BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Within days of her arrival in Bogotá on August 21, 2013, for her YAMEN term, Rut Arsari knew it would be difficult for her to leave. The wonderful people she would meet and the close relationships she would develop would make it very hard to say goodbye.
Arsari, from the congregation GITJ Kelet, part of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) member church Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa in Indonesia, is currently serving with the Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network (YAMEN), for 11 months with the MWC member church, Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia. YAMEN is a joint program between MWC and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
Each week Arsari assists in three different programs managed by the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogotá. During the week she assists at two different food programs for children in the marginalized neighborhoods of Los Pinos and San Nicolás, which have high numbers of families that have been forcibly displaced by the violence. On Saturdays, Arsari works with a program which provides food for street people in a low-income neighborhood of Bogotá.
What has impacted Arsari most are the relationships she has built with people through her involvement in these communities and congregations. She attends Teusaquillo Mennonite Church with her host family, Peter and Leticia Stucky. Peter is the head pastor of the congregation. They have welcomed Arsari like a member of their family, and she feels incredibly blessed to live with them.
Another way the church community has greatly impacted her has been to see and hear how the members openly share about their faith, struggles and joys. Arsari said that hearing people verbally acknowledge the presence of God in their lives has caused her to be more aware of and to recognize the work of God in her own life in a new way.
Not only is she connecting with church members and volunteers of these programs, but also with many of the children that attend every day.
Through serving meals and teaching English classes, Arsari has gotten to know and learn from the children who come from a very different background than her own. She has learned new ways to teach and interact with children, to play with and discipline them when needed. These children also have taught her new ways of understanding and viewing the world around her: to appreciate what she has, to have a humbler attitude and to find joy and hope in unexpected places.
For several years Arsari has had a passion and a vision for helping children. She dreams of one day opening a home in Indonesia to welcome, care for and love children that do not have family to care for them. For Arsari, her assignment in Colombia is the first step of the journey to this dream.
Participating in the YAMEN program has been and continues to be an incredibly valuable experience for Arsari. It has opened her mind to new perspectives, to seeing the world around her through the eyes of others and to a deeper experience with God.
2013-2014 YAMEN Participants
Gabriela Yaninne Rojas Avila of Bolivia, serving in Honduras; Thany Dear of Cambodia, serving in Uganda; Ying Li of China, serving in Nigeria; Bibiana Astrid Morales Duran of Colombia, serving in Mexico; Beraldo Lemos Saco of Colombia, serving in Guatemala; Aaron Mauricio Gonzalez Alpizar of Costa Rica, serving in Cambodia; Charlotte Keller of France, serving in Cambodia; Melany Johana Sanchez Solano of Guatemala/Colombia, serving in South Africa; Cindy Yessenia Padilla Salinas of Honduras, serving in Bolivia; Walter Rene Diaz Sequeira of Honduras, serving in Bolivia; Anshika Sagar of India, serving in Indonesia; Rut Arsari Christy of Indonesia, serving in Colombia; Stephanie Lukito Setiawan of Indonesia, serving in Colombia; Southouthone Inthilath of Laos, serving in Indonesia; Rojina K.C. of Nepal, serving in Zambia; Ilich Magdiel Aviles Ramirez of Nicaragua, serving in Honduras.
Kristina Toews does web communications for Mennonite World Conference.