ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Mennonite Mission Network)—For the first time in 12 years, Ben Kreider didn’t go back to school this August. Instead, the 17-year-old from North Newton, Kan., took off on another kind of adventure—sorting mail, cleaning chicken houses and interacting with people from all walks of life in Albuquerque, N.M.
Kreider and 25 other young people began a year of ministry with Service Adventure, a Mennonite Mission Network program that kicked off a new year in August. Twenty-six participants are scattered about the country in community households, living and worshiping together with a unit leader.
Kreider works most days in the mail room at St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, processing letters, bills and other documents for hundreds of homeless men and women who use a St. Martin’s address. This is just one of the services St. Martin’s offers homeless people, and Kreider also does other jobs there: answering phones, directing people to resources in the city that may help them, janitorial work, or just spending time with people. Some of the people at St. Martin’s have nicknamed him “The Bennonite.”
“It’s not glamorous to have to sort mail every day,” said Kreider, “but mail is one of the most important things St. Martin’s does. I have a new understanding of how important it is. It’s been a cool way to get to know names.”
Three days a week St. Martin’s closes at 2 p.m., so instead of just taking the afternoon off, Kreider found another placement at East Central Ministries, which has a variety of programs for Latinos living in an underserved part of Albuquerque. Here he helps construct raised-bed garden boxes, scoops out the chicken houses, tutors and reads stories to children, and does whatever is needed.
Kreider chose to do Service Adventure after high school because he wanted a change from the standard school routine.
“I realized that there are so many things that I enjoy doing in addition to studying,” he said. “I enjoy riding my bike and cooking, and having discussions with people and helping people.”
But he’s not interested in simply varying his routine. Service was an intentional choice, and one he hopes will influence the rest of his life.
“I thought this year would be a good chance to grow in intentional ways as a Christian and as a person,” Kreider said. “I want to be formed in certain ways and the experiences I’ve chosen are the ones I hope to be formed by.”
Kreider’s desire for a formative service experience fits well with the program’s mission.
“Service Adventure provides young adults a place where they can serve others as well as learn more about who they are, what they believe and to discover their gifts,” said Susan Nisly, the program director.
As part of their discovery process, Service Adventure participants are guided by unit leaders and participate in the congregational life and ministries of local Mennonite churches.
“I’m so thankful that we have unit leaders who can serve as mentors to these young adults and walk with them in their journey,” Nisly said. “And we have some wonderful congregations who host these units and help them to discover their strengths and strengthen their beliefs.”
In addition to Albuquerque, six other Service Adventure sites are hosting young adults from ages 17-20 this year. Service Adventure staff is also celebrating the opening of a new unit in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“Service Adventure is in a great place right now,” said Nisly. “It’s good to open a new unit to show that Service Adventure is alive and well."