Flip the expectationsJohnstown, Pennsylvaniahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Flip-the-expectationsFlip the expectationsErin Rhodes

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Youth Venture invited me to change my perspectiveLos Angeles https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Youth-Venture-invited-me-to-change-my-perspective-Youth Venture invited me to change my perspectiveElizabeth Eby
A glimpse of life as missionaries, neighbors, parents and friendsMannheimhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/A-glimpse-of-life-as-missionaries,-neighbors,-parents-and-friendsA glimpse of life as missionaries, neighbors, parents and friendsVideo by David Stutzman
A detention center is no home. This is home.San Antoniohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/This-is-homeA detention center is no home. This is home.By Luz Varela
Friends for a lifetimeVirginiahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Friends-for-a-lifetimeFriends for a lifetimeBy Erin Rhodes
Evangelism: a faithful or offensive response to Christ?GP0|#024ac062-71a9-4b18-9ee6-bca9c86be075;L0|#0024ac062-71a9-4b18-9ee6-bca9c86be075|Burkina Faso;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#4d0e08ea-d1a0-4141-9eba-431183992152;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebfhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Evangelism-a-faithful-or-offensive-response-to-ChrisEvangelism: a faithful or offensive response to Christ?Contributed by Kelsey Hochstetler
Seeking God above allSeeking God above allhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Seeking-God-above-allSeeking God above allContributed by Katja Norton

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Youth Venture experience great for daughterhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/YV-great-experience-for-daughterYouth Venture experience great for daughterBy Rachel Nussbaum Eby<p>I'm proud to say I'm a mom of a Youth Venture alum. Not only was this a great experience for my daughter, Elizabeth, it was a great experience for my husband and me.</p><p>The LA experience was a great fit for Elizabeth, and I am so grateful for the support of Youth Venture staff who are also friends at Walnut Hill Mennonite Church. When I checked if Elizabeth would be interested in Youth Venture, I discovered that she had been interested the previous summer and just hadn't brought it up, knowing that money was tight. Actually, her response was funny; I hadn't even finished my question—had just finished saying Youth Venture—when she enthusiastically answered, "Yes!"</p><p>I want to put in a plug for congregations who are supportive of youth doing this—emotionally and financially. For us, it made all the difference—making Elizabeth's unique opportunity possible. Our congregation, while smaller than many, was very generous. Between the church budget and individuals, they were willing to cover everything. All they asked is for Elizabeth to contribute some of her own earnings. This she did far more than expected—paying for the cost of her ticket and also giving $200 back to the church fund that made her trip possible. Her reason for doing this: "I want to go on Youth Venture again." The church was also supportive in other ways, including an opportunity to share with an intergenerational group during Sunday school. Her sharing and their interest were equally enthusiastic.</p><p>While Elizabeth had moments of nervousness before she left—mainly traveling by herself—her primary emotion was excitement. She read through her packet of information from the Youth Venture office in its entirety and shared with us about it. It was obvious that a lot of thought and care had gone into the plans. I had confidence that once in LA, Elizabeth would have good people by her.</p><p>I really appreciated the support of staff both before and after. For me, the thing I was most concerned about was her flying all by herself for the first time. Staff offered the welcomed assurance that they hadn't "lost" anyone yet. Once I found out at the airport that I could go through security with her (since she was 16, I wasn't sure what the airlines' rule was), all my fears evaporated.</p><p>Between a few phone calls and photos posted on the Youth Venture Facebook page, it was obvious that she was safe and having a good experience. Not to say that we weren't counting the days until her return. Matter of fact, even though the plan was for me to go to O'Hare by myself to pick her up, my husband arranged to come along. He was so excited to see her, he went to meet her on the way to baggage claim because he couldn't just wait!</p><p>It was a wonderful ride home—listening to all the stories. It was a flood of experiences in the urban area, the peace camp, and the people she met. After that initial outpouring, other things would come out in bits and pieces in the months that followed. It was obvious that both her heart and mind had been impacted by the experience. Elizabeth continues ties via Facebook with a number of the people she met.</p><p>Youth Venture was a great experience not only for her, but also for us—anxious parents who were letting a child go into the world in a new way.</p>
Seeing God in servicehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/See-God-through-serviceSeeing God in service​Nora Charles<p>When I think about where I have seen God in my Service Adventure experience, some instances come to mind right away: </p><ul><li>Marle putting her gloves on my frozen hands on our way down Pikes Peak (when all I could think about was how cold I was, and not the beauty around me or how the others must be feeling). </li><li>The homeless man approaching me in tears looking for comfort, which I could offer him.</li><li>My coworkers making sure everyone had a place to go for Thanksgiving.</li><li>The beauty of the mountains against the first snowfall.</li><li>The warm welcome we got at Beth-el when we first arrived, and the kindness and generosity the congregation continues to show toward us. </li></ul><p> </p><p>I am learning how often I react to the present out of fear for the future. I am learning how much I value my family, and how irrational some of my fears are. I am learning to both trust myself and push myself, while reminding myself that many things are out of my control.</p><p>Serving others continues to show me how every human has dignity and worth that cannot be measured against any other. That our mainstream culture's emphasis on the individual and on our pleasure and comfort as the end goal is harmful to ourselves, not to mention the lives of others, and we need to work against it. That this work may not be easy, but most valuable things are not. The things I enjoy most about my job are talking with people I otherwise wouldn't get to talk to, and serving people that need it in that moment. I want to continue to serve others, and this experience is helping me to understand what I believe are the best ways to go about this.</p><p> </p>
Get a Taste of Service Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Get-a-Taste-of-Service-AdventureGet a Taste of Service AdventureBy Susan Nisly<p><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">Each year at this time, many high school seniors are trying to figure out what they should do next. Recently, when</span><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;"> I was talking with one of these seniors, she said, "I've never heard of anyone regretting taking a gap year."  I must admit that I haven't either. Most often, I hear people talking about what a huge impact the gap year had on helping them figure out what they want to study, or figuring out who they are and what they believe.  There are many options for a gap year, but my personal favorite is Service Adventure. What makes it so unique is that besides living in community with other young adults, you also have unit leaders who serve as mentors living with your group. </span></p><p>Are you wondering what a year in Service Adventure might be like?  Are you intrigued by the idea of taking a gap year and serving others?  I would like to invite you to visit one of our units to get a taste of Service Adventure. Feb. 9-12, 2017, you can spend a weekend seeing what all happens in Service Adventure. </p><p><strong>Schedule:</strong></p><p><strong>Thursday, Feb. 9</strong> – Arrive at the Service Adventure unit and meet your hosts.  Enjoy dinner with the unit and participate in their weekly worship night</p><p><strong>Friday, Feb. 10</strong> – Spend the day serving alongside participants in various social-service agencies.  It might be a homeless shelter, a thrift store, or somewhere working with kids.</p><p><strong>Saturday, Feb. 11</strong> – Experience a learning component with the unit and experience more about the local community.  This might be a hike or visiting a museum.</p><p><strong>Sunday, Feb. 12 </strong>– Attend the local hosting congregation with the unit and then head home.</p><p>If you are interested in checking out Service Adventure, or have questions, please contact me at <a href="mailto:SusanN@MennoniteMission.net"><span style="text-decoration:underline;"><span style="text-decoration:underline;"><font color="#0066cc">SusanN@MennoniteMission.net</font></span></span></a>.</p>
Peacemaking: Living into the mystery of another’s identityhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Peacemaking-Living-into-the-mystery-of-anothers-identityPeacemaking: Living into the mystery of another’s identityBy Kathryn Smith Derksen<p>In my work with Southern African Development and Reconstruction Agency conflict transformation, I’ve realized many people have distanced themselves from reconciliation and the hard work of deep healing. But, I am also fascinated by something I heard during mediation training that seemed particularly innovative: <strong>Stereotypes are the gaps between real and perceived identities, and reconciliation helps to reduce that gap.</strong></p><p>Identity work is slippery. In defining ourselves, we carry identity with our strongest emotions. It is very easy to become defensive when talking about identity. Do Black people see me as more than a White person? You can’t tell by listening to me talk or by looking at me that I was born in Africa. How would you know that only one of my grandparents spoke English as a first language? Then, there’s my pacifist and Mennonite upbringing that shaped my values – and my growing up years in East Palo Alto, California, a city with one of the highest homicide rates in the nation at that time.</p><p>Along with the children of African-American, Latin American and Pacific Islander heritage from my neighborhood, I was bused to White high schools as part of a desegregation policy in the 1980s. Black kids wouldn’t sit next to me on the bus because I was White, and White kids wouldn’t sit next to me in class because I lived among Black people. So I know what prejudice and fear look like; but from a young age, I could also recognize our common humanity.</p><p>My sister and I were the only two White kids in our elementary school of more than 700 students. There, we learned about our civil rights heroes, with special assemblies for Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. One skit we did every year was a reenactment of the Rosa Parks story about the woman who refused to take her place standing in the Black section of the bus. It’s a beautiful story of conscientious objection that led to change, and I loved the story, especially because there was a heroine.</p><p>I asked the teacher why I always had to be the bus driver. I didn’t like to always be the villain in the story. Could I play a different part? This made her laugh, but she said I just needed to be the bus driver. It was not until many years later I put it all together. My community, still raw from the pain of the civil rights movement just 20 years before, could not cast me as a different character. There were parents who were vocal in their disapproval of a White girl even being at their school. My teacher both stuck up for my right to be there, and made me the bus driver.</p><p>Today in South Africa, Black and White neighbors continue the hard work of trying to understand each other’s perspective. SADRA has initiated a local cross-community dialogue where Oscar Siwali, our director, lives. Leaders of Black and White bordering neighborhoods sat down together and started to get to know each other. I have been facilitating, using John Paul Lederach’s Little Book of Conflict Resolution, where he talks about how to build new relationships and break old patterns of relating. He underscores the importance of identity, saying, “In my experience, issues of identity are at the root of most conflicts.”</p><p>How we relate to others has everything to do with how we define ourselves. If after defining ourselves we decide that it is not worth investing in a relationship with those who are different from us, then discussions about reconciliation and restitution become academic.</p><p>If reconciliation is working to close the gap caused by stereotypes, now is the time to work at that, both here in South Africa and in the United States as you live in the election aftermath. Anyone working to expose the gaps between perceived and real identities, who can stay patient and listening instead of defensive, and who can live with the mystery of contradiction, is actively engaged in peace-making.</p>
Vocation and occupation: How to respond to God’s call on your lifehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Vocation-and-occupation-How-to-respond-to-God’s-call-on-your-lifeVocation and occupation: How to respond to God’s call on your lifeBy Del Hershberger<p>​If I had a nickel for every time I’ve read an article about how to find your vocation, I’d be rich. And yet I wonder if they are missing a key point, which makes me want to contribute my two cents to the conversation. </p><p>I promise to make this short. </p><p>Almost every article includes the quote from Frederick Buechner, which goes, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I’ve seen many expansions on this theme with a Venn diagram that shows a small dot at the intersection of your gifts, your passion, the world’s need, and a way to pay your bills. And I’ve witnessed many young adults immobilized by the multitude of occupational choices that will get them most perfectly to that tiny place at the center that is supposed to represent your truest calling from God – your vocation. </p><p>Actually, the “many immobilized young adults” I’ve witnessed are mostly highly privileged. They’ve received a quality education, have many occupational options laid out for them from which to choose, and they have the luxury of choice. I don’t remember ever reading an article by a young adult who wasn’t privileged, who had the luxury of enduring the painful anxiety of trying to find the perfect center of the Venn diagram of what they think their vocation is. Many people are just glad to find a job that pays the bills, and they find other ways of realizing their calling from God. </p><p>I’m often reminded of a friend of mine who talked about his father working in a foundry all of his adult life. It was hard work that he hated. But every day, he shared God’s love with his co-workers and was a pastoral presence in that place. He was stuck in a horrible occupation, but that was where he lived out his vocation. And when he retired, dozens of people showed up to tell their story about how he encouraged them, mentored them, loved them, and helped them to find their God-calling. </p><p>I think where we often get this whole conversation wrong, is that we mistake our occupation for our vocation. I hope everyone finds an occupation that they are good at, enjoy, is needed, and pays their bills. And it would be super-cool if that occupation matches up perfectly with God’s call on their life. But I hope people will stop obsessing about how to make their living from their vocation. </p><p>Keith Graber Miller, a Goshen (Indiana) College professor, tells the story of a 16th-century Anabaptist who clarifies the difference between occupation and vocation when he says, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ. That is my vocation. I make my living as a cobbler.” Our vocation is how we live out our faith in whatever place we find ourselves – in whatever occupation that might be. </p><p>I was challenged by a co-worker to describe in an inspiring way how to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a boring job, where you’d rather not be. I’m not sure I can inspire anyone with that speech, but I think a lot of young adults can be more content with an average occupation if we stop telling them that the only place God intends for you to find joy is in the impossible center of the Venn diagram. And I think more people will find their true fulfillment in separating their occupational fantasy from their day-by-day faithful Jesus walk. </p><p>If you’d like some concrete ways to test what God might be showing you what your vocation is, you might start with these five tips for discerning vocation, by Chris Morton, from the Missio Alliance. </p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p>1. What is one thing that you have consistently been complimented for over the years? These compliments, both direct and occasionally backhanded, are a major clue to our vocation. They reveal how others see us, and the abilities and skills we may not know we possess. </p><p>2. What makes you angry? Not a silly frustration, but a righteous anger? It might be interpersonal, the way you see people treating each other. It might be systemic, the unnecessary problem a community, workplace or family struggle to solve. </p><p>3. What work is so engrossing that you lose track of effort or time? What puts you “in the zone” is unique, but the experience of it is not. It’s a powerful sense of meaningful work, concentration, and mastery that most people only experience occasionally. </p><p>4. There are things you’re just good at. These may be skills you’ve always had a knack for. You might have learned how to do something as a kid, and pull it out every once in awhile. Consider the things that you can do naturally, without even thinking about it, and how you might be able to use that to serve bigger purposes! </p><p>5. As we tell our stories, the high points and low points help to identify who we are. High points show you what you are at your best. Low points can help you realize what you should stay away from. </p></blockquote><p></p>
Action and words in response to doubthttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Action and words in response to doubtAction and words in response to doubtBy Jerrell Ross Richer<p>Runners don’t improve by sitting around and talking about the sport. They get better by running. If you doubt that you can finish a five-kilometer race, the only way to find out is to try it.</p><p>In September 2015, my family participated in a run for relief that raises thousands of dollars each year to help share our love with neighbors from all over the world. We, in the Anabaptist tradition, have a good track record in this type work, motivated by a desire to follow the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12).</p><p>But when it comes to that other great thing, the Great Commission in Matthew 28, where Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations and baptize them, it is tempting to be less enthusiastic. Many of us are downright shy about sharing our faith verbally. Perhaps we are afraid of being perceived as insensitive or intolerant; in other words, negative role models. This leaves me wondering, “Where are the positive role models?”</p><p>Soon after the run for relief, my family had the chance to host a group of current and former Mennonite Mission Network workers who relate to the Toba Qom people in the Argentine Chaco. In this region, where native cultures are rapidly disappearing due to government policies of assimilation and the forces of globalization, the indigenous Christian church is one of the few institutions where Toba Qom people are comfortable speaking their own language and singing their own songs. It is because of the Mennonites’ accompaniment work in the Chaco that FEINE (Association of Indigenous Evangelical Peoples and Organizations) invited Mission Network almost two decades ago to come to another nation, Ecuador, to support and train leaders of the struggling indigenous churches. Our family is part of the response to that invitation.</p><p><strong>Jesus’ astonishing response to doubt</strong><br>Shortly before Christ delivers the Great Commission, we read that his disciples worshiped him, but some still doubted. How amazing that Jesus responded to this doubt by sending them out to make disciples of all nations! A more cautious approach would have been to offer a class, hold a weeklong seminar, or at least have a question-and-answer session until everyone was on the same page. But Jesus responded to his disciples’ doubt by sending them out to share the gospel with others!</p><p>There is another account of the Great Commission in Acts 1:8 where Jesus’ last words before ascending into the clouds are about being witnesses. From my perspective, while it is up to us as Christians to witness to what God has done in our lives, it is not our job to convince people to give their lives over to Christ. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.</p><p>As a longtime economics professor, I know that the emerging economies in places like Brazil, China and India kept the world economy afloat during the Great Recession of 2008. While the U.S. economy was shrinking, the economies on the other side of the world were still growing. Similarly, I wonder if it will be the emerging churches in the Global South that help foster the growth of Mennonites worldwide in the decades to come.</p><p>In the year 2000, there were more than 120,000 members of Mennonite Church USA. Last year, I checked MennoniteUSA.org, and saw the number is down to about 95,000. Over the last 15 years, while the U.S. population has increased by 14 percent, this denomination has shrunk by 21 percent. It is starting to dawn on me that we need the church in the Global South to help bring new life and vitality to North American churches, as much as our brothers and sisters in the South can benefit from our emphasis on servant leadership and Anabaptist theology.</p><p><strong>“I don’t want to be part of a dying church.”</strong><br>I believe it’s time to follow the lead of our Christian brothers and sisters in places like Ecuador who use words as well as actions to share the good news. When we think of all God has done for us, how far each of us has come, how we have been forgiven for past mistakes, and given so many opportunities for new life – how can we not tell others?</p><p>It doesn’t have to be difficult if we simply remember Jesus’ call from Acts 1 to witness to God’s work in our lives. Let this be a challenge to each of us the coming days – to seize the opportunity to tell others about what really matters, something deeper than weather, food or news. And the Spirit will take it from there.</p>

 

 

Flip the expectationshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Flip-the-expectationsFlip the expectationsErin RhodesGP0|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;L0|#089f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc|North America;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Youth Venture invited me to change my perspectivehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Youth-Venture-invited-me-to-change-my-perspective-Youth Venture invited me to change my perspectiveElizabeth EbyGP0|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;L0|#089f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc|North America;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
A glimpse of life as missionaries, neighbors, parents and friendshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/A-glimpse-of-life-as-missionaries,-neighbors,-parents-and-friendsA glimpse of life as missionaries, neighbors, parents and friendsVideo by David StutzmanGP0|#5b6e705f-0058-4334-9acc-0b6703eb027a;L0|#05b6e705f-0058-4334-9acc-0b6703eb027a|Germany;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#e1c6021e-2f25-46dc-91a1-be34789acdf9;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
A detention center is no home. This is home.https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/This-is-homeA detention center is no home. This is home.By Luz VarelaGP0|#2ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a;L0|#02ab17779-1e85-4ea3-bd7e-1348a1fb087a|United States;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Friends for a lifetimehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Friends-for-a-lifetimeFriends for a lifetimeBy Erin RhodesGP0|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;L0|#089f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc|North America;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Evangelism: a faithful or offensive response to Christ?https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Evangelism-a-faithful-or-offensive-response-to-ChrisEvangelism: a faithful or offensive response to Christ?Contributed by Kelsey Hochstetler GP0|#024ac062-71a9-4b18-9ee6-bca9c86be075;L0|#0024ac062-71a9-4b18-9ee6-bca9c86be075|Burkina Faso;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#4d0e08ea-d1a0-4141-9eba-431183992152;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Seeking God above allhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Seeking-God-above-allSeeking God above allContributed by Katja NortonGP0|#2c9cdbcf-29d8-4673-8cfe-9102ac90f492;L0|#02c9cdbcf-29d8-4673-8cfe-9102ac90f492|Indonesia;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#af610d13-4793-4c57-8b8c-d4ea261d7a85;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Intentional Christian Communityhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Intentional-Christian-CommunityIntentional Christian CommunityContribued by Annie McAlisterGP0|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;L0|#089f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc|North America;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Limitlesshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Limitless-LimitlessBy Erin RhodesGP0|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;L0|#089f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc|North America;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
Living in Jackson, I’ve learned many thingshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Living-in-Jackson,-I’ve-learned-many-thingsLiving in Jackson, I’ve learned many thingsBy Susannah EppGP0|#89f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc;L0|#089f1dfe2-8e50-4b9f-b81a-f3f6dcbc35fc|North America;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf