Faith Formation with Children

Last week was Pentecost, that time each year when we remember the Holy Spirit coming upon those first believers with a rush of wind and “tongues, as of fire.”

Talking with a three-year-old about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost when she doesn’t fully understand the time-space continuum is tricky, let me tell you. We talked earlier in the week about the Holy Spirit is like the wind, and we made a fan using paper to feel the wind.

And then on Pentecost Sunday we went to church at Mennonite Community Church in Fresno, California. It’s my husband’s home congregation, and my mother-in-law gave the children’s story. She talked about using our five senses as a means to experience the Holy Spirit, and she read the book Sensing Peace, by Suzana E. Yoder, published in 2010 by Herald Press.

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This was one of the first children’s books I edited during my time here at Herald Press, and I continue to marvel at this gem of a book. The gentle cadence of the words, and the lovely illustrations make this a perfect book to talk with children about peace.

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What does peace smell like? What does it taste like? Feel, sound or look like? Through Sensing Peace, children ages 4 to 7 are encouraged to see what peace looks, sounds, feels, tastes and smells like in their everyday moments—things like laughing, cooking, gardening, singing or sharing ice cream.

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While I hadn’t thought of the book before in relation to the Holy Spirit, it’s very appropriate because, just like experiencing peace, we can experience the Holy Spirit through our five senses.

In May I attended an excellent conference in Nashville called Faith Forward. There the plenary speakers—including Bonnie Miller-McLemore, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Brian McLaren, and Ivy Beckwith—talked about making faith part of everyday life for children. They talked about the importance of connecting with children, about the importance of relationship.

I saw the evidence of Sunday school teachers connecting with children this weekend at First Mennonite Church of Reedley, California, and seeing first-hand how they put many MennoMedia resources into use for the children of their congregation.

The lovely prayer tree below, explained Barbara Ewy, was built over several weeks using boxes and paint. The children kept adding leaves as the weeks went on, with their prayers for global and local concerns. She said the idea was a hit with the children, and they continued the activity far beyond the scope of the session. They got the idea from Kids Can Live Upside Down, part of the Kids Can series for midweek or club settings that MennoMedia produces.  IMG_2639[1] And MennoMedia’s Wee Wonder material, Barbara explained, has worked well for their congregation during the children’s time in their second worship service. Below is a bulletin board with the story cards from Wee Wonder.

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This summer it’s my goal to work more faith practices into everyday learning with my own children. I’m trying to keep it simple, both in terms of supplies and time. Today our faith practice was blowing prayer bubbles. Each time we dipped the bubble wand into the solution, we named someone we wanted to thank God for.

At Faith Forward, I learned of a variety of websites with great ideas to help with this. Here are some sites that I’ve been perusing lately:

  • Building Faith: Part of the Mennonite Early Childhood Network, the site includes a weekly faith practice for families.
  • Picture Book Theology: This website makes theological connections by using secular picture books. With each daily post, there are all sorts of book details, topics the book connects with, Scripture connections, and at least one possible application.
  • Storypath: Like Picture Book Theology, this website connects children’s literature with the faith story. This one has a story for each week of lectionary, plus indexes for Scripture and theme.
  • Flame: Creative Children’s Ministry: This site is full of tactile and hands-on ways of learning.
  • Practicing Families: The tagline is “real life, real faith, real grace.” There are ideas for parents, children, and families and the posts are written by a bevy of different contributors.

What are you doing to build faith at home or in your church? What ideas do you have to share?

Amy Gingerich, editorial director

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Precious Commodities: Where to Find Ingredients for Extending the Table Cookbook

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook from
Extending the Table Cookbook. See bottom for quick links to each post in this series, with titles.

When living abroad, what foods “from home” do you crave?

Our friends who travel abroad frequently (or those who choose to live abroad for periods of time) likely have a lot of things they miss about home. Yet, whenever we ask what well-wishes or little reminders of home we can send them, they inevitably request peanut butter. It’s strange that a childhood staple we take for granted transforms into a precious commodity when it is not readily available.

This phenomenon became even more evident to Heather this past week as she joined the teaching team for Harvard’s Negotiation Institute. People from 37 countries gathered to learn more about how to “change the game” of negotiation from win-lose to win-win. One of the examples used during plenary involves two people deciding how to allocate between them three indivisible candy bars. A participant from India argued that she deserved the candy bars more because in her country, good chocolate was rare—a precious commodity.

We are admittedly spoiled in the United States and Canada that we can access foods from a variety of cultures and countries. Yet, this week, as we tried recipes that involved ingredients we hadn’t noticed in our “regular” grocery stores, we realized how challenging it must be for people from other countries to find inexpensive, familiar ingredients for their own comfort food.

12_GreekGreenBeans_ExtendTable-535Greek Green Beans

Our household loves green beans, so we decided to focus a few of our meal choices around them. The Greek Green Beans (p. 130) seemed the easiest, as the only “rare” ingredient was mint, and we’d often seen mint at our local chain grocery store. We were shocked, though, when we looked at the price! How could one family buy fresh mint for meals on a regular basis, when it is over $5 for sprigs sufficient only for one or two dishes? It made us thankful that we had planted mint in our new garden, and made us realize a bit more why so many of our global neighbors raise their own food instead of relying solely on grocery stores.

17_WhitePizza_ExtendTable-4022White Pizza

We found a similarly shocking price attached to the feta cheese we purchased for the White Pizza (p. 179). Fresh feta—the kind you think would be cheaper than the stuff packaged and marketed for mass consumption—was still more per ounce than we could imagine most families affording. We certainly savored every slice!

After making these expensive purchases, we stumbled upon an Eastern European grocery store hidden between a paper company and a Dominos Pizza—just down the block from where we’ve lived for two years. Sure enough, the feta cheese and mint were half the price. A good lesson to venture into “ethnic” food stores more often, and take a friend who speaks the language (or be open to making purchases based on visuals alone!).

16_BreadBowlCurry_ExtendTable-1920Bread Bowl Curry

This prompted us to explore other ethnic grocery stores in our area. We were intrigued by the array of spices in the Bread Bowl Curry (p. 174). We cook frequently with turmeric and cumin, but haven’t made anything with anise seed or cardamom pods. After striking out at our grocery store, we ventured into the Asian market down the street. Sure enough, the anise seeds (“fennel seeds” there) were plentiful—and cheap. The only challenge was that they came in a huge container. We’ll be seeking recipes that use fennel seeds for the next five years! Cardamom pods were not present at the Asian market, but the Indian market two neighborhoods over had a few varieties. Once again, they were far cheaper and more fragrant than the hip, foodie pods we might have found at a gourmet food store. Best of all, we could buy them one at a time instead of purchasing 200 in one container!

There were some ingredients in our “traditional” grocery store we did not expect to find there—a good lesson to keep your eyes open and your stomach willing to try new things. For instance, we were shopping for eggplant, determined to use the first fresh tomatoes of the season to make Eggplant Sauce for Spaghetti (183). When we finally found the eggplant, we were shocked. We could purchase Japanese, Indian, or Kazakhstani eggplant along with our now-seemingly-boring Florida Market eggplant. The availability of these rare varieties in the produce aisle we visit every week prompted us to plan a menu around the Iraqi Baked Dinner Moussaka (198) for later this week.

This journey has allowed us to try out our global neighbors’ comfort foods, as well as experiment with favorite ingredients in new ways. As with our More with Less challenge, we have become increasingly aware of our own default tendencies around food when we are busy or tired. Yet, with this challenge, we became more aware that many of our global neighbors cannot (or choose not to) default to restaurant food when they are hungry. Rather, they find community and comfort around cooking for themselves and for their guests.

This lesson will continue to inspire us in the weeks and years to come, as we share their stories—featured in the World Community Cookbooks—with our son and our guests. As we cook more than we eat out, we hope to weave our own stories into the global narratives of food and friendship.

Links to each post in this Six Weeks with Extending the Table series.

1. Extending Our Family Food Challenge: Six Weeks with Extending the Table

2. Extending Beyond Our Boundaries

3. Extending the Table: Honoring Dietary Restrictions

4. Jobs, moving, sickness, four-month-old baby: STILL time to cook?

5. Six Weeks with Extending the Table: A Move in the Right Direction

6. Precious Commodities: Where to Find Ingredients for Extending the Table Cookbook

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To buy the new edition of Extending the Table with many recipes illustrated with color photos, click here. All of this post’s food photos come directly from the new Extending the Table.

MennoByte_photoBen Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with a son born February 2014, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

This is the last in Ben and Heather’s special series, Six Weeks with Extending the Table.

Give them a shout out or quick hi, or any comment on what you enjoyed about this series!

The Work of Development – Give a Blessing, Receive a Blessing: Lotus and Judy Hershberger

I serve as MennoMedia’s director of development and church relations. My job is to encourage individual and congregational giving to support MennoMedia’s ministry. I am usually on the road every third week visiting pastors and donors, and telling them about what is happening at MennoMedia.

During my visits I spend a fair amount of time listening and getting to know our donors; their families, their faith, and sometimes a bit about their finances. I also tell them about new initiatives at MennoMedia. Most recently I have shared about Shine, the new Anabaptist children’s Sunday school curriculum. I also tell them about new books we are publishing including the popular memoir Bonnet Strings and Ervin Stutzman’s historical novel Jacob’s Choice.

BonnetStrings                              JacobsChoice

I think of my work in relation to a quote by Mennonite pastor and development consultant Lori Guenther Reesor of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada who calls fundraising “the joyful and holy task of telling people about the garden and inviting them to water it.” I see my work that way. During each visit my goal is to be a blessing to those I meet and in turn to be open to receiving a blessing on behalf of our ministry. I usually close each meeting with prayer, both for the donor or congregation, and for the work of MennoMedia. I also offer each client their choice of one of MennoMedia’s books or CDs, which I carry with me in the trunk of my rental car.

Each visit lasts about an hour during which donors are usually extremely gracious, often offering a cup of tea with a cookie or a piece of fruit which is sometimes plucked from their orchard. Some invite me to stay with them the next time I am in the area and I have taken several up on that offer.

Most recently, during a trip to Illinois in May, I stayed for two nights with Lotus and Judy Hershberger in their lovely duplex home in the residential community surrounding the Mennonite Church of Normal. When I arrived on a Tuesday night, I learned Stanley Green, Executive Director of Mennonite Mission Network, had been there on Saturday, a few nights earlier, having arrived in preparation for speaking at their congregation on Sunday morning.

Lotus and Judy are wonderful people from whom I have learned a lot about living life to the fullest. Lotus taught mathematics at Illinois State University for 31 years before retirement, while Judy taught Junior High School. Both are involved at Menno Haven Camp and Retreat Center where Lotus served on the Board of Directors for many years and, more recently, as an Interim Executive Director for some months.

Lotus is in great shape physically, due in part to his practice of getting at least 1,000 minutes of exercise each month, a practice I have learned and embraced from him. During his 70th year to celebrate his birthday, Lotus hiked 25 miles over two days from the north rim of the Grand Canyon to its south rim. I hope to be able to do the same when I’m 70!

grandcanyonJudy has a generous spirit and a loving embrace. Over the years they hosted and/or housed many international students attending Illinois State University, helping them adjust to a very foreign and unfamiliar environment. During my stay Judy baked a rhubarb pie and served it warm with ice cream.

Both are active at the Mennonite Church of Normal (MCN) where Lotus serves as Congregational Chair. Together with several two other couples they lead a group from church and the Mennonite Residential Community called EATs – Enrichment Activity Trips. Between a dozen and 30 people join them in this monthly outing to a nearby park, museum, business or event which always involves eating together. The week I was with them they were taking a walking tour of downtown. After organizing 118 of these EATs events they feel like it might be winding down.

Before I left I offered them a choice of books from my stash. They picked Saving the Seasons cookbook and Bluffton professor Gerald Mast’s Go to Church and Change the World. We gathered for prayer in their kitchen and Lotus prayed. In their warm embrace, I sensed their love and support for me and for MennoMedia. Lotus asked when MennoMedia’s next fundraising letter would arrive and I told him it would be coming soon. He promised to respond with a gift. As with many visits to various donors, I felt I had given a blessing and received a blessing.

Saving the Seasons                               Seminar

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I’d love to hear your comments or responses to any of the following questions:

How do you care for yourself by way of exercise?

Do you have a group with whom you meet regularly for spiritual, emotional, or educational enrichment?

How do you perceive development officers? Do you welcome them and extend hospitality or would you just as soon not see them at your front door?

How is God calling you to be a blessing to others today?

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations