We Will Overcome

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.

Hebrews 6:19

Help each other bear your burdens! In this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2
By Dorothea Lange – Public domain

We resonate with the image of this depression-era young mother who was looking for hope. She was destitute; she was looking for work, how could she feed her many children, and what will tomorrow bring?

In this COVID-19 time we too are looking for hope. We are looking for hope that our friends and family will be well. We are looking for hope that those most needy will be comforted. We are grateful for all the good deeds performed by our friends and neighbors; kindness is indeed contagious; and we are looking for a solution for this mysterious virus sweeping the world; we are looking for hope that the future will be bright.

It is curious that this challenge comes as we celebrate 100 years of MCC, whose slogan is to serve “In the name of Christ.” There has been a rather extensive discussion among the MennoExpressions board and writers how to structure this edition: some said to postpone it, some said it did not matter to them, some said to publish a special issue, and some said it would be best to have an opening statement, then proceed as planned.

And it was pointed out that during this self-imposed quarantine it will be good to have some celebratory reading. We will overcome!

Before continuing to read, do take a moment, go to YouTube, and listen to Yo-Yo Ma playing a J. S. Bach suite, and/or a version of your choice of “We Shall Overcome.”

Do share with us your hopes and fears.


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Obituaries

James W. Sauder, a long-time member of First Mennonite Church, died March 4, 2020 at the age of 74. A native of Wauseon, OH, he came to Indianapolis in 1965 to fulfill his I-W duties (alternative service) and then chose to stay in the city. Married to his wife Judy for 53 years they had two children Mark and Christen.  He worked as a bookkeeper, a bus driver, and his consuming hobby was singing in barbershop quartets. He was awarded Barbershopper of the year in 1997; and in 2019 received his 50 year membership pin in Salt Lake City. Condolences to the family.

Jim will be remembered for his happy-go-lucky outlook on life, his laughter, his fun-loving interaction with anyone he came in contact with, and his faithful attendance at FMC.

Scott Hood, 30, son of Gloria and Mike Hood of FMC, passed away suddenly on March 23. Scott was baptized at FMC, lived in Chicago, California, and in 2019 moved back to Indianapolis. A celebration of his life will be scheduled after the pandemic passes. Condolences to the family.  Please remember the family as you listen to this music.

 


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My Connection to Missions

My parents were called to serve the Mennonite Church in Bragado, Argentina in 1961. I was four years old at the time, and went on to grow up in that small community of 30,000 people, in which there was only one other American family. The school system was very good, and hence I was not sent away to a boarding school like other MK’s (missionary kids), but rather attended schools locally, all in Spanish. My parents (Earl and Genny), my younger siblings (David and Donita) and I, fully integrated into the local community. Because of this total immersion, I learned Spanish at a very young age. I dressed, acted and talked like all of my friends, though they did know that I was “American”. We returned to the US when I was 16, when the church in Bragado called local pastors to continue the work that was started by missionaries 50 years before. We served under the Mennonite Board of Missions (Elkhart), which in 2002 became Mennonite Mission Network.

Though I have not served in long term assignments like my parents, I have worked at a Christian hospital in India, participated in medical mission trips to Senegal and Paraguay, and a building project in Puerto Rico. More recently, my life-long interest in serving others, both at home and abroad, made me receptive to an invitation by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to join a fundraising team for the “New hope in the name of Christ” campaign. The timing coincided with the celebration of the 100 year history of MCC, which began in 1920.

Art by Annabella Habegger

Did you know that MCC is now supported and sponsored by many Anabaptist denominations? It is exciting that a large group of believers is working together to address worldwide needs.  The work focuses on three areas: relief (responding to disasters), development (improving education, clean water, sustainable crops, etc.) and peace (building peaceful communities). Because of the great work being done by MCC, I gladly accepted the invitation to help support the campaign, and hopefully assure that this work can continue for another century.

We formed a team of six people from the Great Lakes Region of MCC (IN, MI, OH, IL) and began meeting in people’s homes during 2019. I am so grateful for FMC families that opened their homes to us during the silent phase off the campaign. This groundwork was necessary to launch a successful public phase of the campaign which has now begun in 2020.

The goal of the “New hope in the name of Christ” campaign is to raise 100 million dollars over a three year period. The money will be used for the ongoing operating expenses of MCC, in addition to supporting new programs and increasing the size of the existing endowment. This seems like a very lofty goal, and indeed it is. How can we respond? In addition to praying for the work of MCC, we can renew our commitment to support the ongoing work, increase our giving to help support new programs, or include MCC in our estate planning. We are very excited that the campaign is off to a great start. If you would like further information, please feel free to visit https://mcc.org/centennial/new-hope or reach out to me. And thank you for your support of MCC.


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About the artist

Annabella Habegger

Annabella Habegger is an artist living and working in Indianapolis. She graduated from IU Bloomington with a BFA in Digital Art. She enjoys exploring all types of media, often combining drawing with other materials.

Service While Standing Still

I grew up spending many days at Aunt Lucy’s house. In Lucy’s room there was a bulletin board with a large heading: “THINE FOR SERVICE,” and as a nurse, a children’s Sunday School teacher, a neighbor, a friend, and certainly as an aunt, Lucy lived out that motto more than anyone I knew.

Mag with her Aunt Lucy

As a child I remember Edna Ruth Byler, the founder of MCC’s self help ministry, bringing her trunk-load of mother of pearl jewelry (actually only pins) and Palestinian needlecraft into our living room and setting up shop for a few days. And there was Grandma, in her 90’s, hunched over her sewing machine, still piecing comforters for Mennonite Central Committee. That field trip I took to the city to shop for items for MCC Christmas Bundles was an annual highlight.

And my college education had a motto: “Culture for Service.”

Being a Mennonite-Anabaptist has meant looking for ways to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and shelter the destitute.  Following Jesus has meant looking out for the needs of others, as much as we look out for ourselves, and “THINE FOR SERVICE” has meant, in addition to our own daily arenas of service, supporting our sisters and brothers who are doing the hands-on, front -line action in all areas of the world.

As I write this, service in the Kingdom of God now includes social isolation, considering the needs of others and doing our small part in flattening the curve of spreading a virus. “Looking to the needs of others“ means walling up, staying home and standing still. This is NOT the kind of service we have known before.

Art by Annabella Habegger

So I am reminded of Darryl Byler’s father. Darryl, the long-time director of MCC Washington Office, shared in a sermon some years ago about his dad’s lifetime of active ministry. But near the end of his life, Darryl’s dad became a shut-in, and was stymied, not knowing NOW how to be useful in serving others. But then he began sending a note of encouragement to a different person each day. At his death, it was not his many years of active ministry that people were remembering, but it was those notes that became his lasting legacy.

There is a quote from MJ Sharp written on of a large vat in the Goshen Brew Company:  “We can always listen.”  MJ began his work in the CONGO with Mennonite Central Committee and then continued to work there under the auspices of the United Nations.  As many of you know, MJ and his colleague were abducted and murdered as they worked for peace among warring factions. Reporters from the New York Times and NPR describe MJ sitting under a banana tree with a warlord, listening to his story, offering alternative ways of meeting his goals. Over the course of several years, MJ and his team persuaded some 1,600 rebels to lay down their weapons, which impacted some 23,000 family members. Profound change and greater peace came from sitting still under a banana tree, listening.

In these days of being walled up and shut in “We can always listen.” We can listen to each other’s heart-cries. And we can listen to a SPIRIT OF PEACE that enables us to be bearers of peace to others. We can listen to a SPIRIT whose LOVE is larger than all our fears, We can attend to a SPIRIT who is creative and imaginative and offers us new ministry opportunities, when we stand still enough to listen. 

“THINE FOR SERVICE” does not stop when we stop our regular routines.  Always, always there are ways to reach out to those in need, to be of encouragement to one another and to keep those on the front lines (especially our health care workers and the MCC workers who are serving the most vulnerable) bathed and undergirded with our resources, prayers, and creativity.

LISTEN!


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About the artist

Annabella Habegger

Annabella Habegger is an artist living and working in Indianapolis. She graduated from IU Bloomington with a BFA in Digital Art. She enjoys exploring all types of media, often combining drawing with other materials.

The Bumps in the Road

Facts: My wife Lisa and I served with MCC starting in June 1994 for a three year term in Zambia. We served on a catholic mission where there was a school and hospital in the “bush”. I was a math teacher and Lisa was a nurse. We both worked in our respective profession with the Zambian’s at St. Joseph Mission in the copper belt of Zambia. We returned to the US earlier than expected in May 1995.

There is so much more than Facts. So much so that I will say the experiences we had in Zambia made us better people, made us more caring, made us have a better marriage.

We arrived in Zambia not knowing much at all about Africa. We found a lot of hardships. The poorness of the people, the rough living conditions, the lack of jobs available, the scarcity of medical facilities and supplies, and schooling children was financially out of reach and many had to travel great distances to attend.

But, with all of the hardships, the people were kind, caring, willing to help.  I loved playing soccer with all the children every Sunday afternoon. I started to plant a couple of banana trees in the front yard of our house only to have many people come over and dig for me. Lisa enjoyed her walks and sitting around talking with the other Zambian nurses. Lisa and I did everything together! No friends to talk to. No phones within 30 miles. No internet all! Our relationship became stronger.

But there were a lot of bumps in the road as we experienced our Zambia service. And when I say bumps, I literally mean horrible roads. Every road, every interstate had major crater problems that were unavoidable. With all these decrepit road problems, Lisa’s back problems came back in a vengeance. She needed back surgery. She was pregnant with Marie. We made the tough decision to end our MCC assignment earlier then we wanted.

Our bumps in the road changed to more challenges. Coming back in May, I could not find a teaching job. We didn’t know where we were going to live. Lisa was unable to work. I felt empty for not completing an assignment I signed up for. We felt we let our Zambian friends down, but we had no choice.

Lisa and I took these bumps and moved forward. The lack of finding a teaching job led me to the financial services industry. We have found ways to help the poor and marginalized. We have instilled a sense of volunteerism in Marie and Nolan. We have tried to look at ways to connect with foreigners.

We are so happy we went to Zambia. We are so happy we had bumps in the road to make us come back early. We are so happy that our life bumps has lead us to the places we have lived and the experiences that made us better.

Listen to God’s call. Be open to change. Take risks. Work through disappointments. And enjoy the life you have.


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MennoExpressions Volume 33, No. 2 | Spring 2020

Articles in this Issue

We Will Overcome by the MennoExpressions Editorial Board

Service While Standing Still by Mag Richer Smith

What If… by Erv Boschmann 

A New Way of Seeing by Carla Schmid

The Bumps in the Road by Kevin Schloneger

Leprosy, foreign languages and new cultures by Heidi Boschmann Amstutz

My Connection to Missions by Doug Schwartzentruber

Sewing Seeds of Service by JB Miller

A Year of Growth and Giving by Karla Hovde

Expanding Horizons by Carol Mullet

Obituaries by Erv Boschmann

MCC: Receiving by Giving

“It is in giving that we receive” – St Francis of Assisi

“They who lose their lives shall find them” – Jesus of Nazareth

While much of the MCC centenary celebration is focused on the untold millions who were the fortunate recipients of MCC, this article concentrates on the benefits that accrued to the MCC and it’s constituency. 

MCC helped the constituency pushing back old boundaries

In 1920 the North American Mennonite constituency consisted mostly of persons of Europeans ancestry. They were hard working, God-fearing people, living mostly in rural enclaves. Many were first or second generation immigrants. Their world was small and simple. On Sundays, these large families gathered in modest but functional church buildings where many still sang from German hymnals and were ministered to by devout but untrained preachers.

MCC was essentially in recess in the decade of the 1930s. It had neither a permanent staff nor a headquarters. The office moved from Scottdale, PA, to Akron, PA, in 1935 when Orie O. Miller was named Executive Secretary.

As the decade of the 30s was coming to a close, Mennonites began to feel threatened by war clouds in Europe that culminated in WW II. That was a watershed moment. To populate the armies needed to fight this two-front war, the Selective Service System was brought into being. It’s long arm reached into these rural communities and found draft age men who refused to participate in the military. They were assigned to camps strategically scattered across Canada and the United States in a program known as Civilian Public Service, administered by MCC. 

Following WWII, and MCC’s robust feeding and resettlement programs, MCC was catapulted into an internationally known organization. 

The Mennonite map was redrawn. In the next decade the historic Mennonite “capitals,” like Mountain Lake, MN; Marion, SD; Meade, KS; as well as areas in Canada such as Coaldale, Alberta and Swift Current, Sask, etc, became hollowed-out. Concurrently, the urban option ushered in church plants in cities such as Indianapolis, IN; Topeka, KS; Denver, CO; Cincinnati, OH and New York City.

So it was that, completely unintended, but guided by God’s invisible hand, MCC participated in reshaping and modernizing the North American Anabaptist world. 

MCC’s role in inter Mennonite cooperation

Yet another unintended consequence of MCC’s sudden appearance was its role in inter Mennonite relationships. North American Mennonites have never been one homogeneous body. The Swiss migration began already in the late 1600s, followed 150 years later by an influx from Russia. Within Russia they came from many different villages. The Mountain Lake, MN, community, for example, came from more than 50 Russian villages. They eventually organized themselves into 9 semi independent congregations representing 3 conferences.

Both streams, upon arriving on these shores, were attracted to good land in the Midwest expanse, but there was little or no coordination between the two bodies. In some cases, they did not even know that the other existed.

In 1940 their quiet way of life was interrupted by the draft to man the Army to fight WW II. There was no provision to exempt conscientious objectors from participation in the military. The scattered Mennonite communities had no mechanism through which to make a united appeal. In a search for options, someone recalled that Central Committee through which they had helped their brothers and sisters suffering in Russia. So it was that through MCC, joined by the Quakers and the Church of the Brethren, the Civilian Public Service was brought into existence. Administered by MCC, more than 5,000 men served their alternate service through this program.

The miracle of MCC is that this scattered, diverse constituency became acquainted with each other while serving side-by-side in MCC in behalf of a needy world. It set the stage for more inter Mennonite activity to follow.  

MCC’s role in educating its constituency

William T. Snyder, MCC’s longest serving Executive Secretary, was fond of saying, “MCC is not a check writing organization. Its first medium is not money; it is workers.” This philosophy made MCC programs lean on budget and rich in personnel. At its peak MCC had more than 550 workers on assignment, most of them drawn from its constituency. After serving 2-or 3-year terms, this stream of MCC alumni enriched the congregations to which they returned. 

It is a partial answers to the question outsiders ask, “How is that a constituency so urbane has become so global in its reach and awareness?”

Thus it was that MCC service, along with other influences, played a major role in helping the historically insular North American Mennonite churches to make the transition to the 21st century, while adhering to its Anabaptist roots.

Ah yes, Jesus and St. Francis had it right. By sharing generously of treasure and talent, by opening itself to the needs of a hurting world, God has seen fit to use MCC to help the Mennonite Church reach out to a needy world while itself being born again. God be praised.

Reflecting on Service

I was asked to write a reflection on service. It is proving one of my most difficult assignments. The more I think about it, the more questions arrive. Who is serving whom? Is the power differential poisoning the effort? Is this the right approach? Service in a church context vs service in a Christian context vs service in a secular context? Military service? Public service? My experiences of various service have raised these questions and more.

I once “served” on a church-based Appalachian housing project. A team of middle class mostly professionals from Indianapolis went to somewhere in the economically and educationally trampled Appalachian area and spent a week building and repairing houses. We had quite a bit interaction with local folks. We had a good time working in fair weather. It was kind of a lark. I wonder what the local folks thought and felt about the invasion of do gooders? There were many teams through there that summer.

Service often is pretty much like work in any organization. Sometimes we find ourselves working on a seriously flawed project or one with predictable bad outcomes – and we have to ask “What happens if I just walk away from this? Will that make it any better or worse?

Volunteering on Habitat projects, I found myself working on houses for people with disabilities in a setting where several such houses were clustered together creating a small disability ghetto in an impoverished section of the community. The right thing to do? Folks needed the housing. The Habitat organization was unwittingly exercising a kind power over those they were serving by creating a limited (probably unavoidable) choice of neighborhood.

Sometimes I find myself working with leadership that have the same flaws as we find in the everyday work environment, flaws that make the situation unpleasant and may have a negative effect on the project or the people served. Well, what did I expect? Sometimes I find myself questioning the motives of fellow volunteers. That is usually time for me to check my own.

 A “service” project involved writing a solid grant proposal for a volunteer organization that insisted on presenting it to a funder who had rejected a previous proposal. The funder told them not to come back until they met certain conditions that the applicant refused to meet. The organization was a basically good one and we wrote a proposal that would serve well when they used it properly.

I will soon be involved in aiding a community of immigrant agricultural workers. I struggle with this. How do I show/live out my respect for them in this situation? I come into their community from across barriers of language and money. The food and clothing we bring are banners of those barriers. The situation unavoidably creates a social power dynamic with the “server” having greater power than the “served.” When I served in a kitchen for disadvantaged folks, I answered that question by simply saying to myself “They’re hungry. I fill the plate. They eat. We leave and get on with our lives. It is not great, but they are less hungry today.”

Maybe that is the approach I should take in Immokalee. If we deliver to the center quietly, leave the truckloads of goods and go, we will have done a service. It may be the best we can do this day. On the other hand, what if we get into extensive interactions with the folks we seek to serve? Do you see the paradox? How do we assure dignity for those served without assuming the power that cancels that dignity?

Which brings me to public service, civil, military, political. I have worked in civil and military service, finding no one who considered themselves servants. Most are just trying to do the best they can to go forward in life and make a living and see some good happen in the world where the work. They serve without obeisance but with hope for positive change in the face of great frustration. When people spoke to me of the good work I was doing in civil service, I always replied that I loved my work but could not do it if I did not get paid, always trying to maintain perspective.

I have written previously in MennoExpressions about military service. I only say here that throughout the history of the “civilized” world, the young and strong are conscripted (openly or subtly) to carry out war. The winning sides have momentary celebrations of the returning “heroes” followed by various means of making them disappear. Underneath it all I suspect we are subconsciously afraid of the people we have required to do our killing.

In political service there has always been the question of who is serving whom. Sometimes we like the answer. Sometimes not.

Finally, the most important service, personal. Here is where all the questions and ambiguities become most incarnate, most glorious and most painful. I have done personal care at different levels for both family and non-family. It takes so many forms that much of it goes unnoticed by the servant. You give someone a ride, kneel for a conversation with someone in a chair, run for the juice when the blood sugar drops, just sitting by, listening, leaving for work an hour early to drive a guy in an accessible van to his work, learning to clear a trach, changing adult diapers, cleaning up in the midst of another person’s embarrassment. You will find yourself doing it when you are both irritated, when you have already put in a full week, when you can’t quit because there is no one else to do it.

Our church in Florida has a next-door neighbor who hated the church and spoke out against any effort to modify, expand or otherwise enhance the place. When he fell last year and began to use a wheelchair, our folks built a ramp for his front entrance. When I told John Hofstetter about this he replied “Oh, Mennonite revenge.” If you can still find a copy, I recommend the movie MY LEFT FOOT. It is a real-life story of a person with a major physical disability who is also obnoxious in various ways and hard to deal with. I am trying to say personal service is often HARD.

I have often found myself confused when attempting to be of service to others. When I was younger I usually did not realize when I was serving myself more than the one served, when the service was more about me feeling good or when my ego initiated a service that was not requested and may not have been wanted. Now I do what comes to be done, try to be respectful and carry the questions, live with ambiguity and paradox.

Mel Swartzentruber’s Legacy

“Leaving a legacy means being remembered for what you want to be remembered for.” Google definition. Service is Mel Swartzentruber’s legacy. He will be remembered for being a kind and gentle God loving man who performed innumerable service projects during his 65-year stay at First Mennonite Church of Indianapolis (FMC). It’s estimated that he performed at least one service project every week that he was at FMC.

Service; that’s Mel’s legacy. Services of all kinds to FMC, to neighbors, with Mennonite Disaster Services, for Habitat for Humanity and to anyone who needed help. He did carpentry, cabinet building, painting, fixing anything that’s broken, maintenance of facilities or machinery, grounds keeping, snow removal, construction and construction supervision, locksmithing, and much more. Anywhere you look around FMC you see his handiwork. For example, the kiosk in the Fellowship Hall was a creation of Mel’s. He was a part of the crews that built the first FMC building as well as the current building and the 2009 addition.

Mel was born April 2, 1930, to an Amish family in southern Indiana near Montgomery. There would eventually be 14 children in the family, Mel is the third from the oldest. His father was a blacksmith who had a shop to repair buggies and harnesses as well as a hardware store that served the Amish community. Mel remembers his family performing services in the Amish community especially to families with newborn infants. The women would prepare meals and the men would do men’s chores as needed. “Just like we do today”, Mel states.

Along with two sisters Mel began attending the Mennonite church as a teenager. That’s where he met Mary Graber who would become his wife on October 11, 1952. In the summer of 1953, they moved to Indianapolis so Mel could complete his two-year Voluntary Service commitment at Methodist Hospital. Then he spent 23 years doing home construction before returning to Methodist Hospital where he directed the locksmithing crew until he retired in 1996. Mel and Mary have three children: Keith, Lynette and Sheila. Mel and Mary now live in Illinois.

“I praise the Lord for all the opportunities and abilities he gave me. Without Him I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I did. When we pair up with God there is a lot we can do.” One of his favorite Bible verses is “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths” Proverb 3:6.

Top Ten Reason to Serve

  1. Learn from others.
  2. Learn about yourself.
  3. Learn humility; you may need it someday.
  4. If you wait until the time is perfect, you will never serve.
  5. Because you want to.
  6. In serving, you will be blessed.
  7. Set an example for other generations. 
  8. It is what we are called to do. 
  9. It is much more difficult to be served than it is to serve.
  10. You will want to serve again!