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  • Writer's pictureMennonite Women USA

The Gift of Feeling Included

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Matthew 18:20

Everyone desires to feel included: a part of something more than self. Being a part of something contributes to our feeling accepted. Cyneatha Millsaps, Executive Director of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA), invited me to share the draft of my women’s Bible study with MW USA’s Leadership Circle at their annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico in early October. It took some praying for me to take the leap and reply with an expectant, “YES!” At first I glanced on Google Earth to see where I was going. Up came an adobe-like home with a fence around it, broken old cars, and bars on the windows. I looked at the surroundings and was terrified of where I was heading. And yet was still on board, nervously waiting to hear the details.

A few emails later, Erica Lea-Simka—MW USA Southwest Regional Representative and Pastor of Albuquerque Mennonite Church—provided us with a more accurate address and name of where we were staying. I brought it back up on the computer, and to my delight, it was not where I first thought. I’m not sure if God was testing my obedience or if I need to learn patience for more accurate information!

Off I flew from Pennsylvania to New Mexico to gather with 6 women I had never met before. The stay at the Norbertine Abbey was breathtaking. I shared a few sessions of my very raw bible study draft with these women over the weekend. The awkward facilitation through dissecting and receiving feedback from women I didn’t know was uncomfortable and thrilling at the same time. Their insights were filled with experiences that formed their wisdom.

While with them, I felt the spread of warmth like a sun of kindness. The little touches of a well-thought-out gift bag that assured our health would be well taken care of in the dry desert land and another gift of homemade lavender soap are just two examples of their thoughtfulness for each other. They blessed me in so many ways. I felt encouraged by these women to make a difference in other women’s lives.

Accepted and included was what I was feeling by the end of the weekend. We shared laughter, personal stories, God-given visions and witnessed God’s kindness and love along the way. Not to mention some delicious food.

Even as they shared their feedback on the Bible study, I realized the importance of working together with other sisters in Christ - brainstorming and discerning the content from a variety of viewpoints. The process of presenting my work elaborating on core beliefs was stimulating among these women.

While they spent additional time planning and preparing coming goals for MW USA’s ministry, I had the opportunity to reflect and find spiritual refreshment time on the grounds of the abbey. There was daily 7:00 am prayer time with the Norbertine Brothers in the form of singing. I spent time going on the prayer walk, doing the stations of the cross out in the desert, and soaking in silence in a small chapel.

The space we occupied and the people in it made me feel at ease. The women truly opened the doors of their hearts and let their love pour out. I thank God for connecting me with these beautiful ladies. May God continue to work through them and use their gifts and talents to enhance other women in ministry.

Lisa Stenger

Bible Study Teacher, Speaker + Writer


Mennonite Women USA values what all women have to say and Women's Voices blog is a space to honor their words. Entries are reviewed for tolerance and respect but don't necessarily reflect MW USA's official position.

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