KANSAS CITY (Mennonite Mission Network) – Judging by stories shared at Mennonite Voluntary Service's (MVS) 75th anniversary celebration July 4 at MennoCon19, serving others in Christ's peace amidst a perplexing world never goes out of style, no matter what the era.
During the celebration hosted by Mennonite Mission Network, storytellers reminded about 100 attendees that MVS has sent multiple generations – ranging from the Silent Generation to the Baby Boomers to the Millennials to Generation Zers – to lend the helping hands of Christ to communities needing a healing touch. In seven-plus decades, about 14,600 young people participated.
"MVS was born 10 years before I was born," said Stanley W. Green, executive director of Mission Network, the current home of MVS as one of the mission agency's Christian Service programs. "All my life, volunteers in this program have been investing their lives for God and for good in a hurting and broken and struggling world.
"… It has been a blessing to me that the Mennonite Church has this narrative of serving God's purposes in a world. … On behalf of MVS, I thank you for the service of predecessor agencies through which MVS and Voluntary Service (VS) have inspired generations that have come after you, and we hope will inspire generations to come."
During the evening celebration, Mission Network staff members and MVS alumni shared the program timeline, from its inception in 1944 to its current form today. In the mid-1990s, two forms of the program – the former Mennonite Board of Missions VS and the former Commission on Home Ministries MVS – merged to become MVS.
"A favorite part of my job is hearing stories of how and where people served in MVS over the years, and the way they have been formed and transformed," said Del Hershberger, Mission Network's director of Christian Service. "We often think about all the good work the MVSers have accomplished, which is great. But MVS has also provided a way for young adults to find and live out their faith."
One such example of a transformed life is Tonia Martin, a former MVSer who shared her story during the celebration. She served with MVS in 1995-1996 in San Antonio as an after-school program coordinator. In 2002, following her service, she went on to serve as a staff member for MVS and Mission Network in a variety of capacities, and is still there today.
This was her story: After graduating from Hesston (Kansas) College and uncertain about her future, someone suggested she apply for MVS. MVS sent her an opportunity to be an after-school coordinator, and she thought to herself, I am just 20 years old, and there is no way I can do this. So she turned it down.
A week later, however, they told her the position was assistant to coordinator. So she accepted it. But when she got there, the agency staff members said, "We are so glad you have come, because we just fired the coordinator …"
Martin continued: "I remember thinking – very funny, God. I said I couldn't do this, but you are still asking me to do this for you. … In being taken out of my comfort zone and thrown into something completely beyond my abilities, God showed up. … That experience of God's faithfulness continued to give me confidence to take risks in my life."
Martin's story is only one of thousands that can be shared. Mission Network is inviting MVS alumni who want to share their service journey to contact Travis Duerksen, writer and multimedia content producer at Mission Network: TravisD@MennoniteMission.net.