MIDDLEBURY, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) –For one youth group, songs, hugs and games bridged language gaps in Germany.
Every four years, members of First Mennonite of Middlebury, Ind., send a youth group to participate in an international service project. This year Daniel Yoder, youth pastor at First Mennonite, worked with the Youth Venture program to plan a service experience.
Youth Venture, one of Mennonite Mission Network’s Christian service programs, offers people ages 14-22 the opportunity to join teams for one-to-four weeks of service in June, July or August.
“It was great to collaborate and partner. We were able to use our connections to help plan a trip, but were still able to remain flexible enough to let the group shape their own service experience,” said Arloa Bontrager, Youth Venture director.
The team was accompanied by Craig Mast of Goshen, Ind., who was chosen by Youth Venture staff to help lead the group. Mast worked with Bontrager on planning and logistics to free up time for Yoder and First Mennonite leaders to orient the group before their trip.
For two weeks, the group of 21 spent time serving alongside members of Soli Deo, a church in Halle. They helped lead after school programs, taught elementary school kids to play baseball, read stories and helped children develop a play based on Little Red Riding Hood. They also did maintenance work around the church.
“We wanted to be able to go and serve, but also to learn as we did that. We wanted to be able to experience and see a different culture and to be reflective enough to see where God is at work there,” said Yoder.
The group conversed with church members, sampled German cuisine, and visited several sites within the city, including a concentration camp and local museums.
Although most youth had limited German-speaking ability, the group found ways to communicate.
“The main thing that I learned from my trip to Germany was the no matter where you go and what language is spoken, people are the same. People smile, laugh, love and cry. It’s the language of love,” said Dylan Pieri, a member of the group.
Through hugs, songs and playing together members of the group were able to connect with kids in Halle.