“Mennonite Girls Can Cook” (MGCC) started as “a one-hour idea” to share “heritage” recipes from the Dutch/German/Russian Mennonite tradition on a blog; it has become a place to share faith.
The blog has dished out surprising results for founder Lovella Schellenberg who attends Northview (MB) Church, Abbotsford, B.C., and her 9 blog contributors. Readers comment that the blog spiritually nourishes them with its weekly devotional meditation “Bread for the Journey” and prayer page.
It was parlayed into the wildly successful recipe book Mennonite Girls Can Cook – which Schellenberg says “struck a chord with people; many bought it for their entire family.” Follow-up volume, Celebrations, is to be released May 1.
“We’ve been told this shouldn’t be happening,” Schellenberg says. She accounts for the paradoxical success of a blog-turned-cookbook with a hint of wonder: “It’s God.”
MGCC’s combination of recipes, vibrant photos, personal stories, and devotionals created a unique gift book that hadn’t been done before in Mennonite circles, says Schellenberg. These aspects are replicated in Celebrations whose recipes connect food with the observance of holidays and life events.
On the blog and in the cookbooks, the “Mennonite girls” share practical reflections and stories of how they see God working in their lives. Some readers are drawn to the blog and the cookbook for the “heritage” element, others for the gluten-free recipes, and some simply for something to make for supper, but what draws many back again is the encouragement and prayer.
“We don’t want anybody to think of us as their church,” says Schellenberg, but some “don’t have any other place to grow in the Lord.”
Last year, as they noted an increasing number of requests for prayer, the “Mennonite girls” started a prayer request blog. “None of us feels equipped to do this work,” says Schellenberg, but “God knows our hearts.” Part of the appeal, she believes, is that MGCC contributors are ordinary women without seminary degrees or formal training in home economics or nutrition. When readers unburden their souls or air their fears, the “girls” reply in a prayer.
“Encourage each other, show love to many out in the world with no family – that’s what we’re trying to do,” says Schellenberg, reciting Hebrews 10: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,…[and] consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (23–24).
The “girls” have cooked up a sort of family not only among themselves (located in Washington State, B.C., and Manitoba) and their thousands of readers, but also with the charity projects they’ve embraced. Royalties from sales of the first book are designated to a greenhouse building project at Good Shepherd Shelter in Ukraine. Mennonite Central Committee’s Global Family was funding this orphanage from 2001 in response to a group of local women who prayed to help abandoned children.
“How interesting that here were Baptist ladies praying God would give them a way to help children, and here we are praying to help somebody in Ukraine, back where our parents came from,” says Schellenberg.
Another family enters the mix with Celebrations, whose royalties will go to support MCC’s WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) program in Kenya. MGCC contributor Judy Wiebe and husband Elmer, who saw the program in action while on vacation, were “so impressed with the simple idea.”
Schellenberg is grateful for the opportunities to help both resource-poor children rich in community and lonely readers rich in resources.
“Blogging recipes is a simple idea, but God has used it so much further.”