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What can I do? can I do?Contributed by Jim and Ruth Mellinger <p>​We are hearing the question "What can I do?" a lot these days as immigration rules change often and make life very difficult for those directly affected by the changing landscape.</p><p>Once again, here in LaGrange, Georgia, we are incarnated into the lives of people directly affected, through the households on our street as well as through our work with <em>El Refugio </em>(the shelter or place of refuge) that assists immigrant detainees.<br></p><p>We've heard a lot of shouting and anger from both sides of "the issue," but when you know the people, it is no longer just "an issue." It is the mother who wants to learn English, but has no time or energy to do so after working 50 hours a week and caring for her family of six on a minimum-wage income. It is the man who gets pulled over for a broken tail light and because his skin is brown. His name gets run through the system and he now faces deportation. (Who of us reading this fears that one minor infraction could mark the end of our family life?) It is the child who has a hard time concentrating in school due to the pressures and uncertainty she feels at home, and the snide remarks made about her behind her back and to her face.</p><p>This past summer, we had the joy of helping with a day camp we had for 26 children on our street who are first-generation immigrants. The children were so well behaved and such a delight to be with. For pictures and more about that, type "Casa Alterna" in the search bar of Facebook.</p><p>Then, Jim and I had the opportunity to serve at <em>El Refugio</em> hospitality house in Lumpkin, Georgia, and go to Stewart Detention Center with volunteers who actually came down from Greensboro, North Carolina, where we used to live. They were all part of Faith Action International House and have clients who are detained in Stewart ... more than eight hours from their homes, which is quite common.</p><p>While at <em>El Refugio</em>, I got the analogy that may help us all think about what we can do. Saturday around 5 p.m., the Greensboro group arrived. The 10 of them had just gotten settled into the 900-square-foot, one-bathroom house – along with three wives of detainees and a 3-year-old who were spending the night. At 5:30, I heard a loud crash outside the back window and saw a large 30-foot tree trunk had fallen over and landed on the jungle gym. Our first thoughts were ones of thanks that no one was outside, and that it even missed three of our cars by a mere five feet.</p><p>That night I found it hard to sleep on the futon in the living room and began to think about that tree trunk. To be honest, before the trunk fell, I wasn't even aware of it, nor did it have anything to do with my life. I didn't know or care that it was hollow and dead inside and could snap and be uprooted even on a clear, calm day. And that's how I began to find hope, even in the midst of all the depressing circumstances I was surrounded by. If that mighty tree trunk could fall so easily, perhaps the immigration system can change more quickly than I think possible. Perhaps all we need to do is work on softening the roots that are still holding up the dead wood.</p><p>The first root needing yanked free is how we talk about immigrants. We need to name them without bias or racism. No labels like "illegal aliens, infestation, or animals." Perhaps not even "<span style="text-decoration:underline;">un</span>documented." For the most part, they are <span style="text-decoration:underline;">non-</span>documentable, meaning that there is no legal path for them to come to the United States, no line to get in, no forms or skills that would allow them entry.</p><p>This root is the easiest to pull out. Simply get to know someone who has one of these labels. Smile kindly at them in the store, volunteer with an organization that helps them, or better yet, invite them to dinner and become a friend.</p><p>While visiting our contact in Stewart Detention Center, we were in the same room with four other families there to visit their husbands, brothers, or sons. It's a hard place to visit since you are separated by a glass and can communicate only via the phone on either side. No physical touch whatsoever. The one mother asked me how we knew the man we were visiting. I explained that we didn't. We were there because he was on a list of men who hadn't had any visitors. She replied, "Thank you SO much for being kind to us."</p><p>The second root we hear all the time. "But they broke the law and shouldn't have come here in the first place, putting their children at risk." However, how are we to judge why someone seeks asylum and a better life? I don't know what I would do if my business was constantly threatened by a gang, or if my child was forced to join them or be killed, or if I had no means to feed my family, or if my spouse was constantly abusing me and threatening to kill me and my children. I think most of us would use whatever means possible to save the lives of ourselves and our loved ones. We can't stand by and let them suffer even more hardship and trauma than what they've already suffered to get here.</p><p>The third needing uprooted is the spiel that they are taking our jobs. I wish everyone could see the jobs most of these immigrants are doing ... cutting up chickens in 40-degree-temperature rooms so we can enjoy boneless chicken breasts at low prices, stapling heavy material around mattress frames so we can sleep soundly, stooping over plants all day so we can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, sweating in the hot summer sun so we can stroll on a manicured lawn, building houses with cheap labor so our mortgage payments are less than their housing rent, cooking food so we can savor exotic flavors. And the list goes on and on.</p><p>One man we visited at Stewart was there due to a work raid in New York state. He has now been in detention for nine months and has had no visitors during that time, has no idea when his case will come up, and has no access to a lawyer because the government doesn't need to give detainees any. Even if he could find a lawyer who would come to such a remote location, it would cost him $8,000 just to have his case taken on. And bail is often $15,000, if he could get it. So he sits and waits. His wife has given birth to their fourth daughter while he is at Stewart. He hasn't held her or seen any of them as it's too expensive and far for them to travel. Yet, the crazy thing is that he was picked up for working illegally and "taking a U.S. citizen's job," but in detention he is working/slaving for $1.00 a day in the kitchen so the for-profit prison doesn't have to hire and pay any of the local Lumpkin residents to do the cooking and cleaning.</p><p>The fourth root is that our borders are flooded with violent gangsters, MS-13 the primary and worst. But, once again, for those who want the facts, many are not even Latinos and have not entered through the southern border. Some are detained due to visas that expired by a few days, students who overstayed their visas, Africans who fled violence in their own countries and sought asylum here but got put in detention immediately due to the nature of their homeland, and the list continues. Gangsters are a minuscule part of the immigrant population.</p><p>The fifth root is the one that says they'll take over with their chain migration. Once again, wrong use of words. It's called "family reunification" and is what Melania Trump most likely used to get her parents to the United States. It doesn't extend to third cousins and great aunts. It is for immediate family and parents only. All faiths teach us that families belong together.</p><p>Protests are needed to increase visibility. Calls to representatives may help to challenge policies. But more important is the daily loosening of the soil each of us can do so these roots stop propping up the dead trunk. And let's pray that when it falls, no one gets hurt.<br></p><p><br></p><p><em></em><em></em><em>This post has been republished from Jim and Ruth's blog. To learn more about their SOOP service, check out </em><a href=""><em>JnR Journey Notes</em></a><em>.</em><br></p>
Rosedale communion and airport reunions communion and airport reunionsby Sarah Tomas Morgan<p>​<span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">Six weeks ago, my dad dropped me off at the beautiful Mennonite Voluntary Service home in the neighborhood of Rosedale in Kansas City. Within five minutes, the entire staff of Rainbow Mennonite Church, my down-the-street host congregation, had arrived to say hello, help me carry my bags up the stairs, and assure me that friendly faces, fiery sermons, warm meals, hymn-sings, and all the Sunday coffee and donuts I could ever want would always be just a block away. I felt an immediate sense of relief and welcome that hasn't left since. Rainbow Mennonite has indeed proven to be the most generous and warmly welcoming community I could have hoped for. I'm looking forward to our church symposium at the end of the month, called "</span><a href="" style="font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">The Ongoing White Supremacy of Our Everyday Lives</a><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">." It will be an opportunity for Rainbow to examine its own conscience regarding racial bias with the long-term goal of inviting the neighborhood and congregations similar to us into the conversation. </span></p><p>Today begins my fifth week of work at Jewish Vocational Services (JVS). Recently, I was the KC "local" at the Kansas City International Airport to welcome a group of 11 Congolese refugees to the United States. "You may not realize it now," my supervisor, Steve Weitkamp, told me, "but you will never forget this experience." From what I can tell, he's right. My co-worker and I drove out to the airport with the 20-year-old son of the matriarch of the arriving family. Whether it had been months or years since he'd last seen his mother, we didn't know. Within minutes of finding the gate, 10 more Congolese men had arrived to wait with us. When they suddenly stood up, clapping and waving, we looked up to see a group of several women and many small children walking dazedly out of the restricted section toward us. I feel the tears welling up just thinking about it; their smiles were electric, and the men were waving their hands in the air and cheering, hugging their sisters and kissing their babies. It was an intimate moment of beautiful reunion that I was privileged to witness. It was clear that my job was nothing more than to step back. This family was in good hands, and, I think, resting in the hands of God at that moment. <br></p><p>Since then, I have also had the privilege to teach this family in two community orientation classes: one about the social services available to them, and one about safety, rights, and laws in the United States. I teach two classes per week on these subjects, communicating through Kiswahili interpreters to groups of six to 18 clients at a time. I love teaching these classes, and constantly thinking about ways that I can improve and make them more applicable and welcoming. I also adore my R&P (refugee reception and placement) team, who are hilarious, compassionate, and the hardest-working people I know. They are almost all former refugees themselves. I am learning so much from each of them, and having so much fun in the process. I honestly look forward to going to work every day ... is this supposed to happen in my first job out of college?? (Fun fact: My new nickname is "Sarah Teacher" – there are three other Sarahs who work at JVS!)<br></p><p>In the next month, I am looking forward to sharing life with my three new housemates who moved in last week! I'm unreasonably excited for pretty much everything I see ahead, and I am just $330 away from my fundraising goal of $3,000. If you would like to contribute, you can do so at my <a href="">MobileCause</a> page.<br></p>
Shodah: Walking the Trail of Death Walking the Trail of DeathBy Cynthia Friesen Coyle <p>In June 2017, I learned history by traveling in another person's shoes when I participated in the Trail of Death pilgrimage sponsored by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. We retraced the route the Potawatomi people took when they were violently forced off their lands in 1838.<br></p><p>George Godfrey of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation is an author, teacher, and president of Trail of Death Association. He co-led our group of nine pilgrims with Katerina Friesen, AMBS professor, and Rich Meyer. </p><p> </p><p><strong>Commissioned with prayer and smudging</strong></p><p>At the foot of a statue of Chief Menominee in Twin Lakes, Indiana, we were commissioned for our journey by George, who led us in prayer facing the four directions. He then blessed us by smudging us with smoke from sage leaves burning on a clam shell. <br></p><p>Chief Menominee was part of a resistance movement that refused to sign a treaty in 1836 to sell the tribe's land to the state of Indiana and move his group across the Mississippi. He, along with many Potawatomi, wanted to stay in the area and live peacefully with the new settlers. He even traveled to Washington, D.C., to make his case, thinking if the government knew the Potawatomis' intentions, they would understand. <br></p><p>From Chief Menominee's statue, we went on a silent walk a couple miles up the road. We reached the marker where a chapel had once stood. (The Pokagon Band Potawatomi Nation had chosen to take on some of the "White man's ways" – buying and selling land, learning English, and becoming Catholic – in an attempt to live in peace with new arrivals in their region.) At the first marker, we read a litany that was to become our prayer at each of the more than 40 markers along the trail.</p><p> </p><p><strong>Litany of remembrance </strong></p><p>Standing where you walked,</p><p><strong>We remember you.</strong></p><p>Exiled under gunpoint,</p><p>loss of sacred land,</p><p><strong>We remember you.</strong></p><p>Bruised feet and weary bodies,</p><p>choked by dust and heat,</p><p>sickness stalking young and old,</p><p><strong>We remember you.</strong></p><p><strong>We lament this Trail of Death.</strong></p><p>Trail of broken promises,</p><p>theft of homelands for White man's profit.</p><p><strong>We lament this Trail of Death.</strong></p><p>We lament that our ancestors </p><p>did not dwell in peace.</p><p><strong>Creator of all, we long for new vision today.</strong></p><p><strong>Open our eyes and give us sight</strong></p><p>to seek the things that make for peace,</p><p>to see the image of God in all peoples,</p><p>especially those persecuted and oppressed.</p><p><strong>Make a new way for us together.</strong></p><p><strong>Guide our feet, O Lord, on a Trail of Life.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Betrayal and drumbeat of deaths</strong></p><p>On Sept. 4, 1838, General Tipton called a meeting at the church. When Chief Menominee, two other chiefs, and many of their people arrived, they were surrounded by militia. The chiefs were placed in a jail wagon, and 850 men, women and children were forced at gunpoint out of their homeland. As they looked back, they saw their homes burning in the distance. <br></p><p>As we followed the Trail of Death from marker to marker in a caravan of three vehicles, we read aloud from a journal kept by one of the soldiers who had been on the march. We learned that the forced march averaged 17 miles each day. Food and water were scarce because the summer of 1838 was particularly hot and dry. Many streams had dried up. Almost every entry included in its description of the day, "nothing of significance happened." But each entry ended with the number of people who had died, as if it were an insignificant fact! The drumbeat of deaths reported each day of the journey felt like nails piercing my heart. </p><p> </p><p><strong>Fear or embrace of God's diversity</strong></p><p>First Mennonite Church in Champaign-Urbana (Illinois) hosted us on Pentecost Sunday. Michael Crosby preached about America's fear of difference. "Diversity is not the problem," he said. "Banding together behind walls of mono-cultural security is considered the real madness in God's economy."<br></p><p>God's expression of God's self is beautifully varied and complex. It is not a hierarchical, controllable world that must be protected from chaos at all costs, said Pastor Crosby. "God invites us to reject the fear of unpredictability and uniformity, and instead to hang on to the good news that God makes everything different in this wild, wonderful world and it is all so very good." <br></p><p>Often instead of seeing this diversity of people groups as something to embrace and rejoice in, we fear "the other" and seek to destroy them. Our nation was founded out of a massive genocide of the Native people groups who inhabited this land. I had to wonder, what might this land have been like if our ancestors had chosen to live together in peace with the Native inhabitants and learn from one another?</p><p> </p><p><strong>Anabaptists benefit from Potawatomi removal</strong></p><p>As we crossed the Mississippi River and entered Missouri, we listened to letters written by President Andrew Jackson outlining how the governor of Indiana was to take the land in such a way that the Potawatomi people would not realize what was happening to them before it was too late. And, if they didn't move, President Jackson described the kind of force they would use to push them out. This removal of the Potawatomi people was so cold and calculating, I think all of us felt unfairness and anger boil within us. <br></p><p>My relatives were some of the Mennonites and Amish farmers who were invited to come make the land productive. Our group noted that Mennonites have been slow to pick up arms to defend a country, and yet they willingly pick up a plow for the empire. <br></p><p>I am a Mennonite and have always valued what I thought was long history of caring for others, of loving enemies, of following Jesus' example of treating others as we want to be treated. Now I have questions like: What were my ancestors really like? Did they realize the destruction and devastation that preceded the building of their homesteads? Did they treat the Indians with respect or with fear? Did they also kill Indians as many settlers did? I asked one of my great aunts if she had any stories that had been handed down, but she had none.</p><p> </p><p><strong>End of the trail</strong></p><p>The Potawatomi exiles finally reached their destination at Sugar Creek Mission, Kansas, in November. Contrary to reassurances, there was no food and no houses for them. The 800 survivors may have created shelter by hanging hides over a ravine. It was a terrible winter for them. In the 10 years the Potawatomi stayed at Sugar Creek, more than 600 died. We gathered around six crosses with the names of those who died. As we read aloud each name and the age of the person, we said, "<em>Shodah</em>" (which means "here or present" in Potawatomi). We also poured water on the ground for each name as a symbol of healing. <br></p><p>We sang and prayed. George and Katerina led us in communion. Eddie Joe, a Prairie Band Potawatomi spiritual leader, shared his version of the history of Turtle Island (his people's name for the United States), prayed, and smudged each one of us.<br></p><p>I felt like I had walked on holy ground.<br></p>
The laborers are many laborers are manyBy Peter Graber<p>​<span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">Most Mennonites believe in church planting, and some are willing to act on those beliefs. In 2007, Conrad Kanagy published a comprehensive survey of Mennonite Church USA</span><a href="file:///C:/Users/daniellek/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/Content.Outlook/2O2N3YCF/The%20Laborers%20are%20Many.docx" style="font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;"><span class="ms-rteFontSize-2">[Footnote 1]</span></a><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">.  Kanagy noted that interest in church planting had declined since the last survey in 1989, but remained stronger with Racial/Ethnic members and pastors.  The numbers could be disappointing for those who believe God calls us to seek new believers and start new churches. </span></p><p> </p><p><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">Table 4.1 from p. 80 of </span><em style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;">Road Signs for the Journey</em></p><p><em><img alt="Table.jpg" src="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></em></p><p><br></p><p>But read closer:  In 2006, Mennonite Church USA had about 100,000 members.  If 10 percent were willing to move their families to help start a new congregation, that would be 10,000 people ready to move to start new congregations across the country.  If 30 people move for each site, that would be 330 church plants.  Standing with them would be 20,000 people ready to volunteer their time and 48,000 people willing to donate.  And if 31 percent of the estimated 1,000 pastors are also willing to plant a church, there would be 310 church planters ready to lead those efforts.<br></p><p>Of course, it is 2018, not 2006.  All the numbers are smaller, and some attitudes have changed.  After all, a check mark on a survey does not guarantee that someone would take the risk of </p><p>moving to begin a new church.  But what if only a tenth of what is projected above were possible?  Are there not 1,000 people and 30 pastors ready to move to begin new congregations?  <br></p><p>The answer is yes!  People across Mennonite Church USA have been reaching out to neighbors and acting as midwives to newly formed faith communities.  For the last three years, many of them have gathered at an annual conference, <em>Sent,</em> led by Mennonite Mission Network.  Not all would call themselves "church planters," but they share a common vision to give their lives to people who are not yet Christians. <br></p><p>At the most recent <em>Sent</em> conference in Chicago, "there were no blue hymnals in sight, no four-part harmonies.  No one even asked me my last name or tried to play the Mennonite game," said Zach Martinez, pastor of Sojourn Mennonite Church of Northern Colorado.  "Instead, the conference seemed to seek a theological commonality, a commonality centered on the idea of a peace church."<br></p><p>And this somewhat invisible movement among us does not leave those not directly involved unaffected.  Vern Rempel, Littleton, Colorado, commented that "there was a sense that legacy churches often greatly benefit from new church starts, and may even see new life themselves from the new activity around them."<br></p><p>Immigrant churches, especially Hispanic congregations, have been leading the way in church planting for many years.  Legacy congregations are beginning to test the waters.  And church leaders are listening.  Area conference leaders are seeking ways to support church planters in their regions.  Mennonite Mission Network has had a church-planting staff person for a decade, networking with interested leaders and offering training and support.  Mission Network has also been encouraging local outreach through the Missional Discipleship Initiative, and testing a training program for new church planters, which will launch in January 2019.<br></p><p>The not-so-small minority from the 2006 survey has turned into a movement within Mennonite Church USA.  We shall see what God will do by the time the next denominational survey is made in 2023.<br></p><p><br></p><p><a href="file:///C:/Users/daniellek/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/Content.Outlook/2O2N3YCF/The%20Laborers%20are%20Many.docx"><span class="ms-rteFontSize-2">[1]</span></a><span class="ms-rteFontSize-2"> Kanagy, Conrad L., </span><em class="ms-rteFontSize-2">Road Signs for the Journey: a profile of Mennonite Church USA</em><span class="ms-rteFontSize-2">, Herald Press, 2007, Scottdale, Pa.</span></p>
Living the call: Q&A with Sent 2018 attendees the call: Q&A with Sent 2018 attendeesContributed by Travis Duerksen<p>​<span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – </span><span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">Pastors, church planters, and people from all over the country gathered in Chicago May 4-6 for the Sent 2018 peace church conference to worship and share how God is moving in their churches and communities. I caught up with two attendees to talk about their experiences. Hendy Stevan is the pastor of Bethany Elshaddai Creative Community Church, a Franconia Mennonite Conference congregation founded in 2002 in New York City, and Eric King works with TiLT [Taos Initiative for Life Together] in Taos, New Mexico, which is described on TiLT's website as a "Mennonite-inspired social change movement."</span></p><p> </p><p>Hendy Stevan, Bethany Elshaddai Creative Community</p><p><strong><em>What brought you to New York City?</em></strong></p><p><strong>Hendy:</strong> I was working with a church in Bandung, Indonesia, and my senior pastor asked me if I would be willing to help with an Indonesian congregation church in New York City. I was excited, and my wife and I prayed about it, and we had this confirmation that God wanted us to go.</p><p>It took my wife and me three years to move to New York City, because my visa got rejected twice, but I had a calling that God wanted me to be a blessing for New York City; God wanted me to be a blessing for people in the United States. </p><p>Even though it took us three years, I still felt the calling from God to become a blessing, and to preach the gospel out of my comfort zone. We arrived in New York two years ago and we started to help give the church a new energy, and especially start reaching out to the second generation, the young adults and youth in the church.</p><p><strong><em>What role do you see your church playing in the local community?</em></strong><em> </em></p><p><strong>Hendy:</strong> Our church is mostly older people who are first-generation immigrants from Indonesia, so in the future I want this church to become a blessing for the city, open up the barriers of the immigrant church, and start to become more multicultural. We've started to have preaching in English, as well as some of the worship songs. Most of the second generation that attends don't really understand if you speak Indonesian, and we don't want to lose the second generation. </p><p><strong><em>Could you explain more about the experience of becoming a multicultural church?</em></strong></p><p><strong>Hendy:</strong> It's a challenge, of course, but also an opportunity because I learned how to work with older people. We're different generations. I'm a millennial and they are mostly boomers … if we are not careful, we can create conflict. But if we just sit together and really talk about our fears, our backgrounds, I think the rock and the river can work together. The transition can be a little bit tricky, but God wants me to learn how to love, how to serve, and how to teach. I think that is the point that I'm working on with this congregation, is to love, serve, and to teach.</p><p> </p><p>Eric King, TiLT [Taos Initiative for Life Together]</p><p><strong><em>How did you get involved with TiLT?</em></strong></p><p><strong>Eric:</strong> Todd Wynward is the director and founder of TiLT, and he's written a book called <em>Rewilding the Way</em>, which I had read, and it was pretty compelling. It talks about affluenza in the United States, the addiction to consumption, and how destructive that is, and how it results in injustice. He came and spoke in Harrisonburg, where I was living, so that's how I knew about the opportunity. I was interested in moving [to New Mexico] for a few reasons, one was to try to integrate my personal living with my work life and to develop the values that I resonate with personally. Also, for the spiritual experience and hoping to gain some professional development out of it as well, through managing the [TiLT] site and being a creative force. It's the adventure of the Southwest. Desert life. </p><p><strong><em>How would you sum up what role TiLT plays in the Taos, New Mexico, community?</em></strong></p><p><strong>Eric:</strong> TiLT is seeking to be a multifaceted entity. We're primarily an urban agricultural site. "Bioregional resiliency" is a phrase we use often, which means that we're trying to grow what our region can grow when it can grow it, and move away from the industrial food system that is so destructive to the land and to its people. </p><p>We're also engaged in community organizing, especially in the area of racial reconciliation, as Taos is a hotspot for cultural diversity. We've got the indigenous population, the Latino population, and the White population. There's both tension and potential in Taos. So the question is how do we bridge those cultural gaps, and make Taos a stronger community as a whole by utilizing that diversity? A lot of what we're ultimately trying to do is to follow Jesus as people who are trying to restore the land, and honor and dignify other human beings. The gospel embodied. We're a very young organization, so it's a bit messy at times, but how else do you do it?<br></p><p><br></p><p>For more information about Sent, visit <a href=""></a>.<br></p>
Advice to my younger me to my younger meBy Carmen Hoober<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">In my lifetime, I have been the recipient of all kinds of advice – good and bad, solicited and unsolicited, helpful and hurtful, and some that was just downright strange (the English professor who was convinced I should work for the FBI comes to mind). </span></p><p>Even the Bible has something to say about why we should value advice: "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors, there is safety." (Proverbs 11:14)</p><p>Sometimes the problem is not so much that there's a dearth of advice, but rather whose advice do you listen to? After all, lots of people are probably willing to give their opinion on how you should live your life and what choices you should make, and that's all well and good, and yet at the end of the day, <strong>you</strong> are the one who has to live <strong>your</strong> life. </p><p>However, there is ONE kind of advice I always pay attention to and oftentimes solicit – the advice people would give their younger<em> </em>selves. Framed this way, you are more likely to hear something that has <em>meaning </em>– if not for your own practical use, then certainly as a way to widen and inform your understanding of the human experience. </p><p>The concept of giving advice to your younger self is fascinating to me. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to hop into a time machine, travel back to pivotal moments in your life, tap your younger self on the shoulder, and say things like, "Go sit next to that girl in the back row; she could use a friend," or "You will forever regret it if you do not speak up right now," and "Do not eat the fish tacos. DO NOT EAT THE FISH TACOS!!!" (Valentine's Day 2014). Alas, time machines haven't been invented yet (<a href="">or have they?</a>), which is why, sadly, the smell of salmon continues to make me nauseous. </p><p>As many of you are transitioning out of MVS, I thought it might be fun to leave you with some advice from those of us at the MissionNetwork/Mennonite Church USA offices. Remember: This is not prescriptive for you and your life necessarily; it is simply advice we would give our younger selves. And to those of you moving on, Godspeed my friends! It's been a pleasure getting to know you. Stay in touch!</p><p> </p><p><strong>Advice to my younger self:</strong></p><p>Anything you see was made by somebody or made possible by somebody. That somebody could be you. You have the ability to do whatever you want, but once you start down a career path, it's much harder to change direction. Make every effort to learn everything and explore every possibility.</p><p>Develop good references while you're in high school and college. When you apply for jobs, the one thing that can make the difference is knowing the right people, be it a good reference, or somebody in the company you're applying at. </p><p>Be professional, well organized, and free from distractions during a job interview. I've seen this make the difference between people who got a job and people who didn't. </p><p>Everyone you meet has something worthwhile they can teach you. </p><p>Buy as much Bitcoin as you can. Pour every single cent you have into buying Bitcoin while it's at 35 cents apiece, and hold it until November 2017.</p><p>The winning numbers for the Aug. 23, 2017, lottery is 6-7-16-23-26, Powerball 4. Take a lump sum and invest it.</p><p>The Cubs win the World Series in 2016 in seven games, in extra innings, after a rain delay. I know it sounds unbelievable. By the way, they'll be playing Cleveland, so get ready for some heartbreak. Get your bet in now.</p><p>-Matt Lehman Wiens, MMN outgoing director of Donor Relations</p><p> </p><p>If I could give advice to my younger me, I would say not to worry so much about controlling the future. Since graduating from college, I have dealt with anxiety. I have learned that anxiety comes from wanting to control future outcomes. Something I have learned the hard way is that I do NOT have superhuman powers to do that. We will make mistakes, we might not get the jobs we interview for, or get into the graduate schools we wanted to, or end up living in the geographical location of our dreams … but, regardless, we get through those things and survive. I would have NEVER imagined that I would end up being the director of a voluntary service program. If things would have turned out "my way" in a lot of cases, I would not be where I am today. Control what you can, but also try to just enjoy the ride! Things happen for a reason ... don't dwell on the "why." It might be revealed to you in ways you never imagined! </p><p>-Lizzy Diaz, MVS Manhattan alum 2015, director, Mennonite Voluntary Service</p><p> </p><p>"When choosing between being right and being kind, choose kind." What job you end up with, what career path you follow, what type of work you eventually do, is not what matters. The relationships you build along the way will be the lifeboat that helps you survive the next few decades. </p><p>-Linda Krueger, HR coordinator and MVS alum, Americus, Georgia (with EMBMC) 1980-1983</p><p><br></p><p>One bit of advice I received years ago was: Never pass up the opportunity to look into/interview for different positions even if you are happy with what you are doing. You might find your dream job when you least expect it.</p><p>-Scott Hartman, director of Event Planning, Mennonite Church USA</p><p><br></p><p>I would tell my younger self to not be as concerned with what job I want to do (like figuring out my dream job) and building a "successful career" as I am with what kind of person I want to be. Because, first of all, what truly defines a successful life is who you are, not what you do! Second, it's nearly impossible to know exactly what you will want to do for the rest of your life when you are in your 20s. In fact, many of the great jobs out there are not included on any career lists (like my job, for example!), so it just takes time and life experience to find them. What I have found is that as you try out different jobs/tasks, you discover what things you are really good at and what things are energizing/life-giving for you – and that might even change over time. Rather than thinking about where you want to be at the end of your work career, just focus on the very next step. </p><p>-Tonia Martin, MVS alum (San Antonio 1995-1996) and Program Human Resources care coordinator</p><p><br></p><p>I think I had a lot of negative self-talk as a young adult, thinking I wasn't smart enough, talented enough, qualified enough to aim high. I often set the bar low for myself and took the path of least resistance. I have begun challenging myself more now since my late 30s and 40s, and am pleased with the results. I don't always reach the higher bar, but it isn't because I didn't give my best effort. I would advise my younger self to not settle for mediocre when a little more effort or confidence would make a difference. <br></p><p>-Sharon Norton, Personnel counselor/Journey International program director </p><p> </p><p>Pursue what interests and excites you more than what you've been told makes a "sensible" career choice. High earning potential is no substitute for high satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment, and joy in what you do.</p><p>-Mike Sherrill, director for Asia and Middle East</p><p><br></p><p>Soon after getting married, I learned that you can figure out what your spouse expects on their birthday by observing what they do for you on your birthday. Communicating with coworkers is often like that, and they will communicate their expectations by how they communicate with you. Often, I get reminded that what works for me may not work for others. Everyone has their preference, and figuring out your own preferences will help. Teammates who like the same style as you are easy to communicate with. Working with others is where it can get tricky. At times, you have to negotiate with a coworker on how to effectively communicate back and forth, and both of you adapt.<br></p><p>In work situations where there is a conflict and you have a personal stake in things, ask a third party to step in. They can see things without emotion or bias, and their counsel is easier for others to hear. Emotionally charged situations are best navigated by people who have no personal stake in the matter.</p><p>-Ken Regier, director of Program Human Resources</p><p><br></p><p>The fear of failure and rejection is actually worse than failing and being rejected. With every choice you make there will be tradeoffs; you can't avoid risk, so you might as well get comfortable with it. (Also, I wasn't kidding about those fish tacos.)<br></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">-Carmen Hoober, Personnel counselor, Program </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Human Resources</span></p><p><br></p>