For 70 years, Mennonite Voluntary Service has provided ways for young adults to live out their faith.
The following historical tributes are words of gratitude to the MVS units closing in July, and all of the people who made years of service opportunities possible.
“Each of these units has put in an incredible amount of time to make MVS happen in their location to support the ministry of their church and the lives of their participants,” said MVS director Nathan Penner. “We have genuinely enjoyed our partnership with each unit and mourn the closing of each unit.”
Americus, Ga. — In 1942, an intentional Christian community formed, named Koinonia Farm. This was a model for a voluntary service unit that began around 1980, which was started through Eastern Mennonite Missions. MVSers have been an active part of the church and local community, often staying in Americus after their term. While the unit primarily partnered with Habitat for Humanity in the past, in more recent years it expanded its focus to include the Fuller Center for Housing, Americus Mennonite Fellowship and several other local organizations.
Baltimore — The Baltimore unit started in 2003 to expand the congregation’s outreach through the Reservoir Hill House of Peace. The house used to be one of Eastern Mennonite Missions’ training centers, but has transitioned to Mennonite Church USA’s Atlantic Coast Conference. In turn, North Baltimore Mennonite Church developed a new mission and purpose for this house in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood. The community at the house included MVS participants, Asylum Seekers Housing Network and community members.
Boulder, Colo. — Forty-eight young adults have served with this MVS unit since Boulder Mennonite Church opened it in 1993. Many of those MVSers stayed in Boulder and with the faith community for years beyond their service. Although sad the unit will close, the congregation is grateful for the relationships built and the commitment to serve at homeless shelters, Imagine Adult Day Care, Victim Offender Reconciliation Program, People’s Clinic, EcoCycle, the Humane Society and other agencies.
Evansville, Ind. — The Evansville unit was begun in 1988 by Biff Weidman, a Mennonite who came to Evansville to be part of the Patchwork Central Community. MVSers were a part of that community and Patchwork’s neighborhood-based programs. While Patchwork has no official affiliation with the Mennonite Church, throughout its history, multiple Mennonites have been and still are involved as community members.
Fresno, Calif. — In the mid-1970s, MVS began sending volunteers to Fresno. Early on, volunteers began to serve with the Boys Club, but later other placements were offered, including a community food bank, refugee ministry and a Victim Offender Reconciliation Program. Over the years, the host congregation, Mennonite Community Church, has been a key place for MVS participants to grow in their spiritual life.
Harlingen, Texas — MVSers began to serve in the Harlingen unit in 1988 and were actively involved in Good News Mennonite Church in San Juan, Texas. Most recently, volunteers have worked to provide legal defense and advocacy for detained immigrant adults and children.
Kykotsmovi, Ariz. — The MVS unit in Kykotsmovi has had a partnership with the Hopi Mission School, which started in 1951. MVSers have taught elementary children and served as support staff.
Rochester, N.Y. — The Rochester unit started in 2010, hosted by Rochester Mennonite Fellowship, which has offered strong engagement and support. Additional support has come from New York Mennonite Conference.
Sioux Falls, S.D. — Even before the Sermon on the Mount congregation officially began, members knew they wanted MVS to be a part of the church’s future. The MVS program soon followed in 1996. Volunteer partner agencies have included Lutheran Social Services Center for New Americans, Bowden Youth Center, Ten Thousand Villages, Habitat for Humanity, Restore and Turning Point.