I always knew growing up that I wanted to leave home and see the world. The thought of one day volunteering overseas, listening to people’s stories and learning new languages excited me all through my adolescence and young adulthood.
That’s now a reality.
By the time you read this, I’ll be halfway around the world and sadly no longer a Young Voices co-editor. I’ve accepted a year-long position as a writer and editor in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program.
I’ll be working with the Interfaith Cooperation Forum, an organization that works to build a network of advocates for peace and justice in Southeast Asia. The forum hosts a yearly peace school that welcomes students from conflict zones in the region and works to equip them to build peace in their communities. I’ll have an opportunity to interview these students and alumni of the school during my time in Cambodia.
Although I’m looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone and experiencing my life in a different way, I can’t help but feel sad to leave Canadian Mennonite and reminisce about my time working here.
I began my journalism career at this magazine six years ago. I’ve loved helping to foster dialogue within our national church and representing different communities within it.
The last six years
My six years at Canadian Mennonite have been a wonderful opportunity to meet interesting Mennonites from all over the world. I’ve told stories I’m proud of, and had the opportunity to work alongside a supportive team of fellow writers and editors.
For the first three years, I worked as national correspondent for the magazine and got to report on everything from art exhibits, fundraisers and learning tours, to the early days of the Being a Faithful Church process and leadership transitions in the national church.
It was a steep learning curve, but I felt very encouraged by the team at Canadian Mennonite and its readers.
Since then, I’ve worked as co-editor of the Young Voices section. Over the years, Emily Loewen (who was replaced by Aaron Epp) and I have worked to bring you stories of young Mennonites contributing to their church, community and world. Working for this section I found my voice and a greater passion for writing about the Mennonite church.
I think it’s because I had the opportunity to tell stories of peers who are making a difference. In Young Voices we write about issues that matter to many young Mennonites and get them talking. I’ve heard from many youth and young adults, as well as adults and seniors, that the Young Voices section is something they look forward to in each issue. That’s very gratifying as a writer and co-editor.
When I began my journalism career I had hoped to work for major news corporations. I’ve done that, along with some smaller magazines and online news websites. My time at each of these publications proved to be growing experiences, but working for Canadian Mennonite has truly been one of the greatest blessings in my life.
I’ve never felt such a connection or ownership over my work than I have at Canadian Mennonite, nor have I felt such freedom to tackle forbidding issues like rape culture and inclusion of people of differing sexualities and gender identities in the church.
Not to mention, there’s no pressure to write cutesy cat stories like there is in mainstream media!
Hopes for the future
Although I’m taking a step back from Canadian Mennonite for the time being, I feel invested in its future.
I hope the contributors will continue to seek out and tell stories of people from marginalized communities and help give voice to issues that need it. The world—even the Canadian Mennonite world—is diverse and beautiful. We aren’t a homogenous group of vereneki-eating, German-speaking people. We’re so much more than that. We at Canadian Mennonite are responsible for reflecting that diversity, so I hope the fearless team at the magazine will continue to strive to do so.
I feel like my own future as a journalist is brighter having worked at Canadian Mennonite. I’ve learned so much in the six years here. I hope to come back soon.
Until then . . . my friends!
To follow Rachel Bergen’s musings as she serves with MCC, check out her blog at rachelisincambodia.tumblr.com.