Julianna  Bender
Julianna Bender, 71, died Feb. 13 after an 11-month journey with cancer.
She was born June 13, 1948, in Sturgis, Michigan, to Tobias and Erma (Eash) Bontrager. She grew up on a farm near Middlebury and graduated from Middlebury High School in 1966. She attended Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia, from 1968-70, and in 1980 graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. In 1982 she received a master's degree in social work from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Alongside her studies, Julie worked at First State Bank, Middlebury; First National Bank, Goshen; Northeastern Center, LaGrange; and Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Middlebury.
On Aug. 10, 1986, Julie married Philip Bender in Goshen. After two years living in Altona, Manitoba, where Philip was teaching, Julie and Philip undertook an assignment with Mennonite Board of Missions to Ghana, West Africa. There they taught pastors of African Initiated Churches at the Good News Training Institute in Accra from 1988-92.
Returning to Ontario, Canada in 1993, Julie and Philip co-pastored Mennonite churches in Zurich (1993-97) and Hamilton (1997-2004). In Hamilton Julie also gave early leadership to a Circles of Support and Accountability program, which assists sex offenders in reintegrating into society.
In 2004, Julie and Philip went to China as workers with Mennonite Church Canada, where they taught English at two universities until mid-2013. A special blessing of these China years was acquiring several Chinese godchildren.
Upon moving back to Goshen in August, 2016, Julie and Philip undertook a one-year voluntary service assignment at Eastern Mennonite University.
In retirement, Julie served as a Caring Friend volunteer at Greencroft Retirement Center, and pursued her interests in home decorating, restorative justice, counseling, reading and spiritual direction.
Julie will be remembered by her many local and international friends for her warm and vibrant spirit, her delight in homemaking and hosting guests, her strong faith, and her heart for those on the margins of society.
She is survived by her husband Philip; a brother, Merle (Barbara) Bontrager of Goshen; a sister, Sharon Kennell of Plainfield, Indiana; and two nieces and three nephews.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Yoder-Culp Funeral Home, Goshen. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 at College Mennonite Church, Goshen, with Pastors Rachel Nafziger Hartzler and Pamela Yoder leading.
A private family burial will take place at a later time in Griner Cemetery, Middlebury.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Mennonite Mission Network or Mennonite Central Committee, designated China ministries.
Online condolences may be shared at www.yoderculpfuneralhome.com.
Published on February 16, 2020


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DeAnn Foreman
Feb 18, 2020
Julie holds a special place in my heart. She was a rare soul who walked the talk. I will always cherish the fact that she endured a 10+ hour car ride (roundtrip) for a brief visit with me last August. I am happy she is home and at peace.
Joe and Alpha Cross
Feb 18, 2020
We send our sympathies to all of you. Our prayers are lifted for you. We will not be back in the area for the funeral. But will be there in spirit. Blessings