Growing a spiritual garden with new book: Water My Soul

News release

August 9, 2017

Growing a spiritual garden
90-day devotional puts down roots to the love of Christ and service to others

HARRISONBURG, Va.—How does your spiritual garden grow? What do you do to keep your Christian life flourishing? Darla Weaver explores these ideas as she connects gardening to spiritual growth in a new devotional, Water My Soul: 90 Meditations from an Old Order Mennonite (Herald Press, September 2017).

Touching on themes such as humility, contentment, right living and forgiveness, each meditation includes a daily Scripture reading, prayer, and journal prompt or response idea, designed to motivate and strengthen readers.

“As I worked in my ever-expanding gardens, I was amazed how often God used the natural world to open my eyes to new spiritual truths,” Weaver writes.

As an Old Order Mennonite living in southern Ohio, Weaver spends her time gardening, cooking, caring for her family, and living as much as possible off the land. Weaver bares her heart in these 90 devotionals, all drawn from her home-centered life, and encourages readers to root themselves deeply in Christ’s love, and service to others.

Cindy Woodsmall, New York Times bestselling author of Amish fiction says the book is a “lovely collection of real events that whisk the mind to a beautiful way of life, while the insights resonate with the longings from the deepest part of our hearts.” Mary Ann Kinsinger, coauthor of the Adventures of Lily Lapp book series adds, “These devotionals provide glimpses of the presence of God that is all around us if we only open our eyes and see.”

Women especially will relate to these meditations sprinkled with stories from Weaver’s children, marriage, Old Order Mennonite community and wider friends and family.

Darla Weaver’s first book, Many Lighted Windows, was published in 2016, and she has written for Family Life, Ladies Journal, Young Companion, and other magazines for Amish and Old Order Mennonite groups. Before her three children were born she also taught school. Her hobbies are gardening and writing.

Water My Soul is available for $12.99 USD from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or MennoMedia.org; in Canada, the book is $15.75 CAD from CommonWord at 877-846-1593 or commonword.ca; or check bookstores and online.

To schedule a phone interview with Darla Weaver, contact LeAnn Hamby at (540) 908-3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

 

 

David Shenk’s book shared with Islamic leaders by Emily Jones, Eastern Mennonite Missions

Last year, an Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) team that works in Christian-Muslim relations was invited to hold the only booth representing a Jesus-following witness at America’s largest yearly gathering of Muslims.

And this year, EMM’s Christian/Muslim Relations Team (CMRT) was invited back to the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA’s) annual convention—this time with a special request.

Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the recently-retired national director of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, suggested that the team return with 3–4,000 free copies of A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, a book co-authored by CMRT founder David W. Shenk and his Muslim colleague Badru D. Kateregga in 1980.

David Shenk, Sayyid Syeed & Andres Prins

Syeed hoped the book could be given to a significant number of the projected 20,000 people who would attend the convention.

“​As Muslims, we believe what the Quran (3:113) teaches us about believing Christians and requires us to look for those Christians whose lives are true representatives of those values. I have known and respected Dr. Shenk and his team, who are wholeheartedly dedicated in building bridges of understanding between Muslims and Christians,” said Syeed. “This year I invited Dr. Shenk to bring his wonderful book and offer it as a gift to hundreds of participants at our 54th annual convention in Chicago.”

In response to Syeed’s request, the book’s publisher, Herald Press, offered a bulk order of the books at one-third of the original price.

“It’s great to work on a project like this where there is direct ministry impact,” said Joe Questel, director of Sales and Marketing at Herald Press. “The challenge for us was to be able to supply (the books) at a price that would allow (the team) to afford that many, and to do it in a very tight time frame. We had done this once before on a smaller buy, so we had a great working relationship in place to be able to scale up for this opportunity.”

“I was very impressed … with how quickly they raised the funds,” added Questel.

Community members gave toward the bulk purchase through an online fundraiser held by EMM.

The CMRT was able to arrive at the June 30–July 3 convention with 2,500 Christian-Muslim dialogue books in tow.

“It was really a step of faith to carry all those books in,” said the book’s co-author and CMRT member Shenk, who made his first appearance at the convention this year.

His teammate Andres Prins agreed. “We were in a sea of booths, and I had little faith that the 2,500 books would all be taken by people who happened to pass by our booth,” he said. The CMRT’s booth was one of over 400 stands representing various Muslim-oriented organizations.

To the team members’ delight, however, the book was specially promoted throughout the convention. Syeed, this year’s ISNA Community Service Recognition Award winner, even mentioned the book’s importance in his acceptance speech.

Throughout the convention, the CMRT distributed all but 300 copies of A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, each containing a welcoming and explanatory letter from authors Kateregga and Shenk.

Syeed said the book was a valued gift at the convention. “Our people appreciated this kind gesture and cherished (Shenk’s) book as a powerful tool for advancing better understanding and partnership between the two faith communities. We will continue to build solidarity against destructive hate and mutual demonization, and devote our resources to shaping a world of love and mutual respect,” he said.

One of Shenk’s favorite moments at the convention occurred when an attendee said his 12-year-old son had picked up a copy of the book the day before and read it for hours late into the night. “That showed that the book is written with the simplicity that allows a 12-year-old to find it interesting,” said Shenk.

The book has 12 chapters by Kateregga sharing a Muslim witness, followed by Shenk’s twelve chapters sharing a Christian witness. Shenk said his and Kateregga’s goal in writing the book was to represent each faith as accurately as possible.

“There are so many misunderstandings. This book has a commitment to faiths being communicated faithfully and understandably,” he said.

The CMRT felt that their book, and their presence, received a warm welcome at the convention.

“The hospitality was amazing! We felt so welcomed. People would ask what the books were about, and we had wonderful conversations,” said David Shenk’s wife Grace Shenk, another CMRT member.

One such conversation involved a sincere attempt to convert Grace Shenk to Islam. A visitor to the CMRT’s booth quoted numerous biblical proof-texts to convince her that Christianity didn’t make sense. She assured the man that her faith fully satisfied her.

Jonathan Bornman, another member of the CMRT, said the ISNA Convention makes space for difficult conversations like these. He’s observed that many Christians are very hesitant to have their faith challenged or to face difficult questions when interacting with Muslims.

Whether easy or challenging, Prins found each conversation he had at the convention to be enriching. “Attending events like this ISNA Convention, experiencing once again the generous reception of our Muslim hosts and their sincere questions regarding the gospel and concern for better relations, convinces me more than ever that these encounters are ones that all Christ-followers should be actively seeking out,” he said.