The way in which the Holy Spirit poured upon women during worship at the 2009 biennial gathering of Hispanic Mennonite Women in North Newton showed God’s riches are not threatened by the recent economic downturn.

The way in which the Holy Spirit poured upon women during worship at the 2009 biennial gathering of Hispanic Mennonite Women in North Newton showed God’s riches are not threatened by the recent economic downturn.

Even before a sermon could be given during the Saturday morning worship at the conference at Bethel College, women flooded up to the altar at Bethel College Mennonite Church.

They prostrated themselves in prayer as they responded to God’s presence at the conference “Serving a Faithful God.”

“During the morning worship, before dismissal to the workshops, the worship leader stopped the music and invited women to come up to the altar,” said Madeline Maldonado, Fort Myers, Fla., outgoing president of Hispanic Mennonite Women who helped plan the conference. “In seconds, there was a stampede of women coming up to get to the front.

“Women were lying down on their faces, crying out to God, and God ministered in powerful ways. I am still not sure what all happened, but I do know that a lot of women are going through tough times right now, especially because of the economic situation.”

The lean economy kept registration lower than normal, she said. Generally, about 200 women from across the United States attend the gatherings, conducted regularly since the organization began in 1974. This year, about 90 women attended, and those were able to fund the trip in part because of Bethel College’s generosity.

“I think women have a way of overcoming economic situations, and so many of them called before the conference, asking if we could keep costs lower,” Maldonado said. “Many of the women had to bring three or four kids, and because of that, the college helped us out and gave women with multiple children a flat rate of $40 for lodging. The college was really wonderful to us.”

Tough travel times

Other participants proved Maldonado’s description of women tackling tough times is accurate. For example, participant Nena Bennett said the women in her church, Iglesia Menonita de Cordero, in Brownsville, Texas, conducted many events to fund their trip. They then put the money in a travel pool and divided it amongst the five women who came. In years past, their group had as many as a dozen women attend the gathering.

“We sacrificed a lot of our time and effort to be able to come to the conference this year,” said Bennett, an elder in her congregation and president of the women’s group.

“But we were willing to do whatever we had to do, because we knew from experience how wonderful the fellowship and worship is at this conference. It is so wonderful to get away from your everyday concerns and spend time with God and your sisters in Christ.”

The sisters in Christ who gathered at the conference came from far and wide — including from a congregation in Bronx, N.Y., from Midwest states, such as Iowa, and from the Southwest, including Texas.

They enjoyed worship, workshops, a concluding banquet and presentations from main speaker Rebecca Overstreet of Kissimmee, Fla., pastor and leader of a Bible school there.

María Magdalena De León of Mathis, Texas, led a workshop, “Discovering Your Identity.”

She told her story of how she had been known by the name of Maggie for many years. It was a name given to her in kindergarten by a well-loved white teacher. This teacher refused to call her Magdalena, her original Spanish name.

After weeks of arguing with her teacher about calling her by her Spanish name, she finally settled into accepting his name for her.

But a couple of years ago, she attended a seminar that evoked memories of her childhood.

She cried for hours and realized the racism that was inherent in the naming incident. And now she has reclaimed her original name, Magdalena, as a way to reclaim her Latina identity.

Another workshop was “The Modest Woman,” Nancy Morales of Puerto Rico.

It focused on God’s faithfulness and provision for her and her family, as well as tips for better managing finances.

Marisa Alemán-Cantú, of Rock Island, Ill., gave the workshop “The Innovative Woman: Renew, Reuse, Recycle.”

She discussed how women can use their God-given creativity to reuse things they would normally trash.

She uses egg cartons to keep her pantyhose and knee-highs in order in her drawer.



Beyond the chock-full schedule including worship, sermons and workshops, the women loved the simple pleasures of being with other women — staying up late to talk and laugh, letting go freely in worship in ways they wouldn’t at home and unabashedly pouring out to God whatever was on their hearts.

“Besides the tough economic times, I noticed a lot of women have things going on at home they needed to get away from in order to pray and to talk with other women,” Maldonado said. “Some have issues with children, issues with husbands, some are going through abuse. Some just wanted to be away from their church home and to cry freely without anyone watching them or questioning them.

“When Latino women gather at these conferences, we feel so free to worship the Lord — to jump around and to dance, to release all that is in our hearts to God. It’s this worship and this fellowship that makes all the sacrifice worth it.”