I haven’t had time to miss it.”
Amazingly, caring for my mother has actually helped me contentedly transition into retirement. My days are now filled with committee work, gardening and travel, as well as being on-call for my moth­er, now in a nursing home. I also have more time with my grandchildren and enjoy sharing it with them.
It especially touches my heart when my mother, who still enjoys the beauty of a new little person, cuddles my youngest granddaughter.
All around, I have a very rich life, and give thanks for that, knowing that someday there will be a new sandwich, and I’ll be the one being cared for. So I wonder, am I doing a good job of teaching my adult children how to find joy in being part of such a sweet, sweet sandwich? 

Myrna Sawatzky is president of Saskatchewan Women in Mission.
Nowadays, when I’m asked if I miss my former work in palliative care, my reply is, ‘I haven’t had time to miss it.’

Courageous Women of the Bible

September will be here before you know it!  

Are you looking for material to use in your women's group?  or your Sunday School class?  or a Bible Study Guide for personal use or with a group of friends?  Be sure to check out "Courageous Women of the Bible" an 80 page booklet with 12 lessons, written by Linda Gehman Peachey and published jointly by Mennonite Women Canada (MW Canada) and Mennonite Women USA (MW USA).  It's available from MennoMedia or the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre.  

If you are interested in Bible Study Guides from previous years (since 1992) please let me know.  We do have some old inventory that is available for $5.00 per copy.  

Jul 25, 2013

Report from Alberta Women's Retreat


Q:  What are you doing here?" 
A:  "I know the speaker and I wanted to hear her share."
Q:  "What are you really doing here?"
A:  "(Pause) I'm here because I need help..."

That is how speaker, Michelle Copithorne, challenged women at the Alberta Women’s Retreat at Sylvan Lake on May 24-26. She asked us to share with a partner about ourselves to break through the head versus heart dilemma. For where the head and heart meet, there is the soul, and we were at retreat to do soul work. The theme was "Designed in God's Image", a challenging thing for most women. In a culture obsessed with appearances, women are bombarded with images and advertising that remind us of our many inferiorities. Well, at least the inferiorities we think we have. Copithorne, through sharing her story, led the group through activities and discussions that went past the head and entered the heart.
Speaker, Michelle Copithorne

There is something sacred about a gathering of women, especially an intergenerational gathering of Christians. Being on the younger end of the spectrum, I was little nervous going to a retreat where there wouldn't be many or potentially anyone my age. But there has been something missing in my life since I moved back to Alberta. I couldn't define it before, but after this retreat, I think I know. It is sisters in Christ meeting and worshipping together, just women.  "Women have the gift and ability to go deep and go deep fast" I'm not sure who said that during the weekend, but it was true. There were 51 women on retreat, and I never saw someone sitting on the outside. Alone yes, but alone by choice; on the outside no, everyone was included. And what a wonderfully diverse group we were, with ages ranging from 20 to 80. Women from the Edmonton South Sudanese Mennonite Church, from the Calgary Chin Church, Holyrood, First Edmonton and First Calgary, Bergthal, Lethbridge, Foothills, women from the Lethbridge and Edmonton VS Units, and more friends from other places. I knew more women than I thought I would, but I left knowing them better and with new friends. "It was nice to have a group of younger women to be with, as a part of this weekend. We felt so welcomed by all the women at retreat.  The variety show, giant dutch blitz, and games -- all were inclusive of every person, age, race it didn't matter". Said Melissa Bueckert, summing up for a group of young women.

Tabitha Mut (on left)
from South Sudan
 There were four sessions over the weekend. Saturday morning session featured singing and sharing. Many people were touched by the sharing of Tabitha Mut. Tabitha is a recent immigrant from South Sudan, she arrived in Edmonton on March 20. "God chose our path here [to Canada]. Black and white we are together, our skin is different but our voices are the same. Our God is the same,” she said through a translator. Tabitha is a spiritual leader, a deaconess, and performs baptism rites. She is a remarkable woman, and even though she speaks no English, was able to communicate and laugh with us.

The phrase "where two or three are gathered, there God is" came to my mind, but I think we have to change it to say "that where 51 worshipping women are gathered, there the Holy Spirit will be also". Singing, laughing, crying and praying, this was the heart work done through the weekend. These were the soul activities we did together. Self reflection, building each other up and praying filled our cups to over-flowing. Sunday morning as we closed our worship with more sharing, Theresa Powoe from Holyrood church shared, "When we left Liberia to come [to Canada], I mourned my sisters. We would have retreats there as well, 500 women gathered together to worship and praise God. I had been told that there wouldn't be anything like that because everyone in Canada was too busy. I am so thankful to be here this weekend, as I have found the sisters I left behind."
Theresa Powoe from Liberia

There are more stories to tell, but you will have to find them. Ask around at your churches, find someone who went, and make plans to come next year. To those who attended remember what Michelle said in one of the sessions: "That God loves you at least as much as the person who loves you the most." Yes we ate tummy bread, but we left full of heart bread.

by Joani Neufeldt

Michelle Copithorne lives in Cochrane, AB and attends Foothills Mennonite Church.
Joani Neufeldt is a member of Lethbridge Mennonite Church and lives in Coaldale, AB.
The retreat was planned jointly by Alberta Women in Mission (AWM) and interested individuals from Mennonite Church Alberta (MCA) with the hope of bringing together women from existing AWM groups and all MCA churches.

Giant Dutch Blitz
Intergenerational fellowship
AWM display table

Jul 22, 2013

Update from Nathan and Taryn Dirks

Nathan and Taryn, Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in Botswana, are also recipients of Mennonite Women Canada's Pennies and Prayer Legacy Fund.  I recently received an email from Taryn where she writes about the adjustments and challenges they have been dealing with since they left Canada in October.  The update has been posted on our web page under Stories/Interviews/Profiles.  They also have a BLOG you might want to check out.

Jul 18, 2013

The Barkman's latest newsletter

Darnell and Christina, Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in the Philippines, are recipients of Mennonite Women Canada’s Pennies and Prayer Legacy Fund.  Their latest newsletter was recently posted on our web page under Stories/Interviews/Profiles.  
You might also want to check out their BLOG.  
Christina writes:
Hello dear friends and family....
I've attached our latest newsletter. Its been quite the month here, with an explosion down our hallway that's displaced us for nearly a month! But we are so thankful for all the love and support from friends here and at home.... thank you!
We'll be in BC for most of August! We are speaking at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond August 4th and at Emmnuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford on August 11. Hope to see many of you there! And send us an email/facebook if you want to hang out.... we'll start making some plans now :)
Love to all of you,

the Barkmans

Jul 11, 2013

Ingrid Schultz - A Courageous Woman

Thought that this interview would be a good post after promoting the 
Bible Study Guide. 
Allow me to introduce you to 
Ingrid Schultz... 
 ...my friend and a Sister-in-Christ!
We attended the same high-school and graduated together.
We were in youth group together at Sherbrooke Mennonite Church in Vancouver, BC.
Our paths separated but now after many years, 
we find ourselves attending the same church once again since we both found 
a new spiritual home at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, BC.
Hope that this interview will inspire you as much as it did me! 

Interview with Chaplain/Pastor Ingrid Schultz  – March 22, 2013

1.  How long have you been in the Ministry?
I began as pastor of Comunidad de Fe, a Hispanic Mennonite Congregation in Chicago, in 1992.  I was doing an internship there through the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE) of which AMBS is a consortium member.  I chose to work in a Hispanic congregation because I thought I might be returning to Bolivia where I had worked for 7 years with MCC.  However during my internship pastors Gamaliel and Amanda Falla announced they were leaving to start a church plant in Florida.  The church asked if I would stay on as their pastor.   I eventually said yes.

One of my concerns was how the men of this Hispanic congregation would feel about having a Anglo woman as their pastor.  When I was ordained at Comunidad de Fe on October 15, 1995 the men of the congregation all stood up, each with a carnation in their hand, and in response to my initial concern about how the men would feel about having a woman pastor, talked about a gift they had received through my ministry.  In a moving moment of the service Ruben, a 79 year old Colombian man, who had recently taken a step of faith, said “Pastor Ingrid has been like a mother to me”.       
I was pastor of Comunidad de Fe for 7 years and then moved back to BC.  In March of 1999 I became a pastor at the First United Mennonite Church in Vancouver.   I was an associate pastor at FUMC for 3 years and then lead pastor for 10 years.  I enjoyed working in this congregation of diverse generations and cultures.     

2.  How did you come to have an interest in chaplaincy?
One of the parts of pastoring that I have always enjoyed most is doing visitation and pastoral care.  We had a lot of elders at FUMC and I loved hearing their stories and learning from their life of faith.  I had many opportunities to visit care homes, hospitals and hospice centres and I wanted to learn more about caring for those who are ill and dying.   So the church graciously let me work half time for 8 months while I took Clinical Pastoral Education at Vancouver General Hospital.   CPE challenged me to listen from the heart and got me thinking more about chaplaincy.

In June of 2011 my father died and my mother needed more support at home.  I learned that Menno Home in Abbotsford was looking for a chaplain and, after consulting with my community, I decided to apply.  I was grateful to be invited to the position and to be able to care for my mother. I have been working as chaplain of Menno Home for almost a year and I love my work there.

3.  What are some of your challenges?
An area of learning for me has been providing spiritual care for people with dementia.  Before I started at Menno Home I visited with Chaplain Mary Catherine Fortuna, of the Purdy Pavilion, a long term care facility at UBC.  Mary Catherine told me that when a person’s cognitive ability diminishes their spiritual connection expands.  I watched her in action leading a service for a group of residents and saw how she sparked memory by incorporated the 5 senses, by using familiar rituals, and, of course, through music.  I have tried to do the same in the services I lead at Menno Home; for example having bread baking when we talked about the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day our daily bread”, perfume when we reflected on Mary anointing Jesus feet, and warm face clothes for a hand washing ritual when we talked about footwashing.   We pray the Lord’s Prayer at each service and this is a place of deep connection for residents who have forgotten so much but still know the powerful words of this prayer.

I’m learning that dementia is something akin to the experience of exile of the Children of Israel.  There is a longing for home, and for connection with lost family members and some days one asks “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”  I see my role as chaplain as facilitating moments of connection, with God and others, for residents and their families who find themselves in the foreign land of dementia. 

4.  What are the high lights?
Highlights for me are those times when connection occurs.  For example, after a communion service, when a resident with dementia suddenly looked up and said: “Jesus is here”, or when a new family member at our Family and Friends Group is encouraged by someone who has walked the caregiver journey for longer, or when a group of residents start singing “Jesus loves me” and Anna points to me and sings: “Yes, Jesus loves you”!
 A Bible school intern told me that he was hesitant to volunteer with elders at Menno Home.  He wondered if he shouldn’t rather do what he considered “front line work” in God’s Kingdom.  However, after working at Menno Home some weeks he said he discovered that Menno Home was, in fact, at the heart of God’s kingdom.  He spoke eloquently seeing God’s face in a community that mirrors both the vulnerability and the power of Jesus suffering love.  I’m humbled by the way residents, care staff and volunteers mirror that love each day.

5.  Compare being a Senior Pastor to being a Chaplain.
As a lead pastor I enjoyed being a part of a community of diverse ages and cultures who brought their gifts together for the task of being God’s people in mission.  The same is true as chaplain.  I enjoy being a part of an integrated team of care aides, nurses, social workers, housekeeping staff, recreation workers and volunteers who come together to care for residents and model a community that cares for each other.  As lead pastor I enjoyed naming gifts in the congregation.  I also enjoy doing this at Menno Home with staff, residents and volunteers. I think that care homes are a wonderful place to learn about life, faith, gratitude and letting go. I get excited when I see people discovering gifts for service at every age.

6.  What are some of the joys and challenges of being a woman Chaplain/Pastor?
A number of women were my predecessors as chaplains at Menno Home. They did an excellent job. Chaplaincy is an area of ministry that has been open to women for some time. That was not the case for women as lead pastors in Mennonite Church BC. To learn more about the joys and challenges of being a women pastor I’d encourage you to watch the videos related to Women in Ministry that are part of MCBC’s Pilgrimage Project (www.pilgrimageprojec.com ). In them Pastor Helmut Isaac and I tell FUMC’s story.  After I left FUMC to become chaplain at Menno Home the church invited another woman to become their lead pastor.  Lydia Cruttwell is a gifted preacher, teacher and care giver who was a member of FUMC and did her pastoral internship there.  I had read a statistic that churches who hire a woman pastor usually go back to hiring a man as their next pastor. I’m pleased that this was not the case at FUMC.  

Jul 3, 2013

New Bible Study Guide - Courageous Women of the Bible

Strong, courageous persistent!  This study uncovers stories of biblical women who acted with unflinching courage -- women who sought justice, spoke truth, and witnessed to God's love.  The women profiled in this study serve as models to encourage and challenge us today.  

Since 1992 Mennonite Women Canada and Mennonite Women USA have worked together with the folks at MennoMedia to publish an annual Bible Study Guide ideal for women's gatherings, Sunday School groups, retreats, or individual reading and inspiration.  

Written by Linda Gehman Peachey from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the twelve sessions profile courageous women in the Bible who persevered in the face of hardship and injustice.  A concluding 13th session presents a worship service.

In June, a complementary copy was mailed out to each Mennonite Church Canada affiliated church.  Check with your church office, your women's rep or coordinator of women's activities to see if it has arrived.  I received my copy last week!

For more details about the guide and to order additional copies go to the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre or MennoMedia.  

A comment from MW USA's facebook page:  "Please send us the 2013 Bible Study Guide.  We have enjoyed and learned from each Bible study for many years.  We hope these Bible studies will be able to continue for many years. God Bless."  .....from a woman from Salem, Kidron, OH.