Using Food to Discover the World

Reading and cooking are two of my favorite ways to relax. Give me a suspense mystery and I’m lost to the world for several hours. Give me a new, interesting recipe and I will make a special trip to the grocery store and purchase ingredients to get started immediately. And if my love of reading and cooking are combined—say, I get a new cookbook—I will ignore everything around me as I marvel at the photos and look for good recipes.

These loves are why I signed up to test new and modified recipes for the upcoming revised edition of the Extending the Table cookbook. The cookbook is already a staple at our house. The introduction states, “This collection of recipes and stories invites us to sit with people we have never met, taste the flavors of their food, feel the warmth of their friendship, and learn from their experiences.” Indeed, as I’ve used this book over the years, I’ve felt much more attuned to the world around me.

The revised edition will include colorful photos and recipe revisions, along with several new recipes. Some of my favorites in the cookbook include Bang-Bang Chicken, Rice Noodles with Vegetables, and Dhal. Now that I’ve tested recipes, I’ve added a few more to my list.


Pad Thai already appears in the cookbook, but I tried a revised version with tofu instead of meat. When ordering this dish at Thai restaurants I always request tofu as the protein, and so I was excited to cook with it as well. After stopping at the local Asian grocery to find my preferred size of rice noodles, I grabbed the cutting board and heated the wok. I was thrilled when the dish turned out to be both simple to make and tasty to eat. The tofu was a nice exchange. From now on, that’s how I’ll make Pad Thai.


Mango Lassi is a new recipe for Extending the Table. I was eager to try it because I order one whenever eating at an Indian restaurant. The small, yellow, and soft mangos are my choice because they are sweeter and juicier than other varieties. I found them at my favorite Mexican grocery. I chopped them, measured other ingredients, and gave everything a whirl in the blender. It was another very simple and tasty recipe!


The revised edition of Extending the Table will be available in early summer 2014.  Join me in discovering more foods to expand our worlds!

120127_3988Mary Ann Weber, Managing Editor for Curriculum

Tarmac Thoughts: Church Leadership

tech-indI’m sitting on the runway at Chicago O’Hare. I’m on a plane I was delighted to board as a stand-by passenger nearly two hours ago. Thunderstorms delayed my first flight from Harrisburg to Chicago and prevented me from making a connecting flight earlier in the day.

SCH012Getting on to this flight fueled hopes that a happy ending was coming closer. However, the storms have returned and are churning up the airspace between me and my home in Winnipeg. So here I sit with the other passengers, dozing, reading, working away on laptops. Appreciative of water and cookies distributed by the flight attendants. Still hopeful that I’ll see my home and bed before this day ends (in four hours).

CampDeepPark(Summer scene from Mennonite Camp Deer Park, New York.)

I’m on a plane returning from a Governance Council meeting held at Camp Deer Park in New York on September 17. The MennoMedia board is bi-national, serving both Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. Governance Council is uniquely MC USA, a gathering of lead agency executive directors and board chairs, with the MC USA executive director, moderator and moderator-elect. Though a member of MC Canada, I attend Governance Council as MennoMedia board chair, providing me with an opportunity to raise MennoMedia agenda with MC USA leaders and to peek into the workings of a different denomination.

MennoBytesBlogPostBuilding 008In recent gatherings in MC Canada and MC USA, I have been awed by the leaders who serve our churches in little and big ways. We ask them to carry enormous burdens, to discern paths of faithfulness in complex times, and to swim in intensely conflicted waters. Often this work is done by volunteers, or at salaries not in keeping with the long hours of engagement, or with heavy travel schedules that take them away from home and family (sitting through frequent travel delays like this). As I’ve witnessed these leaders, I see people of wisdom, faith, integrity and good humor. Let’s remember to give thanks for these leaders and, when we have the opportunity, to say thank you to them. And to pray for them.

AirflightI did in fact make it home that night, only five hours later than scheduled. Our plane was re-routed to fly east of the storms, till a space cleared in the north and we could turn west to Manitoba. I had a fantastic, protected view of the night storm, as golden lightening pulsed through the enormous, dark thunderclouds. Another gift on a day filled with opportunities to be awed and grateful—including the weather forecasters and pilots and air traffic control who truly do their best to get us safely home.




Melissa Miller, chair of MennoMedia board and pastor of Springstein Mennonite Church near Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Thanks, and Farewell

By Byron Rempel-Burkholder

Wild. Wonderful. Scary. Satisfying. These are just a few of the words I can summon to describe my career as an editor with Mennonite publishing. This week, after sixteen years, I’m moving on to fulfill a long dream of full-time freelancing. I’m already missing my job, even though my end date is still a few days away.

But wait, was it a single job and a single employer, or several? For those who have followed  MennoMedia through denominational and ministry mergers, industry transformations, and the ups and downs in the economy, it all seems rather multi-threaded. The following paragraphs may look like a swan song from one of the “veterans” of the current staff, but in many ways, it is also a capsule version of recent MennoMedia history.

Back in 1997, when my family moved from Edmonton, Alberta, to Newton, Kansas, I was hired to be editorial director at Faith & Life Press, (FLP) an extension of the Commission on Education of the General Conference Mennonite Church. Already at that time, we were copublishing Sunday school curriculum, hymn books, and leadership resources with Mennonite Publishing House in Scottdale, Pennsylvania, our counterpart in the Mennonite Church. The two denominations were moving toward a merger that would result in Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

Sept12_2013 101

In 2001 I was invited to move north to Winnipeg to establish more of a publishing presence in Canada. By now, my employer was technically Mennonite Publishing House, the placeholder name that we held after the merger. But even as I settled into an office at Mennonite Church Canada, the publishing operation was teetering under a huge debt crisis and an urgent need to restructure. No need to go into the gory details of the staff cuts and survivor guilt of those days. One of the upshots in 2003, however, was our new name, Mennonite Publishing Network, which served us until two years ago, when MPN merged with Third Way Media to become MennoMedia.

Through it all, my work has also shifted a few times. Just a few highlights:

  • With the merger with MPH, I shed some administrative tasks to become editor of the devotional magazine Rejoice! and the quarterly Adult Bible Study.
  • During our financial crisis in 2002, I helped reshape the former Builder magazine into a new quarterly magazine for congregational leaders, Leader, for which I was managing editor for three years.
  • Mennobytes Leader magazine
  • Also in the mid-2000s I worked with a variety of worship and curriculum resources—including the Close to Home series of pastoral care pamphlets, the Body and Soul resource on sexuality, and Words for Worship II.
  • Then, with our latest merger and the shift of head offices to Harrisonburg, Virginia, I was asked to become managing editor with Herald Press, our book imprint.StuartMurrayWilliamsAndByronRempelBrubaker.docxByron, right, enjoyed working with authors like Stuart Murray, author of The Naked Anabaptist.

And our way of working has shifted. In 1997, social media was almost unheard of; now we use Facebook. In 1997, publishing staff were in two offices in Kansas and Pennsylvania, with a distribution centre in Ontario. Today, we‘re much more dispersed. Internet-based conference calling has replaced many face-to-face meetings. Electronic uploads have replaced paper transfers through regular mail. For five years, I have worked out of my home. Our periodicals and curriculum pieces are mostly edited by contract editors working in home offices around the continent.

In 1997, we still counted on churches to buy our products because we were the denominational publisher; today we must cultivate our relationships with congregations more than ever, and we share our resources beyond our denomination. Many of the books I have worked with have come out of a growing interest in Anabaptism among non-Mennonites.

It has been a good ride. I take with me many good memories of collaboration with writers, contract editors and designers, and customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. I am grateful for the many wonderful colleagues who have mentored me and/or collaborated with me. I pay tribute to editorial and ministry colleagues for all they have taught me and for their friendship and wisdom:  Susan Janzen, Ken Hawkley, Abe Bergen, Eleanor Snyder, Cynthia Lincscheid, Levi Miller, Rose Stutzman, Richard Kauffman, Marlene Kropf, Ron Rempel, Russ Eanes, Josh Byler, Merrill Miller, Reuben Graham, Mary Ann Weber, Kathy Shantz, John Longhurst,  Jodi Hertzler, Melodie Davis, Amy Gingerich and others, both past and current.

Of my original colleagues in Newton, production manager Terry Graber and customer service director Alma Unrau remain to carry on the FLP memory. Alma, along with Debbie Cameron in Scottdale and Dorothy Hartman in Harrisonburg have all been topnotch, competent editorial assistants. Thanks also to staff at Mennonite Church Canada for being a sounding board for ideas—Dave Bergen, Arlyn Friesen-Epp, Elsie Rempel, and many others. There are simply too many to name—designers, marketers, administrators, board members—it takes a quite a village to run a denominational publisher.

I leave my blessing and well wishes with my successor Valerie Weaver-Zercher, an experienced editor and author from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; it’s been fun to have four weeks of overlap.


Valerie Weaver-Zercher

My wishes and hopes for MennoMedia: Stay cutting edge and prophetic, both in the world at large and in the church, as a torchbearer of the Anabaptist vision. Strengthen the binational cords that bind MCUSA and MCCANADA together. Keep up the good momentum in establishing an Anabaptist presence in the publishing market.

But mostly now, thanks to God and to MennoMedia for a great 16 years!


Byron Rempel-Burkholder and his wife Melita will travel in Ontario and England in October, then resume life in Winnipeg, Manitoba—Melita as a personal care home chaplain, and Byron as a freelance editor and writer.