KANSAS CITY (Mennonite Mission Network) – Judging by the history and stories shared at the Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) 75th anniversary celebration July 4 at MennoCon19, serving others in the peace of Christ within a perplexing world is something that never goes out of style, no matter what the era.
Storytellers during the celebration hosted by Mennonite Mission Network reminded about 100 attendees that the Anabaptist church has sent multiple generations -- ranging from the Silent Generation to the Baby Boomers to the Millennials to Generation Zers -- to lend the helping hands of Christ to communities needing a healing touch.
"MVS was born 10 years before I was born," said Stanley Green, executive director of Mission Network, the current home of MVS as one of the mission agency's Christian Service programs. "All my life, volunteers in this program have been investing their lives for God and for good in a hurting and broken and struggling world.
"… It has been a blessing to me that the Mennonite church has this narrative of serving God's purposes in a world. … So on behalf of MVS, I thank you for the service of predecessor agencies through which MVS and Voluntary Service (VS) have inspired generations that have come after you and we hope will inspire generations to come."
During the evening celebration, Mission Network staff members and MVS alumni shared the program timeline, from its inception in 1946 to its current form today. In the mid-1990s, two forms of the program – the former Mennonite Board of Missions VS and the former Commission on Home Ministries MVS – merged to become MVS. One of the former MVSers to share her story during the celebration was Tonia Martin, who served with MVS in 1995-96 in San Antonio as an after-school program coordinator.
And then in 2002, she went on to serve as a staff member for MVS and Mission Network in a variety of capacities. After graduating from Hesston (Kansas) College and uncertain about her future, someone suggested she apply for MVS. MVS sent her an opportunity to be an after-school coordinator, and she thought to herself, I am just 20 years old, and there is no way I can do this. So she turned it down. But a week later, they let her know that the position was assistant to the coordinator. So she accepted it. But when she got there, they said, "We are so glad you have come, because we just fired the coordinator. … "
Martin continued: "I remember thinking – very funny, God. I said I couldn't do this, but you are still asking me to do this for you. In being taken out of my comfort zone and thrown into something completely beyond my abilities, God showed up. … That experience of God's faithfulness continued to give me confidence to take risks in my life."
Martin's story is only one of thousands to be shared. And so Mission Network is inviting alums who are at MennoCon19 to share their story at the recording area at the Mission Network booth on Friday.