Young adults learn through cross-cultural experience

Young adults learn to love God and others through service with YAMEN

November 13, 2013 | Web First
Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite World Conference

Among the many memories that Shammah Nakawesi of Uganda brings home from her one-year service assignment in Indonesia is her new understanding of loving God and others.

 “Even in the uncertainties of life, loving God and loving others is all that matters,” says Nakawesi, who served as an English teacher and community worker in the village of Margorejo.

Nakawesi was among 16 participants in the 2012-2013 Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network (YAMEN!) program who have completed their one-year service assignments.

This joint program of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite World Conference (MWC) provides cross-cultural placements for young adults from countries other than Canada and the U.S. who are involved in their local churches.

In a written report, Nakawesi says that one of the objectives of the program is to help young people grow spiritually in a cross-cultural setting. In the beginning she felt this could not be achieved because church services in Margorejo are in a language that she does not fully understand.

This language barrier, she adds, made her more reliant on God’s word and prayer. “Being in Margorejo has not only drawn me closer to God, to experience his love for me, but has also opened my eyes to what loving others is all about,” she says.

“The two greatest commandments are about loving God and loving others, and this seems easier said than done. One thing I have learned and am still learning is that I cannot truly love others if I do not love God wholeheartedly in truth, with all that I am and all that I have.

“Once I understood what this meant, to be loved by God, to experience his love, I couldn’t help but pour my love on him every day, and learn to surrender to him every day. At that point, loving my host family, my students, the teachers, the youth at the church, and the people in the community that I live in became much easier.”

The opportunity to serve as a pastoral intern in Indonesia was also an enriching experience for Prashant Nand of India.

Reflecting on the excitement and confusion of adjusting to a new culture, he writes: “In all this up and down I have learned one thing specially that Christianity is all about LOVE.”

Also participating in the 2012-2013 program were Patricia Calvimontes Arevalo of Bolivia serving in Guatemala; Vichara Chum of Cambodia serving in South Africa; Fang Deng of China serving in Indonesia; Glenda Aracely of Guatemala serving in Bolivia, Humberto Lagos Martinez of Honduras serving in Cambodia; MeiLing Dueñas of Honduras serving in Nicaragua; Cindy Tristiantari of Indonesia serving in South Korea; Galuh Florentina of Indonesia serving in Cambodia; Heri Purwanto of Indonesia serving in Bolivia; Youa Xiong of Lao People’s Democratic Republic serving in Bolivia; Maria Aranda of Nicaragua serving in Honduras; Paola Duarte of Paraguay serving in Mexico; Festus Musamba of Zambia serving in South Africa and Olivia Muzyamba of Zambia serving in Indonesia.

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