Gratitude for Risk Takers

Guest post by Melissa Miller

Home page of Mennonite Church Canada website

Home page of Mennonite Church Canada website

Just over two years ago, I received a surprising phone call from Dave Bergen (MC Canada, Executive Minister, Formation)  inviting me to serve as board chair of MennoMedia. After prayerful discernment, I said yes to partnering with the board, Executive Director Russ Eanes, and the other staff in service to the mission of MennoMedia:

“To engage and shape church and society with resources for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective.”

 

Saying yes has given me an upclose experience of our denominational producers of faith resources.

In this season of thanksgiving that we have just come through in Canada and the U.S.,  I offer the following gratitudes.Thanksgiving2012First of all, I am grateful for Russ and the hard-working, dedicated staff. In these people, I see commitment, creativity and caring.

Staff of MennoMedia 2011The staff of MennoMedia are one of our best resources (only “full” staff picture we have, taken in 2011, and of course there have been staff changes since then).MennoMedia Board 2011I have similar sentiments toward the board members–(and some of these have moved on, too).

I am grateful for loyalty to and enthusiasm for our churches’ distinctly Anabaptist expressions of Christian faith. This appreciation for MennoMedia products has been forged over decades, as word, story, image and faith have woven together to create meaningful pathways for Jesus-followers. New customers testify to their excitement in finding materials that help them grow in faith.

Keith Sundberg, an associate pastor at Wayside Presbyterian (Erie, Pa.), is an enthusiastic user of MennoMedia’s VBS materials. Last year, the VBS teachers at Wayside told him, “Keith, this is it, don’t look anywhere else.” He finds the materials “brilliantly written, with a great awareness of the intelligence of children. The writers assume children are able to think and interpret Bible stories.”

At the board level, we express appreciation for the way our faith has been shaped by resources from MennoMedia and its predecessors. We serve as board members because we want to continue this legacy of faith-shaping.

I’m grateful for visionaries and risk-takers.MichelleSinclairBenNevis These include people like John Funk who set out on a path over 100 years ago, as well as authors like Logan Mehl-Laituri and the writers/ illustrators of Radical Jesus, who bring us messages of Christian peacemaking in strikingly different forms.

ForGodAndCountryRadicalJesus_Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 
After the last two years, it is clear to me that it is a time for visionaries and risk-takers. We need to take risks — measured, prayerfully discerned risks, yet risks all the same.

SailboatChesapeakeOur staff show up day after day committed to serving the mission of MennoMedia, charting a path through unknown waters, prepared to take the necessary risks to grow as a viable, thriving organization. Let’s be thankful for them!

On a final note, I am concluding my time as board chair, effective December 31st of this year, a move necessitated by personal and work-related matters that I must tend. I am thankful I’ve had this opportunity and step away with gratitude for the experience, and for the people who share the vision of MennoMedia.

Melissa Miller
Board chair

You might recall Melissa’s own risky blog post late last spring when she and everyone else in Manitoba had about enough of a long winter ….

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What do you appreciate about the work of MennoMedia?
Where do we have room to grow?

 

 

“Bind them as a sign on your hand …” MennoMedia Board chair goes literal

In early September, I preached a sermon in my congregation on Deuteronomy 6:4-9. That scripture was chosen to kick-off a series on core Anabaptist scriptures.

A parallel Sunday School class is using MennoMedia’s Bible study guide, Dig In: 13 Scriptures to Help Us Know the Way. The Deuteronomy scripture includes commands from God to keep God’s words constantly before us, even tied onto our bodies and written on our houses. In the spirit of those instructions, I tied a ribbon around my wrist during the sermon. I told the congregation I was going to wear this verse, and add the remaining scriptures as I preached on them this fall. And I have done so.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInitially, I liked the tangible connection between me and God’s word. I liked seeing the ribbons as I went about my daily routines, recalling the scripture and meditating upon it. Such a visible prompt calls me back to my Christian faith, to my baptismal vows, and to my intentions to follow Jesus. This is especially helpful when I’ve strayed off the path, and I’m thinking or acting in unchristian ways.

As the ribbons multiplied, however, I got a little bothered by them. They get in the way! They slow me down. They don’t always match my clothes. They’re a bit fussy. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 slipped off my wrist into the washing machine, emerging wrinkled and dripping but intact at the end of the cycle. Romans 12:9-21 disappeared completely and had to be replaced.) To simplify, I capped the bracelets at four, with multiple texts on each one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo what’s the point of “digging in” to core Anabaptist scriptures? First off, it provides a base from which to explain biblical interpretation from an Anabaptist perspective. Each family of Christianity has a unique understanding of Jesus, a particular shade of meaning about his gifts to the world. Focusing on these scriptures helps to ground ourselves in an Anabaptist understanding of Jesus.

Secondly, God’s word does get in the way, or it should! There is wisdom in the Deuteronomy counsel to have an intimate and embodied relationship with God’s word. God’s word, for all its complexities and puzzles, does help us to find our way, in a confusing, over-stimulated and unholy world. Like traffic lights or GPS voice commands, God’s word warns us of dangers and orients our spiritual direction. The Bible offers true signposts, guiding us we walk in the way of Jesus.

MennoMedia’s mission is to provide resources for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective. Dig In is one small but significant way we are acting on that mission.

mmiller

Melissa Miller, MennoMedia Board chair

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How do you stay connected to God’s word as you go about your daily routine? Any practices, such as Melissa’s, that you’ve tried in order to “write them on your doorpost”? P1030367Jewelry? Special T-shirts? Other? We’d love to hear your experiences or see your photos. Send to melodied@mennomedia.org

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MennoMedia has just announced Dig In in Spanish, as ¡A Escarbar!. See more here.Or to purchase, go here.

Dig In includes video interviews with persons across the U.S. and Canada telling about their experiences/thoughts around the various scriptures. See more about Dig In and find a link to one video, here.

I Love My Job!

For the past 19 months, I have served as MennoMedia’s Director of Development. My responsibilities include church and donor relations with a current emphasis on raising the $400,000 needed in seed funds to develop the next generation of Anabaptist Sunday School curriculum—Shine. We are making progress on that goal, having raised the initial $110,000 in gifts and pledges, but much remains to be done. You can visit the Shine website here and check out the exciting new Shine Story Bible.

ShineLogoTo reach this goal, I worked together with MennoMedia’s CEO and Board to develop a strategy. We decided I should visit the 50 U.S. churches and 33 Canadian congregations that are the top users of the current Gather ‘Round Sunday school curriculum, and ask them to help supply the needed funds for the new curriculum. Following my recent trip to Oregon I have completed that task, to a reasonable extent, having visited 47 of the top 50 congregations in the U.S. and 21 of the top 33 in Canada. The other congregations either declined a visit or are too widely scattered to justify a trip. As you know, it is a long and difficult process to make it into a congregation’s budget but I am hopeful that my visits, and the strength of this appeal, will bear fruit as congregations process my request.

Many people are timid and therefore reluctant to ask for money. They imagine they would hate my line of work. I, on the other hand, love it. Being an extrovert, with a strong belief in MennoMedia’s mission “to engage and shape church and society with resources for living the Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective,” I have found the job both challenging and rewarding. I have learned a lot about the Mennonite Church in both the U.S. and Canada. I have traveled to new places and met fascinating people. My wife, Chris, who is a nurse with a flexible schedule, has accompanied me on several trips. (Of course, we always pay for our personal expenses during such trips.)

Chris recently went to Oregon with me. I was able to do my work in five days and we spent a late September weekend at Crater Lake National Park. What a beautiful place. The park received eight inches of snow two days before we arrived. However, on the day we arrived, the weather was beautiful. The lake was a deep blue and I could see Mt. Shasta, a 14,151 foot summit 100 miles away in California. Wow! The next day was rainy and foggy and we couldn’t see the lake from the lodge just 900 feet away.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Photo by Chris Carpenter

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Photo by Chris Carpenter

Immediately upon my return from Oregon, I headed off to Lancaster to attend Everence’s biennial development conference, Creating Lasting Legacies. There I met others engaged in fundraising, was inspired by those more experienced in the field, and learned much about estate planning. It reminded me of a quote I recently read in The Canadian Mennonite by Lori Guenther Reesor, a professional fundraiser and co-pastor of the Mississauga Mennonite Fellowship in Ontario. She said, “Fundraising is the joyful and holy task of telling people about the garden and inviting them to water it.”

sb10062327r-001I feel that way about my work. It is both joyful and holy. I incorporate prayer into most visits and feel like I both give and receive a blessing everywhere I go. I pray you too may experience the holy joy of giving as you practice faithful stewardship in response to the abundance God has given you.

SteveC

 

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development