And the Meadowlark Sang: Prairie Memoirs – Born Mennonite

And the Meadowlark Sang:
Prairie Memoirs – Born Mennonite

Margaretha Willms

And the Meadowlark Sang: Prairie Memoirs – Born Mennonite takes the reader on an honest and intriguing journey. Author Margaretha Willms’ dedication to her faith (she was baptized in the Mennonite Brethren church at 15) resounds through the lines of this compelling read.

Willms courageously shares intimate details of life in a way that inspires the reader to both get lost in her stories and to consider life in general. There is something soothing and comforting in the way she shares the interesting details of her childhood, motherhood, and her role as a dedicated wife.

This is a candid memoir of how the comings and goings of the seasons of life and the feel of the prairie mingle with one woman’s spiritual and physical journey. Willms offers some general history of the Mennonites from almost 500 years ago, then traces her own heritage through stories of her grandparents in Russia. She also describes the pioneer years at the turn of the century, when her parents first came to Canada, and shares stories from their childhood and courtship.

And the Meadowlark Sang invites the reader into a world where the hardships of life are the ingredients for a strong, loving, supportive, and insightful woman. The remoteness and harshness of the Canadian prairie, where Mennonite families farmed quarter-sections of natural prairie, shaped their lives. Willms herself grew up during the Depression years which, despite their hardships, seemed to be fertile times for family closeness, a sense of wonder about the outdoor world, imagination, and humour.

Willms rejoices that life’s experiences have the potential for each of us who dare to listen to the messages God offers through his creation. After getting married, her life was again inseparable from the rural countryside, not only the beauty of Saskatchewan’s landscape in all its seasons but also the isolation and demands of living in nine country teacherages, interspersed with her husband’s university summer school sessions in Saskatoon. Throughout the book, she grapples with the hopes, struggles, and complexities of a life of faith, finding assurance in the power of storytelling for nourishing the future through the past.

Willms’ dedication to God, her faith, and her family offers a beautiful example for embracing life. This book contains the possibility to influence generations to follow. Mennonites will find themselves nodding in agreement with Willms’ writing. Her stories and strength of spirit offer many lessons. It’s hard not to long for the times of which she writes. Perhaps her words can inspire us to find a way, even in this age, to live openly and honestly.

The author confirms she has embarked on a second book, filled with stories of travel and adventure. It’s likely the second book will be as rich a ground for inspiration as is this wonderful memoir.

Michele D. Sorensen is an elementary school teacher in Vancouver, B.C. She gained an interest in the Mennonite Brethren through study under professor Abraham Friesen at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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