NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – The waning days of August herald the return to school for students across the United States. Anticipation for new experiences, and hesitation to embrace the unknown intertwine in the air of classrooms, dormitories and lecture halls.
In Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) units across the country, these emotions are paired not with classes, but with volunteer service placements, supporting church communities, and unit housemates. MVS placements can be either one or two years in length, so some new participants are joining households that have already been operating since last year, while others are entering unit houses that have been quiet since all their previous participants said their goodbyes to each other and the local community earlier in the summer. Below are the new MVS participants for the 2023-24 term.
MVS is a service program of Mennonite Mission Network, designed for individuals ages 20+. For more information and to apply for 2024-25, click here. Applications accepted through January 31.
Deborah Yoder will join the Tucson, Arizona, MVS unit. Her placement is with the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery, an organization that works to mobilize Christian church communities to dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery and follow Indigenous leadership. There, she'll serve as communications coordinator and Indigenous solidarity organizer. Her home church is Listowel Mennonite Church in Listowel, Ontario, Canada.
"I wanted to do a year of service after graduating college and looked into MVS as a possibility because I have relatives who have served with MVS. When I saw the position to work with the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery, I thought it would be rewarding to participate in this work. I hope to learn a lot from my placement over this next year.
"I hope to gain experience, knowledge, and to grow in my faith over this next year. I hope to learn more about Indigenous issues and my role in addressing those as a Christian and descendent of European settlers. I believe this placement will also help to broaden my knowledge of potential job opportunities for my future."
Laura Ullom-Minnich will join the San Francisco, California, MVS unit. Her placement is with California Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based organization that equips congregations with resources and education to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to climate change. Her home church is McPherson Church of the Brethren in McPherson, Kansas.
"I chose to apply to MVS because this volunteer program offers vital help to people in need, important causes and movements, and the community. I chose this placement because I want to be a part of protecting creation by making the world more green. California is leading the world on what to do on climate change and I want to be a part of that movement.
"I hope to find new friends, connect with the community and learn new skills. I hope that giving to others can help protect my mental and physical health by keeping me mentally stimulated and providing a sense of purpose."
Ally Weaver will join the Tucson, Arizona, MVS unit. Her placement is with Literacy Connects, an organization that connects people of all ages to a world of opportunities through literacy and creative expression. There, she'll serve as an adult basic literacy program assistant. Her home church is Whitestone Mennonite Church in Hesston, Kansas.
"I applied to MVS to grow as a person, and to form new connections and relationships with the people I work and live with! Over the upcoming year, I hope to learn how to be a more effective communicator and teacher, and to expand my understanding of the world by encountering new perspectives."
Alena Morgunova Miller will join the Alamosa, Colorado, MVS unit. Her placement is with the San Luis Valley Immigration Resource Center, an organization that works to connect and empower immigrants with resources to achieve legal documentation, fulfill their economic needs, and integrate into the community. There, she'll serve as an immigration assistant. Her home church is Huntington Mennonite Fellowship in Huntington, Indiana.
"I decided to apply for MVS because I wanted to be able to live in community with other people who value the Anabaptist faith tradition as well as use my degree and skills to serve others. Many young people give their time and service to the military, and I wanted to do the same but in a peace and justice centered context.
"This next year I hope to make new friends and get involved in the community of Alamosa. It seems like a really interesting place and I am excited to move there soon!"
Magdalena Wenger will join the Tucson, Arizona, MVS unit. Her placement is with Casa Alitas, an organization that provides shelter, necessities and travel assistance to asylum seeking families. There, she'll serve as a site and volunteer coordinator. Her home church is First Mennonite Church in Hutchinson, Kansas.
"I signed up because I believe it is important to do voluntary service as a Christian. I chose MVS because I think it is a strong program which will help me achieve my goals. I want to give some of my life to voluntary service and MVS was the best fit for me at this point in my life.
"I hope to be useful to my placement organization, learn about other people, their cultures, and experiences, and grow and challenge myself."
Hannah Nuest will join the Tucson, Arizona, MVS unit. Her placement is with Casa Alitas and Watershed Management Group. Watershed Management Group is an organization that provides free education and workshops on sustainable water solutions and desert living for the Tucson community. At Casa Alitas, Nuest will serve as a site and volunteer coordinator. At Watershed Management Group, she'll serve as a river run network assistant. Her home church is Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kansas.
"While finishing my master's degree, I was looking for opportunities to explore outside my home state while getting to make use of the skills and knowledge I have been building for the last five years in school. MVS will allow me to do this with the support of a church community and a chance to grow my faith in the process.
"At Watershed Management Group, I hope to learn more in-depth about desert ecosystems and how I can apply my environmental science education to real-world problems. At Casa Alitas, I want to improve my Spanish abilities while serving others and gain a deeper understanding of immigration issues. I am a lifelong Christian but new to the Mennonite church and hope my experience there will help me see my faith from a different perspective."
Cindi Boyer will join the Alamosa, Colorado, MVS unit. Her placement is with Rio Grande Hospital and Clinics, part of Valley Citizens' Foundation for Healthcare, Inc., a community non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide health care to the Western San Luis Valley. There, she'll serve as a Rio Grande health assistant.
Savannah Walter will join the San Francisco, California, MVS unit. Walter's placement is with the Homeless Advocacy Project, a program that provides legal and supporting social services to individuals and families who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness. There, Walter will serve as a legal advocate. Walter's home church is Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Jakob Lehmann will serve in an individual MVS placement in Hesston, Kansas. His placement is with Hesston College, a college of Mennonite Church USA that educates and nurtures each student within Christ-centered community. There, he'll serve as an athletic assistant. His home church is Evangelische Freikirche Mennonitengemeinde Ingolstadt in Ingolstadt, Germany.