Olga Piedrasanta and her Latin American sisters had prayed for years that a global women’s network would someday be forged.
However, when would the time be ripe for their dream to come true?
They received their answer during a global women’s meeting at the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) gathering July 24 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
That’s when about 100 women from around the world gave a resounding “yes” to birthing a Global Anabaptist Women’s Network. Its goal is to connect women across the continents and empower them to fully share their gifts. In unity and solidarity—despite their diversity—they exclaimed it was time to move out of the shadows of muted expression and into the sunlight of full collaboration in the body of Christ.
“We have been dreaming of this day for several years now, and today it has been fulfilled,” said Piedrasanta, co-coordinator of the Latin American Anabaptist Women Theologians Movement (Movimiento Teólogas Anabautistas de América Latina, MTAL). “This is a historic day for us. I think it is the first time in the global Mennonite Church that Anabaptist women from all over the world have met to dream together.”
Linda Shelly, longtime Latin America director for Mennonite Mission Network, has helped this dream materialize.
She serves as an advisor to MTAL and helps connect the Latin American women with Mission Network and other agencies. The Latin American women began their own network after being inspired by African Women Anabaptist Theologians at MWC in 2003.
Shelly’s role also helped Mennonite Women USA collaborate with MTAL for Sister Care training seminars. Since 2013, seminars have been held in Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil. One is planned for Cuba for Nov. 23–28, 2015.
Most of these training seminars are co-led by Rhoda Keener, Sister Care director for Mennonite Women USA, and Carolyn Heggen, a psychotherapist. The seminars provide women with tools for ongoing personal healing, recognizing and celebrating God’s grace in their lives, and responding more confidently and effectively to the needs of others in their families, congregations and communities.
After receiving the training, 80-some leaders across Latin America have facilitated nearly 100 workshops with more than 2,800 participants, Shelly said.
“Mennonite Women USA is a small organization with just a 2.5 FTE total,” Keener said. “So when we go to an international site to provide Sister Care leadership training seminars, we really need the guidance from an organization like Mission Network. We realize that if there is no one on the ground to help us, then it is not wise to go.”
The privilege of being “on the ground” often results in sharing significant moments and achievements. Paula Killough, Mission Network senior executive for Advancement, and Sandy Miller, director of Church Relations, traveled to Congo in 2013 to attend the ordination of three Anabaptist women.
For Miller, Revelation 7 came to life as people from diverse tribes and nations gathered around God’s throne in worship; for Killough, it was a realization of Galatians 3:28 [MTAL’s theme verse]: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
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