The Sunday Series: 4th Edition! Interviews With Inspiring Women IN and Around Leamington Essex County

Sometimes, ideas and inspirations get lodged way back behind all of the 'to dos' and the messes, just like sitting for long periods of time makes your joints stiff and your back ache. Our souls need movement. For me, my ideas seem to come while on a walk, or while swimming laps, the pounding of my feet like a meditation of sorts numbing the day to day worries, allowing my daydreaming to take over. 

This summer, while on one of these meditative journeys, it dawned on me. I was frustrated with the status quo. My work with photography felt a little stuck, and the conversations with other creatives seemed to be on one of those hamster wheels. The same themes running their way through conversations about value and time and maybe sometimes feeling voiceless in our dreams for our work and our lives. 

But, as I try to remember - as do most people who are looking to move forward - nothing stays the same, and we can make the changes, by making the choices, move move move! 

This is how 'The Sunday Series' was born. It dawned on me that there could be a space created for sharing, a space created for inspiring and a space created for a change in this conversation. 

If you are like me, a creative, a dreamer, a seeker and maybe a little lost - this might me the inspirational conversation that brings a little shift to your week. The conversation that reminds you that anything is possible.


Ruth Boehm has been my friend for many years. We met out in Winnipeg and our lives have seemed to have brought us both to Leamington. Having children the same age naturally led us to many shared evenings at the park and conversations about homework and parenting. She has managed the many ups and downs of life while balancing travel, family, work and community involvement. 

It is a honour to share with you this gem of a woman. Meet Ruth Boehm!

1.Tell us a little bit about yourself, your work, your family.

My name is Ruth Boehm, married to Barry Bergen and we have two children.

Barry and I have been married over twenty years.  We wanted to have children, however, we struggled with unexplained infertility.  It was a painful process. Infertility is always a couple issue even though the focus is often on women. We came to a place where we were open to adopting a child or family grouping of children.  Then we waited. 

Out of the blue one November day we got a call from a personal contact who knew of a birth mother wanting to place her child for private adoption.  We began a whirlwind of paperwork and a month later we were thrilled to be the parents of an awesome boy. When he was 18 months old we began the process of trying to adopt a second child.  7  years later we were able to adopt our second child through a public (Children’s Aid Society) adoption.  He was preschool age. 

Adoption is one way to form a family.  A key to adoption is honouring the grief of all those involved in the adoption bonds – the child, the birth family, the adoptive parents and the community.  We are so grateful for the birth families of our children, our children, our communities which have welcomed and embraced our children, and for our extended families which lovingly welcome our children.  Barry and I love being parents.  It is the best thing ever and also the most difficult.  I could write a lot about infertility and adoption but that’s for another time. 

             (Ruth in her office space, on her computer screen - images of the refugee family the church                                                                       welcomed 'home' to Canada)


I serve as pastor at Faith Mennonite Church in Leamington.  It is a great congregation.  I was first encouraged to consider becoming a pastor when I was 19 while attending St. Jacobs Mennonite Church.  I explored that call through studies at Canadian Mennonite Bible College and volunteer experiences.  I was invited to work with youth and Young Adults at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg in 1989.  I was 25.  I served there for 12 years.

      (One piece of Ruth's extensive library of books that enable her to continue to learn and to share.)

When I began in ministry there were not many women in pastoral ministry - especially in Manitoba.  It was a lonely time.  I was often the only woman at meetings.  I was the first woman ordained to pastoral ministry in Mennonite Church Manitoba on November 1, 1992.  It was an exciting time. Some parts of the church and our culture still really struggle with the equality of men and women in leadership.  It still surprises/shocks and grieves me to see the blatant expressions that put down women.  I don’t ever get used to it. 

 2. Your work has brought you quite a few places in your life, where have you been? What are some of the most memorable things you have brought with you from your travels? 

Moving from the rolling hills of southern Ontario to the flat prairie in Manitoba was a shock.  It took a while until I could learn to see the beauty in each place.  I learned to love what each place had to offer. Soon I could see the open sky, the land stretched out to the horizon, the bending grass and grain and feel the wind.  This insight has helped me as I've lived in different places and have been learning to see the beauty wherever I am. 

Eating local foods and savouring their flavours has been enjoyable.  This would include the taste of the wild blueberries of the Manitoba White Shell, the maple syrup of Waterloo County, the melons of Elkhart, Indiana, the bananas in Nigeria in Phena’s village, the pineapple in Benin, the salsa in Puerto Vallarta, the cake in the Black Forest, the polacinta in Mezofalva, the coffee in Budapest and the sweet red peppers in Leamington.  

            (Some of the art from their time in Africa - the quilt was made by HIV positive women who                                         learned to quilt in order to provide for themselves and their families)

Living out of control is not easy.  While living for three years in Nigeria we were constantly learning to live in the moment.  So many things in Canada give us the illusion that things are under control.  We have electricity that is mostly constant.  We have running water.  There is a yellow line down the middle of the road and people drive in the correct lane.  People in uniforms can generally be trusted to work for the government.  So, learning to live and work in a new culture was a challenge for us.  Learning to let go of what we thought we knew was imperative.  Remaining open to what IS and what is to come is essential.  You have to go with the flow.  You have to let go of your expectations.  You might have a plan, but it may have to change.  I am still learning how to do this. 

Relationships are important. No matter what we do or think are major accomplishments it is the people with whom we interact and form relationships that really matter.  The most important treasures that I have are the friendships that have formed over the years.  Sometimes when I wonder what I have done with my life, have I really contributed anything of value to the world, then I get an e-mail or call from a friend or share laughter with someone I love and then I know, it really is the relationships that matter the most. 

3. Your career isn't encased in a 9-5 schedule, how is it that you are able to balance all of your roles? Has anyone in your life been an influence in how you juggle things or offered you any sage advice? (we could all use some!)

OK.  So I don't balance it all.  I just can't.  Something is always out of balance.  What is out of balance just rotates.  I don't have any answers or sage advice.  It's a constant struggle to find balance. 

Caring for my children, time with my spouse, cleaning my home, managing responsibilities at church, time for myself, connecting with friends, staying in touch with is always out of balance.  In order to focus on one thing ...some thing waits.  I try to take a longer term view of life and balance. 

                      (Ruth and Barry in the mountains Lake Louise - family time!)

4. Recently, I have had great fun volunteering with your after school program. What can you tell us about Spark? How did it come to be? What is the mandate with Spark? 

                                              (Ruth shows us where snacks and activities happen)

 SPARK began with a question from a parent at MD Bennie School.  "Could we have an after school program in our area?"  The principal at MD Bennie passed that question along to me while members of our church were helping to prepare a healthy snack for Bennie students.  A few months later we were approached by South Essex Community Council about joining with two others churches and SECC to try an experiment of having an after school program in each our locations.  Well, some things worked and some things didn't. 

In the fall of 2014 we began SPARK at Faith Mennonite Church.  We decided to meet after school on Wednesdays.  It includes a time of recreation, a healthy snack and a math, a language and a craft activity.  It is also lots of fun.  We wanted to have a place to enrich the academic lives of children.  Essex County has one of the lowest math and language standards in the province.  Our children need enrichment.  We also wanted to build community.  So, we invite the families of the children to gather for a meal three times a year.  We began with 8 students.  In the fall of 2015 we began the year with 25 children and have to cap it there for now. 

(some of the sports equipment the kids play with at SPARK)

We partner with Leamington United Church, UMEI Christian High School and local volunteers.  We connect with SECC and Leamington United Mennonite Church who are working on similar goals.  LUMC now has an after school program run by SECC two afternoons a week.  LUC will host a summer program for students. 

SPARK is one of my favourite times of the week.  I love getting to know the students and their families. 

5. Aside from being a pastor, a mother, and a wife (can't imagine there being any more time in a day after all that!) what else fills you up? What else are you up to?

Sitting at my favourite spot at the Point and listening to the birds and the frogs.  Feeling the breeze.  Cross stitching in silence.

Reading Christian romance novels is my escape reading after 10:00 pm.  I just want a happy ending.  Sometimes I’ve heard enough unhappy news in the day.

Taking photos of my family and of nature.  I've been enjoying making photo books.


What a FULL life!

Thank you Ruth for sharing your story with us. Your contribution to the Leamington community hasn't gone unnoticed - always looking for ways to stay involved and to stay connected.  You have set an amazing example to the people you have worked with over the years by taking on roles other haven't had the opportunity to. Looking forward to more hours at SPARK with you!