For three days in the Wadsworth Room at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), six couples from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America met to explore and test new resources and approaches for healing ministry in their contexts.
Mennonite Women USA and AMBS collaborated to hold a Compassionate Care: Equipping Leaders for Healing Ministry seminar March 31-April 2 at AMBS in Elkhart, Indiana.
When asked what he hoped to learn from the seminar, AMBS student Patrick Obonde from Nairobi, Kenya, said, “I want to learn how to break through the social veneer, traditions and culture that keep women suffering in silence.”
Jonah Yang, a Hmong pastor from Thailand currently living in Minneapolis said, “In my culture men have power over their wives. I want to learn how to break that. We need to reinterpret Scripture.”
The workshop for international student couples was hosted by David Miller, AMBS Church Leadership Center teaching associate, and led by Carolyn Heggen, psychotherapist specializing in trauma healing, and Rhoda Keener, psychotherapist and Sister Care International director for Mennonite Women USA. Representatives from Mennonite Men and Mennonite Mission Network were invited to be part of the seminar as observers.
Heggen began the workshop with an exercise asking men and women to meet separately with each group discussing and then compiling a list of “how my life would be different if I had been born the other gender.” Responses from the women included: “If I had been born a man, I would be served as a King; I would be able to keep my own money; I would be ordained.” The men’s responses included: “If I had been born a woman, I would do more chores; I would eat last; I would be at risk for genital mutilation; I would learn to submit to men even against my will (first father, then husband, then son); I would have more friends.”
Unit one of the manual and training is on the topic “I am God’s beloved child.” Keener said, “What we believe the Bible says about the worth and roles of women and men affects our sense of belovedness.”
Miller followed with teaching on the importance of anchoring our concept of male-female relationships on creation, the teaching and example of Jesus, and the promise of new creation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. He noted that too often teaching on male-female relationships in the church has treated the curses of the fall (Genesis 3) as prescriptive rather than descriptive. When this happens, he said, God’s intention in creation and the promise of new creation in Christ is subordinated to managing the curses, and hierarchical systems and male domination are treated as God’s design, rather than the effect of sin. If the church is to be a body of healing and hope, he said, we must open ourselves to the truth-telling, transformation and liberation that is envisioned and empowered by God’s Spirit.
Participants affirmed the need to work on their own healing in order to help others heal. One tool they used to explore areas that still may need God’s healing touch was creating a life timeline and identifying in each era a blessing or gift and in each era a loss or wound. They also identified people who were compassionate listeners who helped them heal.
Pratik Bagh of India commented on the importance of stories. “In the sharing and receiving of each other’s stories healing comes,” he said. “To receive stories with hospitability is to create safe space for truth-telling, a vital first step toward healing and trust-building. This will work well in our context.”
Rianna Isaak-Krauss of Canada echoed that statement saying she was touched by the concept of using tears to fuel transformation. Her husband, Benjamin, from Germany, said he believes the material would work well for teaching lay pastoral care teams.
The seminar held at AMBS was made possible by grants from the Schowalter Foundation and the United Service Foundation.
Photo: Seminar group participants from left in first row, Pratik and Shabnam Bagh with Shanice (Elkhart/India), Rianna and Benjamin Isaac-Krauss (Elkhart/Canada, Germany), Ger Her and May Yang (Minneapolis/Thailand); second row, Esther Muhagachi (Elkhart/Tanzania), Rhoda Keener, Carolyn Heggen, Jonah and Memee Yang (Minneapolis/Thailand), Pamela Obonde (Kenya); third row, Amos Muhagachi (Elkhart/Tanzania), David Miller, Don Neufeld (Mennonite Men Canada, observer), Steve Thomas (Mennonite Men USA, observer), Mike Sherrill (Mennonite Mission Network asia director, observer), Patrick Obonde (Elkhart/Kenya). Not pictured is Cyneatha Millsaps (Mennonite Women USA executive director). Photo provided by Mennonite Women USA/AMBS.