The Colorado Springs 2015-2016 unit. From left to right: Meg Smeltzer Miller, Daniel Miller, Franzi Klause, Anali North Martin, Anna Koehler, and Sarah Balzer. Photo provided by Susan Nisly. Click on image for full resolution version.

By Daniel Miller
Monday, May 23, 2016

I learned about Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) and its Volunteers Exploring Vocation (VEV) program while serving in Baltimore, Maryland, with Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS). I entered MVS directly after completing my bachelor's degree in order to take a step away from academia for a short period of ministry experience before heading to seminary for my Master of Divinity degree. Therefore, learning about VEV didn't create my desire for further theological education, but that in no way means it didn't shape my journey.

I wasn't able to attend the regional FTE conference that year, but through that invitation I became aware and was able to apply for the new VEV fellowship that was seeking its first class of seminary students, and was fortunate enough to be accepted into that inaugural cohort. In the six years since, VEV has given me two large blessings: financial aid and an inspiring support group of like-minded individuals.

The financial gift came in the form of a four-part scholarship, one part for each of my three years pursuing my seminary degree and the fourth part as I put my faith into service during the summer between my second and third years. That aid greatly lessened my student loan burden and, though I may not have been conscious of it, has allowed me to accept opportunities for service that do not offer high wages. Instead of seeking summer employment and work after seminary specifically to pay down the cost my education, I've been able to work at summer camp and become a Service Adventure leader. Those choices would have been much more difficult if FTE hadn't eased my student loan situation.

Greater than that blessing, though, the networking and my 2011 VEV fellowship cohort, has positively impacted me as I progressed through seminary and on to Service Adventure leadership. At its onset, VEV had a network of maybe 15 to 20 Christian voluntary service organizations, and, I think, the initial cohort brought together young seminary students with a heart for service.

We soaked up the newness of our program and, despite our different Christian backgrounds, came to it with energy and optimism; we were told that we represented the future of the church – and we believed it. We became fast friends and compatriots on our parallel journeys.

Each summer before our years of seminary, FTE brought us together along with the next year's VEV cohort for a conference of worship and education. We learned about the skills that it would take to be a mover and shaker in our denominations and church contexts, specifically to direct the Church toward living out the instructions of Jesus to care for the people and the world around us through service in the name of Jesus.

We're now priests, social workers, campus ministers, workers at nonprofits caring for the homeless and powerless – mentors and aids to others who share our passion. And most of all, we're still connected. We are a support network for the highs and lows of ministry and a sounding board for thoughts and ideas. The VEV fellowship program lasted only a few years, but the 2011 cohort will last much longer.
I would still have graduated seminary and I likely still would be serving with Service Adventure if I hadn't been connected with and aided by FTE through VEV, but my journey would have been much more difficult. It would have been more of a financial strain and a more isolated journey. The value of being surrounded by like-minded, energetic, and inspiring allies as a source of encouragement and empowerment that cannot be over-stated. I'm very grateful for the blessings VEV has provided for me.

 

 

 Related

 

 

SOOP VolunteersThank youhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3377/SOOP VolunteersSOOP VolunteersGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Balancing student loan debt and serviceInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3151/Balancing student loan debt and serviceBalancing student loan debt and serviceGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Elkhart, Indiana
MVS awards 29 grand in student loan scholarships Financial faithhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3433/MVS awards 29 grand in student loan scholarshipsMVS awards 29 grand in student loan scholarships GP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Newton, Kansas
A taste from inside the SOOP bowlInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3145/A taste from inside the SOOP bowlA taste from inside the SOOP bowlGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Elkhart, Indiana
Learning to followInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3277/Learning to followLearning to followGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
The power of communityInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3399/The power of communityThe power of communityGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
SOOP Fun FactsInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3375/SOOP Fun FactsSOOP Fun FactsGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Elkhart, Indiana
It's not too late! Apply for MVS today!Infohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3267/It's not too late! Apply for MVS todayIt's not too late! Apply for MVS today!GP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Elkhart, Indiana
Apply by April 1 for Youth Venture international tripsInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3139/Apply by April 1 for Youth Venture international tripsApply by April 1 for Youth Venture international tripsGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476India, Congo, Lithuania and Indonesia
Spring and Summer SOOPLet's go campinghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3385/Spring and Summer SOOPSpring and Summer SOOPGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Lincoln City, Oregon
Can you say 'SOOP' in Spanish?Infohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3173/Can you say SOOP in SpanishCan you say 'SOOP' in Spanish?GP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Latin America
Apply now before the MVS early bird deadlineInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3141/Apply now before the MVS early bird deadlineApply now before the MVS early bird deadlineGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Newton, Kansas
Try out Service Adventure for the weekendInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3403/Try out Service Adventure for the weekendTry out Service Adventure for the weekendGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Newton, Kansas
mvs testInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3538/mvs-test10mvs testGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Frequently asked questions about Journey InternationalInfohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3217/Frequently asked questions about Journey InternationalFrequently asked questions about Journey InternationalGP0|#0cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155;L0|#00cab7f8d-f1c4-4bb0-8086-4788fee8b155|Info;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476

 

 

 

 

SOOP Volunteershttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3377/SOOP VolunteersSOOP Volunteers
Balancing student loan debt and servicehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3151/Balancing student loan debt and serviceBalancing student loan debt and service
MVS awards 29 grand in student loan scholarships https://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3433/MVS awards 29 grand in student loan scholarshipsMVS awards 29 grand in student loan scholarships
A taste from inside the SOOP bowlhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3145/A taste from inside the SOOP bowlA taste from inside the SOOP bowl
Learning to followhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3277/Learning to followLearning to follow
The power of communityhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/info/3399/The power of communityThe power of community



 

 

Mennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 yearshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4765/Mennonite-Mission-Network-celebrates-20-yearsMennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 years20th Anniversary
Video series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4782/Video-series-teaches-ways-to-Stir-Up-PeaceVideo series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“Webinar
MVS Minute #11: The secret ingredient?https://www.mennonitemission.net/video/4768/MVS-Minute-11-The-secret-ingredientMVS Minute #11: The secret ingredient?MVS Minute
Friends become familia at God’s tablehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4769/Friends-become-familia-at-God’s-tableFriends become familia at God’s tableHispanic-Mennonite Heritage
Football league fundraiser is no fantasyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4777/Football-league-fundraiser-is-no-fantasyFootball league fundraiser is no fantasyExtra-Ordinary Giving
MVS Minute #06: What does MVS smell like?https://www.mennonitemission.net/video/4774/MVS-Minute-06-What-does-MVS-smell-likeMVS Minute #06: What does MVS smell like?MVS Minute