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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Reservoir Winter

I was awakened from my morning sleep by the red shouldered hawk

Shrieking and piercing my dream, ending the reverie with harsh abruptness.  

 

Compelled, I peeked out of the window to see the source, now gone, 

My eye drawn to the frozen lake below, half looking for her through the treetops. 

The chickadee, the downy and their various competitors skirted around the branches.

Geese and mallards lounged on and around a break in the ice.

 

Perhaps a coyote would be stalking her way to them over the water now hardened by days of frozen air.

The fox family who lives nearby might be foraging in the ravine, rust against white snow. 

Could the eagle be out for a morning glide? 

 

A day with possibility begins with thanks to the Maker for this display of nature,

And thanks to the hawk, for the call to observe.    

 

The reservoir in winter 2020

        


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Editor’s Note

Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.


Romans 12:2 (CEB)

Pondering a theme for this most unusual year, the MennoExpressions team observed that the pandemic continues to transform our lives in myriad ways. However, in exploring our topic, it is clear that even in more ordinary times, if those exist, the changes and progressions in life and nature around us continue a never-ending metamorphosis.    

Amazingly, flour, yeast and water can be blended and heated to create bread—a fragrant and delicious miracle.  Tiny tadpoles wiggle and grow as they sprout legs and finally jump from their pond as frogs. Fuzzy chicks peck their way out of an egg.  And a piece of lumber cut from a tree, can be transformed into a beautiful and useful new door, when the artist is skilled and diligent! 

As spring gains traction over winter, bulbs, bushes and trees awaken and bring color and fragrance to our yards and gardens. In Japan, celebrations accompany the bursts of cherry blossoms and include a special time of Hanami, or “flower viewing.” Friends and family gather outside to feast and drink under the trees, as they marvel at the transformation of barren branches into scented pink clouds in a floral sky.

This spring issue features photos and stories highlighting our FMC high school seniors, who are to be celebrated for perseverance as they complete their unique year! College and post graduate students will be awarded degrees, and receive congratulations on their years of diligent study! The pandemic transformations in education have been consequential for teachers and students, so we have included views into the experiences of children, as well as university professors.

Magnolia tree in bloom

Our writers share remembrances and images of family gardens, deep ancestral ties, and changes to life and cooking.  Looking back at winter thoughts of an icy reservoir accentuates the vernal changes as snowy days melt away. The promise of rebirth in the world around us is a metaphor for the joy and hope found in the resurrection of Jesus after the dark days and hard ground of Lent. To God be the Glory.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever!

Psalm 118: 1

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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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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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Discovering Unexpected Gifts

As we approach the holidays, many of us are facing questions and thinking about how we gather with family and friends to celebrate safely in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and election year politics.  The holidays are a source of stress in ordinary years due to some of the following reason: memories of the past, too much to do in too little time, financial stress, pressure to have the “perfect” holiday, weather, poor eating and drinking choices, cultural bombardment (Christmas music in stores and decorations starting after Halloween) and pressure to do unwanted activities.  Bereavement, loss, loneliness and separation from support systems can all intensify holiday stress.  Covid-19 has created a sense of loss and bereavement for some among us, while feelings of loneliness and being separated from our support systems may also impact our holiday planning and spirit this year.  The pandemic has also created an opportunity to prioritize what is most important, and the holidays are no different.

This is the year to reevaluate our holiday celebrations and focus on the activities that create a sense of meaning for ourselves and our family in the chaos and uncertainty of 2020.  Below are some questions to consider as you plan for the upcoming holidays. Perhaps they can help you discover a sense of meaning, yet decrease some stressors of the holiday season.  They are by no means an exhaustive list, but could be an opportunity to start a conversation. 

  • What is most important to you during this holiday season?
  • What enhances the meaning of the holidays for you?
  • What takes away from the meaning of the holidays for you?
  • What holiday tradition or activity is most important to you?
  • Are there traditions and activities you are doing just because you always have—or your family always has?
  • What is your greatest fear about this holiday season?
  • What is a new holiday activity or tradition you would like to try this year?
  • What are your expectations of yourself this year?
  • What do you see as others’ expectations of you during the holiday season?
  • What is something that you could do for yourself to cope with the challenges of the holidays this year?

Communicating changes to holiday traditions and routines is a critical component of navigating this process.  Try to build in as much flexibility and creativity as possible and look for opportunities for forgiveness, healing and reconnection this holiday season.  Perhaps, the unexpected gift of 2020 is rediscovering the “holy” in Holiday.


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Home Sweet Home Pivots, Surpasses Fundraising Goals to Help Families

Snow!  The first planning meeting of the 2020 Home Sweet Home committee had to be virtual because of a snowstorm in February. One of the committee members even said, “This will be our biggest challenge of the year.” If only. Let’s take a look at how Family Promise’s main fundraiser did a major pivot during the pandemic to continue funding hope, help and home for families without shelter.

First, a bit of background on this fundraising event:

  • For more than 20 years, Home Sweet Home has taken place to celebrate Family Promise volunteers and raise funds to help every child have a home.
  • The 2019 event sent records with more than $100,000 in donations and 400 people in attendance.
  • A dedicated committee of volunteers from half a dozen congregations puts together this event that includes a silent auction, wine pull, dessert auction and volunteer recognition, with numerous event sponsors.
  • We honor the IHN Coordinator of the Year, Family Promise Volunteer of the Year, and the highest honor of the Dean Lindsey Lifetime Achievement Award.

So 2020……

When the world shut down, the committee continued meeting via Zoom to come up with Plan B, C and D.  We settled on a “hybrid” approach of three, socially distanced sessions in person, as well as livestream for those at home.  Would it work?

YES!

God is good and so many were faithful donors to make the night a success!  We raised $98,500 which far surpassed our modified goal of $50,000. The testimony of three former guests reinforced how Family Promise makes a difference in helping families find homes.  You can read success stories by linking here.

Take a look at photos from the night here as well as read more information on how supporters safely and creatively supported the cause.

Thanks to so many from First Mennonite and Shalom who support Family Promise!

Kenda talking with Troy Washington of Channel 6 at Home Sweet Home

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