Juana Alicia Ruiz Hernandez, an Afro-Colombian leader of Mampuján, participates in painting a mural that represents the vibrancy and hopeful futures of communities affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. Photo provided by Jes Stoltzfus Buller. 

By Laurie Oswald Robinson
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

News Release

Note: Youth Venture, a Christian Service program of Mennonite Mission Network, is planning a roster of three trips for this summer (see below). Depending on COVID-19 pandemic conditions, the trips will be offered either in-person or on virtual platforms. Arloa Bontrager, the Youth Venture director, will monitor the situation and alert participants accordingly. For more information and to apply, see this website.

NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — With the bite of winter still heavy in the air, now is the perfect time to start daydreaming about summer! If you're 15- to 22-years old and looking to jump start your summer, consider a trip sponsored by Youth Venture! 

You'll have the opportunity to expand your world, both inside and outside of the United States by participating in one of these options:

Taking a Civil Rights tour to the southern United States, July 16-24. You will learn about the tragedies and triumphs that occurred during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as the nation struggled with the reality of racial injustice. You will visit places of historical significance, hear stories, and learn why our faith calls us to stand against injustice and with the oppressed.

"I view this trip as a holy pilgrimage — not because I have a religious devotion to the United States of America — but because the people and places of the civil rights movement are a faithful witness to the God of justice and love in the face of violence and evil," said Joe Sawatzky, a Church Relations representative for Mission Network and a trip co-leader with his spouse, Anna.

Exploring peacebuilding in Colombia, South America, July 15-31. This experience is a partnership between Mission Network and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). The team will travel the northern coastal region of Colombia, partnering with and learning from  local Mennonite churches in their work of peacebuilding. For decades, the Mennonite Church of Colombia (IMCOL) has served as the hands and feet of Jesus to support vulnerable populations within the country.

"I look forward to building connections between Colombian and North American youth and learning from Colombian peacebuilders how their faith guides/orients them to creative, nonviolent action for change," said trip co-leader Jes Stotlzfus Buller, peace education coordinator for MCC. She will join Rebekah York of Mission Network, who is currently serving in Colombia, to lead this trip.

 "I foresee our engagement opening space for rich conversations and questions regarding the different ways of being the church, along with new ideas about what it means to be a living witness of non-violent love in action," York said.

Embarking on the Doctrine of Discovery/Trail of Death Learning Tour, July 10-19. This trip begins in Elkhart, Indiana, and will follow the Trial of Death in Indiana and Illinois. In 1838, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Potawatomi Indians from their ancestral homelands in the state of Indiana. There were 859 Potawatomi who made the journey across Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and finally to Kansas, the intended destination. Due to the loss of 41 lives on the journey, the removal become known as the Potawatomi Trail of Death. In addition to those lives lost, hundreds more died during the first winter in Kansas, when the U.S. government didn't provide the homes, the land and the cattle that were promised.                                                                                                            Participants who join the 10-day walking learning tour will focus on the history and present-day realities for Indigenous peoples in the United States. They will travel a portion of the Trail of Death, as well as engage in conversation and camp along the way.

"This tour will provide a lot of experiential learning," said Marisa Smucker, trip leader and Mission Network's director of Mennonite Voluntary Service, as well as a church relations representative. "It can bring a 'wow' feeling, of walking in the footsteps of Indigenous people and help us all understand the complexities of the suffering the Indigenous people felt."

This trip is different from others in that participants will be invited to do their service portion of the experience when they return home, Smucker said. "We will ask them to explore who the Indigenous people were in their local area and then create a way to engage with that history through something restorative."






​Laurie Oswald Robinson is editor for Mennonite Mission Network. 



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