Milestones: Spring/Summer 2022

Elvin Plank retired in April from Indiana Health Centers where he was CEO and President. Elvin served many years in healthcare.

In May, Elvin and Lisa Plank celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary.

Erv and Priscilla Boschmann will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on August 17th!

Jana Miller retired from teaching at the end of the school year after 36 years in the classroom.

Moving to a different home has been a big transition and a lot of work for both of these couples. You can find their new addresses in the church directory.

  • Allen and Cindy Mast
  • Paul and Ethel Hartman

Marita Miller, daughter of Michael and Jana Miller, was married to Jason Illescas on May 28 at FMC. They currently live in Indianapolis. Marita is a physical therapist in the wound center at IU Health-Methodist. Jason is in flight school with the Lyft program to become a commercial pilot.


Milestones is a new feature to help our church family keep in touch.  We would love to feature your news. Please send it to Gaynel at the church office (email hidden; JavaScript is required) or Carol Mullet. (email hidden; JavaScript is required)


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Top 10 Terms Learned Via the Race to Upgrade the Memory Garden

Take the mix and match quiz below this blurb! Some of the matched answers are real and some have “looser” connections. Send your answers to me at email hidden; JavaScript is required or put them in my mailbox by July 10th. Of all perfect scores, a random one will be drawn for you to have ice cream from Graeter’s! Mmm, good!

The reason for this Top 10 is to acknowledge the countless hours of imagining, planning, meeting, and working performed by the entire Memory Garden Committee, plus additional volunteers.

Planning and Visioning

  • discussing our purpose
  • setting goals
  • revising periodically
  • embracing the process

Committee Meetings

  • settings dates/times
  • preparing agendas and sending e-vites
  • meetings, meetings, meetings
  • meeting minutes and follow-up

Physical Design and Layout of Garden

  • picking professionals
  • off-site meetings with professionals
  • meeting design architects and landscapers on site
  • determining the best matches for our vision
  • being flexible due to supply chain and labor issues

Keeping the Congregation Informed

  • First Things First
  • MennoExpressions articles
  • one-on-one conversations
  • Sunday morning sharing
  • visual displays in Fellowship Hall

Projecting Costs and Paying for Plantings and Materials

  • getting advice from others with experience
  • selecting and establishing fundraisers
  • promoting the fundraisers
  • giving thanks to the donors

Continuing the Work

  • bulbs and amaryllis sales
  • stones for paths
  • arborvitae, red buds, tupelo, and crab apples
  • benches and pillars
  • engraved brick pavers and plaques with names

With the above in mind, how many hours would you estimate the committee and other volunteers have donated in the last 18 months? 40 to 50? 100 to 200? more than 400? The answer is approximately 300! At a conservative rate of $50/hour for many of the services, this is at least $15,000 worth of time donated. Thank you to each person from the congregation and from the committee for running this race together!

Now, to your long-awaited Top 10 quiz! Enjoy!

  1. Cold joint
  2. Silent phase
  3. Veneer ties
  4. Anodized aluminum
  5. Hickey
  6. Bull float
  7. Nail hoe
  8. Donor pyramid
  9. Wire sinne
  10. Characters
  1. charging metal to make it rust-resistant
  2. something used to lure fish
  3. an upside-down polygon
  4. what happens to the neigthbor’s bovine when it is in your pool too long
  5. the time it takes gas to go from emitted to detected
  6. another name for committee members
  7. a faint memory from junior high
  8. tool used to trim your fingers
  9. worn to dress up suits or sport coats
  10. another name for a freezer

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Racing with Pastor Monica

Did you smell the burn of rubber in Indy? Hear the screech of tires? May in the Midwest means it’s RACING season in Indianapolis. The checkered flags go up in yards; money pours into the IMS, and spectators from all over the world line up to see which driver will be crowned victor and (bizarrely enough) watch a bottle of milk be dumped over the winner’s head after chugging some to follow tradition. It is a global phenomenon.

But what about the smaller, everyday races? The ones where there is no crowd and no trophy? What happens when conditions change, the track gets slippery, or there is no clear finish line?

Pastor Monica has officially crossed the starting line and begun her “race” as our Pastor here at First Mennonite Church. She has put in years of training, moved across the country, and now it’s “all engines go” as she begins her new life here with us. After the pomp and circumstance of Monica’s installation, the stadium has gotten quieter. The crowd has dissipated and there aren’t clear road markers as to which way or how fast she should turn. Monica relies heavily on her daily quiet time and creative life to stay in tune with her divine inner compass.

Here are some specific ways we can pray for Monica and encourage her as she stays the course and navigates around bumps in the road. Pastor Monica currently faces chronic health issues that sometimes leave her physically tired and frustrated. Please join me in praying for strength, direction, and serenity as she seeks and discovers next steps for her medical journey. As the Pastoral Team Search Committee continues our quest for adding a part-time pastor, please pray for patience as Monica attempts to support our new church structure & all of the commissions in the absence of another leader to share the load. 

When I asked Monica what a “successful” first lap around the track might look like for her first year of pastoring, she thought for a minute, broke into a huge smile and replied, “When I reach my 27th sermon, I will have preached more at FMC than I have everywhere else combined.” As Monica pours her soul, study, and meditations into her sermons, I hope we can whoop & holler our appreciation and celebrate with her when she reaches this milestone! 

Pastor Monica is not alone on her journey. We are all interconnected and racing right alongside her. The old model of a dictator-pastor who has all the answers, and a congregation as passive recipients of said pastor, is over. The health of our congregation is entirely dependent on all of us, and we are all a part of church successes and failures. We say we want strong youth programming? Well, we need teachers and youth sponsors to step forward. We want to become an anti-racist church? Well then, we all need to show up for the Widerstand audit results and be engaged in future anti-bias training. Do we want to be a church where all are welcome and connect with our neighborhood? Church Life is gonna need help! No one person can fill all of our needs, but if we are serious about the spiritual health of our church, we all have a part to play in the days to come.

I invite you to spend time over the summer discerning what role God is nudging you toward in our faith community. This could look like daily prayer, asking a friend or spouse for the strengths they see in you, or journaling during a sermon and paying attention to what words fill your being with purpose and excitement. Let’s be intentional in our thoughts and actions as we run this race together alongside Pastor Monica.


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Exploring Art

I have been passionate about creating imagery—art—all my life. In grade school, I started drawing portraits, and my work evolved to incorporate still life objects and landscape images as I pursued my master’s degree in fine arts. I like to create work with unsettling juxtapositions: images of quirky, man-made knick-knacks vs. nature, interior vs. exterior spaces, flat vs. dimensional, with the hope that viewers will be inspired to see all that surrounds them in a new light.

Bird – Tree
Mixed media – drawn image, wallpaper, acrylic paint
Cloud – Cloud – Cloud
Mixed media – thread, felt, wallpaper
Vase – Landscape
Mixed media – drawn image, acrylic paint, fibers
Landscape – Landscape
Mixed media – drawn image, acrylic paint

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Racing for Life

First published at eskenazihealth.edu. Reprinted with permission.

A good night’s sleep doesn’t happen often for Sherry Mast, so when she woke up on the morning of August 20, 2021, after a restful evening’s slumber, she had every reason to believe it would be a good day.

It almost wasn’t.

As is her morning custom, the mother of two boys and grandmother of five, who loves the outdoors and enjoys reading, started her daily routine by making a cup of coffee when suddenly everything took an abrupt turn for the worse.

“I went to make coffee in my coffee maker, and I couldn’t make sense of it,” she said. “I couldn’t figure out how to do it, so I picked up my iPad to look for instructions and I could see the words, but I couldn’t comprehend them.”

Retired nurse, living in Greenfield, Ind. since 2017, Sherry and her husband, who was out of town at the time, live in an in-law suite adjacent to her son Justin, the emergency preparedness and response manager with Eskenazi Health. Sherry quickly found Justin’s wife, Jessica, and told her something was wrong, so she called Justin who said they should rush to the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital as soon as possible.

Justin was there to greet them at the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health, where he told them to get checked in while he parked their car.

“Jessica and I walked up to the check-in desk, and this is where I see a miracle where there was nobody in line to report in, which I feel is pretty unusual,” Sherry said. “They immediately got me into a room, I remember trying to talk to the nurse who was trying to start my IVs.”

Sherry began an exhaustive battery of exploratory tests and a CT scan before a clot was discovered in her left carotid artery, which is the second main branch that arises directly off the aorta. The left and right carotid arteries carry blood and oxygen to the brain, head and face. A clot or blockage in the carotid can cause serious, if not fatal, complications.

“I had always told my boys that I do not want to be put on life support, and I was fortunate that the window after a stroke in which you can do treatment is very limited, and because they did not know when my stroke actually happened because I was sleeping, I wasn’t a candidate for the medications that they can give and surgery was the only choice,” she said. “I think everyone was concerned and my husband was in Michigan, and he found out his little Nissan truck could do 70-75 miles an hour pretty good coming back to Indianapolis.”

The last thing Sherry remembers prior to waking up four hours later in the ICU was a group of doctors standing around a computer plotting a course of action, which included emergency surgery.

“I had total blockage in the lower part of my brain that was causing my symptoms. They went in through the right side of my groin, Dr. Juan Tejada (an Eskenazi Health interventional neuroradiology specialist) later told me he in essence played a video game in my head to get the blood flow back in my brain,” she said. “He had to work on the back of my brain first to get the clot out of the way because they saw that’s where the circulation was cut off. Afterwards my husband and I looked at the videos of the surgery and you could see there was no blood flow in those veins, and after he removed the clot that was blocking them, you could see the blood flow rush back. Then Dr. Tejada went into my carotid where there was a large blockage and he did the same thing there, and my artery kind of went limp, so he put a stint in there to repair that.”

As Sherry regained consciousness following the procedure, she opened her eyes to see the most important people in the world to her.

“I immediately recognized my sons and my husband, which was wonderful,” she said. “It didn’t take long for hospital staff members to get me started with all the neurological testing by making me say certain words, stick out my tongue, lift my arms and all that kind of stuff. After I got back in the room in the early evening and up until 11 p.m., they were checking my neurological signs every half hour. Staff couldn’t believe how well I was talking and how well I could remember. I joked around with them asking them to spread it out a little bit so they’re not bothering me every half hour, but they explained it’s going to be every half hour, then after a while it went to every hour.”

As Sherry remembers it, her stroke happened on a Friday, and as frightening and dangerous as it was, she was on her way home the following Monday.

“It was during COVID, the ICU was filling up and they really needed my bed. If they would’ve decided to keep me, I would’ve had to go on to a different floor, so I told them I feel fine and I’m ready to go home. I had to talk the girls (nurses) into letting me go to the bathroom, and once my husband was with me in my room, they were willing to let me get up and do that.”

Sherry’s healing process happened so quickly that there was no need to schedule any follow-up physical therapy sessions for her. From the instant she returned home, Sherry was free to do just about whatever she wanted to.

“Two weeks after the stroke, my husband and I helped our oldest son move to Goshen, Ind.,” she said. “Four weeks out from the stroke, we went on a five-day vacation with three couples to Kellys Island (in Ohio).”

Sherry believes the spot-on advice she received during the morning of her stroke from her son Justin and daughter-in-law Jessica was instrumental in her surviving and healing quickly from the dangerous episode she experienced.

“I’d like to stress the importance of when you begin to feel some symptoms and something’s not right, not to mess around,” she said. “If Jessica would’ve taken me somewhere else, I would’ve had the complete work up there and then they would’ve transferred me to Eskenazi Health and hours would’ve been wasted. I think it’s better that when something doesn’t seem right, please don’t just say ‘well this will go away’ because time is so valuable in getting treatment.

“When I think of what it could’ve been, it’s a miracle … it’s a God thing that I’m still here. As I have told many of my friends, there was a stroke team waiting for me at Eskenazi Health and they knew exactly what to do, and I’ll always be grateful for all they did for me.”

The Eskenazi Health Stroke Center urges people to be diligent and aware of the symptoms of a stroke and to B.E.F.A.S.T. in your response by checking a person’s balance, eyes, face, arms and speech, before it’s time to call 911.

Keeping Us Running

I have been involved with the Worship Commission since starting in 2018 as the chair-elect. It has been a great learning opportunity, and we have had a variety of different leaders over those few short years… When I started it was Bob Brown, then Gary Martin, followed by Bob & Mag, Frances Ringenberg, and now Monica! All of these pastors certainly “kept us running” in a variety of ways, but there was yet another who really contributed significantly when we needed it most: Andrea Grotenhuis!

In March of 2020 we began the new and frightening journey with Covid. The Trustees lead the planning behind the scenes. They contacted people with knowledge about technology who could brainstorm, looking for virtual ways of meeting together. Andrea (and Todd) became involved, and she really took the lead by sharing her ideas and time, along with Hollins & Jason, running through different scenarios to determine what would work out best for sound quality and recording. Andrea was scheduled to preach on what became our first virtual church service. She did so with her typical calm and forthright style. And that continued for many months—dealing with glitches, interruptions and mistakes with humor and grace. Andrea served as our worship leader, took part in nearly every pre-worship planning meeting, helped with children’s time and gave thoughtful suggestions as we sought to improve our processes and keep everyone engaged and in touch.

It was almost exactly one year later that we began meeting again in our FMC building. Throughout that year Andrea was a constant presence, guiding us forward and keeping us together. I can’t say enough about how much I have appreciated her leadership, her kind example and her openness to envision new possibilities for FMC!

Andrea enjoying her coffee cake celebration with Isaiah Rosner at FMC

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Guide My Feet: A Hurdle Parable

When we were invited to write a MennoExpressions article on the hurdles one might encounter when “running the race,” both of us immediately thought of a hurdle incident that happened several years ago – okay, let’s be honest, it was actually several decades ago by now. We were walking on the Purdue campus when we came upon a hurdle that ended up sending one of us to the Purdue Student Hospital with a broken elbow. In reflecting on this hurdle encounter, we discovered that it actually reveals a lot about life hurdles in general.

First the short version of our “hurdle parable:” On our walk, we came across a parking lot that was cordoned off by a chain strung between metal posts. Beth wanted to use the parking lot as a short cut and suggested that we simply jump over the chain, treating it as a hurdle. In spite of Andrea’s cautions and protestations, Beth proceeded to demonstrate her “hurdling technique” to show Andrea how easy it would be to do. Then, splat! There was Beth lying on the ground (albeit on the other side of the chain) with her elbow bent in a rather peculiar way.

Now, the lessons learned from this literal hurdle (or shall we say “hurt-le”?) for facing other obstacles we may find blocking our path:

  1. Recognize that jumping over the hurdle may not be the only or best way forward. Crawl under it, walk around it, slowly climb over it, kick over the hurdle — there may be alternative (and safer) ways to move forward.
  2. Realistically assess hurdle-jumping capabilities and resources, but don’t underestimate your untapped potential.
  3. Deliberately build your hurdle-jumping skills.
  4. Make sure it is your hurdle to jump over.
  5. Remember that you don’t have to go it alone – ask for advice and seek out additional support.
  6. Actually listen to (and heed) the advice of others.
  7. Realize that not everything that looks like a hurdle really is a hurdle. You might discover that you can take a hurdle apart – maybe even make it into a ladder that you could use to get over the barrier.
  8. Give yourself a second chance moment to think before you jump. This is wise advice in decision making in general. 
  9. (and ¾). Embrace the moment you commit to jump. Sometimes you just have to have enough faith – like Harry Potter – to run at the brick wall and trust that it will not be a hurdle but a portal that will get you where you need to go.

Yet, know that sometimes you might still end up in the emergency room with a broken elbow.


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Editor’s Note

let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Moving forward, setting goals, charting progress… when the MennoExpressions team met to discuss our theme for this year we knew we wanted to capture the excitement of the church meeting in person again, learning to know Monica Miller, our new, already-beloved full-time pastor, and expanding our welcome to the community around us. Running the Race seemed an ideal metaphor for these and many experiences and challenges we may encounter.

Now personally, I claim no affinity for actual racing! I enjoy walking or biking on quiet paths, but I would prefer to cheer for others rather than compete in a sporting event. Still, planning and completing each issue of MennoExpressions feels like a race, though a relay with shared responsibilities for the team. And the finish line completing one issue blends into the beginning of the next—as in many life events.

As you explore these articles, we hope you glean wisdom from the theme of racing and find inspiration in the stories of racers who share their hard work of training and competing, or ponder turning hurdles into building blocks. Appreciate a behind-the-scenes glimpse into keeping the pastoral team running smoothly.

Enjoy learning about the way Kaden, an excited high school graduate, is already preparing for his next big challenge at Purdue.

You may want to race to the Top Ten article to complete the quiz for a chance to win ice cream, and see the update on the marathon project to enhance and care for the FMC Memory Garden.

A group of visuals could help you see the intersection of art, nature and pies(!) in a new way.

Don’t miss the dramatic “race for life” narrative, which reinforces the urgency to get help quickly when stroke symptoms appear suddenly.

Finally, in this issue we are launching Milestones, a new feature to share important life events for the Shalom and FMC families.

Blessings to each of you as you consider this encouragement.

But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength… they will run and not grow weary…

Isaiah 40:31

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First Mennonite Church Seeks a Half-Time Pastoral Team Member

FIRST MENNONITE CHURCH Indianapolis, IN is seeking a half-time paid pastoral team member (with benefits) to join our full-time pastor. See the complete job description or contact the search committee chair at email hidden; JavaScript is required

FMC Covid-19 Response & In-Person Worship Service Status

In consultation with FMC healthcare professionals and commission leadership, Trustees and Pastors have developed the FMC Covid-19 Plan. Decisions for whether, and how, we engage in worship services and other activities at FMC are based on cues from local institutions, while understanding that we will follow all published national, state, and local mandates/ordinances. To reduce risk as much as possible, the FMC Covid-19 Readiness Guidelines have been jointly developed by the Pastors and Trustees, FMC medical professionals, the Worship Commission, the Faith Formation Commission, and the Facilities committee. Please familiarize yourself with this document and be prepared to follow practices described therein.

FMC is currently holding indoor, in-person worship services, and masking is required at all times within the building (specific exceptions are described in the Readiness Guidelines).

Individuals or groups wishing to make use of indoor facilities must have a representative receive approval from Trustees and clearance from the church office prior to meeting at FMC. The process is initiated by submitting this form.

Contact email hidden; JavaScript is required if you would like a link to join our Sunday morning service virtually and/or to receive our weekly newsletter. The office can also put you in touch with FMC leadership if you’d like to raise questions or concerns about the Covid-19 Plan or Readiness Guidelines.