June 25–July 11, 2020
Team size: 8 participants
This Youth Venture experience is a partnership between Mennonite Mission Network and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee). The team will travel the northern coastal region of Colombia, partnering with and learning from projects of local Mennonite churches in their work of peacebuilding. The Mennonite Church of Colombia (IMCOL) has decades of experience working as the hands and feet of Jesus to support vulnerable populations within the country, due to almost 60 years of armed conflict.
The Youth Venture (YV) team will travel to three different locations all within the coastal region of Colombia, beginning with Barranquilla, the largest city on the coast and the fourth largest in the country. Barranquilla is the central hub of coastal churches with IMCOL. One local congregation, Celebra, has multiple projects that the YV team will see, including a women's project called Women and Peace, and a children's program called Kids for Peace. The congregation also has a church plant just outside the city in Pital de Megua, where they support a soup kitchen for children and other activities for the new congregation. There are four Mennonite congregations in the area whose youth interact on a regular basis. The YV team will spend time with this group of youth, engaging in activities with one another as well as participating in the life of the different congregations, attending services, and other events.
From Barranquilla, the YV team will head to Riohacha, the most northern tip of Colombia (and all of South America). Due to its close proximity to the Venezuelan border and the dire political situation in Venezuela, Riohacha has experienced an overwhelming influx of Venezuelan refugees in recent years. Here, the YV team will partner with a Mennonite church that has a program offering emergency housing, food, and a few activities to Venezuelan refugee families. The YV team will support this work by helping out at mealtime, offering activities for the many children that populate the space with nothing to do, and leading morning and evening devotions for the families. The situation in Riohacha is quite dire and this project of the Mennonite Church is a haven of mercy to many.
The last portion of this YV experience will take place in the Montes de María region, an area populated by rural communities that were heavily affected by violence in the early 2000s. Here, the YV team will partner with Sembrandopaz, a Colombian Anabaptist NGO that has a myriad of programs in the region, including regional peacebuilding initiatives, community organizing, agricultural projects, and local advocacy. YV participants will spend time in the rural communities of Montes de María, learning about the political context and the various ways communities are working at peacebuilding and development in the region.
As you will travel to various locations on the coast, your housing will be different throughout the two weeks. It is likely you will stay in hotel rooms, church buildings, on hammocks, and with host families.
Travel to location
You will meet your team for orientation in Elkhart, Indiana, and from there will fly to Colombia, likely departing from Chicago. You will need to make your own travel arrangements to Elkhart for orientation. Details will be forthcoming. Youth Venture will make your travel arrangements from the United States to Colombia.
If you do not have a passport, you can download an application at www.travel.state.gov/passport/forms.html. Please allow ample time for passport processing.
Youth Venture is asking each participant to raise $1,800 USD to help cover team expenses. This amount covers the cost of orientation, travel to the assignment, in-country travel, lodging, and food. Participants will need additional funds to cover their health insurance, immunizations, passport, and travel to orientation. Expected contribution is subject to change in the event of significant airline price increases. All gifts are nonrefundable and will be used to fund the Youth Venture team ministry regardless of individual fundraising goals.
Team leaders are Jes Stoltzfus Buller and Bekah York
Jes Stoltzfus Buller works as the Peace Education coordinator for MCC U.S. She lives in Goshen, Indiana, with her husband, Willian Murillo, and almost 2-year-old daughter, Belén. After graduating from Goshen College in 2008 with a double major in sociology and Bible, religion, philosophy, she worked in Colombia, South America, for close to eight years. There, she did local peacebuilding, community development, and regional networking through a Colombian Anabaptist organization on the Caribbean Coast. Jes has experience facilitating group dialogue and managing collaborative projects in peacebuilding. In her current role, she works with Anabaptist churches across the country to teach peace theology, facilitate trainings, and create resources for engagement in peace work. Jes loves being active – she coaches high-school volleyball, enjoys biking, playing games, making music, creating things, and adores her family.
Rebekah York is serving with Mennonite Mission Network in Bogotá, Colombia. Following the lead of Santiago Espitia, the director of Seminario Bíblico Menonita de Colombia (Mennonite Biblical Seminary of Colombia), they work to prepare young leaders and provide continuing education opportunities for leaders in the churches through seminary classes and workshops. Bekah has a passion for discussing and learning together how we as the church witness to Jesus in the 21st century.