This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Mennonite Booklist Candidates

  • Adorno, Eunice - Las mujeres flores (The Flower Girls: Mennonites in Mexico) (2012)
  • Barry, John M. - Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty (2012)
  • Bartlett, Rosamund – Tolstoy: A Russian Life (2011)
  • Bower, Shannon Stunden – Wet Prairie: People, Land, and Water in Agricultural Manitoba (2011)
  • Ediger, Mary - Mission Girl (2012)
  • Goldstein, Joshua – Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide (2012)
  • Greer, Lisa – Blood on Her Bonnet (A Hutterite Mystery) (2011)
  • Haidt, Jonathon - Righteous Mind, The (2012)
  • Haile, Ahmed Ali & Shenk, David W. – Teatime in Mogadishu: My Journey as a Peace Ambassador in the World of Islam (2011)
  • Hauerwas, Stanley – War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity (2011)
  • Hollinger-Jansen, Rod, Myers, Nancy J. and Bertsche, Jim - The Jesus Tribe: Grace Stories from Congo's Mennonites (2012)
  • Horgan, John – The End of War (2012)
  • Kraybill, Donald B. – The Upside-Down Kingdom, 5th Edition (2011)
  • Lachman, Becca - The Apple Speaks (2012)
  • Moreau, A. Scott – Contextualization in World Missions: Mapping and Assessing Evangelical Models (2012)
  • Murphy, Cullen – God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World (2012)
  • Neufeld, Thomas R. Yoder – Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament (2011)
  • Pieterson, Lloyd – Reading the Bible After Christendom (2012)
  • Quesada, Alejandro – The Chaco War 1932-35: South America’s Greatest War (2011)
  • Rahn, Peter J. – Among the Ashes: In the Stalinkova Kolkhoz (Kontinusfeld) 1930 – 1955 (2011)
  • Sleeth, Nancy - Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, More Sustainable Life
  • Stephens, Randall J. & Giberson, Karl W. – The Anoited: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age (2011)
  • Vorozhbit, Natal'ia -- The Grain Store (2010)

Saturday, December 29, 2012


en Päpanät Re'ssapt

Peppernuts  Flaten – Wall, from Mountain Lake, MN / Lustre, MT / Salem, OR / Falcon Heights, MN

1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup lard or Crisco™
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
4 cup flour

    Heat milk and sugar over medium heat.  Remove from fire and add lard or Crisco™.  Set aside to cool.  Sift dry ingredients or combine spices and baking powder, mixing well.  Add to flour and sift with whisk.  Add to cooled mixture.  (We poured liquid mixture slowly into dry ingredients while mixing.)   
    Chill overnight (traditionally, many Mennonites keep the dough in the entry, garage or car during the winter).  Next day, roll into pencil-thin strips, or the size of a thick crayon.  Cut into ½ -¾” pieces and bake in 4000 oven until a light brown. 
    Peppernuts are eaten with coffee or soaked in hot chocolate.  I find that their spicy flavor can also sensationalize a rich red or fruity white wine.

    Peppernuts, pfefferneusse, papanuta, however you choose to spell their name, peppernuts are a holiday tradition that unifies Mennonite generations and the international diaspora of Prussian and Russian Mennonites into a single cultural identity, at least for those holidays.

    Karen and I made these for Christmas out of a collection of family recipes, mostly relating back to the Kleine Gemeinde of Nebraska and the Bruderthaler of Minnesota.  Enjoy!

Steve Wall's 1994 essay on Peppernate's:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ghost Trails and Places

 en denkjmol

 Today (26 Dec, 2012), marks the 150th Anniversary of the hanging of 38 of 303 Sioux men who took part in the 1862 Sioux Uprising in southern Minnesota.  The anniversary of this, the largest mass execution in U.S. history, is especially poignant in that it occurred the day after Christmas in stark contrast to the cultural message of the holidays, and that the cultural aspects of both the uprising and its repression have yet to be openly dealt with by the dominant culture – although marking the 150-year anniversary has generally re-opened discussion in a positive direction, though it remains a discussion engaged in mostly by Native American culturalists and Minnesota historians rather than a generalized public conversation. 
    The following is an account of my 23 Sept historical tour of Ramsay County relating to the Uprising and Native American culture in Ramsay County, Minnesota:

    Sunday (23 Sept, 2012), I was fortunate to take part in a Ramsey County Public Library outing in honor of the sesquetennial (150th Anniversary) of the Minnesota (USA) – Sioux War of 1862.

    1862 – that was before the Mennonites came to American in 1874… what does this have to do with Mennonite culture and history?” one might reasonably ask.  Quite a lot, in fact,” I would just as reasonably reply.

    The Indian Wars of the American West play an important role in the history and ethic of the Mennonite immigration of the 1870s to North America – especially in the United States.  In particular, the Minnesota – Sioux (or Dakota) War of 1862 specifically opened up much of the area in Southwest Minnesota for later settlement and agricultural development – just in time for speculators to get the townsites and farms of Mountain Lake, Bingham Lake, Windom, Butterfield and others set up and ready to market to the newly arrived immigrant refugees from Alexander II’s increasingly repressive Russia.  

    To be fair, groups such as the Aron Wall congregation, did not arrive in Mountain Lake until 1878 and were in no way directly related to or directly culpable for these events.  In fact, much of the farmland purchased by those early Brüderthaler were tracts being abandoned by previous settlers fleeing the infamous grasshopper hordes of the previous decade.

    On the other hand, these lands had only recently been opened up and made secure by American aggression in the Dakota wars and the newly arrived Mennonites would have been only too aware of this fact in as much as numerous family narratives record intense propaganda on the part of the Tsar’s agents extolling the dangers and terrors the Native America tribes and such uprisings posed to those who chose to leave the safety and security of the Ukrainian veldts and southern Russia for the wild frontier prairies of Kansas, Nebraska, Dakota Territory and Minnesota.

    Not only were lands being opened up and secured by the activities of the United States army and cavalry units, but news of the necessity of such actions in order to encourage and guarantee settlement of those lands was an important consideration for Mennonites pondering a move to the New World in a weigh-off between religious freedom and unknown dangers.

    Finally, this war marked the beginning of a massive ethnic relocation that would greatly influence the Mennonites of the Great Plains culturally by bringing the Dakota peoples to new homes near future Mennonite settlements near Brandon, Manitoba, Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Wolf Point and Fort Peck, Montana and many other, smaller reserves.  

    In fact, the establishment of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Reservation in Montana would eventually lead to President Wilson’s decision to open up those lands to settlement between 1911 and 1915 – an invitation many Mennonites would enthusiastically accept as they founded farms, businesses, schools and churches in present-day Lustre, Volt, Grand Prairie, Larslan, Oswego, Frazer and Wolf Point.  Similarly, other Mennonites would settle on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

    Ghost Trails and Places provided the urban inhabitants of developed landscape the same opportunities afforded those of us who grew up on those rural reservations.  It was easy for us to imagine the Indian villages, hunting camps and horse pastures of the First Nations as we toiled under their shadows summerfallowing or swathing hay.  Remnants of this history are still readily and easily apparent to even the most casual hiker.  

    The cities of St Paul, Roseville, White Bear Lake, Little Canada and Centerville have largely expanded over the earlier native landscape of Ramsey County, mostly erasing such physical reminders of their own extensive period of Dakota habitation – but not completely.  

    Not-so-amateur historian David Riehle has developed a remarkable annual tour of the accessible former village sites and farm grounds of the Dakota or Kaposia culture in and around St Paul.  In fact, the original village center of St Paul was a Dakota settlement Imnizaskadan, meaning “White Cliffs,” along the banks of the Mississippi adjacent to the current municipal airport.  While all traces of the village have long disappeared, the site itself remains visible to visitors from a well maintained vantage point in front of the terminal – a vastly under-visited yet highly-recommended, tourist destination.  

    According to Reihle, Imnizaskadan was abandoned in the 1837 Treaty and the Dakota or Kaposia moved downriver near South St Paul and finally to the reserves along the Minnesota River where the 1862 war began.

    Reihle’s tour is filled with narrative and facts – both I and my travel companion, who grew up in Roseville, learned a lot.  The greatest strength of this tour lies not in the narrative but in the actuality of being almost physically transported back to the geography of the Dakota and seeing the remnants of this geography underneath the modern urban construction.

    Our other major destination for the day would be Lac au Sauvages or Savage Lake and Gervais (Jarvis) Lake.  

    Savage Lake, located in Little Canada, was known to the Dakota as Day Camp because it was a day’s journey from Imnizaskadan – a day’s journey with all the implements and supplies necessary to move from the farms and winter camp along the river, up the bluff (via Swede Hollow) to the summer grounds and autumn ricing lakes around Savage Lake and points west and north.  

    To illustrate this point, we investigated several former trails now located under railroads and highways such as the Trout Brook Ravine (I 35-E), the Goose Lake Trail (present-day Centerville Road), Rice Lake Road Trail, Shakopee Trail and the trail from the Kaposia villages.

    One finds it difficult to adequately describe the usefulness of this tour.  While one could easily trace the route of Trout Creek on a map, the reality of the former world and our changes or impact on this landscape and cultural geography become apparent only by physically following the remains of these trails, in seeing the rise and fall of the ridges that had to be traversed (involving a 300-foot climb from the riverbottom), and the physical sense of security that one would feel in inhabiting Savage Lake.

    Only from there and from seeing the eccentric bends and junctions in these old trail routes, can one realize Riehle’s hypothesis that Savage Lake may have been a major junction of trade, hunting, agricultural, commercial and migration routes not far from the boundary between the Dakota and Ojibwe nations (near present-day White Bear Lake) – a busy intersection along the essential highway system of a former culture.

    While Reihle encourages us to consider the disjoint between this populous and wealthy urban center (St Paul), and the present reality of the Dakota descendants on Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota (the statistically poorest county in the United States), descendants of the Mennonite refugee settlers can take away the historical, geographic and moral lessons of our own immigration narrative and its impact on the geography, culture and ethnicity of the Great Plains.

    Clearly, I do not find any ethical questions in the Mennonite settlement of these areas – the early settlers had little knowledge of cultural and geographic realities prior to their arrival, or of the minds and politics of the governments, railroads and speculators from which they purchased their farms and communities.  But one would find it compelling to better understand the role the Mennonites more-or-less naively played in the resettlement and relocation of the First Nations tribes of the greater Agassiz and Assiniboia regions and to perhaps become more understanding of and sympathetic towards Native American claims for restorative justice – to the point of establish a spirit of supportive cooperation rather than fear or competition over lost opportunities, scarce resources and limited futures.

    In fact, Russländer Mennonite descendants are somewhat uniquely positioned to understand and empathize with the impact of that stage in history on the Dakota culture in its similarity to the forced migrations, loss of lands and villages, homelessness, often near starvation, deprivation and generally negative refugee status experienced by the Russian Mennonites who remained behind to experience the Russian Revolution, Collectivization, two world wars, forced removal, expulsion and the near-tragic ending of our own historical Great Trek as the lands in Chortitza, Borosenko, Molotschna, Samara and the Kaban were forcibly sold-off and culturally abandoned to new inhabitants and politicos who felt little or no sympathy with the previous inhabitants of that historic geography.

    Ghost Trails and Places would be a great tour to take as a means of initiating more competent and beneficial dialogue regarding this past in North America and possibly how the Mennonites of Latin America, especially those engaged in the current Chaco dialogues, might more successfully and ethically help resolve past injustices and feelings of injustice.  As they always say, it doesn’t hurt to “walk a mile in another’s shoes” when attempting to better understand their perspectives and motivations – even if walking really means taking a comfortable drive in a restored 1957-era city bus.


For further reading:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

En lostijch Weinachte!

Holiday Traditions from the Prairies of the Assiniboia  
(Central Canada, North-central USA)

(c) Lauren Grace O'Malley, courtesy
The Shepherd, a CBC-1 Christmas Radio Tradition:

The Man and the Birds, a Paul Harvey classic from the Great Plains:

The Man and the Birds by Paul Harvey transcribed by Keiki Hendrix 17 Dec 2010
The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.
“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.
Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.
And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.
If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”
At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.
And he sank to his knees in the snow.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Mennonite Tomte

Ne Too’frädenheit

    According to various Mennonite historians, theologians and sociologists, Anabaptists have historically been quite ambivalent towards the concept of Christmas.  Such was not my experience growing up.  In fact, I can recall at least two sermons from childhood on keeping the “Christ” in ‘X-mas’. 
    Sociologically speaking, and coming from five generations of public school teachers, Christmas traditions and celebrations, as we know them today, probably entered into our North American lives and folkways via the public schools which were mandatory, non-Mennonite and well-meaningly assimilationist.  Further inroads were probably made by participation in and adherence to post-World War English-language, non-Anabaptist Sunday school curriculums, conference fellowships and ecumenical holiday drives (including the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s school packets and children’s gift box campaigns).
    At the same time, many Mennonite folk holiday traditions seem so innate to our culture and world-view that one can hardly consider a time when they would not have been followed – including the baking, the hymn sings, the family and church fellowships, the church Christmas programs and a general feeling of shared peace and fellowship for at least that one night with all of creation – especially, for us former farmers, with our non-human companions – both domesticated and wild.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Burning Passions in Southern Africa

May we be willing reapers of the Word, not Sowers only!

(c) Matthew Wettlaufer, The Murder of Matthew Shepherd*
    Sometimes readers’ responses can take you a little bit by surprise.  In that potential readers have been fairly warned that these essays are exercises in free-style thinking rather than stated opinions, I find it pretty easy to not take things too personally, but once in a while a negative reaction forces you to delve a bit deeper in to a topic.  Such is the case with a short paragraph written on Ludovic-Mohamed Zaheb’s intention to found a gay and feminist-friendly mosque in Paris, France ( see:  French Mosques for Women and Gays? ).

    The phrase, or I will admit, paragraph in question is as follows:
Not that we can be too hard on them.  News coverage also indicates numerous Anglo-American Fundamentalist leaders stumbling over the question of whether or not practicing gays should face the Biblical death penalty – a situation American-backed “Christian” conservatives in Uganda seem too close to implanting.  (Try placing that one in the Minnesota constitution!)
    'Them' referring to violent anti-gay Islamic Fundamentalists in Europe and North Africa.  

    The point of contention being whether or not anti-gay, often border-line hate legislation in some of Africa’s more volatile nations is being generated and funded by Fundamentalist anti-gay Christian groups out of the United States.  In this case, the clear answer is yes – in fact, many of the more extreme anti-gay Evangelical groups in the United States openly brag about their activities in Africa on their websites.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mennonites of Congo, Burkino Faso

Notes from 20 Sept 2012 AIMM Centennial Roundtable at Goda Cafe, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pastor Benjamin Mubenga, Evangelical Mennonite Church of Congo
“It is not good to cut the roots of this tree which has now grown so grand.”  [The tense in this is off – it seemed convey more a sense of we are preserving what is and celebrate it … not that it was actually threatened].
How can we bring the Good News to the rest of Africa?
a.      Spiritual priorities
b.      Community development

Question:  Many American Evangelicals feel that the missionary focus should be on Evangelism and that the church should not be distracted by social or economic development issues.  Would you agree or how would you address such criticism?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Twelve Mennonite Gifts for the Holidays!

en Je'schenkje

Thanks to the St Paul store for helping with this post!
Twelve Gifts of Christmas from 10,000 Villages™

    Christmas gifts from 10,000 Villages™ is a special holiday tradition amongst the Mennonites and Brethren in North America.

    Now often recognized as a non-denominational fair trade movement, Ten Thousand Villages is the Mennonite stake in pioneering a movement that would purchase handcrafts from artisans in distressed or developing economies and present those items for sale in the North American market – the goal being to facilitate market relationships for these artisans so that they get the best and fairest price for their goods in order to support their families, churches and communities (in other words, profits go back to the artisanal producer rather than to the middleman). 
    According to their website, the first “craft sale” was organized by Edna Ruth Byler and Ruth Lederach for the 1952 Mennonite World Conference in Basel, Switzerland and became the Overseas Needlepoint and Crafts Project.  In 1962, Mennonite Central Committee, MCC, adopted the program officially into its development arm – and this is where many evangelical Mennonites were exposed to the concept – through our MCC workers who helped foster the program, such as the Mennonite Brethren’s (MB) MCC worker in Bangladesh, Rosella Toews.
    Today, Ten Thousand Villages stores bring fair trade artisanal products to markets all over North America – and while the volunteers who run the stores are often no-longer related to the Mennonite diaspora, supporting our fellow Christians through such a unique vision and a shared love of handcraft remains a Mennonite holiday tradition.

    We have selected twelve unique and inexpensive gifts from around the world, available from you local Ten Thousand Villages store or on-line at .

    Happy Shopping!  En lostijch Weinachte

After careful browsing, pricing and discussion, a consensus was reached that the following 12 holiday gifts definitely meet our criteria for uniqueness, fun and a good buy.  Please note that prices may vary and not all selections are available from all outlets -- but there are many hundreds of other joyful delights to discover as one browses for more ideas to make this holiday unique, special and even educational for the whole family or office:

Shea Butter Cream ($ 20.00, Ghana):

    This Shea Butter Cream comes from Accra, Ghana, where it is sourced from other groups who harvest the nuts from the Shea tree.  In Ghana, shea butter is used for a wide variety of purposes including cooking, moisturizing and as a natural anti-inflammatory.
    Shea nuts require a great deal of processing in order to produce the moisturizing creams, providing jobs not only for the gatherers but also for the producers, and in this case, those who create the unique artisanal pottery dishes in which the cream is sold.
    As a man, let me tell you that the cream is both effective and soothing – a good gift for both sexes – especially for those of us from more northern climes.

Recycled Paper Coasters ($13.95, Philippines):

    Ten Thousand Villages indicates that these great coasters are made from recycled newspapers and magazines by the Women’s Multipurpose Cooperative in Baguio City, Philippines.  The papers are wound into coils that are then joined together with thread or glue to make the various items, and are treated with a special starching process that makes them hold up to the heat and moisture of the average North American table or desk coffee or juice mug. 
    As a writer, I am especially attracted by the print-motif still visible on the coils – the Tagalog and other Southeast Asian languages provide a sense of comfort in being surrounded by words and the exotic appeal of foreign lands.  These would make a great gift for students, writers or busy workers and will match almost any décor from the comfort of the cabin, the suburban bungalow or the highly lacquered, glass and steel urban hi-rise apartments.  These are definitely our top design pick.

Peace Dove Cross (Descending Dove Christmas Ornament) ($10.00, El Salvador):

    These holiday ornaments are far more versatile than mere holiday ornaments.  Might I recommend hanging one from door knobs, above kitchen sinks or your rearview mirror to remind you of the peace message as you open the door to guests, struggle with the dishes or are tempted to honk at the driver in front of you?
    Based on the design of the popular hand-painted Peace Dove Crosses from the La Semilla de Dios cooperative in El Salvador, each ornament is a hand-painted, artisanal wood decoration into which more love, wishes for peace and social piety has gone than your money could buy. 
    How about affixing one of these ornaments to each name tag or bow under your tree as a reminder of the true meaning of the holidays?

Extending the Table Recipe Book by Joetta Schlabach ($25.00, USA):

   I happen to know the author of this now-become-a classic cookbook – a must have for all Mennonite kitchens.  The premise behind the book is to build on the original concept of the Love Feast and bring the international community of the Christian faith to your own table as a means of fellowship, understanding and prayerful consideration of the needs of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world.  The recipes are practical and easy to follow while introducing you to a variety of new tastes and a few excuses to actually purchase some of those more exotic ingredients you so often eye in bemusement at the grocery store, ethnic grocery or fair trade market.
    More than just a cookbook, Extending the Table, also provides stories, anecdotes and observations that make this highly browsable reading with pertinence to the multicultural classroom, the church, or for special missions-oriented prayer and potluck meetings.  Highly recommended for the world that will be opened up to your senses – and it is guaranteed to change the way that you cook and eat.

Soda-can Menorah ($ 69.00, South Africa):

   The Tin-Can Menorah is not always available, so grab one where you can.  Created by Zimbabwean exile, Victor Chiteura, at African Home in Cape Town, South Africa, these unique pieces are hand created out of thin strips of aluminum soda cans.  While a bit pricey – we find these menorah to be colourful, decorative and a great talking piece, reminding us of the origins and message of light, replenishment and community during the holidays.  Again, the artisanal craftsmanship make such pieces highly adaptable to all decors – and definitely one-of-a-kind in your neighborhood.

Christmas Garland ($ 4.50, India):

  These unique, and colourful, garlands have long been a classic Ten Thousand Villages holiday tradition in my co-conspirator Karen’s house.  And she is right – they bring a sense of joy and celebration to any holiday tree or hung between lights and arches in the holiday household.
    I find that this unique decorator’s touch adds a sense of class to many different themes – I use it to set off my collection of inherited Scandinavian straw ornaments.  All I can say is check it out at the store – and purchase one more strand that you think you will need – you will always find an extra space for it.

Bicycle Chain Bracelet ($ 17.95, India):

    These amazing pieces of jewelry come from Moradabad, India, where Noah’s Ark Int’l Exports helps women artisans find ways that they can support their family while remaining in the household.  These are real recycled bicycle chains – and I find them to be truly uni-sex in their appeal – especially for the cyclist or outdoorsy types who want to be fashion current while making a statement about the responsibilities of a healthy lifestyle and recycling for the earth.  Under $20.00, I also find these to be a genuinely great buy.

Twin Children’s Rag Dolls ($ 28.00, Zimbabwe):

    If any of these gifts should be mandatory for the holidays, it should be a set of these dolls.  For a description, I am going to refer directly to the Ten Thousand Vilages’ website:
    A purchase of this doll not only provides a gift for a loved one; its “twin” will be given to a child in a family affected by HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, most of whom have no other toys. The dolls are part of a unique project of Batsiranai, a women’s handicraft project that supports mothers with disabled children in Harare, Zimbabwe. Batsiranai, which means “helping each other,” was originally formed as a self-help group for these women. Creating the “twin dolls” has become a successful income generation initiative. Women work in teams to make the dolls, sharing tasks according to their ability.
    The “twin” for your doll is distributed in one of a number of ways. Some dolls are shared through organizations working with needy families affected by HIV in the greater Harare area. Given a priority to distribute the dolls in rural areas, Batsiranai has also linked with an organization called Zvitambo, funded through Johns Hopkins University and other donors with the mission to reduce HIV transmission. Zvitambo promotes exclusive breastfeeding for babies of mothers who are HIV+ until age six months, as this has dramatic effects on reducing morbidity and mortality of babies. Zvitambo holds clinics in very remote parts of Zimbabwe to teach about prevention of HIV transmission campaigns from mothers to babies. The dolls are distributed to children during these awareness campaigns. Reports from Zvitambo of responses to the doll distribution are heartwarming.”
    The dolls come in a male doll, girl doll and a mother doll with a baby on her back.  Hurry though, supplies of some of these dolls are known to be limited!

Felt Hat ($ 34.95, Nepal):

    These wonderful hats are another Karen find at Ten Thousand Villages.  These wool felt hats are warm, soft, colorful and make a positive fair trade statement during the cold winter months of the northern states and Canada.
    In researching these hats, I actually learned that felt-making probably originated in Asia with a process similar to how the artisan women continue to makes these hats today.  Felting is the process by which pressure, heat and moisture are combined to bind wool fibers together into an interlocking cloth.  The Association for Craft Producers in Nepal make these hats by hand, using hot water, soap and the pressure of their hands to bind the woolen fibers together – in a sense making one feel the sense of play and comfort when close friends would cup their hands over each other’s ears to keep them warm while waiting for the schoolbus or while tobogganing or playing broomball during the winter.  A good warm feeling from Nepali friends on the other side of the globe.

Stationary ($ 14.00, Bangladesh):

  These hand-made stationary products are quite variable in their design and appeal – many sets feature hand embossed and hand decorated products and others are even cut from artisanal, hand-made papers – one of Ten Thousand Villages most traditional customary gift ideas for the holidays.

Porcelain Tree Ornaments ($ 8.00, Vietnam):

   These traditional Vietnamese ceramics reflect the centuries-old tradition of production for which Vietnam has been famous cine the 15th Century.  From the village of Bat Trang, near Hanoi, the secrets for making this white and blue pottery are traditional artisanal skills passed on from one generation to the next.  These ornaments are hand-made with paint and glaze being applied by hand.  High quality, high temperature kilning methods produce a very strong, durable product.
    I might note that like other “holiday” ornaments, these ceramics need not be confined to the holidays but make attractive additions to lighting fixtures, hung in planters or strung in windows (I like to mix them with a variety of other prisms and glass ornaments).

Shariaptur Faces Planters ($ 34.00, Bangladesh):

  These unique herb pots are sure to bring a smile to your face or those of your loved ones.  It is impossible to not smile when others are smiling around you.
   From Shariaptur, Bangladesh, artisans have been sculpting and firing these terra cotta planters for generations and many of the faces are based on real local visages.  
    Whether you need to spread some joy around your kitchen, utility room or patio, or drop a not so subtle hint at work, these planters make an affordable and yet entirely unique gift.
    That being said, these planters are not recommended for users in Washington, Colorado, Montana or Northern California, as, depending on what you plant in them, one might just catch these jolly fellows doing more than smiling.

Some of my favorite Ten Thousand Villages locations:

St Paul, Minnesota
867 Grand Avenue, St Paul, Minnesota   55105

Evanston, Illinois
719 Main Street, Evanston, Illinois   60202

Goshen, Indiana
206 South Main Street, Goshen, Indiana  46526

Winkler, Manitoba
725 Main Street, Unit B, Winkler, Manitoba  R6W 4A4

Steinbach, Manitoba
355 Main Street, Steinbach, Manitoba  R5G 1Z4

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Northdale Shopping Centre, 963 Henderson Highway, Winnipeg, Manitoba  R2K 2M3

Mennonite Culture

606 agriculture AIMM Alcohol Alt-Oldenburger Amish Amish Prayer Amish voyeurism Anniversary of Russian Mennonites Architecture Archives Athletes Baptism Bess und Bettag Bible Study Bluffton College BMC Bob Jones University Bruderthaler Burial Customs Camp Funston Canadian Government Catherine the Great CCC Chaco Civil Rights Colonist Horse Congo Inland Mission Conscientious Objectors Consensus Cultural Criticism Death decals Definitions Dialogue diaspora Discipline Discrimination Divorce Drama Drugs Easter Emergent Church Movement ethnic violence Ethnicity Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Evangelical Mennonites Evangelicals exile Famine Fastpa folk art Footwashing Frente Menonita Front for the Defense of the Mennonite Colonies Furor mennoniticus Gardens gay Gay Marriage Gelassenheit Gemeinshaft Gender Studies General Conference German German Bible Gnadenfelde Goshen School Grace School grief Halodomar hate crimes Heirloom Seeds HMS Titanic Holocaust Holy Kiss Horses Hymns Identity Formation identity politics Immigration Immigration Song Inquisition Inter-faith Mennonites Jewish Diaspora Kairos Kleine Gemeinde Krimmer Mennonites Language LGBT Lustre Synthesis Lutheran and Mennonite Relations Magistracy Marriage Martyrs' Mirror MC-USA MCC Kits Mennonite Brethren Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Mennonite Decals Mennonite Diaspora Mennonite farming innovations Mennonite Flag Mennonite Heritage Plants Mennonite Horse Mennonite Identity Mennonite Literature Mennonite Refugees Mennonite Women Missions Molotschna Cattle Breed Movies Music Non-resistance Pacifism photography Pietism Plautdietsch Flag Plautdietsche Poetry Politics Postmodernism quilts Radio refugees Rites Roman Catholic and Mennonite Relations Roman Catholicism Russian Mennonite Flag Russian Mennonites Russian Orthodox Church secularism Shunning Southern Baptists Taxation Television Ten Thousand Villages Terms Viki-leaks Water Dowsing Wenger Mennonites Women's Studies World War 2 World War I


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