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A detention center is no home. This is home. detention center is no home. This is home.By Luz Varela<p>I walk in to the smell of black beans, rice and tortillas cooking. The place is loud and active, with mothers crowded up in the small kitchen and their children playing and running all over the house. The noise and chaos is comforting to me, reminding me of home with my Mexican mother whose outside voice is simply the same voice she uses everywhere else. As I stand there in the doorway, absorbing all of this activity, a woman approaches me, gives me a quick hug and kisses me on the cheek. "<em>¡</em><em>Bienvenida!</em>" ("Welcome!") she says to me. Her smile is warm and her eyes are tender and tired, perhaps a fatigue that she's been carrying with her for many years now. She grabs my hand and guides me through the house, introducing me to her three children; all three of them mirror their mother's greeting. I felt something warm go through my body, and it was not the fact that I was in South Texas in the middle of the summer—triple-digit nightmare; it was a familiar feeling, like I had been there before.</p><p>I walk around the <em>casa</em> (house), exploring the new place that shall be my place of service for a year or so. The house is big, about 10 rooms and four bathrooms, but with this many people around, it feels like a two-bedroom apartment. I call it a house instead of a shelter because the ladies refer to it as <em>La</em> <em>Casa,</em> and also because that's what it feels like with all of these people around. The walls are a pale cream color, contrasted by an opaque green color on the door frames. The space is wide and open, and the many windows allow for plenty of sunlight to come through. At the very entrance, behind the door, there is a world map that takes up that whole wall space. There was a group of children pointing fingers in random places on the map. I laughed when I heard a little boy tell another one, "This is my home," pointing out somewhere in Africa "Guatemala!" I got really close to them and pointed my finger to where Guatemala really is on the map and told them, "<em>Aqui esta Guatemala</em><em>.</em>" ("Here is Guatemala.") Their eyes widened in admiration, they looked at each other, and with their fingers tracked the many miles, borders and places they had to go through to get here.</p><p>I continue to walk around hoping I find something to make myself useful. It is my first day, but I don't want anyone thinking that I am merely here to sit and watch. I ask the mother who introduced herself to me if there was something I could do to help, and right away she handed me a set of clean bed sheets. I should have known that in a Hispanic household there is <em>always</em> something to do. I start making beds, and then moved on to sweeping the floor. The women around me talk about their many experiences, comparing stories and events, some of them shocking and sad. Their stories sparked my curiosity, but I didn't dare to ask them anything yet. I also realized that I knew nothing about the situations in their home countries. Why are they here? What led them to make the decision of embarking on such a dangerous, long journey with their children? Surely, they had to have a really good excuse for leaving their home. I know my mom did when we left Mexico 10 years ago. </p><p><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">In mid-thought, a little kid approaches me and pulls at my shirt, "</span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">¡</em><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">Guineo</em><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">!" s</em><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">he points over at the counter. I was caught off guard. <span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;"><span aria-hidden="true"></span><span aria-hidden="true"></span>"¿</span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">Dinero</em><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">?"</em> </span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;"> </em><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">("Money?") I ask her, feeling confused. Does she think I can give her money? "</span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">No. </em><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">¡</em><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">Guineo!"</em><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;"> </em><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">and points again at the counter. I look over at the counter again and look back at the child helpless until one of the teenage boys takes a banana from the counter and gives it to the child. The little girl takes it and runs away. I scratch my head feeling confused. "</span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">Guineo </em><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">is banana," explains the older boy, who walks away smiling. I had not realized that my Spanish was also different from theirs. I feel a little embarrassed and continue to sweep the floor. Mothers began to call their little ones to sit at the table. One of the ladies offered me a plate of rice, beans and fried plantain; I accepted it and sat at the table.</span><br></p><p>The children eat first and then the mothers. It is interesting seeing the children's reaction to the food that sits in front of them. They stare at the plate for a while, carefully inspecting it, some sticking the tip of their tongue out to taste it. When they finally stick their spoon into the plate, it takes a while to get them to eat it. They take a spoonful of beans and after some convincing from their mothers that it is not food from the detention center, where they were held for months as prisoners, they take that leap of faith and place the spoon in their mouths. I watch how their expressions turn from suspicion to surprise and then to pure delight. "This is home," I reassure them with a smile. I wonder how long it has been since they had a meal cooked by their mamas. A little child takes a handmade tortilla bigger than his face and rolls it in his little hand very slowly, and after he has a long roll in his palm, he then proceeds to stuff the whole thing in his mouth. I laugh and suddenly all of my doubts about this new place, this new job, disappear for the time being. One of the mothers sits next to me and as we are eating she asks me how I got there, to which I respond with my mouth full, "¿<em>Disculpe</em>?" ("Pardon me?") She thought I was one of the mothers and wanted know if I had crossed the river to get here or if I had walked through the desert. I explained to her how 10 years ago, I took a greyhound bus from Laredo, Texas, to Elkhart, Indiana, with my mother and brothers. I told her about the piles of snow in Indiana and how different the food is here. We laugh and there is a sense of comfort between us, two strangers. I look at her face; she couldn't be much older than me. Her child approaches and pulls at her demanding her attention. </p><p>The dining table, old and creaky, has probably heard hundreds of stories. The women sit around the table and give thanks to God for the manna he has sent them. They tell each other their stories, and how the nightmares they lived seemed like they now belong to a distant past. There's always a place to sit at that table, and if not, the mothers will make room. This place and time is sacred for them, is safe and comforting. When they are feeding their children, there is no worry about the immigration court or how they will make it in a new country that does not want them in the first place. They cook with love because they know no other way to do it. And they feed whoever comes through the door, because that's what they have always done. For many of them, the kitchen is the hospital room or the counseling session that they need so much. Their tired hands still know the rhythm of what used to be their life back in their countries. There is always a pot of black beans waiting for the hungry mouths that are full of stories. This is more than comfort food; this is <em>healing</em> food because it satisfies the hunger and in a way mends the broken souls. </p><p>I get up and take my dish to the kitchen to wash it. A young mother is at the sink and extends her hand for my plate, smiles, and says, "I can wash it for you." I thank her and offer to help dry the dishes. She hands me a clean towel and I begin my work in silence. <em>"Me pidieron un uniforme,"</em> ("They asked me for a uniform,") she said. I looked at her and realized she was talking to me. <em>"Las Maras</em><em>." (Las Maras Salvatruchas, </em>a notorious gang in El Salvador.) She looked at me with a concerned look. I wondered why they would ask her for a uniform, and then she said, "I was a policewoman in my country; I almost finished my studies in the academy." She did not look much older than I am, and if she was still in school, she could not have been much older than I. She was a policewoman in her country, and when the MS-13 asked for a uniform, literally, she refused. The next morning she woke up to find that her tires had been slashed, all four of them. She knew that this was no coincidence; they knew where she lived now. Her husband was also a policeman (part of the Special Forces in El Salvador), and when he tried to fight back for his family, he realized some of his fellow policemen had already sold themselves to <em>Las Maras</em>. The threats continued, she explained. Explicit videos sent to her phone, harassment in the streets, more damage to her property – to the point where she couldn't go out of her house without fearing it would be her last day alive. </p><p><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">"</span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">Mi esposo y yo tomamos la dura decisión de venirnos a los Estados Unidos</em><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">.</em><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">" ("My husband and I made the tough decision to come to the U.S.") And so their journey to the Unites States as asylum seekers began. </span></p><p><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">As I stood in the small kitchen, hearing this hard story among the chaos in the house, my mind was processing a thousand thoughts. Inside me were feelings of anger, anguish, sadness and fear. This was no </span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">telenovela </em><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">(soap opera), or a book that I was reading. This was a woman telling me her story.</span></p><p><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">A</span><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;"> coyote </span><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">(a person who smuggles immigrants into the U.S.) waited for them at the border of Mexico and Guatemala, she continued. There was a group of people already with them; among the people, a 5-year-old girl with no mother around to take care of her. "I could not believe she </span><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">was</span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;"> </em><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">by herself," she said with such a tender, motherly concern. "So I took my daughter on my right hand and the other little girl on my left one, and together we crossed Mexico." She told me about how scared she was of letting go of one or both of the little girls when crossing the river to get to U.S. land. She carried them both with her as if they were both her babies, and when they finally made it across and saw immigration, the little girl pulled out a note from her tiny pocket and handed it to the immigration officer. "</span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">Mandenla a esta direccion, por favor</em><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">" ("Send her to this address, please") is all the note said with an address in the United States. I could not believe that a mother would have the courage to send her little girl across a country and a river by herself among strangers. For a second, I felt angry at this mother who seemed careless to me. But I realized that I didn't know her story, or what would push her to make such a hard decision. "I was heartbroken when they took her away from me," the lady continued interrupting my internal debate. "I didn't ask her mom's name or where she was going. I probably won't see her ever again," she said with tears in her eyes. A mother who is able to love motherless children – this is a rare image of God we often see portrayed in church. But there she was, in front of me, grieving for a child that was not from her womb.</span><br></p><p><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">We finish drying the dishes and serve ourselves a cup of coffee, even though it was late afternoon. We sit with the rest of the women at the table who are still eating, and listen to all the myths and rare events that took place for them on their journeys here. Right at that moment, sitting at the table, the mothers look at peace. I don't know how many of these stories will have a happy ending or how many of them will actually get their "American dream," but I'm glad I can be here to listen and to be a stop on their journey. Where they can find rest.</span><br></p><p>I am suddenly eager to learn about the brave, wonderful lives of these women. As I'm sitting there, someone serves me another plate of food. "<em>Gracias, </em><em>ya comi</em>," ("Thank you, I already ate,") I explain to them in the nicest way possible. Hispanics don't like to have their food rejected under any circumstance. "<em>Necesita comer mas porque aqui va a trabaja mucho,</em>" ("You need to eat more because here you will be working a lot.") They say with their motherly tenderness. They are taking care of me already and they don't even know why I'm there in the first place. The children pull my hand, "<em>¡</em><em>Apurese!</em>" ("Hurry!") We want you to play with us, they say. Their mothers look relieved to see their children be children again after days of not sleeping well, cold rooms, long interrogation sessions from immigration, lack of food, mistreatment, perhaps abuse. To see them active again gives them strength to continue. Of course, it doesn't take too long for the mothers to start yelling at their rowdy children, but this kind of chaos is peaceful to me. People come and go in this house. No one ever stays long enough to observe and absorb all that happens in this amazing place. </p><p>I look outside and notice it's dark; the time is 10 p.m., and I've been in this place for merely 12 hours, but it definitely feels longer. I say goodbye to the children as they continue to pull my hand begging me to stay. I reassure them I will be back in the morning. A strange part of me wants to stay, but it has been a day full of learning and feeling for me. I feel physically and mentally exhausted, their stories linger in my thoughts, and when I finally get to my bed in what is going to be my new home for the next year, I begin to sob. I was definitely not ready for this and I begin questioning my adequacy for this new job. Working alongside asylum seekers is not going to be easy, I told myself. It's already feeling draining, demanding, and heartbreaking, but nonetheless, the feeling of belonging has not left me yet. Something about this place feels familiar; I remember this heat. This all feels like the home I once had in another time, maybe in a distant memory or a forgotten dream. Maybe this all will finally bring me to be at peace with my past.</p><p><br></p><p><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">This blog post is the story of Luz's first day at her Mennonite Voluntary Service placement, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). She continues to work at RAICES as a legal assistant, and helped found </em><a href="" style="font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;"><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5">Casa RAICES</em></a><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">, a shelter for families that have just been released from immigration detention centers.</em></p><p><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;"><em>Luz is an immigrant, and has been a recipient of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) since it was introduced in 2012. DACA has allowed Luz to work during college, travel, and allows her to continue her work at RAICES with </em><em>UACs (unaccompanied alien children). </em></em></p><p><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5">Casa RAICES is currently struggling with an influx of families, and has set up additional emergency shelters with the help of several local churches, including San Antonio Mennonite Church.</em></p><p><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5">Donations to support the work of Casa RAICES can be made at their </em><a href=""><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5">website</em></a><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5">.</em></p><p><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5"><br></em></p><p><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">MVS has placements available in San Antonio with RAICES. If you are interested in getting involved with this work, click here to </em><a href="/Serve/apply" style="font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;"><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5">apply</em></a><em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-1-5" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">.</em><br></p>
Friends for a lifetime for a lifetimeBy Erin Rhodes<p>​After spending three days solely with my family, I set out to see my dear friends whom I had not seen for months. I scheduled my few, precious days full of meetings, and I don't think there has ever been a week when I have drunk more tea. I was so happy to see everyone, talk to them, see them smile again, hear their voices. In most cases, it felt as though I'd never left; we jumped right into discussions on common friends, political theories, ambitions, careers, life reflections, the new Touring Choir (those impostors), or advanced physics in the case of dear Josh. My heart was full of love for them. Even as we talked, though, I felt the rift that months had put between us, how our lives had diverged even for just this little time. </p><p>I imagined the months ahead: The now seniors would graduate and pick colleges; the now college freshmen would go on to internships and study abroad in far-away places. Even I, in less than a year, would be immersed in studies and far from home at Wheaton College. How soon would it be that our friendships would lose their revelancy and become rimmed with obligation and made of only stale high school memories? </p><p>I don't want to lose the sense of a growing friendship, the sense that we are still making memories now even though hours of driving divide us. It's a good reminder to not be stuck on the past, thinking and talking about "the good old days," but to be looking ahead to keeping these dear friends close to my present heart. Calls, texts and letters while we are now apart symbolize for me the hard work needed to keep our lives stitched together, keeping me up-to-date on what they are invested in and challenged by. </p><p>I saw a saying hung on Amy's bedroom wall that says it well: "Friendship is not one big thing; it's many little things." Little things are hard work, and they often feel insignificant, but these friends are well worth it. Where we will be even in a year when I come home from Wheaton, I don't know, but I will do my part in being a friend to them despite the miles.</p><p>Excerpt from a blog post by Erin.  To see the full post, click <a href="">here</a>.</p>
Evangelism: a faithful or offensive response to Christ? a faithful or offensive response to Christ?Contributed by Kelsey Hochstetler <p>​<em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">When Anne and Daniel Garber Kompaoré talk of their work in North America, they are often met with questions. Anne works as a Bible translation consultant with Mennonite Mission Network and has lived in Burkina Faso since 1982. She loves to tell people about Jesus, and so does her husband, Daniel, a Burkinabe pastor of an Apostolic Mission Church. The following is an example of questions that Anne and Daniel frequently receive about the ethics of evangelism.</em></p><p><strong>Q: Is evangelism imposing one's faith on others?</strong> </p><p>Anne: Several years ago, my husband and I were speaking in a Mennonite church and were asked this question. Daniel responded simply by saying, "No – the missionaries shared Jesus Christ with us, and we had full liberty to accept or reject the gospel." In fact, on his mother's side of the family, the entire family changed religions at one point in time – his grandparents and two uncles became Muslims; his mom and another uncle became Christians. Both Muslims and Christians were evangelizing in the same town at the same time. Here in Burkina, there is a lot of promotion of religion, and each side is eager to present their perspective, whether it be Christian or Muslim. Many people are searching and are open to change. When that is the case, I think you would agree with me that when people are searching, when there are multiple voices, they have a right to be informed of their options.  </p><p>I think the many people who have become Christians through missionary efforts will feel a little shock when hearing a question like that. They could easily ask you, "What? You want to keep Christianity to yourselves?" Can you imagine? If the first Christians really had this attitude, I don't think that the Christian faith would exist today, except possibly in some little corner of the Middle East. </p><p>I also do not at all agree that one should impose any faith on anyone else. There is nothing wrong with advertising. If companies can be allowed to promote their product on TV and Internet without being solicited, if Muslims have the freedom to work at bringing others to Muslim faith, surely those of us who are excited in our joy in Christ should have the freedom to share what we consider as good news. </p><p><strong>Q:</strong><strong>  </strong><strong>How would you feel if people from other religious backgrounds moved into your neighborhood and tried to convert you and your children?</strong></p><p>Anne: I would like to respond with sharing about how we (two young single women) arrived in the village of Kotoura. We were to learn the language and prepare the way for evangelistic missionaries. We were linguists, not evangelists. But as soon as we arrived, we were peppered with questions by the son of the chief. We read him the Bible story of the prodigal son. He loved the story so much that he asked for more and said he would share those stories with his people. He wanted to know more about God and his power in the world. After one year, and a thousand questions later, he believed in Jesus Christ.  It was then that he, this first Christian, who was so excited about his new faith, started sharing with others. And, no, he received no handouts from us. All he received from us was our friendship and the good news.  </p><p>I would not agree with any other religion imposing themselves on myself and my children. But I think it is very healthy for children – especially young adults – to be exposed to different religions. It helps them gain perspective and make a better informed decision on their faith choice for life. I was challenged by various currents of thought, religious and political, while I was at a secular university (I did not go to a Mennonite school, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, until I was ready to go overseas), and I feel that this was a very valuable experience for me. The challenges helped me to examine what really my beliefs were and to make more solid faith decisions. I believe in a political system that allows for religious diversity; I believe in freedom of religion. And I believe in freedom for everyone to share their faiths.  </p><p>So, this is another perspective coming from another part of the world. If you come and visit us in Burkina Faso, you will find very few foreign missionaries.  Most missionaries and evangelists these days are the Africans themselves who are much more vocal about their faith than most North Americans are, including myself. You will find first-generation Christians who will gladly share why they became Christians and how it happened.  You are welcome to visit!</p><p>No one denies the abuses of missionaries and colonialists in the past. But that should not be used as an argument against sharing one's faith with others. </p>
Limitless Erin Rhodes<p>​Though I am young, every once in awhile, I pause and catch the sense of my own death. I hear of people dying, I feel my body wear, or I reflect on how quickly even these few 18 years have passed by and my inability to stop them as they continue slipping out of my hands. My mind can hardly grasp that I will someday cease to exist. How can I imagine the hardships in my life to come, the slow decaying of this now resilient body, and then the tipping off of reality into the grayness of eternity and the unknown? </p><p>In those brief moments my mind seizes up with fear and then grief for my own short life. I'm struck with the preciousness of these days. Then, the moment passes, I move on with my life, pulled along by inexorable time that will someday drag me to my end. This view of limitedness does give more value to my being in the moment. I appreciate my family members more after realizing that our time is limited; I hold close to my friends while we are still bound together by love; I take the opportunities given to me knowing my time is not guaranteed. </p><p>Even less often, however, am I struck by invincibility as I was over Christmas break, perhaps because I am so young that it's a default attitude. We were driving back from Shenandoah National Park where Joseph, Ellie, Bailey and I had hiked up to Hawksbill Gap, the highest point in the park, to watch the sunset. The sun had painted the drab, brown mountains with a gradient of pinks, purples, blues, and oranges while the sun itself glowed through the skeleton trees. </p><p>We now drove fast through the dark; Joseph's ever present music played through the speakers of the car; our youthful freedom rushed around us. We were all so in love with life, so loving being together. We talked of our dreams of studying music, having careers that fulfilled our inner passions, traveling out west to climb the Rockies, a glorious heaven, and our infinite God. The world seemed made for us and we are going after it. I felt what it is to be young then, the wonder of the future, the boundless possibilities, all the beauty and goodness there is to be had. I felt limitless.</p><p><em>Excerpt taken from a blog post by Erin. See the full </em><a href=""><em>blog post</em></a><em> here.</em></p>
Living in Jackson, I’ve learned many things,-I’ve-learned-many-thingsLiving in Jackson, I’ve learned many thingsBy Susannah Epp<p>​I’ve learned that “Southern hospitality” is real and it is wonderful.</p><p>I’ve learned to be comfortable with hugging strangers. </p><p>I’ve learned how to skillfully navigate a road riddled with potholes.</p><p>I’ve learned that in every “bad” kid is a struggling child who just wants to understand and be understood. </p><p>I’ve learned that the kindest people can be found in the “bad” part of a town. </p><p>I’ve learned that I don’t really need that much closet space, or much space at all. </p><p>I’ve learned that when you get thrown into a crowded room with two complete strangers, you become sisters within days. </p><p>I’ve learned where to go in a packed house to find a private corner. </p><p>I’ve learned how to knead bread. </p><p>I’ve learned that I knew nothing about children. </p><p>I’ve learned to overcome my shyness and hold my own in a conversation with a group of people I just met. </p><p>I’ve learned that a lot of the time, stereotypes are ridiculously, entirely wrong. </p><p>I’ve learned that racism is alive and thriving. </p><p>I’ve learned what it feels like to be a minority, noticed everywhere you go. </p><p>I’ve learned that it is impossible not to become invested in kids' lives. </p><p>I’ve learned how to make a meal with whatever you can find around the house. </p><p>I’ve learned that while Mississippi summers could fry an egg on the asphalt, Mississippi falls are full of deliciously crisp mornings and gorgeously mild afternoons. </p><p>I’ve learned how to live simply. </p><p>I’ve learned that if you applaud one kid for something, 20 other kids will fall over themselves trying to earn your approval for the same thing. </p><p>I’ve learned that mentioning that you don’t eat meat very often can very nearly give a Southerner a heart attack. </p><p>I’ve learned how frustrating it is to try and fail to help a child to grasp a concept he should have been taught years ago. </p><p>I’ve learned that Southerners bring generosity to a new level. </p><p>I’ve learned that a church is still a church if there are only 15 people in it. </p><p>I’ve learned how to say, “The speed limit on the highway is 50 kilometers per hour,” in German. </p><p>I’ve learned how little time it takes for kids to become attached, and how easily I become attached to them. </p><p>I’ve learned that religion and chicken are the two most important things in the South. </p><p>But most importantly, I’ve learned that goodness can be found everywhere, in anyone, if you look for it the right way.</p>
Youth Venture experience great for daughter 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>



Top 5 memories from Colorado Springs 5 memories from Colorado SpringsBy the Colorado Springs Service Adventure UnitGP0|#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
Video: The MVS experience The MVS experienceGP0|#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
Fill your belly, not the landfill your belly, not the landfillBy Emily WedelGP0|#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
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Video: Building church leaders in Peru Building church leaders in PeruBy Sharon NortonGP0|#a91c925c-c705-4602-bada-dba9d51f735c;L0|#0a91c925c-c705-4602-bada-dba9d51f735c|Peru;GTSet|#f1c3ac69-6cd4-4109-8ba8-137477ba8a7d;GPP|#e2a61412-b024-41d7-adeb-1c4e0b790c03;GPP|#62ebb633-b401-4243-a537-1a85230e4ebf
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Ready to serve throughout 2018? to serve throughout 2018?GP0|#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;GP0|#bb87ce2f-982d-48d5-ba4b-1a6892b00c05;L0|#0bb87ce2f-982d-48d5-ba4b-1a6892b00c05|Puerto Rico
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