The Shalom Project is not your typical IVEP host family, but after great experiences hosting two IVEPers in past years we were excited to welcome Kezia Graceshiella to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in August.

The Shalom Project is a voluntary service program and intentional community of young adults, focused on experiencing and extending God’s shalom (Hebrew for peace or wholeness) and affecting social change through lives of service. Our participants (Shalomies!) live together in a house, serve the community through professional internships and participate in activities focused on spiritual formation and personal growth.

This probably sounds like I am describing IVEP! The Shalom Project was founded by Mennonite churches in Lancaster, and through connections with MCC we quickly discovered many similarities between the two programs.

A partnership was born in 2018. Chattu Sinha, from India, joined our cohort of Shalomies and quickly became an integral part of the household, participating in weekly seminars and retreats, cooking group meals, helping with chores and instigating group outings and game nights. SiHyeon Bae joined us from the Republic of Korea (South Korea) a year later, and Kezia is now with us from Indonesia.

It can be daunting for an IVEPer to enter our Shalom Project host family since they are living with peers and are responsible for cooking, cleaning and other tasks. Ultimately though, this arrangement has been mutually rewarding. IVEPers build community with people their age who are also new to the community and their service placements and the traditional Shalomies receive the gift of intercultural connection and learning.

MCC has been helpful in setting up a “supplemental” host family for each of the Shalom Project IVEPers, who connect with the IVEPer throughout the year. These families take them to church, have them over for meals and host them during the holidays when Shalomies travel to be with their families. This expands the IVEPer’s sense of community and creates opportunities for intergenerational relationships.

Kezia joined our 2022-23 cohort in late August and we are so glad she is a part of the Shalom Project community! Here are some snapshots of our experience so far.

From Katy Deets, Shalom Project housemate

I (and all of us in the Shalom house) have been so blessed to have Kezia join us! She and I both have our work placements at the same place so we have spent a lot of time together so far. I have learned that we have difference walking speeds and dietary tolerance/preferences. I also have learned that a very select few — of whom she is one — can see ghosts! We have also shown her that Americans oftentimes over-explain things, have a low spice tolerance and don’t always have a bidet (though our house does!) Kezia and I are also both very passionate about food, and we have enjoyed sharing lots of good Indonesian and American foods with each other. I am already very thankful for her and look forward to having the rest of the year to share our two cultures in our home. .

From Natalie, Shalom Project housemate

The first meal we had once Kezia arrived was Anna’s meatballs and rice. In addition, Kezia made some of the noodles that she brought with her. I asked Kezia what her spice tolerance was, and she said very low. Then, I took a bite of her noodles, and to my surprise they were what I consider spicy. When I expressed my surprise to Kezia, she explained a huge cultural difference between the U.S. and Indonesia: the spectrum of spiciness is extremely different. To an Indonesian native like Kezia, “mildly spicy” is one chili pepper and “extremely spicy” is 20 chili peppers. So what she considers to be a low spice tolerance for herself is considered a very high spice tolerance here in the U.S.

From Jill and Nate Milton, supplemental host family

Nate and I (Jill), along with our three children, Rielle, Isaac and Jensen, were excited to be an IVEP/Shalom Project host family because we value the international connections and richness an IVEPer brings to our family, but we don’t currently have the capacity to host full time. We connect weekly with Kezia over WhatsApp or at church on Sundays. One of those Sundays, Kezia joined us for lunch at our house after church. She jumped right in and helped to prepare the food with us, interacting with our children and chatting with us over the meal. It felt like she was an instant part of the family! On our way back to the Shalom House, Kezia reflected on the differences between how American children interact with their parents and elders and how Indonesian families interact. We both agreed that each culture could learn a few things from the other!