Glimpses of Healing and Hope

by Pastor Jen Shenk


“When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)

My family and I just returned from a trip out west, where we spent the week in Utah. At every turn, we saw immense, rocky cliffs, seeming to touch the very sky. As far as the eye could see, the massive walls of rock lined our view. I found myself gazing up at the rocks with wonder and awe, feeling very small and insignificant.

I don’t know about you, but I have found the events in our country and world very troubling--  the recent Jewish massacre in a house of worship, violent storms and destruction due to climate change, plane crashes, hatred, fear and negativity being spread by our leaders, the list goes on and on. It’s hard to have hope, to continue to work for justice, to even know where to begin. It’s difficult to stay connected to God’s heart of love, life and joy. It can be discouraging and feel overwhelming.

For me, in times like these, it’s more important than ever to take intentional time each day to center on God. I must remember I can choose how I begin and end my day. I may not have mountains to look at, but I have God’s word to read. I can breathe in and out, simply sitting in God’s presence,connecting my heart to God’s heart. I can pause and listen to what the Holy Spirit may be saying. I can pray and sing the Psalms. I can gather with other believers regularly to give and receive testimony to God’s work in the world. These spiritual disciplines help ground me. They help lead me to the “rock that is higher than I.” When my heart is overwhelmed, I have a choice-- I can turn to God. By reorienting my gaze to God’s ways, I can be in a better place to receive clarity, peace and hope. I can gain a better perspective on what Kingdom work needs to be done-- partnering with God and others.

As you face times of trial, anxiety or feel overwhelmed, I pray you can find ways to lean into God’s solid, loving presence. May this grounding in Eternal Love give you peace and strength to do what God is calling you to do.

“God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:6)


Note: This originally appeared in the November Kernels newsletter published by Kern Road Mennonite Church.

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by Deanna Waggy

(This blog post originally appeared in 2014

I didn’t feel like celebrating Advent and Christmas in 2014. Grief reappeared as the holidays approached. The usual festive celebrations made me feel tired and irritable. I remembered the events of a year ago, leading up to my father’s death in early January. I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate either the “secular Christmas” or the “sacred Christmas”.

We decided this year to keep the decorations simple so we could focus on spending time with the family. We put a string of lights in the window for a bit of "hygge" cheer in the December darkness.

We chose a few favorite nativities from our collection to place on the mantle as a reminder of our Christian traditions. We replaced the tropical scene hanging above our fireplace with a beautiful winter scene of Yosemite National Park, since there was no snow predicted for the holidays. We looked forward to our young adult boys returning home for the holidays.

Minutes after hanging that picture above the mantel, it came crashing down. Three of the nativities and a beautiful stained glass candle globe were swept off the mantel. They shattered on the wood-stove below, leaving shards of stained glass, broken ceramic pieces and a cracked gourd retablo from Ten Thousand Villages. The entire nativity set of little thorn carvings we purchased in Nigeria were completely beheaded as we watched the little heads roll across the floor. My first reaction was tears, then laughter, then a slow realization that nothing would ever be quite the same again, since my father’s death.

Something began to shift inside of me. I realized this incident symbolized a new beginning. A time of letting go of the past, celebrating in the present moment and starting some new traditions in the future.

It was time to let go of the past. The stained glass candle globe and a few nativities were gone. So was my father. I didn’t have to attend every Christmas event like I usually did. It was time to be present in the moment. We could fix the picture with a secure hanger. We could choose other nativities to be our new favorites. The thorn carving figures could still be salvaged. We could celebrate the lasting legacy my father and other ancestors passed on to our family. My father’s memory and presence was still very much alive in my heart.

It was time to start new traditions for the future. The picture was securely placed back on the wall. We found all the missing heads and glued them back on the little carved bodies. Mary was missing her hair covering, but that was OK. It would serve as a reminder that sometimes we are stripped of the comfortable things in life, like our rituals. Sometimes we are vulnerable or stripped of the things we hide behind. Sometimes we just have to show up, be present in the moment and keep moving forward. I resonated with “Vulnerable Mary”.

I added an angel statue beside one nativity as a sign of hope for the future. I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt ready to face the rest of the holidays. As I reflected on this incident over the next several days, new insights were gleaned.

Christmas morning I woke to a small lit Christmas tree in the living room. Loren decided that rituals were still important when living with grief. He secretly put up only the top portion of our tree in a new stand as a surprise. He intentionally chose one ornament from every stage of our lives to represent the many Christmas celebrations we had as a family. It was fun seeing all those years represented on the tree. It made me appreciate the gift of celebrating traditions in slightly new ways. We enjoyed a new tradition of tacos for Christmas lunch, made by our young adult sons. Something old, something new, nativities salvaged, traditions reviewed. It was a good day.


This little angel on our tree gives me a sense of hope. 
Light in the darkness …
Joy in the sorrow … 
Peace in the midst of conflict …
and Hope for the future.

Blessings to each one of you as you navigate the past, present and future.

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Our church was able to send several staff members and attenders to the 2018 Women Doing Theology conference held this past weekend on the campus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. 


The Women Doing Theology conference came to be from the Women in Leadership Project of the Mennonite Church USA. The Women in Leadership Project, in their own words, "works to dismantle patriarchal systems in Mennonite Church USA by empowering women to live out the call of God on their lives, increase their capacities, and contribute their wisdom in congregations, area conferences, agencies, and institutions." In addition to the WDT conference, the Women in Leadership Project also cohosts a podcast with The Mennonite, Inc. called Holding it(,) Together

It was really an incredible experience for everyone involved but I'll let our conference-goers speak for themselves:


I loved seeing such a broad range of women there. Along with being struck by the diversity (cultural, ethnic, sexual identity, ability), I was  especially moved when I realized how intergenerational the conference was: Jenae and others her age were enthusiastically present; tons of thirty- and forty-something women were the confident, inspired planners and leaders of the conference; and many of my mentors--the leaders of such events in my young adult years--were present and quietly cheering everyone on. It was a beautiful sight and a reminder to me that while nothing happens overnight, a generation of commitment can make a huge impact." --Jewel, church member


"I know a lot of women who are social justice movers & shakers and I know a lot of women who are followers of Jesus but the group of women I know that are both is much smaller. Being able to be in the presence and company of women (and some non-binary persons and men) who want to change the world and share the same belief system as me and can help create a path of resistance and resonance was so inspiring and helpful. There was intentional space at this conference for women of color, for women who don't speak English, for women who are differently abled, for LGBTQ women and non-binary persons, and for male allies, and I loved getting to meet them and hear from them and share the weekend with them. Our theme was 'Talkin 'Bout A Revolution,' and I can't wait to continue to talk and act and think and work in revolutionary life-affirming ways. One of our speakers shared the quote, 'Once I get it, I'm going to take the door off the hinges so you can come in, too.' Here's to door-opening and hinge-removing!"   --LeeAndra, Communications and Administrative Coordinator


"When I registered for the Women Doing Theology conference, I expected to have a good time connecting with, worshiping with and being inspired by other women. What I didn't know was how deeply I would be transformed and shaped by this experience.


Imagine looking around a sanctuary, packed with women of all different ages, cultures, ethnicities and sexual orientation-- all passionate about faith, justice, and loving God with our lives. We sang, we laughed, we listened, we shouted. We were silent. We cried. We prayed. We heard that God lives in the margins, with those whom society has dismissed, pushed down, or set aside. 


The epitome of this conference, for me, happened in the last worship service. As we shared communion together, we passed around a basket of tortilla triangles. About two-thirds of the way back, I noticed the ushers were whispering nervously to one another, "We've run out! Are there more?" There was scurrying and some anxious looks as it appeared that not everyone would be able to partake.


And then, it happened. 


One by one, women noticed the need. Without a word, some began ripping our tortillas in half- keeping half, and getting up to place the other half back into the basket. As the refilled baskets finished making their way through the remainder of the seats, at one point an usher held up a basket and announced loudly, "We have some left over!" and the sanctuary erupted in cheers, laughter and praise. It was the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 right in our midst.


That's how this conference felt to me. God took each one of us, and as we shared with one another, there was abundance and joy. I'm beyond grateful to have experienced this event with other women from all walks of life. My faith has been stretched and I've been empowered and inspired. Thanks be to God!" -- Jen, Associate Pastor


We are already looking forward to attending WDT20 in two years!


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Our church recently wrapped up a a 3-year constitutional review process. As you can imagine, this resulted in many changes for us including the ways in which we meet and communicate with one another. How can we best use our time and talents in a way pleasing to God while also being mindful of the time we have committed to obligations and responsibilities outside the church? What's the best way to gather our entire ministry team, staff and volunteer, together for face-to-face conversation and discussion of issues outside and within our congregation?

Enter the Leadership Summit -- a 3 1/2 hour gathering twice a year of all of the leaders within our church. We have just completed our fourth summit and are continuing to work out how best to use this time. So far, we have used it to discuss a church-wide Listening Process within our assigned ministry teams, review church logistical and educational information, introduce new leaders to one another, gather input on a certain topic, disburse gifts discernment results to our ministry teams, and team build.

Although we have an agenda for every summit, it is not always the same agenda. One of the best things about this twice-yearly summit is the flexibility we have given it to fit what is currently happening in the life of our church. While everyone on the leadership team sees each other throughout the year, these summits are usually the only gatherings where every leader is together. There's just something about bouncing ideas off the whole group face-to-face that doesn't happen in email or within smaller groups. Having a focused leadership time outside of our normal leadership obligations has also been very beneficial to us as we can cross-collaborate with other ministry teams "on the spot" and really build up a lot of momentum for an idea in a very short amount of time.

Just like everyone else, carving a whole Saturday morning, once in the spring and once in the fall, out of our schedule is difficult with all of the other to-dos on our list. We are reaping the rewards, though, and are excited to see how it could continue to benefit us for many years to come. 

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by Pastor Janice Sutter


Last month, I got to walk the trails at Camp Friedenswald. To stand in the shade of the towering red oaks. To soak in the late afternoon light on the prairie and oak savannah. To come upon a “kettle pond” created thousands of years ago at the melting of a glacier fragment. In such a place, the beauty and diversity of God’s creation speaks! It is good!

The event that took me to Friedenswald was a workshop for Mennonite pastors on climate change, led by Doug Kaufman and Amy Huser. Not only did we celebrate the creation around us, we also heard about the impact of climate change in Indiana and globally. We talked about our responses of denial, despair, and feelings of being overwhelmed with this change that affects all in our global home.
A highlight of the event was hearing from Mennonite Central Committee partners from Zimbabwe, El Salvador and Nepal. Each of these leaders, Durga, Zacarias and Sibonokuhle, are working with communities living in poverty whose lives have been severely impacted by prolonged drought and decreased snow line (Nepal), intense rain and drought leading to social crises (El Salvador) and severe heat waves, dwindling resources, and increased conflict (Zimbabwe).
For me, this put a whole new face on climate change. These three courageous leaders are walking with their communities through incredible change that wreaks havoc on families already struggling in poverty. They urge US Christians to pay attention to their struggles.
All three of these leaders named the hope that keeps them going in their work. Sibonokuhle of Zimbabwe spoke of the importance of her Christian faith. God’s call on her life invites her into “radical discipleship, which means that I don’t live just for myself.”
In their testimonies, I heard the need for faith in God, the Creator, along with a call to follow Jesus in radical discipleship that considers the needs of the planet and the people of earth. Such a time as this calls for faith in God alongside responsible human action.


This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of Kern Road Mennonite Church's electronic newsletter Kernels.

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Why does a church in South Bend, Indiana make and sell Kenyan samosas every year, anyways?

Kenyan Samosa sales were started about 5-6 years ago by the our Global Partnership Forum group with support from the Service Committee at the time as a way to affirm the talents and gifts of the Kenyan families in the church.  The Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale had started an International Foods tent, and we thought Kenyan Samosas should be represented. 

Since that time, the Kenyan women in our church have cooked, taught, and helped orchestrate the creation of authentic samosas, both meat and veggie-filled, to be deep fat-fried and sold at the annual Relief Sale. This year our junior high and senior high groups and their parents had a samosa-making party one Sunday evening and made over 300 samosas in a couple of hours!

All the funds collected goes to Mennonite Central Committee world relief and development. The church makes no money for itself on these and often much of the ingredients and certainly the labor is donated by KRMCers. This year's sale brought in $5468 for MCC. 

Here are a few pictures from our booth this year:


We are a church in Indiana that makes and sells Kenyan samosas because we are part of a global body of believers that loves and respects all cultures, countries, and traditions... especially delicious traditions like samosas!

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Several of our staff members attended an all-day conference on racial justice this week. We found the following resource from the Catalyst leadership conference in 2016 to be especially eye-opening. 


Race and the Church


We hope you will find it helpful in some way as well.


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by Pastor Dave Sutter
I’ve been driving Kern Road/CR 28 between South Bend and Goshen a fair amount during the last few weeks for various reasons.  Has anyone else noticed the rusty brown, black wooly bear caterpillars crossing the road? Watch the pavement for dark moving spots. Some hot days I see lots of them -- like a wooly bear invasion. The fact that you can see them move at all when the car is moving so fast is amazing. 

I wonder where they’re going and why. Why are they so determined to cross the road? Why would they take such a risk? Don’t they know there are giant cars (and tractors) with rubber tires traveling this road -- some at speeds of 50, 60 (probably even 70) miles an hour? They could be crushed. Some probably are.
I went to the internet. It seems in late summer. wooly bear caterpillar eggs hatch. Now is the time of year when they move to find a prime place for winter (preferably under a rock or log). When the weather warms in spring, they spin a cocoon and eventually transform into an Isabella Tiger Moth. The wooly bear is one of the most recognized of caterpillars because of its fuzzy appearance.   

Semi-scientific studies were done in the 40-50s on these caterpillars. Some still say you can predict the harshness of an upcoming winter by the length of their brown segment. There are still fall festivals in the US hosted to “predict” the upcoming winter according to the stripes -- kind of like how Punxsutawney Phil predicts the end of winter in PA. More recent studies are showing there really may be a link between the wooly’s brown segment and a winter’s harshness but the correlation is more likely to be a statement of the harshness of the past winter than the upcoming one.   
So I did learn something but I still don’t know why they need to cross the road. Can’t they find a quality log without the danger of crossing the road? Maybe they sense this particular phase of life is going to be short and they want to see and do as much as possible while they can. Following their instincts, they are preparing for the next life phase, and they are ready and willing to live a little dangerously!  
I find myself identifying a bit more now with the sense of life’s brevity. This summer I celebrated both my sixtieth birthday and 30 years as one of a number of pastors in Kern Road’s history. I’m starting to feel life is shorter than it used to be. It’s hard to believe how quickly these years have passed and how much change has occurred in that time in my life and in our congregation, community, and world. I know I’m sounding really old now. 

But I’m pleased to say that as I think about our congregation, I can think of a number of times along the way that we have taken some risks. We have not always chosen to go the way of other congregations or the culture, and we have crossed some roads that have opened ourselves to be transformed into something new. It would be my hope that we can retain some of that spirit of risk and adventure especially if it helps us to live our witness to the love of God in the world as lived by Jesus Christ. That would need to be the impetus, the purpose.    
September and the months of the fall are an exciting time of year in our congregation. We settle into a more regular routine after a more scattered summer. We often welcome new attenders as we are this year.  We make samosas and bring our coins to participate in the Relief Sale. There’s a church retreat coming up in November. Exciting new formation opportunities for all ages are on the horizon. Youth Advocate breakfasts return. A new worship series began last Sunday. Area groups meet. Most everyone is around as our families and young adults are back from summer and our retirees have not left us for the winter. What are the new risks we should take?
As members of Christ’s body, I give thanks for the seasons of life, for reminders in creation of the cycles of life, of risks taken and hardships endured. As we enter the fall of the year, I invite you to join me and the wooly bear caterpillar: not afraid to leave life as we have known it behind, willing to take risks of faith in an unknown future, crossing new roads to discover new habits(ats) and new life phases with expectations of joyful transformation and opportunities to participate in greater witness to the risen Christ.
I’m still amazed at how distinctly one can see those little rusty brown and black caterpillars moving across the road in such a rapidly moving vehicle. This gives me hope that one congregation’s witness to our Creator can be seen and make a difference even in a fast-paced, complex, often harsh, and unjust world.  
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