Quarantine: San Francisco - Week Three
Maranatha   מרנאתא  Μαρανα θα
by Janet Lynn Kroeker

She pulls up to the front of the house,
and parks parallel in the driveway.
As she walks through the street door I see she is holding a small black bag.
Before she can speak I say, "no toilet paper?"
She continues walking toward me for our usual greeting of a hug, 
but stops herself, remembering to keep a six foot distance between us.

In the awkwardness of the moment she takes a deep breath,
and smiling says, "I've brought you a gift!"
Sticking out of the top of the bag, is a bunch of pink roses
with just a hint of purple peeking through.
"Oh, Lilacs!" I say. (she knows they are my favorite)
"These are the very last blooms" she answers,
"I don't know if there will be a place for a lilac bush in the new garden plan."
Looking around for what to do with the flowers,
she sets them on top of my side wall planter.

We fall into conversation about PPE's, face masks,
and no toilet paper available for purchase.
As she leaves I walk back to my house holding the little black bag
with the flower bouquet tucked into the top.
I lift the bag to my nose and breath in the heavy scent,
eyes closing, my mind traveling back
to that brisk spring morning in South Dakota
on Oma and Opa's farm.

I am just three years old, and my father grips my tiny hand. 
and brings me around the back to show me
the tall row of bushes filled with lavender blooms,
"This is what you are smelling," he says - a smile filling his whole face
as he watches me seeing them for the very first time.
I remember the tightness of his hand, and the filled air.
He is now in his 93rd year, and I'm beyond threescore and five.
He can't remember telling me about
that afternoon walk just six years ago,
on the very day she died, when Mom specifically pointed out
the last blossoms on the lilac bush next door.

When I ask if he remembers
showing me the lilac hedge as a child, 
he tells me details I have never known . . . 
the long wet grasses brushing our ankles
rows of Lily-of-the-valley against the house,
and my dancing and twirling around in delight,
wanting to pick all of the purple flowers
We recite our evening prayers together
joined with the rising fragrance from my bedside bouquet
We aren't made to be comfortable
to a prescribed distance between us
and yet we somehow adjust to it.
My mind searches for a word 
more apt than "priceless" for friends who bring 
the last of their lilacs during a quarantine. 

Janet Lynn Kroeker lives in San Francisco, CA and is a member of the MW USA Board
The Handmaid's Tale and COVID-19
By Cyneatha Millsaps

Have you read (or watched the series) the Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood? This book and series challenge your mind to consider, could this happen? And then, remind yourself that similar events in our history have happened. Rhoda Keener suggested I read this book a few months ago and I did. I struggled with it mostly because even though I understood what was happening to the women it seemed futurist. No real threat for me personally, and then COVID-19.

I have so much to talk about that this simple blog post would never have the space to address. But two things are pressing in my mind. How close are we to losing all of our freedoms? And what happens to our sisterhood when constant trauma and isolation are a daily part of our lives?

First, our freedoms. Many people would say, something like this will never happen but I am not sure about that. In the book, the heroine talks about the fact that we gave up more and more of our liberties until it was easy for the government (or new regime) to simply take the rest. In the book all the women find without warning that all their money had been taken from them and given to their husbands or their closest male relative. Women were no longer allowed to own property; all their resources had been stripped. This concerns me because our government was able to simply drop $1200 in our bank accounts. If they can put money in, then they can take money out. What liberties have we already given up? Consider because of COVID-19, entire cities came to a complete halt. We were told to go inside and stay off the roads and within days, we did.

Now I know many people will say, but that was because of a virus that has killed and will likely kill more people if we do not. I agree and feel like staying home is the right choice in this current crisis. But what else is this moment informing others about us? And how will that knowledge be used in the future?

Second, to what extent are we as women willing to save ourselves over the life of another? In the Handmaids Tale, women are pitted against each other in ever aspect of their lives. The Handmaids do not trust other handmaids. They are forced to degrade and belittle one another. They are not sure if the other woman is a spy who will turn her in if she speaks negatively about the new world order. The barren wives are forced to participate in the rape of the handmaids by their husband which in turns causes her to hate the handmaid. Even women in power, who could put a stop to the entire practice of enslaving women for a prescribed ideology, do not because of their own fears of a world without new life which comes in the form of a child.

How far will you go to protect the human species? We have countless examples throughout history of leaders and regimes going to unprecedented lengths to advance their cause, beliefs and even more scary their own people. And it often starts with the idea that the other is threating their way of life and or what God has ordained.

So, I am looking for women to join me in a conversation. Coffee and Conversation is one of the ways MW USA has invited women into gather with other women to discuss issues facing our families and communities. But because of COVID-19 we are not able to gather in person, so MW USA would like to visit with you virtually. If you are interested in joining me and other women to talk about The Handmaids Tale and how it relates to women today, please email office@mwusa.org. You will be sent a personal invite for the Coffee and Conversation.

Or if your women's group would like to host a Coffee and Conversation with me please contact our office to schedule a time.
April was Sistering Month at MW USA

This April, we at Mennonite Women shared stories of Sistering and what that looks like for us. Our Executive Director, Cyneatha, and Board Chair, Kathy, shared about women who sister them. Check out those posts below and see the pics of the sisters on Facebook and Instagram.

Yenny Rangel sewing face masks in Colombia
By Rhoda Keener
Carolyn Heggen and I met Yenny Rangel (pictured left with Miriam Bocanegra, photo by Carolyn Heggen) in 2017 at the Sister Care Enrichment seminar in Bogota.  She had traveled from Venezuela to attend the seminar and shared with us about the dire economic reality there.  Linda Shelly, Mennonite Mission Network director for Latin America, returned home in mid-March and sent us this update about Yenny. 
"Because of the economic situation in Venezuela, Yenny and her husband Carolos Orellana migrated to Colombia in 2018.  They contacted Colombian Mennonites they had learned to know who invited them to live at the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church. They participate actively in the church, and like many Venezuelans in Colombia earn money for food by selling coffee, empanadas and anything else people will buy. Although their income is low, they save money to send back to Venezuela to help family and friends there.
"As the Coronavirus took root in Colombia, stores quickly ran out of protective face masks. Yenny had experience making them in Venezuela where there is a scarcity of many basic items.  She bought surgical fabric and other supplies and with a borrowed sewing machine, started producing reusable face masks. Yenny said she was motivated both by wanting to help people who didn't have masks and by seeing an opportunity to earn more money by producing something that was in demand. 

She has made over 100 masks. Her husband Carlos goes out and sells the masks wherever he thinks people will buy them. He sells them for a little less than $1.00 each, which is about twice the cost of the fabric. It takes time to make the masks, and likely they could charge more, but Yenny said, "People are struggling. We don't want to take advantage of others in this difficult situation."  Yenny wrote later that she is making 50 now to give to people living on the streets." (Photo by Linda Shelly)
Give to  Choosing Sisterhood

Make a difference today! Give financially to MW USA and support our  Choosing Sisterhood campaign.  Your gift will help to provide much needed respite for our women leaders who are under-resourced, overworked and critical to Holy Spirit's movement among us. 

To give to  Choosing Sisterhoodclick here to give online. Or mail your check to Mennonite Women USA / 718 N Main St / Newton, KS 67114. 

Our Eternal Sisterhood

Mennonite Women USA invites you to honor a significant person in your life through a financial gift to this ministry. 

If you would like to give financially to MW USA in memory or honor of a specific individual, please contact the MW USA office
Follow us on Social Media!

We are sharing almost daily over on our Instagram and Facebook pages. We're excited to engage with you more in this way. If you don't already, click the links and follow us!

We are able to safely keep our store open so long as the post office remains open. So, if you're looking for a new book to read or a bible study guide to lean on or want to learn more about Sister Care, we've got you covered. We've got several bundle deals and all previous years' bible study guides are half off. Check out our  store here.
Mennonite Women USA |   office@mwusa.org316.281.4394  | mwusa.org