Will you still be working when you’re 86?

DorisSitesKitchenEditedDoris Sites, housekeeper at MennoMedia offices in Harrisonburg will turn 87 on July 8. Could she be the oldest employee at any Mennonite agency office in the U.S. or Canada? We’d love to hear if anyone at your office or agency can top this record!

Not even a fall or car accident keeps her from her appointed rounds every afternoon for about 2.5 hours at MennoMedia. Not only that, she works another 2.5 hours every morning at nearby Park View Federal Credit Union, a financial institution that was started in 1969 to serve Mennonite agencies and their employees (including Eastern Mennonite University).

EmptyingWastebasketEditedIn both places, she picks up mugs and washes them, empties wastebaskets, tidies the bathrooms, makes sure they are stocked with necessities, cleans the kitchens, and checks in on how we are, how the kids or grandkids are, who is sick, and where we’ve been if we’ve been out for a few days.

Doris has been cleaning the offices of MennoMedia since the early 1980s, starting back when it was called Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc.  Ken Weaver was the executive director at the time and his administrative assistant, Lovina Troyer, went to church with Doris at Ridgeway Mennonite. Lovina told Doris about an opening for someone to clean the offices. Doris applied and began doing the daily cleaning and the heavier weekend cleaning of BathroomEditedvacuuming the entire office, cleaning floors in the kitchen and bathrooms, dusting, windows and more. Doris is now a member of Grace Covenant Church in Harrisonburg, a large and active non-denominational congregation on the southern edge of town.

Her faith has kept her going through a trial that began last fall when her son, Gary, was diagnosed with leukemia. After going through chemotherapy, he learned he would need a bone marrow transplant to have the best chance of long-term survival.

He has five siblings but none of them proved to be a match. The search for a family donor of bone marrow widened, and one candidate was found who matched 99 percent. But doctors said that only a 100 percent perfect match would work.

Eventually a match was found from someone in another country. As is normal in these situations, members of the Sites family do not know the name or location of the living donor who willingly shared his life-giving bone marrow for a complete stranger in a far-off country. The transplant finally took place in February 2015. Doris’s son and his wife now live in temporary quarters near their hospital in Richmond, Va., and he has been able to come back to his home in Harrisonburg for several visits, which will get him acclimated to germs and dangers found in normal living. Doris and her family are very grateful his healing process is going as well as it is; Gary hopes to be able to move back to Harrisonburg late in July or early August.

Then on Mother’s Day (May 10, 2015), Doris stood briefly on a stepstool in her home and lost her balance. When she did not show up for work May 11, two staff went to her home and learned she had taken a fall (and that she had tried to call in). She hurt her wrist as she fell, jabbing her right arm down on the floor and hitting her head. She went to her regular doctor, who X-rayed her wrist. It was broken so she was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. Surgery was scheduled for May 19, but meanwhile Doris kept her appointed cleaning rounds (except for emptying waste baskets). After her surgery, Doris was off a few days, including Memorial Day on May 24, but eagerly returned to work May 25, even though washing dishes with one arm in a brace isn’t the easiest.P1070936

Wastebasket2EditWhen asked why she’s still working at age 86 going on 87, she explains, “I don’t like sitting around.”

Doris also very much appreciates her pay, enabling her to stay independent and living in a nearby trailer court. Currently she has to go to physical therapy on her wrist two times a week.

Both organizations, Park View and MennoMedia, have traditionally included Doris in their annual Christmas banquet or celebration. In 2008, Mennonite Media (as it was named then) had a birthday party for her when she turned 80.

Doris is one of the friendliest employees—to anyone, never hesitant to strike up a conversation. She appreciates being able to work in two Christ-centered organizations.

Collage of Mennonite Media staff photos over the years. Can you spot Doris?

Collage of earlier Mennonite Media staff photos. Can you spot Doris in each one?


If you work for or are familiar with a Mennonite church agency, do you have any older employees who are proud of it? We’d love to hear whether Doris tops them all! Let us know if you know someone paid for work (not volunteering) at an age that tops 86!




Herald Press republishes Rachel and Reuben of popular series

June 10, 2015

News release

Books 3 and 4 of Ellie’s People series released with new covers, textual updates

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario—Mary Christner Borntrager first published the Ellie’s People series of novels in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Herald Press is republishing most books in the series, and released books 3 and 4, Rachel and Reuben, this spring.

The Ellie’s People series chronicles the family and friends of the protagonist of book 1, Ellie Maust, across several generations. While fictional, the series focuses on real issues young people face within the context of an Amish life. Books from the series have sold over half a million copies.

In book 3, Rachel feels drawn to the Amish community, despite her parents having left that Rachelway of life before she was born. Rachel must decide whether to discard her dreams of becoming Amish or to follow what seems to be God’s will by joining them, though it could mean facing ridicule from her siblings and friends.

ReubenBook 4 focuses on an Amish boy named Reuben. Though he tries to do the right thing and loves the Amish way of life, Reuben occasionally falls short of his parents’ expectations, especially when egged on by his peers. This pattern leads to tragedy when, on a dare, Reuben tries to prove how fast a new horse can run.

The books are written for readers 10 years and up. The stories remain the same, but the language has been updated for today’s reader and the covers have been redesigned.

Growing up Amish near Plain City, Ohio, influenced Borntrager’s writing, and her work has been noted for its accurate descriptions of Amish life.


Author Mary Christner Borntrager signing books.

Suzanne Woods Fisher, coauthor of The Adventures of Lily Lapp series, says of Borntrager’s work, “This authentic series has much to offer readers about the ups and downs of growing up plain. A great choice for a family read-aloud.”

Book 1 of the series, Ellie, was republished in August 2014. Books 5 and 6 of the series, Polly and Andy, will be released later this year.

Rachel and Reuben are available for $7.99 USD/$8.79 CAD each from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or www.MennoMedia.org, as well as at bookstores.

MennoMedia Staff
High resolution photo available upon request.

For more on Mary Christner Borntrager read our two earlier blog posts on the author.

For more information
Melodie Davis
News manager


MennoMedia revamps Third Way website

ScreenShotHomePageJune3LaunchNews release
June 3, 2015

Website continues to inform and provide resources about Mennonites

HARRISONBURG, Va. and KITCHENER, Ontario—For almost two decades, Third Way website has supported seekers in learning about Mennonites. Seventeen years after the website’s inception, it has received a major design overhaul through MennoMedia.

The revamped website officially launched on June 3, although a soft launch occurred in mid-April for troubleshooting. The site can be found at www.thirdway.com. It maintains its original mission of providing information and resources about Mennonites, as well as supporting those who wish to live out a faith that aligns with Anabaptist values.

After receiving a major grant from the Schowalter Foundation of Newton, Kansas, for the project in 2013, MennoMedia set up a focus group with a range of Mennonites involved with the church or media work to discuss and set priorities for the new site. “The focus group responded to some key questions about the site and were extremely helpful as we put together the site’s new mission statement and zeroed in on seven main content areas,” said Amy Gingerich, editorial director for MennoMedia and overall supervisor of the revamped site.

A design firm, 427 Design, based in Akron, Ohio, created the new site, now housed on a WordPress platform. Design changes include a new color scheme and a more easily navigable interface. The website name was shortened from Third Way Café to Third Way.

The website is divided into seven key sections: Mennonites, Community, Jesus, Peace, Simplicity, Service, and Justice. These sections cover topics ranging from Mennonite views on capital punishment to overviews of different types of Anabaptists. FAQs and a glossary also help to guide seekers through the website.

Users can also choose to sign up for any of six free email subscriptions: Daily Scripture, a daily Bible verse reflecting Mennonite/Anabaptist values; Another Way, a weekly article focusing on spiritual growth at a personal or communal level; Living Simply, a twice-monthly column by Celeste Kennel-Shenk; Media Matters, a weekly review by a variety of writers; Stories of Peace, a monthly story of peacemaking from around the globe; and Wider View, a twice-monthly update on social policy issues from MCC’s Washington Office.

“The former Third Way Café served the Mennonite churches well in terms of explaining Mennonite beliefs and practices to a wide audience, but the look, feel, and navigation of that site had become quite dated,” noted Gingerich. “So while people came to the site, our statistics showed that too often, they immediately went elsewhere. With the new Third Way we have a site that really catches attention visually and is easily navigated. We are already seeing that high bounce rate coming down.”

ThirdWay_TwitterHeader (2)

New tagline for Third Way website

The new site opened possibilities for sponsors to support Third Way, and interest in
sponsoring has been high. Everence and Mennonite Mission Network are the site’s top-level sponsors. Other options include second- and third-tier sponsors. Links for individuals to donate can be found on the website.

In recent years the site has averaged 500 to 800 hits a day, with peak days spiking to 2,000 or 3,000 a day, especially after tragic events involving Mennonites or Amish or, in recent years, with the introduction of Amish “TV reality” shows.


Third Way Cafe homepage from 2007-2015.

When the site began in 1998, it was an outreach of Mennonite Media, a department of the predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. Jerry Holsopple, now a professor of Visual and Communication Arts at Eastern Mennonite University and a renowned videographer and graphic artist with a theology background, conceptualized and designed the original website. Currently, Third Way website is part of the ministry of MennoMedia, owned by Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. MennoMedia became the name for the combined agency of Mennonite Media (briefly named Third Way for the whole agency from 2009 to 2011) and Mennonite Publishing Network, which joined in 2011.

“Since its beginning in the 1950s, the Mennonite church public media efforts sought ways to educate a general audience who inquired about Mennonites through radio programs such as The Mennonite Hour and Heart to Heart,” recalled managing editor for the site, Melodie Davis. At that time, methods of following up with inquirers included brochures, personal letters, and telephone calls. “Today we’re happy to still offer personal email responses to those who send inquiries to the website through volunteer workers Angela and Erwin Rempel,” Davis pointed out. The Rempels have served as long-term mission agency workers in various countries and the United States.

–Ben Mast

Follow Third Way on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information
Melodie Davis
News manager