Serving Jesus as Mary and MarthaCelebrating rural women Jesus as Mary and MarthaBy Deb Byler


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Blood brings both suffering and healingLynda's Reflections brings both suffering and healingBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Trans-Atlantic slave trade seen through the eyes of a Beninese artistLynda's Reflections slave trade seen through the eyes of a Beninese artistBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Contemplative spirituality helps to bridge culturesLynda's Reflections spirituality helps to bridge culturesBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Supporting service with a pew dollarsSupporting Service service with a pew dollarsBy Travis Duerksen
Opening My Eyes: Youth Venture Civil Rights Trip 2021Civil Rights Learning Tour My Eyes: Youth Venture Civil Rights Trip 2021By Michelle Ramirez
Students in Burkina Faso write African church historyLOGOS University in Burkina Faso write African church historyBy Anicka Fast




Becoming human to each other human to each otherBy Joe Sawatzky<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Lynda Blackmon Lowery was 15 years old in 1965, when she marched for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. On July 20, 2021, Lowery had lunch with Mennonite Mission Network's Youth Venture team, during our Civil Rights Learning Tour.</span></p><p>"During the civil rights movement, we used to say that we were putting the 'unity' in 'community.' Today, we need to put the 'human' back in 'humanity.'"</p><p>Based in their hometown of Selma, Lowery and her younger sister, JoAnne Blackmon Bland, lovingly expose pilgrims like us — five young adults from Florida and North Carolina, and my wife and me from Indiana — to the cruel realities of racism. </p><p>With her words, Lowery drew a bridge from the past to the present. She lamented that she sees the same hatred on the faces of some White people in 2021 that she endured from the Alabama state troopers 56 years ago. That's when they blocked her path to freedom on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on "Bloody Sunday."</p><p>As a cure for the sickness of racism, Lowery prescribed the medicine of "learning to see each other as human."</p><p>This human-to-human connection resurfaced as a major theme throughout our trip. In our nightly debrief, team members often interpreted the events of the day in terms of their personal relationships. For example, the Legacy Museum in Montgomery traces the evolution — not the end — of the enslavement of human beings, from colonial times to the unjustly disproportionate incarceration rates for people of color today. In one haunting exhibit, visitors encountered speaking holograms that portrayed persons of African descent behind iron bars, pending sale at slave auctions. There we heard, as from the ghosts of real people, the stories of children separated from parents, husbands from wives, siblings from siblings. For our own team, which included biological siblings and cousins, as well as members from the same church, this rupture of human community seemed to strike us as racism's cruelest effect.</p><p> "I can't imagine losing my sister," and "What would I do without my parents?" were typical reactions among our team.</p><p>But if the sin of racism is the dehumanization of people, salvation from racism requires the power from beyond humanity. I was reminded of this when listening to Lowery tell her story about Bloody Sunday. "Usually," she said, "when we would sing, we would feel so powerful, and we knew that nothing could turn us around. But on that day, something didn't feel right." </p><p>Her words, about the evil that had infused the whole atmosphere, reminded me that "our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12 NRSV).</p><p>Therefore, I believe, that to overcome the attacks of people who are in the grip of evil, and not to be overcome by evil ourselves, we need to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power" (Ephesians 6:10 NRSV). We need to "lay aside the works of darkness," the weapons of the flesh, and "put on the armor of light" (Romans 13:12)., We need "to put on the Lord Jesus Christ," the divine presence who makes us fully human to one another (Romans 13:14). </p><p><em>Youth Venture is the service program of Mennonite Mission Network that gives young people, ages 15-22, the opportunity to serve, learn and worship in local communities around the world, through 1- to 3-week terms each summer. For more information on future trips, </em><a href="/Serve/Youth%20Venture"><em>click here</em></a><em>. For more photos from the learning tour Sawatzky co-led, <a href="/news/The-Youth-Venture-Civil-Rights-tour-in-photos">click here.</a></em></p>
Running with epilepsy with epilepsyBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen<p>​<em>Teresa Ross Richer celebrated her high-school graduation by running a marathon on June 5. She is preparing to study at Goshen (Indiana) College in the fall.</em><br></p><p>Teresa Ross Richer and her family have been part of a two-way mission, serving in Ecuador and the United States since 2015. They live among Indigenous communities half of the year in the eastern rain forest region of Ecuador, and during the other six months each year, they serve as mission educators in the United States. Teresa and her siblings have an important role to play in this ministry. They have learned the Cofán language and integrated into cultural life in ways that have come less easily for their parents, Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer. In a family, whose trademark is thinking outside the box, Teresa Ross Richer, especially, is known for stretching her limits.</p><p>Jessica Rios, a friend, said that Teresa is "by far the most courageous person I have ever met. She teaches me to persevere in the face of hardship." </p><p>However, occasionally, Teresa's body doesn't do what she expects it to, and epileptic seizures take control. Given this reality, her sister, Naomi, said that Teresa's positive attitude toward life is a miracle. </p><p>"My faith in God has grown a lot stronger … throughout my journey with epilepsy," Teresa said. "Epilepsy has opened my eyes, and in some ways taken me farther than I could have gone without it."</p><p>Although Teresa would have never asked for epilepsy, she says that the limits put on her life have shown her that the small things are the biggest blessings ever. </p><p>"Epilepsy is a blessing in disguise," Teresa said.</p><p>Watch this <a href="">video</a>, that Teresa made for a senior class project, in which she talks about trusting those who surround her and her faith in God. <br></p>
Reflecting on Mandela Day evokes a sense of grace unto justice on Mandela Day evokes a sense of grace unto justiceBy Joe Sawatzky<p><strong>​Editor's Note: </strong><em>Joe Sawatsky, a church relations representative for Mennonite Mission Network, was asked to reflect on Nelson Mandela, who is celebrated on July 18, an international holiday set aside to honor the leader who helped topple apartheid in South Africa.  </em><br></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><br></span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Nelson Mandela, who would have turned 103 July 18 —which is now an international holiday in his honor — is, rightly, an icon of forgiveness. Yet forgiveness, at the very heart of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, is fraught with controversy. Many allege that forgiveness delays justice by absolving oppressors without their repentance, by denying reparations for the oppressed.</span></p><p>In what follows, I recount two examples of forgiveness from Mandela's leadership that inspire me and place them within the biblical call for justice.</p><p>In 1993 — the year before the official end of apartheid, the separate and unequal system of White-minority rule in South Africa — Chris Hani, a beloved leader of the Black freedom struggle, was shot and killed outside his home. His assassin, a Polish immigrant, sought to derail negotiations toward a new government. </p><p>On the brink of civil war, Mandela, not yet the president, assuaged the nation's fears in a televised address. Without denying White culpability, Mandela generously framed the struggle as a multiracial pursuit of justice, seizing upon the fact that a White woman had reported the killer's license plate to police. In Mandela's words, "A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin." </p><p>Extending grace, Mandela's words kept the country on track toward its first free and fair elections that were held on April 27, 1994. </p><p>In 1995, barely a year into his presidency of the new, democratic South Africa, Mandela — in a kind of positive appropriation — enlisted a cherished symbol of Afrikaner culture in a nation's still precarious pursuit of truth, justice and reconciliation. In pre-game ceremonies, before their championship match against New Zealand, at the rugby World Cup, Mandela donned the cap and jersey of the Springboks, South Africa's national team. </p><p>This was no small gesture. The figure of Mandela, gliding across the turf at Johannesburg's Ellis Park, cut a swath of historical irony. Mandela, the representative of Black South Africa, who once despised the Springboks as symbols of its oppression, offered himself to White South Africa in shades of green and gold. The mostly White crowd at Johannesburg's Ellis Park, who once despised Mandela as public enemy number one, now acclaimed him as their president, in growing chants of "NEL-SON, NEL-SON." </p><p>Following a dramatic and improbable Springbok victory, Francois Piennar, the team's captain, reciprocated Mandela's grace. In his postgame interview, Piennar corrected the reporter's claim that more than 60,000 South Africans, who were present in the stadium, had provided "tremendous support." "We didn't have 60,000 South Africans," Piennar exclaimed, "we had 43 million South Africans," referring to the total population — Black and White together.</p><p>Powerful as they are, neither of these events eliminated racism and injustice from South Africa. Indeed, forgiveness is powerful, but it is vulnerable. Grace is given, but it is not always accepted. Love is extended, but it does not automatically produce repentance. Even so, we remember these acts as calls to action, to allow grace to flow through us for the healing of an unjust world. Aware that some would put God's grace to the test by continuing in sin, the apostle Paul pleaded, "Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means!" (Romans 6:1-2 NRSV). Rather, having accepted Christ's forgiveness, let us walk with him in newness of life.  <br></p>
Living out commitment to peace out commitment to peaceBy Faith Bell<p>MennoCon21 was the first Mennonite convention I attended. I had heard stories about my church's past youth groups basking in worship. I had heard colleagues tell of the experiences of connecting people with service opportunities. As always, a lived experience brings a greater understanding.</p><p>The lived nature of peace became the focus for me this convention. The theme of Bring the Peace was demonstrated in messages from the stage that advocated each person's responsibility to act for peace in the way God calls them to, either by naming when it is not present or naming when one's own actions cause lack of right relationship, and then enacting justice to meet the needs that are there. This is a dynamic peace that requires an ongoing conversation built on relationship. </p><p>Finding creative ways to gather for MennoCon21 during the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized relationship. Virtually or in-person, making space for people became a way to Bring the Peace. For many who have been to previous conventions, it did feel different. I talked with people who missed the volume of people that they were used to in the worship space. Yet, they also noted appreciation that with a smaller crowd people were able to connect more easily with friends new and old. Where some people in the past may have rushed from one scheduled event to the next, there was more space to rest and reflect. There was more time to make peace with neighbors even as we were communing during convention with God.</p><p>Unable to compare MennoCon21 to other conventions, I still sensed how among the learning opportunities this convention allowed for relationship building and reconnection. As a quiet, bookish person, it was nice to find moments to spend time with other people with similar interests and then do something different, like following the lead of Cyneatha Millsaps, executive director of Mennonite Women USA, who led line dances at a Mennonite Women USA evening reception. There was space for us to be ourselves. This was also apparent in the music. There was a mix of hymns in four-part harmony, contemporary music and gospel songs sung in multiple languages. I felt I was acknowledging that it was possible for many relationships to be at peace with one another and with God because there was acknowledgement right there as we worshipped.</p><p>The embodiment of peace continued when I took a walk. In the space where past conventions would have held service projects, there was a free afternoon. I broke in new shoes on my trek to the Ohio River, only 10-15 minutes away from the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the convention was held. Walking the river and then visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, I recalled the actions people took to escape slavery, crossing Kentucky to Ohio across a body of water that surprised me at not being as wide as I expected. From the books I read I had envisioned the river to be a staggering distance. Yet, standing there on an overcast Thursday, I could easily see details across the river. It was very clear to me that people could see what was needed to get to the place where there was more opportunity for justice and right relationship.</p><p>Near the bank of the Ohio River, MennoCon21 connected messages of lament, repentance with rejoicing in reconciliation and commitment to peace. At the end of the convention, when the new theme of Be Transformed was introduced, I was moved by the invitation to allow the Holy Spirit to take the lived experience of working towards peace to be continually be more ever present within me. Like people crossing a river to get closer to abundant life, I can always look for ways God is leading me to act in ways that lead towards peace, forever changing me and those around me.</p><p>People from Mississippi and Pennsylvania, in between and farther afield, look forward to learning together at MennoCon23. There will be enjoyment in the familiar larger experience. There will also be continued looking for how the Holy Spirit is leading us to be present to one another in new ways.<br></p>
Roosting, or flying free?,-or-flying-free?Roosting, or flying free?By Laurie Oswald Robinson <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">When our foster daughter, Symphony, was in our care for two and a half years, I often said this to her during the tumultuous twos: "Symphony, we pick and choose how we are going to do handle things." </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">To my shock, one day as I was melting down from a bad hair moment, she said, "Mommy, you know we choose and pick."</span></p><p>Well, I didn't know whether to laugh because she switched around the words, or cry because she had hit the nail on the head: <br></p><p><strong><em>I could choose my attitude, and pick a new way to be.</em></strong> </p><p>So, too, Glen Guyton, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, in his convention finale message, called us out: we can choose to let our dove, the symbol that graces our Anabaptist documents, fly free into a Holy-Spirit led future; or, we can let that dove roost on past practices and present struggles. </p><p>He boldly proclaimed my favorite line of convention messages: "Our documents won't save us, they really won't. What will save us is a renewed focus on the lordship of Jesus Christ" and the modeling his sacrificial love toward one another. <br></p><p>We can choose to roost; or, we can pick a new attitude that leads to a new way of being the healing and hope of Christ in God. </p><p>We <strong><em>can roost or we can choose to </em></strong>embrace Jesus who is enough and big enough to free our souls that tend to clutch control and power, hold onto unhealed wounds, and hide idolatries of unbroken sin patterns. </p><p>We <strong><em>can be paralyzed or pick a new mode of movement:</em></strong> to launch off our agenda-laden and earthbound stages into the skies of our call to live out peace, justice and reconciliation within the infinity of God's grace. </p><p>As Glen flew across the stage in a lighted cape, I didn't know whether I should laugh, or cry. In that whimsical, wacky, and wonderful moment, our brother in Christ was modeling what it means to pick and choose Jesus above ourselves: to embrace Jesus as the eternal source of our freedom and our flight, rather than fickle illusions that risking change brings disaster. </p><p>His serious sermonizing taking flight into the playful unexpected symbolized, for me, that there is something much more dangerous than choosing transformation: choosing to chain the dove rather than to fly free, and high. <br></p>
Befriending those babies those babiesBy Laurie Oswald Robinson <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">After listening to Safwat Marzouk unpack the Exodus 1-2 story about how Pharoah's daughter rescued Baby Moses from the Nile, I am rethinking the phrase, "random acts of kindness."</span></p><p>Safwat's perspective on her rescue of Moses was that it was anything but randomly and mundanely hidden, albeit compassionate. Her choice was subversively radical and a snub to the most powerful person in Egypt, indeed, her very own father, likely the most influential male in her life. Hers was not a random act, but a resistant one; a revolutionary one, and it reversed the trajectory of fear of the "other" (i.e. Egyptians and Israelite) into an embrace. </p><p>How many times in daily life do we see "babies" floating down the river of our day and turn our head the other way? </p><p>One does not need to be a revolutionary to enter the flow of what God is doing in the daily grind: </p><ul><li>settling a conflict with someone who thinks totally opposite than we do on an important topic – listening to, rather than loathing, the other;<br></li><li>withholding judgment on someone we feel is too conservative, too progressive, or just too – fill in the blank;</li><li>seeing ourselves as above the struggles of friends and family who we think brought their troubles upon themselves;</li><li>celebrating a co-worker whose gifts are being recognized when ours own go unnoticed;<br></li><li>and embracing, rather than shaming, ourselves when personal weaknesses arise. </li><li><br></li></ul><p>How many times do we revert to indifference regarding the issues in our immediate neighborhood because it is far away from the marches for justice we see on our smartphones and other digital devices. We can't go march in a city far away, so we raid the fridge for another munchie before surfing more You Tube. </p><p>I often shy away from the edge of the daily river so that I won't catch the sight of a reed basket holding someone different than myself. Or hear the cries of someone who is suffering and marginalized. Or witness the impotence of someone with power who is vastly lonely because mutuality is too vulnerable. Or fail to see the silent wound I inflicted on someone by spurning a heart offering me risky, naked authenticity.</p><p>The question is not whether God's river is flowing throughout our seemingly random, daily lives; but rather: are we willing to defy the tyrannies that would hinder us from radical and revolutionary acts of getting wet, no matter how tiny, or tremendous? <br></p>



Serving Jesus as Mary and Martha Jesus as Mary and MarthaBy Deb Byler GP0|#2a27b1dc-8def-4ad2-909d-1fe815e70829;L0|#02a27b1dc-8def-4ad2-909d-1fe815e70829|Guatemala;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#e2a61412-b024-41d7-adeb-1c4e0b790c03;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Blood brings both suffering and healing brings both suffering and healingBy Lynda Hollinger-JanzenGP0|#024ac062-71a9-4b18-9ee6-bca9c86be075;L0|#0024ac062-71a9-4b18-9ee6-bca9c86be075|Burkina Faso;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#4d0e08ea-d1a0-4141-9eba-431183992152;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Trans-Atlantic slave trade seen through the eyes of a Beninese artist slave trade seen through the eyes of a Beninese artistBy Lynda Hollinger-JanzenGP0|#53f671dc-6b11-4308-ab01-f8c0f7df8786;L0|#053f671dc-6b11-4308-ab01-f8c0f7df8786|Benin;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#4d0e08ea-d1a0-4141-9eba-431183992152;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Contemplative spirituality helps to bridge cultures spirituality helps to bridge culturesBy Lynda Hollinger-JanzenGP0|#53f671dc-6b11-4308-ab01-f8c0f7df8786;L0|#053f671dc-6b11-4308-ab01-f8c0f7df8786|Benin;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#4d0e08ea-d1a0-4141-9eba-431183992152;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Supporting service with a pew dollars service with a pew dollarsBy Travis DuerksenGP0|#2ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a;L0|#02ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a|United States;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Opening My Eyes: Youth Venture Civil Rights Trip 2021 My Eyes: Youth Venture Civil Rights Trip 2021By Michelle RamirezGP0|#2ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a;L0|#02ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a|United States;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Students in Burkina Faso write African church history in Burkina Faso write African church historyBy Anicka FastGP0|#024ac062-71a9-4b18-9ee6-bca9c86be075;L0|#0024ac062-71a9-4b18-9ee6-bca9c86be075|Burkina Faso;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#4d0e08ea-d1a0-4141-9eba-431183992152;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Becoming human to each other human to each otherBy Joe SawatzkyGP0|#2ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a;L0|#02ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a|United States;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Running with epilepsy with epilepsyBy Lynda Hollinger-JanzenGP0|#934efcfc-8004-48aa-b785-aff862d28dbd;L0|#0934efcfc-8004-48aa-b785-aff862d28dbd|Ecuador;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#e2a61412-b024-41d7-adeb-1c4e0b790c03;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Reflecting on Mandela Day evokes a sense of grace unto justice on Mandela Day evokes a sense of grace unto justiceBy Joe Sawatzky