During my first year as a member of the Women of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (WMCEC) executive, I was fortunate to be invited to an information session about the possibility of Sister Care (a women’s empowerment program created by Mennonite Women U.S.A.) coming to Canada. Being quite the “newbie” in 2014, I had no idea what to expect. But I must admit that the idea of being at the grassroots level of anything that empowers women like Sister Care does, is just plain exciting, so I went.
At that meeting Liz Koop, president of Mennonite Women Canada (a former member of the WMCEC executive), spoke about her personal experience with the Sister Care program (mennonitewomenusa.org). Koop explained that this resource addresses issues of inner healing through compassionate listening, and provides tools for women to help themselves and others deal with loss and grief in their lives. In short, it’s all about sisters helping sisters within set parameters.
The Sister Care vision is spreading quickly. Seminars have already been held in North, Central and South America, East Asia and the Caribbean, and there are invitations in hand to visit Kenya and Trinidad. The Sister Care manual is currently printed in four languages. Sister Care seminar attendance has reached 3,368, and continues to climb.
Koop’s vision was to bring it here, but the logistics seemed overwhelming. After much discussion and prayerful soul-searching, a decision was reached: the WMCEC executive would take the lead to introduce Sister Care to Canada.
Subsequently, program developers Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keen were invited to present the first-ever two-day Sister Care seminar in Canada. It was held last month in Cambridge, Ont., and was attended by 42 women.
The seminar leaders demonstrated their passionate support for equipping women for caring ministries by sharing a spiritually rich, thought-provoking, self-enlightenment program. Attendees learned how to find healing for unresolved personal issues and unhealed spiritual/emotional wounds, in a comfortable, intimate environment. Also, a Sister Care working manual was given to each participant.
The response to the Cambridge experience was enthusiastic. One woman noted that “the combination of light-hearted and serious demeanour in telling stories was a gift. And the living water was a blessing.” Others said they appreciated “the calm spirit, sharing and caring of personal stories,” “the recognition that we all have had brokenness and are not alone,” and “the validation of my life, my experiences [having new] tools for the future.”
By the time this article appears in print, WMCEC—which has churches in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick—will have facilitated another Sister Care Retreat at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp near Kitchener, Ont. Another retreat is planned in the Niagara area for next June, shortly after our annual Spring Enrichment Day. And there is also a seminar happening in Winnipeg next May.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to see this grassroots event happen in your area of Canada, so that you also could experience healing and learn to become a more effective healing presence for others, as we walk together in faith?
Linda Wiens is on the executive of Women of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada and serves as its communicator. She is an active member of St. Catharines United Mennonite Church, Ont., where she volunteers in a variety of settings. Further contact information can be found at www.mcec.ca/content/women-mennonite-church-eastern-canada.