Event is a collaborative effort between AMBS’s Church Leadership Center and Mennonite Women USA
By Rhoda Keener and David B. Miller
For three days (March 31 – April 2), the Wadsworth Room at AMBS became something of a microcosm of the global church. Here six couples from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America met to explore and test new resources and approaches for healing ministry in their contexts.
When participants were asked what they hoped to learn from Mennonite Women USA’s Compassionate Care: Equipping Leaders for Healing Ministry seminar, Patrick Obonde, an MA: Theology and Peace Studies student from Nairobi, Kenya, said, “I want to learn how to break through the social veneer, traditions and culture that keep women suffering in silence.”
Shabnam Pratik Bagh, an MA: Theology and Peace Studies student from Janjgir, Chhattisgarh, India, added, “Women don’t speak, especially in the rural areas.”
Jonah Yang (Master of Arts in Christian Formation 2018), a Hmong pastor from Thailand who is living in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, said, “In my culture men have power over their wives. I want to learn how to break that. We need to reinterpret Scripture.”
This workshop for international student couples was hosted by David B. Miller, Teaching Associate of the AMBS Church Leadership Center, 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.
The Compassionate Care seminar was adapted from Sister Care: Equipping women for healing ministry, which has been shared by Heggen and Keener in 16 countries for 4,500 women. The Sister Care manual, written in English, has been translated into 15 languages. The seminar held at AMBS was made possible by generous grants from the Schowalter Foundation, Inc., and the United Service Foundation.
After participating in a Sister Care seminar, many international women leaders have spoken about the need for exposing men to the healing concepts and practices of Sister Care. Their requests were the impetus for the AMBS event. Memee Yang asked for training for her husband, Jonah, saying a healing ministry in the Hmong Community would have more lasting benefits if men as well as women received the training. Esther Butendeli Muhagachi, a Master of Divinity student from Dodoma, Tanzania, provided leadership in Tanzania for a Sister Care seminar. Her husband, Amos, asked for this teaching to be extended to men worldwide.
Throughout the workshop, leaders and participants challenged each other to keep looking to Jesus and not to cultural assumptions and practices to understand God’s intentions for women and men together in the community of faith. All agreed that followers of Jesus must develop a new Jesus-inspired culture, wherever we live.
Participants in the Compassionate Care seminar at AMBS included (front, l. to r.) Pratik and Shabnam Pratik Bagh of India, and their child; Rianna and Benjamin Isaak-Krauss of Canada and Germany, respectively; Ger Her and May Yang of Thailand and Minnesota; (back, l. to r.) Amos and Esther Butendeli Muhagachi of Tanzania; David B. Miller; Rhoda Keener; Don Neufeld, an observer from Mennonite Men (Canada); Carolyn Heggen; Steve Thomas, an observer from Mennonite Men (USA); Jonah Yang of Thailand and Minnesota; Mike Sherrill, an observer from Mennonite Mission Network; Memee Yang of Thailand and Minnesota; and Patrick and Pamela Obonde of Kenya. Not pictured: Cyneatha Millsaps, Mennonite Women USA Executive Director. (Photo provided)