Five things Friday roundup: 5 Notable Women in Indiana Michigan Mennonite Conference

Three women's silhouettes standing on an elevated hill. Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash.

This month I’m highlighting five women who are history- and change-makers in Indiana Michigan Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA. These are just snapshots — there are many others I could write about and hope to some day. I asked each the same question: “What sustains you in ministry?”



1. Dr. Wilma Bailey

Dr. Wilma Bailey is professor of Christian witness and professor of Hebrew and Aramaic Scripture, emerita, at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind. She is a member of Shalom Mennonite in Indianapolis. Bailey grew up in New York City, is a graduate of AMBS and Vanderbilt, and was the first woman credentialed for ministry in IMMC for her pastoral role at Grace Chapel in Saginaw, Mich. When asked what sustains her in ministry, she says. “The ministry itself, God and the encouragement of friends. I focus on what I am called to do.”



2. Dr. Nancy Kauffmann

Nancy, member of College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind., has served as a congregational pastor for 19 years, as regional conference minister for nine years, and as denominational minister for nine years. She is a graduate of Goshen College, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Claremont. Nancy says, “I have a deep sense of call to the ministry. Early as a child, I got the message that God’s people are called to something. While I had no idea if there would be a place to do ministry, I completely trusted in God to lead me, and if I misheard God, then God would redirect me.” When asked what sustains her in ministry, she replied, “My deep faith in my calling from God, prayer, exercising in nature, travel, reading, observing solid leaders who role model integrity in ministry, openness to  counsel, embracing the prayers of others for me and humor. I like to laugh and have found that it can renew my spirit and give me energy.”



3. Patty Gorostieta

Patty, a community activist and native of Mexico, is a member of Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Ind., and very involved locally. She’s a leader in her church, in the Latino community of Elkhart County, the City of Elkhart, and in the local schools. “My first impression when I came from Mexico was there were lots of resources, but it was like they were secret,” she said. “It was challenging to find them. My struggles led to my passion to help others. It gives me a sense of satisfaction, the feeling of knowing a person that felt hopeless now has hope. My mentors encouraged me to share my own experience in order to heal myself and others. Every person I reach gives me the feeling that I’m doing the right thing . . . serving.”


4. Cyneatha Millsaps

Cyneatha Millsaps is an ordained minister in IMMC and recently left a pastoral role at Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart. She is chair of the board at Tolson Center Inc., a community center in South Central Elkhart, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement at Goshen College and executive director of Mennonite Women USA. She is a graduate of Bethel College in Indiana and AMBS. When asked what sustains her, she said, “Ministry is hard regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status, etc. But as a Black woman pastor in predominantly white North American churches, it’s exhausting. I have found that what sustains me is the knowledge that God has a plan in spite of our chaos. And gathering with other women propels me to keep moving. Women, and the loving and caring energy of women, is a powerful spirit. I get lost in our beauty and I am empowered to keep moving.”


5. Sharon Yoder

Sharon Yoder serves with me as conference minister for IMMC. We are the first women in this role. A graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and AMBS, Sharon was the first female pastor at Olive Mennonite Church. She is a member of Belmont Neighborhood Fellowship in Elkhart. When asked what sustains her as a woman in ministry, she said, “God’s Spirit and the community of women surrounding me, reminding me to listen deeply and follow Spirit guidance.” She also cited role models, including her mother, who modeled how to follow the call of the Spirit; Linda Lehman Thomas, who taught her final seminary class; her spiritual director, who listens deeply; her small group from her time overseas, responding to her with encouragement; me (shucks!); and the women pastors in our conference who confidently, effectively and boldly lead in response to Spirit nudges throughout their lives. 

Joanne Gallardo

Joanne Gallardo is conference minister of Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA in Goshen, Indiana. Originally from northwest Ohio, Joanne Read More

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!