Contributed by Kelsey Hochstetler
Thursday, February 16, 2017

BERLIN, Ohio (Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Women USA) – The African American Sister Care seminar seeks to bring healing across race, ethnicity, age, and socio-economic status. The gathering will be held at the Mennonite Offices in Elkhart, Indiana, Apr. 21-22, 2017. It will be led by Hyacinth Stevens and Cyneatha Millsaps and sponsored by Mennonite Women USA and Mennonite Mission Network.

Sister Care gives women the tools for personal healing and to celebrate God's grace in their lives. The workshops are presented from one's own cultural context. "But what does it mean when the presenters come from a different cultural context?" asked Stevens, current Mennonite Women board member and representative of the African American Mennonite Association (AMMA).

The Sister Care seminar was developed by Rhoda Keener, Sister Care director for Mennonite Women USA, and Carolyn Heggen, psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing. Keener and Heggen have shared the seminar in 15 countries and in every conference of Mennonite Church USA.  They have invited African American women leaders to adapt the material to the African American context in the USA. 

This will be the first time that the seminar will be adapted and led by African American women. The initiative was originally encouraged by Cora Brown, who wanted African American Mennonite women to have the same access to contextualized resources. Brown is a former Mennonite Women board member and AAMA representative. With Stevens' leadership and partnering with Ann Jacobs, Mennonite Mission Network representative and logistics coordinator, the African American Sister Care seminar will launch the pilot initiative—with a strong invitation for all women, but especially for women of color.

"The stories that will guide our time together will be stories of African American women, and will help us to better understand our own story and appreciate the many different voices that make us women of God," said Millsaps.

Jacobs knows how women are often pulled in many directions as wives, professionals, mothers, and care givers for aging parents. As she travels to churches in her role, she's often heard women ask, "Where are my sisters? I need them!" Jacobs hopes that women will not only find friendship during the weekend, but also healing and renewed energy.

"You can't keep giving unless you care for yourself." Stevens said. 

Millsaps hopes that women of all ages will attend and bring a friend. "Invite someone unlike yourself. Even more powerful, invite your enemy (someone you are struggling with, someone who has a different viewpoint as yourself, someone you don't understand). That is the true measure of our character, entering a space fully open to learn and teach as the Spirit moves."

The registration deadline is Friday, Apr. 7. For information about registration and speakers, visit the African American Sister Care website

​Kelsey Hochstetler works in the communication department at Mennonite Mission Network, and lives in Sugarcreek, Ohio, with her husband, Jeff, and 1-year-old daughter, Mariella.



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