Missing Our Connections: Encouraging Mennonite Women to Live in Hope

December 24, 2020
by Marian Buckwalter
President of Mennonite Women of Virginia.

Dear Mennonite Women:

I wonder how you are doing. At this time of year, I am usually anticipating our annual retreat, a time to get away from all that is part of my usual routine, and to connect with all of you. I would look forward to the challenges and encouragement from the speaker. I would enjoy singing with a crowd of women. A Saturday afternoon hike or Escape Room adventure always calls to me. And Saturday evening Vespers calms my soul.

But all of that is different this year. There is no retreat. Perhaps this will end up to be like the year my husband’s family decided not to have our usual Saturday-after-Christmas family reunion. We all discovered how much we missed it! Or maybe we will find a different form of retreat for ourselves this year.

I’m planning a mother-daughter weekend outing. You might find a safe way to connect with a friend or two in a special way, or make space for a silent retreat. A possible theme could be “How have I Experienced God this Year?” or “Lord, Search Me and Know Me” from Psalm 139. And if you chose 2 “sistering sticks” at last year’s retreat, send a note to each of these sisters to tell them of your prayers for them.

What are the words you would use to describe yourself this year? Which of these words apply to you: stuck, overwhelmed, confused, depleted, scatter-brained, angry, depressed, alone, unable to breathe? Maybe you echo what one person told me, “I’m just surviving; I’m not thriving.” It’s helpful to name these things. But it’s not helpful to stay there. I want to encourage you to Count Your Blessings! Here are some of mine for today:

The sun shining, bringing out the beauty of the leaves.
A chilly early-morning walk down the lane.
A day free of appointments!
A Psalm that drew me to God.
The cheerfulness of my daughters.
God’s steadfast love that surrounds me.

Whenever I start to feel really sorry for myself, or like my world has been turned upside-down, I think of the beautiful refugees I met on the island of Lesvos, Greece in September of 2019. When I think of the stories of loss that I heard, I am humbled. I have so much. My world is so intact by comparison. Yet even there, in a place of so much despair, I met Jesus.

Whatever our situation, Jesus comes to us. Our circumstances don’t always change, but when we realize God is with us, we can experience life differently.

As president of Mennonite Women of Virginia, I can’t tell you that our executive committee has been busy dreaming up great and amazing ways of connecting with all of you. The truth is we’ve all been rather preoccupied with our families, our jobs, and putting one foot in front of the other to walk through this pandemic.

However, one thing we did was meet together with Alicia Manning for understanding racism: where it lies within ourselves and within Mennonite Women of Virginia. Thank you, Alicia!

As an organization, our Mission Statement is: Empowered women, creatively building Christ-centered relationships through fellowship, leadership, mission, and service.

We can only fulfill that statement if we are including and inviting to all women of Virginia Mennonite Conference, no matter your language of origin, your skin color, your comfort foods, your culture, your age, or your location. What might that mean for who is on the Executive Committee, and what activities we plan?

We are open to your suggestions and are counting on the leading of the Spirit. If you have ideas to pass on to us please send an email to our secretary, Evie Christner, at [email protected]. If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to read the thought-provoking blog post from Cyneatha Mills, Executive Director of Mennonite Women USA at

Carry on as women of grace and peace, reflecting the face of Jesus in all you do.