A Laboratorian’s View, Narrow as it May Be

When confronted with something or someone unfamiliar to us, we humans may have a variety of reactions. Some of us run the opposite way as fast as we can, probably out of fear or ingrained survival instincts. Others of us run toward the unknown to learn more or get a better look. Perhaps this is a built-in curiosity and eagerness to learn. Or it may be due to an undeveloped or blunted sense of danger. Some of us stand or sit and simply observe. We take in the visual, the auditory, the sensual. We process and react in small increments. Persons watching us may not know which set of reactions is going to turn out to be the best in the long run.

Imagine you are living in the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s while working in a hospital laboratory and also beginning medical school and residency. During this time, you may remember hearing about an unusual disease which at first was thought to only “affect homosexuals, heroin users, hemophiliacs and Haitians.” It seemed to cause swollen lymph nodes and make them susceptible to unusual infections, such as Pneumocystis, Mycobacterium avium, and Cryptosporidium. It also seemed to cause rare cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma and aggressive lymphomas—in young persons!

Many of us were fearful. We were told this was an infection. One that was caused by a virus and was highly contagious. So, we suddenly began wearing gloves while caring for patients. We stopped eating our lunches in the laboratory’s work areas. Many persons also developed biases, especially, against hemophiliacs and gay persons. We did not know if this infection could be transmitted just by touching or kissing, or if it was transmitted only by sexual contact. At this time fear, hatred and stigmatization of gay persons had increased in our society. But we soon saw infections occur in recipients of blood containing this virus and in infants born of women with the virus. How could this be!

By now you are correct if assuming I am referring to human T-lymphotropic virus III, also once known as lymphadenopathy-associated virus and now known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Over time, with many, many, many studies, we have learned a lot about HIV. It turns out merely being gay or a hemophiliac or using drugs does not make us positive for HIV! In reality, the risk of getting HIV was all about behaviors and actions, such as sharing/not sharing intravenous needles, having/not having unprotected sex, being exposed/not being exposed to blood-containing body fluids, etc. How wrong we were about so many aspects of HIV!

Skip ahead to 2020. We hear “virus” until we are either mortified, numb or exhausted from the effort to process what we are hearing, seeing and sensing. Thirty years from now, what beliefs about COVID-19 will still hold up scientifically? Which ones will have been way off the mark? What additional biases and stereotypes that result in human damage will we struggle to counteract? Could it depend on whether we choose to look through a high-powered lens and see only a miniscule field of vision clearly, but miss the broader view? Perhaps using a low-level objective with a wide field of vision is better right now, even if we cannot discern the fine details of what we are seeing? I certainly do not know the answers to these questions. But so far, I have been devoting most of my efforts to observing, absorbing and listening, while not shrinking in fear, not being dangerously cavalier, but always learning as I go.

I encourage you to observe, listen and take inventory of where you are today, into next year and even thirty years from now.

Artwork by Maggie Girard

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Another Viewpoint

The April morning started with my usual brisk walk, a first cup of coffee, reading from Rejoice! and then, “Why isn’t Del up yet, it’s nearly ten o’clock?” So, a bit alarmed, I headed upstairs to find him still in bed saying, “Probably don’t come in here; I’m feeling weird!”

My heart sank. We hadn’t gone out much at all and always with masks and wipes. But here we were! As the days wore on, I became grateful his symptoms weren’t worse. I would gladly mask up and take Del meal trays, then fetch them again. And scrub the bathroom…a lot! I was so thankful that he didn’t chafe at staying upstairs in the bedroom.

In retrospect, I was most concerned about Del getting worse, and didn’t have the time or energy to worry about getting sick myself. I would like to know, though, if I too garnered some antibodies through his ordeal! I remain thankful for restored health.


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Blended Pieces—Patchwork for Today

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

I Thess. 5:11

Beauty can be enhanced by variety and diversity.

Some of our mothers and grandmothers collected remnants of fabric and combined them to create a useful blanket, a work of art, a gift for a new baby, or a donation for someone in need of warmth. Wade’s mother designed a beautiful quilt for us, sewn from colorful leftover scraps that she and my mother had saved. Even now the cherished piece sparks memories of a favorite dress or one of Wade’s childhood shirts. (Yes, we grew up in an era when our mothers sewed most of our clothes.)

And then there are pies… so many pies! More blended bits. We combine tart rhubarb and sweet strawberries, or milk and eggs for smooth custard. Lemon or lime fillings are topped with bland yet beautiful meringue. A fall vegetable becomes a fragrant, spicy, pumpkin dessert. 

In another context, consider the way a stained-glass window is comprised of many fragile shapes, held together to complete a design we can’t imagine until it is framed and illuminated.

All of these varied and unexpected pairings create something unique and valued.

But how does this relate to MennoExpressions?

Back in June, the caring members of our First Mennonite and Shalom team chatted online, trying to forge consensus as we explored topics for this issue. No coffee, tea or Long’s donuts were available to sweeten the process, unless we each indulged alone. We vacillated…

The pandemic, so overarching in our lives, seemed impossible to ignore, but we would prefer something lighter to bring balm to our weariness. 

Perhaps a general discussion of illness and its impact would be less focused, but surely still difficult for writers asked to share.

We also felt a need to show our concern for justice, recognition, and support for people of color around us.

And we wanted art which could inspire or illustrate.

How would we decide?

A reminder that MennoExpressions historically explored and reflected current issues, even when they were fraught with emotion, brought the suggestion that we could encourage contributions relating to any of these topics, or a different focus, and then combine them into a blended issue, a patchwork of reactions and ideas for our days of disarray!

As the mélange of completed pieces and artwork appeared in our email folders, we have been inspired, and gratefully share the hope and encouragement with you, our readers.

O God…Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 63:7


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Remembering Steven McLay

Who was Steven McLay? He was a member of the HSLC (Holy Spirit Led Church) which meets in our building several times a week. Steven cleaned our FMC building for several years. While he worked part-time as custodian, he took two buses to come clean and two buses to return home. He took great pride in his work. We grieve the loss of Steven, who passed away on June 11, 2020, after suffering a stroke. Below are reflections from some FMC members.

By Allen Mast
Whenever I was at FMC and Steven came in, he would always say hi and ask if there was anything he could do for me. One time I had a trash bag going to the dumpster, and he almost demanded that I leave it, insisting he would take it with the other bags later.

By Emilie Walson
I found it very interesting to get to know Steven McLay during his tenure as custodian at FMC. Steven was excited to get the job and did a good job for the church. I enjoyed getting to hear stories about his special feline pets–they were his pride and joy. We nicknamed him Flash because he moved and talked so fast. There were several occasions when Steven joined our staff lunches. This was a time for getting to know Steven better, and I am glad we had those opportunities. We were sorry to see Steven step down and leave FMC.

By Robin Helmuth 
Steven had a broad smile, the widest kind, even though he had few teeth. I never saw Steven when he wasn’t smiling. He always, always, always asked how I was doing and how my family was doing. He was afflicted physically by gastritis and later lymphoma. Steven always put his arm over my shoulder or on my upper back, his way of letting me know he cared about me. I made it a point to thank him for his custodial services at FMC, and he was quick to respond he really liked being part of the staff. There were occasions I regretted not taking more time to learn about Steven and understand his life story more. Steven would nearly always look for me when he saw my Mazda in the parking lot. Yes, Steven’s witness as a loving, smiling, caring child of God will be missed.

By Gaynel Bryan
Steven seemed to be a self-sufficient man. Often very happy, he was totally focused on doing a good job. On the personal side, the loves of his life were his cats. To the end, he would cheerfully share photos of them. I would often share my lunch with him because he would always come through the offices around lunch time and say, “Are you eating again?” It was a joke between us. One of the things I kept trying to impress on him was to slow down when he talked. He would speak a mile-a-minute, and I just couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I’d have to ask him to repeat what he just said, but slower, please. He would laugh and try his best to speak slower. It was a sad day for me when he stopped working here. I will miss his blaring speaker playing hymns while he cleaned, and his coming through the office to pick up trash right at lunch time, and his visits to show and tell me about his little fur babies. I will miss him.

Artwork by Maggie Girard

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Yes, We’re the Church Together!

“I am the church. You are the church. We are the church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world, yes, we’re the church together!”

I remember singing these words in my childhood Sunday school class. This little song also included lyrics about how the church is not a building. The church is made up of people. At the time, I don’t think that made much sense to me. What did the song mean that “The church is not a building”? Didn’t we get up every Sunday and go to church? And what did it mean that the church is made of people? Even a little kid knows that you can’t build things out of people!

I’ve been thinking about that song a lot lately as we’ve been unable to meet in our church buildings. Can we still have church if we can’t go to church? I believe that the answer is yes. Yes, we’re the church together!

One of my favorite parts of church is the sense of belonging to a community. As members of the community we grieve together, we celebrate together, we help each other. When my faith is weak and I feel far from God, it can be so healing and refreshing to gather with other believers who can help strengthen my faith and remind me of God’s love. 

Over the past several months, many of us have had to change the ways that we gather and connect with our communities. Right now, for me, going to church means sitting down in my living room and opening my laptop. It’s better than nothing, but it sure isn’t the same as going to a building, greeting others with hugs or handshakes, singing together, and being physically near each other as we worship and pray and learn from God’s Word. 

But just because going to church looks different right now, that doesn’t mean that being the church has to look different. We can still grieve together, celebrate together, and help each other. Surely the Creator who knitted our very bodies together can knit together the Body of Christ even while we are physically apart! Although we cannot gather in the same room, we have not abandoned each other, and God has not abandoned us. Perhaps now, more than ever, we can practice being the church for each other. We may have to be creative, but there are still so many ways for us to show God’s love to each other and the whole world. All who follow Jesus, all around the world, yes, we’re the church together!

Fear Not by Maggie Machledt Girard
Artwork by Maggie Girard

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Statements of Solidarity and Support for Racial Justice

A reflection

In these last few months, as we have struggled with COVID19, people across the world have experienced what it feels like to be constantly vigilant to threats. We have seen other people approaching and feeling ourselves worried that they could endanger us. We have been restricted in what we can do, where we can go, and who we can see. We have worried for the lives of our families and friends. We have felt economic hardship. We have felt the accumulated stress in our bodies, in our dreams, in our moods, and in our relationships.

Yet, this feeling of constant vigilance is only new for some of us. Many people of color have felt the stress of constant vigilance throughout their lives… Wondering if today they will have to withstand more dismissive, belittling, or degrading remarks. Wondering if their simple presence in a neighborhood will lead to a call to the police. Wondering if they will be stopped while doing something perfectly normal. Wondering if their interaction with law enforcement will leave them dead.

It all-too-often leads to death. Even when it does not, this vigilance takes a toll on the body, mind, and soul. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

– Todd Grotenhuis


A confession

We have been complicit in the continuation of racial divide. We have contributed to the pain of our Black and Brown sisters and brothers. We listen but we don’t hear. We name the need for change, but we don’t do the work. We contribute to the pain of generations by our assumptions, our trite words, our fragility and our privilege.

– Mary Liechty


An example

I have lived most of my life in a white bubble. Learning about racial injustices always got me fired up in a cerebral way growing up, but I never felt it in the marrow of my bones on a daily basis. I never asked my friends of color how I could walk beside them or what their experiences might be like. I never sought out resources or educated myself on racial injustice in immediate, tangible ways. That time is over. I now strive to live my life and raise my family in an ANTI-RACIST fashion. This means using my voice, my resources, my social connections, my job, and my white privilege to NAME white supremacy and actively work to dismantle it. It is uncomfortable, overwhelming at times, and there is ALWAYS more to know. I am learning to embrace this discomfort, lick my privileged wounds, and move forward. Doing nothing, or just feeling sad, is no longer palatable. 

– Carla Schmid


A call to action

If we at First Mennonite Church Indianapolis want to be Christ…ians, we need to teach what Jesus taught and model our lives after how Jesus lived his life. White supremacy and racism maintains that people of color are inferior to white people and don’t deserve to have equal roles, resources or opportunities in American society. This is the polar opposite of what Jesus taught when he was on earth. Jesus didn’t spend his time and energy trying to accumulate power and wealth; neither did he attempt to exert his will or control over others. Jesus taught that the last- the oppressed, the weak and the poor- shall be first, and the first- the powerful and the rich- shall be last. This suggests that not only did Jesus favor justice and equality for people of color, but that he favored positions of power for them. To walk in the path of Jesus, white Christians must be in the forefront of helping to create a societal structure in America that provides for an equal sharing of power, resources and opportunities with people of color. This is a challenge for white American Christians, as it is never easy to let go of power and resources you already have in your possession. Yet, this giving away, this giving up for the benefit of others, is the way of Christ, the way of the cross.

– Paul Hartman


A prayer

May we learn to listen and be present with those who are speaking their stories, recognizing the complexity of each individual. 

May we fully receive the anger, frustration and sadness that we must hear. 

May we respond in ways that both amplify Black and Brown voices and challenge white voices when they excuse or deflect the daily violence perpetrated on people of color. 

May we reject leaders who incite hatred through the language of violence. 

May we recognize the trajectory of racial inequity in this country and beyond. 

May we insist on systemic change.

May we own and name the bias in ourselves and speak it, every day. 

In Jesus name.

– Mary Liechty

First Mennonite Church Seeks a Full-Time Pastor

FIRST MENNONITE CHURCH Indianapolis, IN is seeking a full-time pastor with strong preaching skills, experience and maturity to work as part of a pastoral team. We follow MCUSA salary and benefit guidelines and are located in a large, thriving city. Full job description is available here or at MCUSA pastoral positions.

Contact Robin Helmuth, search committee chair at email hidden; JavaScript is required

What If…

For some 500 years Mennonites have differentiated themselves by adhering to some fundamental beliefs. No one belief by itself makes Mennonites different, but taken as a whole they certainly can claim a unique status. Among these basic principles are the priesthood of all believers, separation of church and state, simplicity of life-styles, not swearing an oath, belief that community is both vertical and horizontal, that the Bible is central, adherence to believer’s baptism, and abstaining from military service. While these principles do not mention it specifically, Mennonites have attempted to live out those principles with practical service.

It appears that during the Coronavirus epidemic people are even more willing to serve by offering to help, checking in on neighbors, or planning to help once out from under the restrictions.

So what is the What if…? Service is innate to most Mennonites. What if rather than responding to government-offered alternatives to the draft, what if Mennonites would volunteer for such service – even when no draft is existence. What if Mennonites of drafting age would show up at conscription centers and announce that they are here to help in any way needed, as long as they were not asked to carry weapons? Without weapons these volunteers might even choose to put on the military uniform if a peace emblem prominently displayed. What a wonderful opportunity this would be to pass out tracts about the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7), to participate in evening discussions, and, in case of war, volunteering for go to the dangerous front lines aiding wounded soldiers!

The military might understandably be doubtful, shocked, even suspicious, but eventually might slowly adopt a new mode of thinking, and, in some cases, even become converts. What if we were bold enough to try this new way of evangelizing? I believe the world might take notice.


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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

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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