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Guns into rainbows

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Apr 15, 2015

So my son, who is almost two years old, has a set of wooden building blocks—you know, the kind with the letters of the alphabet on them, along with pictures of things that start with each letter. Instead of the usual “A” is for “apple” and “B” is for “ball,” however, these blocks are a little more off-beat (a.k.a., “hipster”). For example, “K” is for “kazoo,” “V” is for “vinyl,” with a picture of an LP record, and, one of my personal favourites, “Y” is for “yard sale”! A dear friend of mine gave them to us as a baby-warming present, and I find most of them really amusing.

A baby

Big Sister welcomes the new family member.

By Tamara Petkau | Apr 02, 2015

He came one week and one day early. He came quickly, so quickly that his dad and midwife almost missed his grand arrival. “He’s here,” the nurse yelled while everyone else was still trying to get ready.

Yes, he is here. My sweet, perfect son is finally here and he has forever changed my world making it an infinitely better place.

Unforgettable days in Chile and Uruguay

A typical Latin American welcome or parting kiss. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

By Palmer Becker | Apr 02, 2015

A lot has happened since I last wrote. The ten days in Chile were especially unforgettable!

Chile, with seven climate sub-types, is 4,300 km (2,670 miles) long and 350 km (220 miles) wide.  I was almost down to Antarctica! Chile leads Latin American nations in rankings of human development, income per capita, globalization, transparency, and state of peace. The country has a female president.

Five reflections in South America

C. Paul and Hildi Amstutz serve in chaplaincy and spiritual formation ministries in Asuncion, Paraguay. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

By Palmer Becker | Apr 02, 2015

Ardys and I have been able to spend ten wonderful days together first in Asuncion, then at the world-famous Iguazu Falls and now in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ardys is now on her way back to Canada; I leave on Thursday for ten days of ministry in Chile. Weather has been in the 80's with an occasional tropical rain. 

While I do not pose to be an authority, let me share five reflections from my contacts here in South America.

Reflection # 1: Admirable mission work 

Friday: A poem

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Apr 01, 2015

Now that we’ve entered once again into the sombreness of Holy Week, I’d like to share a poem of mine which expresses some of my reflections on the cross, which I’ve shared on this blog before.

On sin

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Mar 19, 2015

It’s become clear to me from a lot of the conversations occurring within Canadian Mennonite, especially in the letters to the editor, that as Mennonites, we’re not of one mind when it comes to sin. Now sin, generally, isn’t a terribly popular topic of conversation, even among church-going types. It tends to remind us of guilt trips and church splits—not things to talk about in polite company!

News from Paraguay

Paraguayan pastors and church workers arrive by truck to attend a four-day workshop. (Photo courtesy of Palmer Becker)

By Palmer Becker | Mar 18, 2015

Everywhere I go I extend greetings from my church, family and friends. There is always an enthusiastic response saying that I should convey greetings back to you. Greetings!

Good fellowship in Brazil

Youth are engaged in graffiti evangelism. Note that Jesus is going to church in a boat on a skateboard with a Bible in one hand and a spray can in the other! (Photo by Palmer Becker)

By Palmer Becker | Mar 12, 2015

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, both in land mass and population. The densely forested Amazon Valley, which includes up to 69 Indian tribes, makes up a large portion of this very interesting country of mixed peoples. According to government reports, 55 percent of the Brazilian people have some African blood. This is due to Brazil having slavery until 1889 and the owners having many children from their slaves, who they treated as mistresses.

The name game

By Tamara Petkau | Mar 11, 2015

I’m now in my ninth month of pregnancy, which is hardly the beautiful and magical time magazines and mommy-blogs would lead one to believe that it is. Pregnancy is difficult, magical—yes—but difficult. Part of me feels like the magic slowly wanes with every pregnancy I put my body through, and those not-so-delightful pregnancy symptoms only seem to multiple with every additional child.

Except “nesting.” I have yet to experience the symptom of “nesting,” which, I’ve been told, is a mother’s strong desire to prepare the home for the arrival of Baby.

Greetings from Bolivia

Lizette, co-director of MCC, was an excellent translator.  (Photo by Linda Shelly)

By Palmer Becker | Mar 09, 2015

Bolivia, named after its first president, Bolivar, is about 4,500 miles south and one time zone east of Kitchener. It is a beautiful country with lots of tropical foliage, including 1,200 species of fern and 1,400 species of birds. This land-locked country is south of the equator, which means that we need to look north to see the sun. In the distance are 6,000 meter (21,000 feet) mountains that settle down into the Amazon Basin. Weather is warm, with a tropical downpour every day or two.

Remembering . . .

By Tamara Petkau | Feb 23, 2015 | 1 comment

Every week my grandma sends every member of her family an email update on her weekly events and the happenings of the entire family’s whereabouts. She’s been providing these factual outlines on everyone’s comings and goings for close to a decade now—skipping only when her computer acts up or a family gathering provides opportunity to catch up in person. In many ways, it is these weekly emails that keep our family connected despite our vast distance of locations, ages, and interests.

Love—the greatest obstacle

By Tamara Petkau | Feb 12, 2015

Having gone public with my New Year’s resolutions this year, it was inevitable that I would be asked the dreaded follow-up question: “How are your resolutions going?”

While I’m tickled that people actually read this blog, I dread the question because ALL of my well-intentioned resolutions have been epic fails. I haven’t just fallen off the wagon once or twice—many of my goals failed to even see the light of day.

On theological writing

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Feb 06, 2015

It’s interesting being a Mennonite and an academic. Sometimes I find my Anabaptist-Mennonite sensibilities grating against the norms of academia: my “priesthood of all believers” mentality against intellectual elitism, my discipleship/faith-without-works-is-dead mentality against the divorcing of theory from practice, and especially, my appreciation for the “plain sense” and the poetry of Scripture (in the vernacular!) against the inaccessibility of academic language.

"You lost me"? Young adults in/and/of the church

A 17th-century Dutch church. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

By Susie Guenther Loewen | Feb 02, 2015

Earlier this month, I was one of many who gathered in the new Marpeck Commons building at Canadian Mennonite University to hear from a panel of “young adults” on their age group and the church. [1] Judging by the size of the audience (they had to go get extra chairs!), and a feature article on a similar topic in the Feb. 16, 2015 issue of Canadian Mennonite, [2] this is an issue that many churches are currently profoundly concerned and anxious about.

The next phase

By Tamara Petkau | Jan 09, 2015

We’re having a baby boy. We’re excited and scared and overwhelmed and underprepared. Mostly excited, but it’s taken me a little while to get here.

I have two young girls. They are my world—a world I never could have imagined for myself. It is a world of tea parties, ballet, Barbie dolls, pink-pink-pink, and Disney princesses galore.

Six resolutions

By Tamara Petkau | Jan 08, 2015

I’m a fan of new beginnings and fresh starts and the start of the New Year is the ultimate in possibilities and promise. Yes, I am a fan, a big fan, of New Year’s resolutions.

I usually compile my list on January 1, but this year was different. Hubby and I enjoyed a post-Christmas, pre-baby trip to NYC, just the two of us. It was lovely, but Hubs just doesn’t do resolutions. “If you want a make a change, you make it. You don’t wait for a certain day,” he claims. He’s right, of course, but he’s not exactly the audience I’m looking for when comprising my resolution list.

Buy Nothing Day

By Tamara Petkau | Nov 28, 2014

Did you know that Thursday, November 27 was American Thanksgiving? You might not, since this holiday seems to have faded into the shadows of the sinister Black Friday—which is today.

I don’t really understand the history of Black Friday, and I’m too scared to google it, but as far as I know, it’s a day that celebrates excessive greed. Unfortunately, it’s made its way up to Canada, and everywhere I look I am bombarded with Black Friday blowout information. It makes me sad, especially since a part of me wants to partake in it so badly.

Listening to the right voices

By Tamara Petkau | Oct 30, 2014

I am a big fan of CBC Radio. In our house, it takes the place of the TV, and it plays almost non-stop in our small kitchen, providing me with comforting background noise. On desperate days, it connects me to the outside world.

Squash!

By Tamara Petkau | Oct 30, 2014

It’s full on fall and what a lovely season it is.  We spent last weekend browsing the stalls at our local farmer’s market, stealing samples and purchasing way too many baked goods.

I love farmer’s markets. They make me feel healthy, even if the only purchases I make are cinnamon buns and homemade donuts. However, this time we splurged on apples and squash. 

Mary's river

By Cassandra Bangay | Oct 08, 2014 | 2 comments

Mary Magdalene is one of the most controversial and mysterious biblical characters. She often gets a bad rap. She was pegged as a prostitute and temptress by Pope Gregory I, and her reputation remained tarnished for around seven centuries before biblical scholars redeemed her by untangling the three women whose stories Gregory had merged. It was not until 1280 that she was recognized as a leader and canonized by several different church denominations.

Mid-point reflections from Gaza

By Palmer Becker | Oct 06, 2014

This is midpoint in my five-week ministry here in Gaza and Bethlehem. Things are going well. While my students in Gaza are doing research, book reports and various kinds of homework, I have had the opportunity to teach classes at the college, lead workshops in the community, help to establish the peace studies center, and interact with the Muslim and Christian communities of Bethlehem. 

First report from Gaza

By Palmer Becker | Oct 06, 2014

I am writing this from prison. All 1.8 million of us who are living in Gaza are in prison. The walls around Gaza keep us (except us privileged foreigners) from leaving to work, to shop or to go to another church, town or country. We cannot sell our crops or manufactured goods. Some have meager food and very little money to buy it. We are trapped in a small space about 40 miles long and 10 miles wide."

#Brag-worthy

By Tamara Petkau | Sep 30, 2014

Jesus said, “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:2-4).

Losing and gaining

By Tamara Petkau | Sep 25, 2014

September has been a whirlwind of change. It always is. One day we’re enjoying the lazy days of summer, when our mornings are spent park-hopping, lunches are always picnics, and supper is usually topped off with bicycle rides and ice cream cones. Bedtime is flexible, shoes are optional, and everyone goes to bed with dirt and sand under their fingernails. 

And then September comes around and BAM! Everything changes. Preschool starts. Work resumes. Alarm clocks are set and bedtime is enforced. Sometimes if feels like life does a full 180 in September.

Marching for justice

By Cassandra Bangay | Sep 02, 2014

In his famous address at 1984 Mennonite World Conference, in Strasbourg, France, Ron Sider described shalom as “being in right relationship with God, neighbor and the earth.” Shalom, he said, “means not only the absence of war, but also a land flowing with milk and honey. It includes just economic relationships with the neighbor. It means the fair division of land so that all families can earn their own way.