ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) – In 1976, Gayle and Leslie Hochstetler accepted a Mennonite Voluntary Service
term in the small, rural town of Leader, Minn. Thirty-two years later, their daughter, Tiffany Hochstetler, began an assignment in the large urban metropolis of Saint Louis, Mo.
For the Hochstetlers, now a family of 10 from Strawberry Lake Mennonite Church, Strawberry Lake, Minn., service has become a way of life. Both parents and children have found opportunities to serve.
“Service was kind of a rite of passage for me. All three of my older sisters did service in one way or another, and my parents talk about Mennonite Voluntary Service as the best years of faith formation,” said Tiffany Hochstetler.
In 1976, Gayle and Leslie traveled to Leader through an assignment with Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network, and at the request of North Central Mennonite Conference’s mission and service commission. The Hochstetlers volunteered to help Leader Mennonite Church establish a youth ministry center.
For two years, Leslie and Gayle worked to renovate a building and transform it into a place of outreach to youth in the community. They helped to lead activities and helped train church leaders to take over the program when they left.
Leader marked the family’s first experience working with youth. They have not stopped since then.
From 1984-85, the Hochstetlers embarked on a second voluntary service term with Eastern Mennonite Missions. This time they traveled to Portland, Maine, but their work remained much the same. They helped the Church of the Servant to remodel a basement room into a multi-purpose youth center.
The ministry they started, known as the Root Cellar,
is still in existence today.
Today, the Hochstetlers continue to work with youth and young adults. They have served as North Central conference youth ministers for the past 10 years.
“Just like with other facets of Christianity, if you find someone who really has a heart for service, it’s their lifestyle,” said Les.
This is a message that Tiffany Hochstetler heard loud and clear from her parents.
After attending Hesston (Kan.) College for two years, she found herself looking for something other than two more years of school.
“I decided that I had experienced so much [at Hesston] and changed so much that I wanted some time to solidify what I believed and feel out what came next in education,” she said.
Hochstetler is testing out her interest in education through a placement with HeadStart. She works with at-risk 3- and 4-year olds.
The challenges and blessings of living in community with two other women and working and living in a big city are also proving valuable for Hochstetler.
“From MVS, I wanted time to think and feel and be and contemplate. I wanted to work in education and see if that’s really where I wanted to be, and it has been all of those things,” she said.
Many members of the Hochstetler family are involved in service on their own, and the family has collaborated to plan a number of youth camps for North Central congregations.
“Service for us is really just a lifestyle. It’s about serving alongside those with whom you live. I told the Lord years ago that I would deal with whatever he brought to my doorstep, and it’s been quite an adventure,” said Gayle, “But that’s where our family starts. Dealing with the here.”
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, visit Service.MennoniteMission.net.