My Garden Legacy

I must have been six or seven when I first remember eating fresh peas straight off the vine in my grandmother’s garden.  Wow. I will never forget that pop of sweetness on my tongue! And no carrot ever tasted fresher, or more flavorful than those I pulled straight out of that black Manitoba soil, with no seasoning except a bit of residual dirt. I learned to love garden vegetables early. My grandmother had a huge garden. While I don’t know the actual dimensions, suffice it to say, one could easily get lost in there– or safely sneak fresh goodies without fear of getting caught! I loved that paradise.  It was magical. Grandma grew absolutely everything in that garden. I wish I could talk to her now, and hear what she would have to tell me about it.  When I was growing up in Kansas, my parents usually planted a vegetable garden, and my mom always loved her red geraniums and bright orange begonias just like her mother did. But other things held my attention back then. Now in my adult life, I have always enjoyed a garden. Every year I marvel at the miracle of a seed. The Great Force of life that pushes goodness out of dirt, scraps, waste, and refuse. Such a beautiful metaphor for grace, love and forgiveness, such a perfect symbol for the renewal of spirit and blooming of the soul—true transformation.

I like to think that part of my grandmother lives on in me. My mother and several family members living locally are lucky to have a start from Grandma’s fuchsia peonies that once thrived in my grandmother’s magical garden.  Though I cannot bring plants across the Canada/US Border, I cherish some of those family peonies from my mother’s home in South Bend before they moved. And though my vegetable garden, of course, does not even begin to compare to Grandmother’s, who grew hers to feed her large family of 13 children, I believe my flower garden may not be far off. This season I hope to stretch my flower growing capacity once again as I try my hand at starting seeds indoors.  Many of the seeds are flowers that she grew, like cosmos, zinnias, snapdragons, sweet peas, four-o’clocks, marigolds and petunias.  I am reminded of Grandmother every spring when I get out and start digging in that great, green earth. The days are getting longer now, and I’m starting to feel the gardening bug. It’s time to start getting my peas and carrots and potatoes in the ground. I am ever so grateful to my Grandmothers–both of them. They inspired me to love the earth, to treat it well and realize it will give back three thousand-fold both in beauty and in bounty. I have so much gratitude to them for their amazing, determined efforts to feed their families well–and for that little garden bug planted in my soul.


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Top Ten Transformations of 2020

  1. The most popular sections at the grocery became the spice shelves and baking goods aisle.
  2. Turned out our neighborhood did have a lot of people who lived in it. Who would have known!
  3. More of us understood the differences between “wants” and “needs”.
  4. The reason for common courtesies such as covering your mouth and nose when sneezing became obvious.
  5. “Hobby” became more inclusive, such as reorganizing storage shelves for the third time in four months.
  6. Wearing clothes for longer than a few hours in a day was regarded as a major hassle.
  7. Uneven gray won “Hair Color of the Year” award.
  8. “Family time” had a whole new meaning.
  9. Learning about statistics, graphs, data trends and charts was taken off my list of life goals.
  10. Personal space was renamed to the much more contemporary term, “social distancing”.

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The Rope that Ties Peace and Pain Together

This is a condensed version of the speech that Olivia Krall gave at the C. Henry Smith Oratorical Contest in February 2021 at Goshen College.  Olivia’s speech begins at 13:24. 


Trauma is passed on through generations. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as intergenerational or transgenerational trauma. Children of parents who have faced extreme situations may be more likely to struggle with their mental health. One explanation of this is that parents or family members who are struggling may pass down their negative coping mechanisms. The actions of our families, the stories we grow up listening to, and the communities that we live in shape us. As a result, the consequences of trauma, are felt for long afterward.

I first became aware of this idea two years ago during a lecture on a boat in the middle of the Dnieper River in Ukraine. It has since changed how I think about my own history. One day before that lecture, my grandparents, my mother, and I, along with roughly 30 other passengers, boarded a bus and headed into the Ukrainian countryside to see the villages of our ancestors. What was intended as an eight-hour bus trip slid into hour fourteen. By then I was hungry, exhausted, irritable, and tired of peeing in fields. All I wanted to do was head back to the boat. So, when we pulled up to an abandoned train station, I could only be described as exasperated. The sun had set, and the only lights remaining were the headlights on the bus.

As I caught up to the group, I saw that they had gathered in the middle of the tracks. Here, the leaders of the group informed us that this was the train station Mennonites had used to flee persecution, and that would later carry them to execution. They recounted that as each train of Mennonites left, those that remained sang the hymn “Take Thou My Hand, O Father.” When the last of the Mennonites boarded the train, and there was no one left to sing, the Ukrainians — who had never gotten along with the Mennonites — sang it to them. Together as a group, we stood in the dim light of bus headlights and sang that hymn together. I could not see the faces of those singing around me, and I barely knew the German lyrics, but nevertheless, that moment bound me to those people.  I had heard brief mentions of this chapter in my family’s history but, it had always seemed so far removed from my life that I didn’t pay attention. Suddenly though, I was intimately connected to it. In the course of a week, I had seen the same buildings, the same sky that my ancestors had, I had sung the same hymns, and eaten the same foods. What was far away became close.

On the trip, a group of psychologists told us that trauma is passed on genetically. It is felt and dealt with through generations. I have come to believe that if this is true, then resilience can also be passed on. Resilience comes from knowledge. It comes from hearing and telling our stories. The pathway forward to peace, within ourselves, and our communities, comes from reconciling with the trauma of our pasts.


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FMC 2021 High School Graduates

The Class of 2021 has faced challenges never seen before, and we are so proud of our seniors who have persevered through it all.   All four are graduating from North Central High School, with the actual graduation ceremony being on May 26, 2021, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum (exact format still being determined!)  Avi, Isaiah, Klaine and Paige have been part of FMC their entire lives and it is a joy to celebrate them.


Avi Sarkar

There’s always a spark of excitement in the air when Avi Sarkar is around. Sometimes that spark becomes a flame – like the time he accidentally started a fire in his chemistry classroom at North Central High School. As this spunky senior reflects on his high school years, there are many highlights. His choir experiences and his broadcasting work at WJEL have been favorite activities. Avi’s goals evolved over the years and he has realized how much he has cherished learning alongside his peers. He is a people person, and illustrated by the fact that his favorite church-related song is “10,000 Reasons, because Isaiah and I would sing this on the way to football and basketball games,” he says. Many from FMC have heard his voice on the airwaves on his sports podcast.

A fan of watching YouTube videos, Avi also enjoys watching the shows Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. A superhero theme is followed, in that his favorite book is Ultimate Spider Man and his favorite movie is Avengers: Endgame. You might find Avi eating a McChicken sandwich and listening to Lose Yourself by Eminem or filming one of the many videos that the Counterpoints had to turn in this year.

He has enjoyed his years at First Mennonite, especially Snow Camp when it snowed and the kids were able to go tubing. He advises the JYF to “Don’t do what I do.” (You’ll have to ask Avi yourself what he means by that!). Perhaps the pandemic experience of the past year has influenced his advice for the adults of FMC in that he says, “Live your lives to the fullest.”

As he looks to the fall, Avi will be attending IUPUI and in five years hopes he’ll be looking for a job. With your enthusiasm and energy, Avi, we know you’ll find a great one!


Isaiah Rosner

During his high school years, you could find Isaiah Rosner on several of North Central High School’s “big stages.” Whether it was playing his cello in the Symphony Orchestra in the auditorium or being in the press box announcing NC football games across the WJEL airwaves, Isaiah was working on goals he set years ago. “I wanted to be first chair cello (currently second) and get into sports announcing, both of which happened,” the senior recalls. He began announcing sporting events as a sophomore and enjoyed this activity that is leading to a career choice. Upon graduation he plans to go into a digital sports production program, either at Ball State or Indiana University.

When asked what might surprise people about announcing, Isaiah points out the action that happens before the contest even starts. “It takes a lot of time to prepare for the game broadcasts, and I’ve enjoyed collecting stats and prep information for every game. You have to be ready with information on key players and stats you can reference during the games as you think on your feet,” he says. 

If one was “calling the story” of Isaiah’s high school days, you’d describe his favorite food – pizza of the pepperoni, sausage, bacon and ham with stuffed crust variety – along with his top TV shows Stranger Things, Impractical Jokers and The Office. His highlight reel would also include roller coasters, the Colts and Pacers as well as the pandemic-discovered hobbies of chess and magic tricks. The odds are good you may not know his favorite musician – composer Michael Giacchino – but many of his soundtracks would be familiar.

Isaiah has been at First Mennonite his whole life and has fond memories including the antics of Snow Camp. He especially enjoys the song “Strangers No More” due to decent lyrics and good tune. In granting advice to the JYF, he encourages them to “get involved in what you are interested in as soon as possible – at school or outside of school” as he wished he would have done broadcasting as a freshman. His advice for the adults is a bit more specific. “Don’t drive kindly – drive predictably.” He asserts that if you are driving the speed limit on a two-lane road, don’t make him late to his broadcast by blocking him. In five years, that call time just might be for his first job,” likely broadcasting random sports in the middle of nowhere.”

We have all enjoyed watching you grow up, Isaiah, and we’ll tune in to your broadcasts originating from Fargo!


Klaine Friend

Determined. Focused. Fun. These are just several of many descriptors that describe Klaine Friend as she wraps up her high school days at North Central. From a young age she knew she wanted to be part of the Counterpoints, the school’s award-winning show choir, and that goal was reached her junior year. Elected co-president of the Counterpoints by her peers as a senior, she has the dubious honor of leading the group during this most disruptive year ever. Along with her singing, she ran cross country for all four years – another feat of determination. 

When she walked in the doors of NC as a freshman, she set the goal of being in the Top 25 of her graduating class. Through focused effort and long hours of homework, she achieved that goal in her class of almost 900 students. It was wonderful that the school enabled the ceremony to be in person in March for the senior honorees.

Along with all the work, there has been time for fun as she has enjoyed hanging out with friends, going to parks and of course playing with her pandemic puppy.

Her biggest pet peeve right now is people asking her where she is going to college, as she awaits decisions from universities on the East and West Coasts. It appears schools in the heartland, five of which she’s been admitted to, let students know earlier than NYU and UCLA who won’t notify until the end of March. She does know that she wants to study environmental science, pointing out that her generation does not have the luxury of kicking the can down the road on issues like climate change.

Klaine has been at First Mennonite her entire life, and there are pictures from early days of VBS, Children’s Christmas Musicals and Snow Camps to mark the journey. Klaine gives a shout out to her mentor, Brooke Kandel, who has been a great role model. “With a big job at Butler and her kids, Brooke does it all but still had time for Starbucks with me and to come to my various plays and shows. I really appreciate it,” Klaine says. She also shares the fond memory of when her dad helped the JYF build a carpetball game for the JYF room. Her advice to the JYF comes with the wisdom of a Class of 2021 senior: “It gets better.”

A perfect afternoon might include eating sushi, sipping a chocolate milkshake and watching her favorite movie The Grinch while Snapchatting with her pals. After a year like this, trying to predict down the road five years almost seems a fool’s errand. Yet it is fun for Klaine to think about having a job in city with greenspace as she works to protect the environment. There’s no doubt this determined young lady will make her mark on the world!


Paige Longenecker

by Rachel Friesen

Paige Longenecker will be graduating from North Central High School this spring and will be heading to the University of Cincinnati in the fall to pursue a marketing degree at the Lindner School of Business. As an incoming freshman to North Central, Paige’s goal was to meet a good group of friends and she has achieved that, plus a lot more! Paige’s roommate at the University of Cincinnati will be someone she met at summer gym classes before her freshman year of high school. One of her favorite parts of high school has been the opportunity to meet all types of people—including lots of the “fun personalities” in her high school. Paige loves anything pasta, watching Netflix in her room with her cat, movie nights with her friends, hiking at Holiday Park with her dog, attending Taylor Swift concerts (she’s been to four so far) and watching shows with her family. Right now, Paige is re-watching The Vampire Diaries and The Originals (the sequel).

“The Mountains may shift and the hills may be shaken, but my faithful love won’t shift from you, my covenant of peace won’t be shaken.” says the Lord the one who pities you. (Isaiah 54:10) This has been a meaningful verse to Paige through the peaks and valleys of growing up. It reminds her that the Lord will always love her, and that the love of the Lord is endless. Paige’s favorite memories during MYF are of the DOOR trips. She found these to be spiritual, fun and a real learning opportunity. She got to know the MYF group better, as well as the people and environments around the group while doing service. Her advice to the FMC adults is to engage with youth and to the JYF she encourages them to Participate! Paige has found that the more you attend the MYF/JYF activities and go to Sunday School, the closer you get to the group. For her, some of the most memorable activities in JYF and MYF have been when the adults in the church joined them.

As her mentor, I (Rachel Friesen) have enjoyed our annual back to school shopping trips, Shoo-fly pie bake-offs and watching her grow up through our monthly small group get-togethers. Paige is a thoughtful and compassionate person who radiates a caring spirit. Paige’s long-term goals are to earn an MBA, embark on a career in marketing and have a dog of her own. Congratulations, Paige! We are looking forward to seeing your impact on the world!


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Joy of Creation

In God’s own image, God created them.

Genesis 1:27b

Created in God’s image, what characteristic of God did a human being inherit? One such characteristic is creativity. When creation was completed, God took pleasure in it and called it “very good.” Therefore, any time a human being creates something good, beneficial, beautiful, and pure, he or she is expressing a godly characteristic.

Recently, one Sunday, as the worship leader, Erv Boschmann showed us a marvelous specimen of creativity made by Mel Glick: A wooden cube having three cylindrical holes with axes through the midpoints of pairs of opposite faces, and equal diameter slightly smaller than the diameter of a nickel. Yet, a nickel was placed inside the cavity where the three holes overlapped! How did the nickel get in there?

Mel Glick, a long-time FMCer, had made several copies of the “holey cube” and had given them as gifts to different people. What a beautiful way Mel worshiped the Creator by engaging in an act of creation! What a creative way Erv led the worship service by using the “holey cube” as an illustration of the joy inherent in creation!

I was curious about the mysterious way the nickel entered the hole smaller than itself. Mel has gone on to his heavenly abode, so, I cannot ask him about the secret. Erv said he has a theory, but he does not know for sure. So, I will let my imagination run wild. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Make an extra channel along one cylindrical hole. Roll the nickel along that channel until it reaches the central cavity. Then fill the channel with liquid wood and varnish the cube.
  • Heat the nickel until it is red hot and soft. Using tongs, bend it and push it through the hole. When it reaches the cavity, bend it back to its flat shape and let it cool.
  • Soak the specimen in water and heat until the water boils. The holes will expand slightly. Push the nickel in to reach the cavity. When cooled and dried, the nickel will not come out.

Dear readers, let me leave you to construct other possible solutions to the puzzle, while I get back to the story of my interaction with Erv.

I wrote an email to Erv: “Mel’s “holey cube” is simply beautiful! In contrast, I am no good in making such objects. But I can let my imagination do what my hands cannot. A few months earlier, two undergraduate students in my calculus class wrote a scientific paper with me.’’ I attached our paper. Erv encouraged me to write an article for MennoExpressions related to our creative research.

My two students turned collaborators, Jaskirat Kaur and Jasmeen Lally, are pursuing the highly creative profession of medicine. The research they did with me demonstrates their creativity born out of curiosity and passion for truth and beauty. We studied the optimum diameter of the cylindrical holes that maximizes the total exposed surface area of the drilled cube (the original area of the six faces of the cube, minus the circular area lost on each face, plus the inner surface of the holes). When we studied the math problem, we did not have a specimen in hand. Instead, we used our imagination and a 3-D software called Tinkercad to draw the holes through the cube. To study the inner surface of the holes, we would fill the holes with molten metal, then cool until the metal solidified, and finally chip away the wood. In fact, we did none of these actions; we just imagined doing them. Inquisitive readers may freely download the artifact of our creation: the scientific paper.

Kaur, Lally and Sarkar (2021) calculated the optimal diameters of holes, oriented in many different directions, to maximize the total exposed surface area of the holey cube.

We also allowed the axes of the holes to pass through a pair of opposite vertices or the midpoints of a pair of opposite edges. I wish I could ask Mel to make me those new specimens. His creativity is just the right skill to complement our imagination. Since Mel is not with us anymore, we hope someone else with similar craftsmanship will step up to collaborate with us.

To conclude, I restate that when an act of creation, which produces an object, a concept, a writing or a recipe, there is a slice of the same joy that God experienced when God created the universe, the sky, the sea, the earth, all living creatures, and in God’s own likeness humankind.


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Caring for Our Kids and Our World: First Mennonite Goes Solar

Sometimes I feel trapped, concerned, frustrated and angry about the state of our country’s woefully inadequate response to the massive threat of climate change to our peace, our livelihoods, the beauty that comes with a diverse biosphere and our kids’ – my kids’ – future.   We have the tools we need to meet this challenge many times over; we just lack the collective will.  I care about many issues, but this one probably keeps me up at night the most.  So, I find I need an outlet for all this pent-up negative energy, and I think that is what first made me think about solar at FMC. 

The Creation Care Crew (CCC) met for its first meeting in the spring of 2019.  Marie Harnish, John Marquis, Randy and Ellen Stoesz, Rhonda Talbott, and Bob and Emilie Walson and I came together because we all care about creation care and how our church interacts with this issue.  We first focused our efforts on making recycling easier at church, in addition to reviewing a lot of great creation care work that had already been done at FMC.  But even at our first meeting we discussed the idea of going solar. 

When I first raised the possibility of solar, I have to say, I didn’t think it would go anywhere.  I thought it would be too expensive; there was too much else going on… it just seemed too big.  But why not dream?  Members of the Creation Care Crew wanted to explore it. 

So, we did. John Marquis sought out quotes from different solar installers, and we held several meetings to learn more about other congregations’ efforts with solar.  We explored funding, and learned a lot about the technicalities and benefits related to solar.  After this research, and creating numerous opportunities to share information and get feedback from the congregation, we made the decision to move forward and test the waters with fundraising. 

The response we received was tremendous.  First, all of the members of the CCC pledged contributions that were significant to their own circumstances. Then we began approaching folks within the congregation.  Again, when we started, I didn’t think it was likely that we would be able to raise the full amount to install solar, but as pledge after pledge came in, at levels that clearly showed strong support for funding this project, it gradually became apparent that we were going to reach our goal of nearly $100,000 in pledges.  This fundraising period lasted only about five months.  I remain amazed at the level of support we received and how quickly the funds were received!

The Creation Care Crew collectively care a lot about the issue of climate change, and we turned that caring into leadership and action.  It was by sharing our energy through this leadership that we tapped into the care that others held for this issue as well.  Then we shared in the effort to raise the resources needed to make what started as a dream a reality. 

The panels aren’t on the roof yet, as the permitting process has been slowed due to Covid-19.  But we are well on our way, and we look forward to sharing in a celebration of converting to clean, renewable solar power at First Mennonite Church in the near future.


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Editor’s Note

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have… 

Hebrews 13:16

Caring and Sharing—these basic concepts have long been ringing through our church history and highlighted in Sunday School teachings. If we look at our FMC priorities for the church year, they can be encompassed in the circles of caring for all people and the earth, while sharing honestly with each other and those in need.

This issue of MennoExpressions finds us struggling with ever deeper issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. We have not worshipped together in person inside our church building since March. We long to gather with friends and family, especially for the coming holidays, but know the dangers. Still, we believe there are ways to reach out and show love to our church family, our neighbors, and a troubled world.

Autumn Table [cm]

A special vote of thanks to our technical team and our talented writers who took the time to share their thoughts with all of us, and highlight honest yet encouraging ways that we see caring and sharing bringing comfort and hope despite this dark night of pain and grief. As Mag Richer Smith encouraged us, we continue to voice gratitude, even in days of lament.

To follow are articles sharing accomplishments as we explore new options or consider practical ways to plan for the holidays or put food on our tables. Pause to consider the gift of a different viewpoint through poetry, prayers, and photographs. We trust you will discover inspiration and ponder possibilities for caring and sharing to enrich your life.


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Reflections

This photo was given to me recently, during a change of many seasons– weather, leadership, health, awareness, lives nearing the end and lives just beginning. When I look at this bright-eyed little girl– me, not yet 2 years old– I am immediately struck by the joy and optimism she radiates. She only knows what she has seen. She believes the best in others and that the world is a safe and happy place. But more than that, this child has within her the ability to learn and love and see this imperfect world we live in and make it better. As adults, we may no longer wake up with the cheery innocence of a child, nor should we. But I believe that this little girl’s energy and light still lives within each of us. My hope is that during these seasons of change we can each find a glimpse of the light and hope we held in our hearts as children and take a step toward a brighter world.


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The farm wife makes her Christmas list

Give me sisters and brothers with crockpots full
and running over. A bed piled high with coats

and diaper bags. Leaves to extend the kitchen table.
Thick catalogs to booster seat the kids.

A percolator perking thirty cups as we pass
plates of monster cookies and whoopee pies.

Albums with ancestors solid as their barns.
Battered Rook cards we use to shoot the moon

and dominoes branching in every direction.
Paper snowflakes till strings of hearts

replace them. The old piano we can’t afford
to tune, that gives us our pitch when we sing

“Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,”
the version with echoing alleluias and amens.

Silence washing over us as we wave to the last
car pulling out, side by side like newlyweds.

—Shari Wagner
from The Farm Wife’s Almanac (Cascadia Publishing House)

Red Barn [cm]

The farm wife finds grace in her empty barn

Inside the house, dust is dust,
but here it looks holy, suspended

in slanted light that slips between
boards. Jacob’s ladder could be

rungs to a loft where barn swallows
brush the dark with the curve

of their wings. Every joint is pegged
tight as Noah’s ark, but there’s room

for everyone—nesting sparrows
and mice that scatter from burlap sacks.

When I slide the big door back,
sunlight rushes in to fill the empty bin

where Jesus could be reaching up
to touch black and white faces

gazing down. I like to picture him
swaddled by the breath of cows.

—Shari Wagner
from The Farm Wife’s Almanac (Cascadia Publishing House)


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