Mennonite Women of Virginia

Women Encouraging Women in Adversity

We always begin with fellowship and food! The 2019 event was held at Eastern Mennonite School. Photo: Deb Pardini

Women pray for our sisters around the world; for courage, grace, and strength in adversity. Photo: Deb Pardini

Four Tobin sisters (from left) Melody, Jessamyn, Bethany, and Hosanna) shared their stories from a vast array of experiences in ministry and personal growth at the February 20, 2020 Women Encouraging Women in Adversity event. Photo: Deb Pardini

Women Encouraging Women in Adversity

By Marian Buckwalter

Adversity – we run from it! But on February 20 women gathered together around that theme for our Annual Missions Day. Women from Harrisonburg Mennonite Church and Iglesia Discipular Anabaptista welcomed us with a delicious taco salad supper.

Mission workers Mary Hess, Pam Beachy, Norma Teles, Solange Tartari, and Klementina Shahini each told their own harrowing experience on the night of November 26, 2019, in Lehze, Albania. Jarred awake by an earthquake, they had to find their way out to the street from their respective homes in the total darkness. They recounted the horrors of aftershocks that brought more fear than the original earthquake. On the streets in the middle of the night in their pajamas they mingled with neighbors, called to check on each other, and let family at home know they were okay.

As they processed their experiences later, they joined with the psalmist in seeking refuge in God. “Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way, though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” from Psalm 46. Adversity brought them to God, drew them closer to each other, and opened up for them a new level of ministry among a group of Roma people being sheltered in the area high school.

Their slide show of ministry settings, accompanied by the music of Great is Thy Faithfulness, moved me. They are finding God faithful in the midst of their adversity.

Our attention turned from Albania to a ministry close by, East Gate Ministries in Bridgewater. Ilsa Weaver, director of this home for young women who have experienced much adversity, shared how they are experiencing God’s truth, hope, and transformation. In this safe place, young women are discovering their own beauty, the goodness of God, job skills, and daily living routines. Adversity transformed!

And then, in the grand finale of the evening, women chose from a list of missionary families and churches to give love gifts.

We went away encouraged by the stories we’d heard – from Albania, from Bridgewater. The work God is doing in the midst of hard times is a testimony of beauty for ashes. God is at work in our places of adversity too.

Engaging and encouraging women even as gathering events go remote

By Anita Clymer

On the evening of February 20 this year over a hundred women gathered in the fellowship hall of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church for Mennonite Women of Virginia’s annual missions day event to pray for and give financial love gifts to our sisters who work as missionaries around the world. We clustered in groups of eight to ten around tables to share a meal and get to know one another as we enjoyed the evening’s program together.

One of the topics of conversation at my table that evening was travel plans. My mom was wondering whether or not she should cancel an upcoming trip to Thailand due to concerns about a viral outbreak in Asia and possible travel restrictions. Little did we know how quickly that virus would travel around the world and change all of our lives for the foreseeable future. No one was going anywhere (including my mom, who postponed and then ended up canceling the trip)!

The theme of that evening in February was “Women Encouraging Women in Adversity.” How fitting the theme has become as we’ve all faced weeks and months of isolation. One way we’ve attempted to keep connecting with and encouraging women is through a blog that was started almost a year ago. Without needing to be in close contact, women (and men!) may access the poetry, stories, and reflections there that will hopefully encourage them to continue steadfastly and faithfully in whatever life God has called them to at this time.

In late March, I shared a poem on the blog about how small I have felt in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet how as a community we can have a great impact on the spread of the disease. The poem is called “Juice.”


I’m not a superhero
many times not even a great mom
or a wonderful person at all

Caught up with all of you
in the throes of a national crisis
a global pandemic

I find myself feeling quite ordinary
my efforts infinitesimal
compared to the magnitude of the galloping beast

Living here at the foot of the mountain
there are not even other humans
within six feet of me whom I could avoid
(family counting as a single organism)

So here I just am
making juice for jelly
from the collected bodies of canned grapes
whose first juice we have already drunk

these discards are heated on the stove
poured through a sieve
gently mashed to release their final goodness
(no, actually the chickens will still eat the skins)

dark purple pulpy juice runs down
gathered in surprising quantity in a bowl
and the fragrance is like early fall all over again

[gorging ourselves on grapes beneath the arbor
juice running down our chins
the sweet, pungent aroma lingering on our stained fingers]

And so I too
offer my one small body
joined with many others
a collected offering of good will and intentions
producing together an urn-full after all
a pleasing aroma

We invite you to visit the blog and use it as a way to connect with other women across our conference. It is meant to be a place where everyone can participate in discussion to encourage and uplift one another!

While Mennonite Women of Virginia has not had to cancel any events this spring, we have faced the challenge of continuing our planning—without meeting in person—for the summer prayer breakfast and fall women’s retreat, both of which usually take months of preparation in advance.

This year’s prayer breakfast will be unique in that we plan to meet virtually. We welcome all women to join our Mennonite Women of Virginia Virtual Prayer Breakfast to be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 11 via Zoom. We encourage you to prepare your coffee, tea or breakfast and join us online as we anticipate having VMMissions workers share with us on the topic of Experiencing God Through COVID-19. If you are not currently on Virginia Mennonite Women’s email list and would like to be a part of this event, please find our page under the “Ministries” tab on the Virginia Mennonite Conference website and send an e-mail to our secretary to get on the list!

Mennonite Women of Virginia plans to hold our annual fall retreat (in-person if possible!) on the weekend of November 13-15, 2020 in Richmond, VA. See the blog or check our page on the VMC website for updates and announcements concerning these events!

Check out the new Mennonite Women of Virginia blog! It’s a place for women to share their stories and connect with one another across the conference. If you have interest in writing for the blog as a regular contributor or even as a guest on occasion email us at

Stay up-to-date on Mennonite Women of Virginia’s Facebook page.

Mennonite Women of Virginia
Empowered Women Creatively Building Christ-centered Relationships through Fellowship, Leadership, Mission and Service.


President: Marian Buckwalter, Fulks Run, VA / 540-236-8848 /
Vice President: Sharon Arbaugh, Verona, VA / 540-292-1085 /
Secretary: Evie Christner, Stephens City, VA / 301-338-1192 /
Exec.Treasurer: Beth Brunk, Harrisonburg, VA / 549-810-6026 /
Hispanic Liaison: Tomasa Castaneda, Harrisonburg, VA / 542-560-9736 /
Retreat Treasurer: Ann Frank, Waynesboro, VA / 540-910-3253 /
Missions Secretary: Dianna Lehman, Harrisonburg, VA / 540-810-2706 /
Publicity Secretary: Deb Pardini, Harrisonburg, VA / 540-256-2358 /
Blog Editor: Anita Clymer, Broadway, VA / 814-667-4279 /