Youth and young adults from Pleasant View Mennonite Church in Hydro, Oklahoma, spent a week at the Peace Academic Center (PAC) on Hopi land in Kykotsmovi, Arizona, March 14-19. PAC serves kindergarten through eight grade students and operates a General Education Development (GED) program while also serving as a community center.
The work the group did while there was significant. But perhaps even more significant was the inspiration they received from their Hopi hosts. "It was interesting to learn about Hopi traditions. Their resilience is incredible," said Ellie Martin, one of the young adults on the trip.
The participants also received inspiration from older service workers
who also happened to be serving at PAC at the same time. PAC is a long-time
partner of Mennonite Mission Network, with the nearly 100 Service
Opportunities with Our Partners (SOOP) volunteers serving with PAC.
During the pandemic, PAC's gymnasium was used as a food and personal protective equipment distribution center. Pallets and machinery ruined the paint on the gym floor, and it was in desperate need of refurbishing. Additionally, the bleachers from the gym needed repair and refinishing, as they were outside in the elements for two years, having been moved out of the gym to make room for the distribution center.
Jim Yoder, from Newton, Kansas, was the contractor who built the gymnasium and four other buildings on the PAC campus in 2001. He also happened to be serving at PAC, along with his wife, Doris, while working on the buildings. Doris and Jim have served at PAC four times since 2001 with Mission Network's Service Opportunities with Our Partners (SOOP) program.
The Pleasant View Mennonite Church group works to renovate the gym at Peace Academic Center. Photo by Monica Miller.
"[The Pleasant View participants] were eager … youth with excellent sponsors," Jim Yoder said. "They listened and followed instructions well. The group had a good time while they worked, [as well as] during their free time."
The Yoders are advocates for voluntary service. Jim Yoder said that he encourages young people to consider service as they follow whatever career path they are on. "It will be an experience they will treasure throughout their life," he said.
Gordon and Sue Miller were also serving at PAC at the same time as the Pleasant View youth. Gordon is a pastor at Lynside Mennonite Church in Lyndhurst, Virginia, and is currently on sabbatical. Gordon works in maintenance on the PAC campus, while Sue teaches at the school. They, too, are big advocates for voluntary service and feel privileged to be able to spend Gordon's sabbatical serving others.
"For us, doing service is answering God's call," Sue Miller said. "The most rewarding part [of doing service] is [that] relationships are formed with those we serve, as well as with those who are also serving."
Tonia Martin, care specialist at Mennonite Mission Network and member of Pleasant View Mennonite Church, led the trip. Mission Network usually partners with PAC through SOOP, which provides adults and families with flexible service opportunities.
Pleasant View Mennonite's trip is also reflective of another Mission Network program: Youth Venture. Youth Venture allows youth and young adults to serve for a week or more during the summer, learning and developing relationships with people in the places they are serving. Youth Venture isn't just for individuals — youth groups and school groups are welcome to participate as well!
Martin said that the youth were inspired by the older service participants at PAC and that the relationships formed during their time there were meaningful. Some of the youth have stayed in contact with the mentors they found there.
"Doing service gives purpose to life and opens your eyes to another way of life and culture," Gordon Miller said. "It broadens our minds and shows God at work. It is a way to grow in your faith with God, because you are trusting [God] by giving your time. It is also a great way to meet others with common goals!"
Lance Polingyouma, the cultural liaison for PAC, says that he was raised in a culture of service. When he attended PAC (then called Hopi Mission School), students helped out with cleaning throughout the school, including washing dishes and sweeping around their desks and the halls. When he went to boarding school in Massachusetts, the students there had jobs that they were graded on. He said that service adds value to your daily life, whether as a student or in everyday adult life. "I may be putting too fine a point on manual labor," Polingyouma joked, "but as every older person I've ever known has said, 'It builds character.'"
Polingyouma said that he wants service participants, whether they be short-term like Youth Venture, or long-term like SOOP, to feel confident that the work they do while on-campus has a positive effect on the students. "Whether they were cleaning up trash in the yard, teaching a student, or painting the lines in our gymnasium, I would like them to know that whatever we ask them to do, it has a qualitative effect on our students and our student body."
Do you have an idea or an opportunity for service that you want to explore but aren't sure if it fits into any of our programs? Contact us and let us work with you to create the service experience that fits your needs. Email Arloa Bontrager at ArloaB@MennoniteMission.net.