Jonathan and Julie Fridley, Fred Killheffer and Kirsten Schlabach (holding baby Emma).
Hannah Heinzekehr
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

NEWTON, Kan. (Mennonite Mission Network) – Five former participants are returning home to Service Adventure – this time as leaders.

One of Mennonite Mission Network’s Christian service programs, Service Adventure invites young adults to spend a year serving and learning in intentional community at six different units throughout the country. Participants are encouraged to take time to examine what God wants from their lives.

Many participants have felt called back into the program. This year, four of the six units have at least one leader who worked with Service Adventure previously as a participant.

Over its 20 years of ministry to young adults, Service Adventure also has provided formative experiences for 197 unit leaders.

“As Service Adventure has developed, we’ve really continued to recognize the value of the unit leader. Many of our leaders have pastoral training and just want to do church in a different way when they come out of school,” said Susan Nisly, Service Adventure director.

Each unit is assigned a leader or leader couple that ministers with participants in a variety of ways. Leaders and participants work together to plan learning components, work placements and worship nights throughout the year, and leaders serve as mentors to participants, meeting with them one-on-one for regular check-ins.

Kirsten Schlabach, who is serving as a leader of the Johnstown unit with her husband, Randall and two kids, Anya and Emma, took some time off in between Service Adventure stints. Schlabach was a member of the Philippi, W.Va., unit from 1994-1995.

“I always loved going out and helping with work teams at church and with my youth group, and after Service Adventure, service was just something that got in my blood. Once I did it, I was interested in finding ways to serve continuously,” she said.

After Randall completed the Pastoral Ministries program at Hesston (Kan.) College, the Schlabachs found themselves searching for a church where he might pastor. However, a friend suggested to them that they test out the idea of serving as Service Adventure leaders, and they found themselves called into this form of ministry to youth.

“We felt God calling us into something like Service Adventure. It was a ministry that we both could do as well—it wasn’t just one of us getting a job and the other staying home,” Kirsten Schlabach said.

For these former participants, previous experiences of living and serving in community paved the way for their new role as leaders.

“Coming back as leaders is a good way to show our appreciation for the program,” said Jonathan Fridley who is serving as co-leader in Albany, Ore., with his wife Julie.

Both Fridleys served at the Anchorage, Alaska, unit in 2002.

“We both appreciated our year away from the normal path of going straight into a job or to college. And just living in community setting was challenging and enlightening because you don’t always live with people who are exactly like you, and you need to learn how to give and take,” said Julie.

For Fred Kilheffer, love of the Alaskan outdoors and Prince of Peace Mennonite Church developed during his year as a participant in 2003, and prompted him and Kelly, his wife, to apply for a term as Service Adventure leaders in Anchorage.

“The church really took the unit under its wing and it was awesome to be a part of that sort of a community that becomes your family when you are so far away from your biological one,” said Fred.

The Kilheffers are excited to meet their participants and to begin the work of building community together in the house as well.

Gabriel Bauman Baker, and his wife, Bethany, also are serving as leaders in Albuquerque, N.M. Gabe was a former participant in Philippi, W.Va.

For more information on Service Adventure and other Mission Network programs, visit







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