Anja Müller is a volunteer coordinator for Christliche Dienste (CD), the voluntary service program of the German Mennonite conference Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Gemeinden (AMG). For more than a decade, CD has partnered with Mennonite Mission Network to place German volunteers in Mennonite Voluntary Service and Service Adventure units across the United States. This year, nine participants from Germany serve in Service Adventure. You can read a mid-year reflection from one of those participants, Helen Tiefenbach, here.
Anja, what is your connection with Service Adventure?
I was a Service Adventure participant in 2012-2013. Since 2017, I've worked for Christliche Dienste, a voluntary service organization in Germany that sends volunteers to different countries. One of our partners is Mission Network. Each year we have seven to nine volunteers who go to Service Adventure. As a coordinator for voluntary service in Canada and the United States, I keep up my connection with Service Adventure. I enjoy being in touch with Susan [Nisly, Service Adventure director] whom I met seven years ago in Kansas, and I also enjoy being accountable for the CD volunteers.
How do CD's participants get involved in voluntary service?
We start in September and get applications from volunteers from Germany. Usually they come from churches or have a Christian background, and they decide that they want to do something with purpose after school. So they apply, and we meet them and talk with them about their idea of doing a voluntary service year, and what they would like to do. Then we send the applications to Mission Network after we decide that the applicant could be a good fit for Service Adventure.
How did you view Service Adventure as a participant?
It's difficult to say because being part of two programs like Service Adventure and CD can make you feel a little bit torn between them. There are some requirements for both of the programs, and usually participants have to write a report for CD and then for Mission Network as well. Both programs complement each other.
How do you view the program now?
I appreciate working with Service Adventure very much because it is such a great experience. I'm always happy to be able to send so many volunteers to Service Adventure. I think both organizations see the benefits of giving young adults the opportunity to grow by doing a year of service. We share the same values, goals and visions. That makes me happy to cooperate with Service Adventure.
What are some of the challenging aspects of Service Adventure? How have you seen participants grow through the program?
I think there can be very different challenges, depending on the individuals involved. Some volunteers are challenged to be apart from their families for the first time, having to be independent for the first time, or just doing household tasks. For others, it's living together with participants with totally different personalities and people you didn't know before. Some are challenged by their placements as well; serving five days a week and experiencing a job for the first time can be a big change!
I think the biggest challenge is that, through these situations, you're confronted with your own personality and the way you see other people and God. I believe it's also the most rewarding part. You can learn so much through program experience if you're ready to accept the challenges and go through them with the help of God and other people. It's good to have challenges.
What do you think participants take away from the experience of Service Adventure?
I think one of the things is that participants learn how to serve people, and they get back some much love from that. They experience living together in community with people from another culture. They get to witness how people from a totally different background worship the same God, and have the same heart for service. It's also great to see a different country. I was in Colorado Springs, and I enjoyed hiking and experiencing the beauty of God's nature. So many different, great experiences in the program.
When participants return to Germany from Service Adventure, what direction do you see them taking?
We don't stay in touch with all of them, but we see some of the participants come to our preparation seminars and retreats to help us prepare the new volunteers. You can see that they're way more independent and confident about their personalities, and they have a strong faith and that it's important for them to be part of a congregation. They want to invest themselves in society and in God's kingdom.
Is there anything you'd like to say that I didn't ask about?
I think you've got a good view of how I see Service Adventure, and how much we at CD appreciate working together with Service Adventure. There are so many benefits for serving through the program! Everything from the challenges to the good and exciting parts. I think that's a good insight into what we appreciate about it.