I wear my heart on my sleeveBarcelonahttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/I-wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeveI wear my heart on my sleeveBy Joshua Garber

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Toba Qom hear hope in their languageChaco radio https://www.pjsn.org/news/Toba-Qom-hear-hope-in-their-languageToba Qom hear hope in their languageBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
30 years of alternative, attractive and articulate mission Down UnderCelebration of Servicehttps://www.pjsn.org/news/30-years-of-alternative,-attractive-and-articulate-mission-Down-Under30 years of alternative, attractive and articulate mission Down UnderBy Travis Duerksen
Celebrating 100 years of being the church together in ArgentinaArgentine centennial https://www.pjsn.org/news/Celebrating-100-years-of-being-the-church-together-in-ArgentinaCelebrating 100 years of being the church together in ArgentinaBy Zachary Headings with Laurie Oswald Robinson
Praying with brothers and sisters in Latin AmericaIntercessory Prayer https://www.pjsn.org/news/Praying-with-brothers-and-sisters-in-Latin-AmericaPraying with brothers and sisters in Latin AmericaBy Linda Shelly
Mennonite Mission Network seeking executive directorLeadership transition https://www.pjsn.org/news/Mennonite-Mission-Network-seeking-executive-director-Mennonite Mission Network seeking executive directorBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
Former medical mission worker helped start a nursing school in Nazareth, IsraelHonoring mission legacyhttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Former-medical-mission-worker-helped-start-a-nursing-school-in-Nazareth,-IsraelFormer medical mission worker helped start a nursing school in Nazareth, IsraelBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
Walking the Watershed WayCreation Care https://www.pjsn.org/blog/Walking-the-Watershed-WayWalking the Watershed WayBy Alice M. Price
Turmoil in EcuadorEcuador protests https://www.pjsn.org/blog/Turmoil-in-EcuadorTurmoil in EcuadorBy Peter Wigginton
Mission worker leaves healthcare legacy in TaiwanHealthcare legacy https://www.pjsn.org/news/Mission-worker-leaves-healthcare-legacy-in-TaiwanMission worker leaves healthcare legacy in TaiwanBy Laurie Oswald Robinson

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I wear my heart on my sleevehttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/I-wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeveI wear my heart on my sleeveBy Joshua Garber<p>When Alisha and I and our son, Asher, moved to Barcelona, many things didn't make the cut in our honest attempt to "leave all things behind" and follow Jesus. However, <em>Martyrs Mirror</em> was never on the chopping block, despite its six-pound weight.</p><p><em>Martyrs Mirror</em>, a book of more than 1,500 pages, was written in the 17th century. It is filled with thousands of stories and testimonies of the early Anabaptists (and other similar-minded Christians) who were persecuted and killed in terrible ways during the Radical Reformation. Perhaps its most famous story is about a Dutch Anabaptist named Dirk Willems, who was running from the authorities after he escaped imprisonment. While fleeing across a frozen lake, Willems heard a loud crack and realized his pursuer had fallen through the ice. Willems went back and rescued him. This act of profound compassion and enemy-love cost him his life and he was burned at the stake. </p><p>I love sharing this story. For me, it captures one of the most stunning Christian acts I've ever heard of, proclaiming that one's liberation cannot come at the cost of someone else's suffering. It has affected me so profoundly that I got the well-known copper etching of this story tattooed on my arm.</p><p>It's joined several other tattoos, all of which delight in different aspects of God that I've learned in my walk with Christ. I have a page from Maurice Sendak's classic children's book, <em>Where the Wild Things Are</em>, wrapped around one arm — a beautiful parallel of the Prodigal Son. I have a nautilus deconstructing into a plot of the Golden Mean — God's fingerprint that shows this reoccurring phenomenon of order and intention in a seemingly chaotic universe. I have a bird and flowers — a reminder that, if God takes care of such things, then I shouldn't worry. And there are several more. </p><p>When you consider a modern definition of "sleeve" that refers to an arm covered in tattoos, I'm not joking when I say I wear my heart on my sleeve. In doing so, I've had the opportunity to tell the story of Dirk Willems dozens of times, whereas it's a safe bet most copies of <em>Martyrs Mirror</em> never leave the house. </p><p>My tattoos are conversation starters. They're personal reminders. They're an act of worship and obedience — a nod to Deuteronomy 6:8 ("Bind God's message to your hands.") and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ("Your body is a temple; honor God with your body.").</p><p>From my experience, wearing my heart on my sleeve illustrates a faith perspective that genuinely confounds most people who have been turned off by certain branches of Christianity. It has built countless more bridges than barriers, allowing my body to proclaim the gospel even when my mouth doesn't have the words. The world is changing, and to be honest, I had forgotten there are still pockets of Christians who are shocked by tattoos — that is, until this past summer when Alisha and I were sharing about our ministry in Barcelona with a wonderful partner church in rural Kansas. The first question we received was, "Can you tell us about your tattoos?"</p><p>If making some ethnic Mennonites scratch their heads is the consequence of decorating my arms with visual stories, inspired by the divine, like the cathedrals of old, then I'm OK with that. Any natural opportunity to share about the subversive nature of Christ's love is worth making some folks uncomfortable.</p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2019/_DSC6326.jpg?RenditionID=15" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4>In the Middle Ages when literacy rates were low, stained glass windows told the biblical story. Alisha Garber repurposes the stained glass windows motif for today’s world in her tattoos. Photographer: Josh Garber.</h4><p><br></p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2019/_DSC6373.jpg?RenditionID=15" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4>Asher Garber gets an early start on Anabaptist theology from <em>Martyrs Mirror</em>.</h4><p><br></p><p><em>Alisha and Joshua Garber, along with their son, Asher, serve with Mennonite Mission Network in Barcelona, Catalonia (a region where allegiance to Spain vies with voices calling for independence). They work alongside the leaders of the Mennonite church in Barcelona, focusing on youth outreach and congregational mission. To learn more, visit</em> <a href="http://www.worthwhileadventures.org/">WorthwhileAdventures.org</a>.<br></p>
Walking the Watershed Wayhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Walking-the-Watershed-WayWalking the Watershed WayBy Alice M. Price <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Wendell Berry once penned: "Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you." That theme was woven throughout a recent gathering, "Walking the Watershed Way: Going Deeper into Creation Care," held Sept. 27-29 in Alamosa, Colorado. </span></p><p>I was grateful to be part of a Mountain States Conference planning team* that helped to shape the high-energy gathering of 40-some Mennonites and other diverse community allies. Together, we explored ways to build capacity to respond locally and globally to the climate crisis. The Anabaptist Fellowship of Alamosa hosted the weekend of presentations, activities, practical tools, and commitments to action. <a href="https://mennocreationcare.org/">Mennonite Creation Care Network</a> provided a small grant to help with expenses. </p><p>It was heartening to see a wide range of participants – people in their early 20s up to their 80s – engage with each other and the material. For me, it held one vision of what "church" might be moving forward in this region. Hands-on portions of the weekend, a "Taste of Place," pivoted around local field experiences and presentations, exposing out-of-town visitors to innovations in the Alamosa area related to equitable land and local foods access and environmental restoration efforts.  </p><p>For example, Liza Marron, executive director of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, shared information about the organization's varied initiatives. Tours followed, led by various project managers such as Jesse Marchildon, of the Rio Grande Farm Park. Abe Rosenberg prepared a Local Foods/Local Places picnic shaped by foods from the Valley Roots Food Hub. Zoila Gomez gave a tour of the Alamosa Farmers' Market, highlighting her program's focus on nutritious cooking for lower-income families. Emma Reesor, executive director of the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project, took the group to a bend in the Rio Grande restored through efforts by that project, where a history of indigenous presence was shared and prayers were offered. </p><p>The next day, Reesor and Patrick O'Neill shared about ongoing collaborative efforts in our Valley to preserve and restore important water and soil resources. O'Neill also spoke of his long-time partnership with the Guatemala family farmers at what is now the Rio Grande Farm Park.  </p><p>Todd Wynward and Daniel Herrera, leaders of a Watershed Way group in Taos, New Mexico, challenged the audience with what <em>Walking the Watershed Way</em> requires, from overall life commitments to specific daily practices. They highlighted five practices that inspire the Taos group:<br></p><p><br></p><ol><li>Fall in love with your place.</li><li>Protect your place and practice abundance.</li><li>Celebrate and surrender to each season.</li><li>Practice communion through common projects with diverse groups.</li><li>Treat your place as your teacher/rabbi.  </li></ol><p><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"><br></span></p><p><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;">Interwoven throughout the weekend was space for individual and small-group networking. Every break included the buzz of conversation. Folks swapped contact information along with advice on worms, seeds, and garden produce. They also shared recipes, music, poetry, book recommendations, and connections for accessing desired foods and other regional supplies. Opportunities to explore "next steps" for action by individuals, local community groups, and the larger regional network also helped to drive the event. Towars the close, Wynward repeated his ongoing challenge for individuals and groups to move beyond ideas to action. He urged them to draw upon learnings they gained from projects they had visited and connections they had made during the gathering.</span><br></p><p>As coordinator of a Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) program in this area for many years, it was gratifying to visit local projects that MVS volunteers and Fellowship members have helped to initiate and/or keep vibrant over the years. Reesor, who began two years of MVS in Alamosa in 2013, now directs the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project. Connor Born is a current volunteer at that project, preceded by Andrea Bachman and Reesor's predecessor, Jeremy Yoh. Hannah Thiel currently volunteers with the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, preceded there in recent years by Chris Lehman, Bryce Hostetler, Curtis Martin, and Peter Wise.</p><p>These important opportunities for community engagement resonate with our Anabaptist understandings and with the local service model of MVS in Alamosa. These and others have greatly enriched our lives and the life of our broader community in this rural setting. </p><p>*The planning team members were Anita Amstutz, Barry Bartel, Ken Gingerich, Alice Price, and Todd Wynward.<br></p>
Turmoil in Ecuadorhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Turmoil-in-EcuadorTurmoil in EcuadorBy Peter Wigginton <p style="text-align:left;"><strong></strong>Ecuador has generally been a very peaceful and politically stable nation, compared to its close neighbors, Colombia and Peru. Delicia and I have been serving the past four years with Mennonite Mission Network in Quito, Ecuador's capital, and we have experienced this calm. However, Ecuador has struggled a lot economically. And now these struggles are coming to a catalytic moment as mass transportation sector strikes and a large indigenous march are exciting the nation.   </p><p style="text-align:left;">Ecuador's current president, Lenin Moreno, has tried to distance himself from the previous government and leader, Rafael Correa. Correa had always championed his "Civilian Revolution" and invested a lot in public infrastructure. He also pushed back against U.S.-led policies and other neoliberal ideals.   </p><p style="text-align:left;">Moreno recently worked with the International Monetary Fund to strike a deal for a loan for the government; some of the deal required that the government reduce spending. The deal was hammered out behind closed doors, without the knowledge or approval of the Ecuadorian general assembly or congress. And now some terms of the loan agreement are coming due. </p><p style="text-align:left;">The government announced Oct. 1 its plans to cut subsidies for diesel and gasoline. Those cuts raised costs for taxi operators, bus owners, and food prices. These subsidy cuts have caused an almost 100 percent hike in gas and diesel prices. This huge spike has sparked protests from transportation organizations and unions.  </p><p style="text-align:left;"><strong><em>Mission Network partners </em></strong><strong><em>encourage peace and justice to reign </em></strong> </p><p style="text-align:left;">Those strikes eased after a few days, but now student movements and indigenous organizations—especially CONAIE, a national indigenous organization—are pressing forward in a growing indigenous march now storming into Quito. More information on IMF and subsidies are explained by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/27/imf-economics-inequality-trump-ecuador" target="_blank"><span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;"><em>The Guardian</em>,</span></a> <a href="https://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/2019/10/imf-ecuador-agreement-undermines-workers-rights/" target="_blank"><span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;"><em>Bretton Woods Project</em>,</span></a> and <a href="https://www.vox.com/2019/5/17/18624740/fossil-fuel-subsidies-climate-imf" target="_blank"><span lang="EN-US" style="text-decoration:underline;"><em>Vox</em>.</span></a>  <br></p><p style="text-align:left;">Mission Network partners, the Quito Mennonite Church of ICAME, and the indigenous Mennonite churches of ICME, are involved in fixing food for the marchers. Mission Network's local partner, FEINE, is also helping to organize the march. It has officially said that it is against the decree that cut the subsidies for fuel.   </p><p style="text-align:left;">Oct. 8, several FEINE leaders were arrested and detained when they pushed into the national Assembly building with other protesters. Julian Guaman of ICME estimated that more than 50,000 indigenous people are participating in the march to Quito, and more than 20,000 are marching to Guayaquil. Members of ICME churches are also participating in the indigenous march. Guaman shared that ICME has not issued an official statement. But members of their churches are pushing against injustice, citing Matthew 21:12-13, when Jesus pushed out the money lenders from the temple.   </p><p style="text-align:left;">Another member of the ICME churches, youth leader Anita Aguagallo, said that the government has not initiated dialogue, but has fomented hate toward the indigenous movements. She believes the church needs to have a message of love toward all our brothers and sisters. Aguagallo also shared that she was at a protest site Oct. 8 where police used violence to suppress the protesters – many of them women and children. Several protestors, including children, were hurt.  </p><p style="text-align:left;">Members of the Mennonite church in Quito are participating in public demonstrations in favor of justice and peace. ICAME issued a statement that reads in part: "We call for work to overcome structural injustice and go beyond an economic model that has placed the majority of the population on the margins. [New laws must be created] to organize society not around capital, the market and the transnationals, but [around] the common good, for the people who are on foot, and to solve the problems of injustice and unemployment that afflict thousands of Ecuadorians." </p><p style="text-align:left;">The church leaders acknowledged that the United Nations and the leaders of the Catholic Church and universities have been designated to start mediation. But the president has reiterated they will not give in to the decree that cut subsidies. Please pray for Ecuador, the government, the different social and religious leaders, and the different Mennonite congregations in Ecuador. We are called by Christ to love our enemies no matter where they may be from.  </p><p style="text-align:left;">Martin Luther King Jr. gave us guidance on how we can love our enemies and push against injustice: "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding, and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."  </p><p style="text-align:left;">But this question remains for the global church: How can we support brothers and sisters in Ecuador and around the world who are combating injustice? We most certainly can be in prayerful communion with them. But is this enough? We can petition our different leaders of government (the IMF is mostly run at the discretion and guidance of the current U.S. administration). Is this enough? We can take to the streets as members of the Ecuadorian church are doing, but who will take notice?  </p><p style="text-align:left;">Maybe we can take heart in a different call from King, found in an excerpt from his essay, "Loving Your Enemies:" "To our most bitter opponents we say, 'We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. …" </p><p style="text-align:left;">We can and shall pray. We can and shall make our voices heard. We can also march. But we must remember that we will also suffer, and within that suffering, we must love.  </p><p style="text-align:left;"> </p><p style="text-align:left;"><a href="/Impact/locations/Latin%20America/Ecuador">Learn more about Mission Network's ministries in Ecuador.</a> </p><p><br></p>
Three missionary mythshttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Three-missionary-mythsThree missionary mythsBy Joshua Garber <p><strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Three missionary myths</strong></p><p><strong>Note: </strong>This is the introduction and the first of a three-part series that addresses some of the common myths and misconceptions we experience most regularly as international service workers for Mennonite Mission Network in Barcelona.<br></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Some time ago, I talked to my friend Daniel, a monthly donor to our ministry, about challenges we face in maintaining connections with folks in the United States while serving abroad. Our communication becomes increasingly challenging and distorted. And folks who care about us a great deal can end up saying the most hurtful, deflating things.</span><br></p><p>"<em>'You out drinkin' with my gifts?!'</em>" he said in his best "church-person" voice with a laugh. "Wow, it seems you guys have a double standard for having fun!"</p><p>I love Daniel's way of keeping things in perspective. The reality is the work we do<a href="http://worthwhileadventures.org/blog/2016/10/5/rationale-for-european-missions"> in Barcelona</a> (and before<a href="http://worthwhileadventures.org/blog/2014/03/ukraine-and-russia-and-lcc.html"> in Lithuania</a>) does not fit the classical missionary stereotype. We serve in a first-world country riddled by<a href="http://worthwhileadventures.org/mission"> spiritual poverty</a>. Often, the baggage of the institutional church does more to create barriers between people and Jesus rather than facilitate connections.<br></p><p>For example, we're not digging wells, converting villages of poor people and dressing in some relatively exotic fashion. That's not to say those types of missions are unimportant. And in many contexts, this work has been done by amazing, faithful people responding to God's call. But that's not who <em>we</em> are and that's <em>not who we should be</em> in <em>our</em> context.</p><p><strong>For our first two years in Barcelona, our stated objectives have been:</strong></p><ol style="list-style-type:decimal;"><li>Learn the language well.</li><li>Engage in the local culture and figure out how to fit into it.</li><li>Build relationships.</li></ol><p>We are doing foundation work that is as challenging to portray as it is meaningful and important.</p><p><a href="http://worthwhileadventures.org/blog/2017/9/29/resurrecting-the-church">Ministry happens as we carry out our objectives</a>. Most of our supporters know and understand this … but the legacy image of what international missions should look like always seems to linger. The dissonance that image creates with the parts of our experience we're able to communicate, combined with the hallmark American fear of getting duped or flimflammed, often results in some unfortunate encounters and assumptions.</p><p><strong><em>The following is the first of a three-part series that addresses some of the common myths and misconceptions we experience most regularly while serving with </em></strong><a href="http://mennonitemission.net/"><strong><em>Mennonite Mission Network</em></strong></a><strong><em> in Barcelona.</em></strong></p><p><strong>Myth #1: Our European Vacation</strong></p><p>We love to travel and likely would not have found ourselves living outside the United States were this not the case. Maybe that's why this first myth gets under our skin so much:</p><p><strong><em>"You're just getting people to pay for your European vacation."</em></strong></p><p>While we don't hear this first statement from our ministry partners who support us, it <em>is</em> a serious accusation.</p><p>Is Barcelona an amazing city? <em>Totally!</em> Do we enjoy living here? <em>Yup!</em> Is it a huge tourist destination? <em>Annoyingly so!</em></p><p>However, living where people love to visit does not make <em>us</em> tourists. We´ve also lived in another major tourist destination: <a href="http://www.amishcountry.org/">Amish country</a>. Growing up in Goshen, Indiana, I never felt like a tourist even though that's a definite aspect of the area's culture. Phoenix, a place we lovingly called home for about eight years, is also <a href="https://tourism.az.gov/economic-impact/">a major tourist destination</a>. Even a sleepy city like <a href="https://www.klaipedainfo.lt/en/">Klaipeda, Lithuania</a>, draws lots of visitors during its summer months.</p><p>Everywhere we've lived is touristy to someone who hasn't been there.<em> </em>In fact, stereotypical settings for missions such as Africa and South America are also where countless people visit and drop lots of money to go on safaris, visit historical sites and consume culture — living life in a fashion that's completely separate from the locals.</p><p><strong><em>The same is true for Barcelona </em></strong></p><p>Our travel here is limited to what we can access via the subway and bus. Occasionally, we find ourselves outside Barcelona for a ministry-related trip or conference. A few times we've visited some good friends who live a two-hour train ride away. Most days, however, we're grinding away with meetings, office work, language courses, getting groceries, going on family outings.<br></p><p>This myth is most hurtful because to imply we're on a perpetual vacation is to say we don't work — an easy assumption to make as our work doesn't all fit into a 9-to-5 window.  And to say that we've somehow tricked folks into paying for a life of leisure implies we are being disingenuous about our call to serve.</p><p>I would love to travel more as a family. Regional travel in Europe is amazing: for the same cost as traveling from Phoenix to southern California or Indianapolis to Chicago, we could see and do some amazing things. But we travel less now than ever. Usually there's too much work to do at home in Barcelona and, often, it just doesn't feel like it's worth the juggling.</p><p><strong><em>Questions for reflection: </em></strong><br></p><p><em>How important is recreational travel for me/my family? </em></p><p><em>In what ways might where I live and my lifestyle be exotic to someone from another part of the world?</em></p>
Banners of peacehttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Banners-of-PeaceBanners of peaceBy Joe Sawatzky<p>​When a student recently hung the Russian flag from a dormitory window at LCC International, a Christian liberal arts university in Klaipėda, Lithuania, and a Mennonite Mission Network partner, suspicions exploded in the national media. Was LCC supporting the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine?</p><p>In a recent presentation in Elkhart, Indiana, Dr. Marlene Wall, president of LCC, painted a portrait of a country on edge — of a Lithuania "jittery" from the threat of Russian interference in the still-young democracy of the former Soviet region. Guided by a Christian vision since its inception in 1991, LCC has acted as an incubator of democratic values of freedom and transparency amid a historic context of secrecy and autocratic control.  Campus visitors often comment on its democratic "feel," evident even in its architecture, which lets in natural light.  LCC's feel is matched by its international flavor — 67 percent of its students come from outside of Lithuania. Moreover, though the university is clear in its Christian convictions, only 30 percent of its students come to the school as Christians.  </p><p>This is the setting in which the student hung the Russian flag — and unwittingly launched a dramatic display of reconciliation. While Wall and her administrative team carefully crafted a statement to counter the media's false accusations, said Wall, "the students took care of the problem." Adjoining the flag of Russia, students hung the flags of every nation from which they had gathered as students of LCC. At the center of the display, between the flags of Ukraine and Russia, they adorned a heart shape in red lipstick. Upon hearing Wall's telling of the resolution, NATO representatives in the region marveled at the students' ease in fulfilling the "peacekeeping" mission for which they as international authorities strained.</p><p>The Hebrew prophets told of a time when the sight of the mountain of the Lord's house raised high would draw together a learning community among many peoples and nations. Schooled in the paths of peace, they would make peace (Isaiah 2:1-5, Micah 4:1-5).  Walking in the light of the Lord, they would become "a light to the nations, that [the Lord's] salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Isaiah 2:5; 49:6). Drawn by the light of the Lord upon them, even rulers and authorities would acknowledge "the brightness of [their] dawn" (Isaiah 60:1-3).</p><p>In line with those prophets, Jesus came "proclaiming peace" (see Matthew 5:17, Ephesians 2:17). "He went up the mountain." "His disciples came to him" and "he taught them" (Matthew 5:1-2). He made them to be a light shining in plain sight, "so that others may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). As a community of the Lord's peace from "all nations," may the church — like those students from LCC International — pursue peace, "so that the world may believe" (Matthew 28:19, Psalm 34:14, John 17:21).   <br></p>
Ending a year, starting a journeyhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Ending-a-year,-starting-a-journey-Ending a year, starting a journeyBy Michelle Moyer-Litwiller <p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">As we have gone through these last 10 months, we have all had highs and lows. This year has been life-giving, but also challenging. We have learned about ourselves and each other. We have become rooted in both our Service Adventure community and the larger community in which we live.  </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">This year has allowed us to learn more about what Service Adventure is, create deep, meaningful relationships, and experience our individual and group transitions together.</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">  </span><br></p><p>When Rudy and I began as unit leaders here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last fall, we really had no idea what to expect for what our year would look like. What we have come to realize throughout this year is that, as in life, you cannot have expectations. Each day, week and month is going to be different from the last, and flexibility is the key to getting through. </p><p>The basic structure of our weeks is the same: The participants go to their work placements, Rudy and I work one or two days at the hospital, Monday we have learning components, Wednesday is worship night, and Thursday is Taco Thursday at church. However, the end results are always different. We go on trips, people get sick, difficult things happen at work, and when the dust settles, the only constant has been this group of participants and leaders, moving through it all together. Being a Service Adventure leader requires you to take many different roles and complete many different tasks. Just like in life, you cannot forecast what exactly you will be doing on a day-to-day basis. </p><p>Rudy and I have greatly enjoyed spending our year with these four wonderful individuals. This year has flown by, but at the same time, I look back to August and Florian's hair was only as long as mine when the unit began! </p><p>We have appreciated the time to create relationships with the participants both individually and as a group.  Once a month, one or both of us meet with each participant individually. We go on a walk, a bike ride, get coffee, or just chat in the casita. These one-to-one sessions have been some of the most sacred times for us this year. The intentional, dedicated time spent to learn more about each other is a gift in our busy world. It gives us a moment to decompress and connect on more than a superficial level. Coming into this program, this was probably one of the most intimidating parts for me specifically. </p><p>However, for the most part, we leave each one-to-one feeling more connected and aware of what is happening in each other's lives. We will be the first to say we don't always know what we are doing or how best to handle situations. Yet, we are learning how to be better at this from each person in the unit. Sometimes it may take patience and forgiveness from each other, but that is all part of life and living in community with five other people. One-to-ones have been very valuable in learning how we can help our community thrive. It has been a time to listen and reflect with one another. </p><p>We have had the opportunity to travel a lot this year, which has been some of the best time for us to cultivate relationships as a whole group. Though there is a lot of time spent in the car individually watching movies and sleeping, by the end of the trip, we often move to a time of being together and just enjoying each other's company as we suffer through the last few miles of what seem like never-ending car trips. </p><p>Also, the intentional group time each week at meals, learning components, and worship nights allow us to slow down and be together. At the beginning of the year, our group collectively decided to have house meals every night of the week. This was not a requirement, but a request to have a time of connection every night to debrief our wonderful, terrible and average days. These intentional experiences allow the group to dig deeper into what it means to live in community.</p><p>This year has been a transition for all of us. We have all come to a foreign place separately to live together. Each of us have moved away from our families and are experiencing this new place with one another. Transition brings exciting change and new experiences, but it also brings difficulties and stress. This year, our first year of Service Adventure leadership, brings a uniqueness we will not have with future units. Everything we do is a first for the whole group. This complete newness has brought its own challenges, but it has also brought us closer to one another. As a group we have transitioned from strangers, to a unit, and finally to a supportive community for each other. As this year comes to a close, we have each begun preparing for our own separate journeys. For Rudy and me, we are preparing for our second year as leaders. We have been interviewing participants for next year and exploring possible placements. For the participants, they are beginning to take the next steps in their own paths. Even though we will be parting ways, we will always be a part of each other's lives; we have created connections and relationships that we hope will be lifelong.  </p><p>We have learned that having expectations for Service Adventure is inadequate, and that our role, more than anything, is to be flexible and supportive through all the transitions that we face. This year and this group have been a blessing for us, and we look forward to seeing how different it will be to experience another year of Service Adventure with a new group of people. We are sad to see the end of this year, but excited to see everyone take the next step in their own journeys.<br></p>