SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Mennonite Mission Network) – Working with young adults and service programs is nothing new for Hugo Saucedo.
Saucedo, the newly appointed director for Mennonite Voluntary Service
, has been giving leadership to service programs since age 15. MVS, one of Mennonite Mission Network’s Christian service programs, has provided opportunities for adults of all ages to serve Christ in more than 20 communities across the United States for 65 years.
As the new program director, Saucedo, based in San Antonio, Texas, will work with young adults, host congregations and local coordinators to both oversee and help MVS evolve.
“Hugo brings together what it means to be engaged in Christian service, understanding the learning side as well as the importance of finding appropriate places for people to express themselves in service,” said Del Hershberger, Mission Network Christian service director.
Saucedo is no stranger to service. He spent five years serving as the San Antonio city director for DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection), another of Mission Network’s Christian service programs. For two of those years, Saucedo also served as the DOOR national program director, helping to oversee programming in all six cities where DOOR works. He also served as a part-time conference youth minister for Western District Conference.
Saucedo graduated with a history degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and prior to working with DOOR, he taught government and economics to high school students for five years.
Born into a Mennonite family Brownsville, Texas, Saucedo’s connection to MVS participants began long ago.
“I always had deep connections with MVSers. The Brownsville community hosted several MVS units and as a kid I was attracted to these people,” he said.
This illustration of service led Saucedo to participate in two short-term service trips through the Youth Venture program to San Francisco, Calif., and Seattle, Wash., during the summer of 1992. While traveling, he met Hershberger, then a pastor helping to lead the group, and discovered his own passion for service.
Soon after his return, Saucedo’s family moved to San Antonio and Saucedo sought new opportunities to serve. He found SALSA (Serving and Learning in San Antonio), a program run by San Antonio Mennonite Church that hosted groups coming to the city to serve. Later, SALSA would merge with the DOOR program.
As a member of San Antonio Mennonite Church, a host congregation for MVSers, Saucedo has had the opportunity to connect with a countless young adults over the past 15 years, and sees this position as an opportunity to continue those connections.
“I’m excited that there are young people who are wanting to serve. And I’m also excited that there are both sending and receiving congregations who are willing to take on the challenge of being a part of this experience for young people,” says Saucedo.
Saucedo and Hershberger acknowledge that MVS faces some challenges and will need to continue to evolve. Historically the MVS program has attracted primarily white and middle class participants, and both of them would like to see that change.
“It’s an ongoing challenge for us to bring in people with more theological diversity and more ethnic diversity. That takes a culture change within an organization that doesn’t happen overnight. Hugo brings a lot to the table by virtue of living outside of some of the main centers where Mennonites are. He is thinking outside the box and will continue to push us in new ways,” said Hershberger.
His past experiences with service and MVS have equipped Saucedo for his new job, and he is excited about what lies ahead.
“A year of MVS is quite the eye-opening educational tool. I look at MVS as an opportunity to find your calling in a very proactive way,” said Saucedo. “MVS is for everyone.”
Saucedo lives and works from San Antonio with his wife Danielle and their son, Gabriel, 2. For more on Saucedo's story, see the July issue of Urban Connections.