BRADFORD, England (Mennonite Mission Network) – For Mennonite Voluntary Service participant Matt Yoder, burglary has brought new freedom.
On April 19, the sounds of an alarm split the air while Yoder and fellow MVSer Kate Harnish walked back to their apartments in Bradford, England. It was not until they reached their building that they recognized the source of the noise: Yoder’s apartment.
After celebrating his 21st birthday at a local restaurant, the MVSers returned to find many of Yoder’s possessions stolen. Missing from the apartment were an electric guitar and accessories, an acoustic guitar, a computer, DVDs, a Playstation 2 gaming system, a digital camera, and a passport.
And Yoder was sure he knew who was responsible.
Earlier this year, Yoder opened his door at midnight to a young, intoxicated man who he had seen on the streets hanging out with a group that had a reputation for drug use and robbery. Yoder chatted and offered the man a glass of water. Before his guest made an exit, Yoder coaxed his mp3 player and digital camera from the man’s pockets – he had noticed the young man eyeing them earlier.
Visitors are not unusual for Harnish and Yoder. The Bradford project is supported by a long-term vision of St. Wilfred’s Anglican Church and Great Horton Methodist Church, both in Bradford.
“The Bradford project is about a ministry of presence from the local church and over the years locals come to expect interesting missionaries living at the same location (Yoder’s flat). It may help a deprived area to feel good about itself – a church cares about it,” said Tim Foley, Mission Network director for Europe.
After his initial stop-in, the young man made occasional visits to Yoder’s flat, asking for cigarettes (which Yoder could not supply) or wondering simply whether Yoder remembered him. This pattern continued until Yoder’s birthday, when the young man attempted to break the door lock while Yoder was at home.
Yoder assumes the same man succeeded in entering later that evening.
The usual response to a burglary is anger, but instead Yoder, a member of West Union Mennonite Church in Parnell, Iowa, has chosen to respond with love.
“I assume the usual response from a victim of burglary would be anger towards the burglar, which is what these guys would expect from me. I have the power to react differently,” he said.
Yoder has used the burglary as an opportunity to live a simpler life, free from the clutter of so many things.
“I see it as a nice birthday present to lose things rather than to gain them. It’s a chance for me to grow up and realize that life as a human has so much more to learned and explored than for me to worry about pieces of metal and plastic,” he said.
Since the burglary, Yoder has interacted briefly with the group of young men. Although he is apprehensive about approaching the entire group in a removed location, Yoder does hope to get to know the young men better.
“I don’t always feel safe, especially since my contact with people who take things without asking. But I didn’t come to England to feel safe. I came to live my life as inspired by Christ. Now, more than ever, I have been noticing unique opportunities to do so,” he said.
Yoder, along with Harnish, a member of Beth-el Mennonite Church in Colorado Springs, serves as a teacher’s assistant at a local primary school, and also helps out at an after-school kid’s club. They also attend a local Methodist youth group gathering each week.
Mennonite Voluntary Service, one of Mission Network’s Christian Service programs, invites adults of all ages and backgrounds to spend a one or two year term living in community and serving in a variety of locations across the United States. For more information or to apply online visit Service.MennoniteMission.net.