Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Plant a Seed of Peace

In Plant a Seed of Peace, Rebecca Seiling highlights the lives of 43 Mennonite or Anabaptist heroes who devoted their lives to serving God and working for peace. Each person is highlighted on a beautifully-colored, two-page spread, on marbled background paper. The heroes span nations, continents, and centuries and people of various races are shown.

Mennonites are pacifists, and each story details one person's attempt to make the world a more peaceful place, or their efforts to live at peace with those around them. Seiling has included stories from the 1500s, all the way to 2005. The stories show readers how each hero lived out their faith in God, and they also give interesting historical detail. Each page ends with a Bible verse related to the story.

Seiling uses a growing plant motif. There is even a flip-the-page sidebar showing a seed growing into a flower in bloom. She divides the stories into three sections and explains, "'As Small as a Seed,' includes stories of people who made courageous choices. . . 'Working with God in the Garden' tells of those who used their gifts and talents for God's purposes. . .'Producing a Crop,' includes stories of people whose actions continue to bear fruit." The final section of the book includes space for children to write their own story, answering the questions, "How can you plant a seed, tend the garden and harvest a crop with God? How are you using your faith to make a difference in the world?"

What I Like: I love the diversity of this book. People from around the world are featured, and it is fun to read about something that happened 400 years ago, and then read about something in the last decade. (My children even started asking me how old I was when each story took place!) I never realized the Mennonite church had a presence all over the world. Stories come from places like Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Ethiopia, and Columbia, as well as Native American and Canadian communities, the United States and Europe.

The chapters are the perfect length to read over breakfast, for devotion time, or before bed. They often sparked interesting conversations.

I also loved how colorful and well-illustrated this book is. It was fun to display on the coffee table, and fun to look at in the mornings.

What I Dislike: I felt like sometimes the author talked about faith in Christ and a commitment to peace interchangeably. While many Christians are pacifists, and good support for pacifism can be found in Scripture, many Christians also believe the Bible supports "just war" theory and faithfully serve in military or government positions. I wish Seiling would have drawn a sharper distinction between instances when the person featured was persecuted for their faith in Christ, versus their adherence to Mennonite or Anabaptist doctrine.

I think the plant motif is a bit abstract for children. Although I love analogies, teens do better with abstract thinking. It would be nice to have specific questions at the end of each chapter to help parents relate the story to their own child's life, and to help them see the connection between their growing faith and a growing plant.

Overall Rating: Good

Age Appeal: 9-12

Publisher Info: Herald Press, 2007; ISBN:978-0-8361-9397-8 ; Paperback, $15.99

Buy it Now at for $12.99

OR Buy it at for $12.47.

Special Info: Mennonites are pacifists and do not believe in war or fighting for any reason. Some of the people featured avoided being drafted (in the Revolutionary War) and kept their income below taxable levels, so as not to pay taxes to a country involved in war.

Some stories deal with persecution of Anabaptisits, who believe people should only be baptized as adults, at the hands of state-run Lutheran and Catholic churches. One story portrays nuns at a convent in a very negative light.

There are also some sad stories in which the hero is martyred.

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