photo courtesy of Diana Cruz and Felipe Preciado

Every morning at 8:30 La Casa Grande does a worship and prayer time. The picture was taken while the MMN Youth Venture team visited La Casa Grande for two weeks in 2018.

We served in IVEP in 2012- 2013. Felipe worked at a dairy farm in Ohio and Diana was a Spanish assistant at EMU in Virginia. Life has significantly changed after the program. After returning to Colombia we continued our ministries at the Colombian Mennonite church and two years later we got married. In 2015 we started a ministry as youth leaders in Teusaquillo Mennonite Church in Bogota and sometimes we supported La Mesa Mennonite Church whenever we visited Felipe´s parents who are the church pastors there.

After three years of being part of Teusaquillo´s church and of marriage we started to serve in Benin, West Africa, as service workers through a partnership between Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Church Colombia, the Mennonite Church in Burgos, Spain, and La Casa Grande in Benin. La Casa Grande is an NGO that works with children who have lost their parents. It has many projects including a school where Diana currently teaches English and Spanish, and the agro-pastoral project in which Felipe works.

The IVEP program had a big influence on our life choices on many levels. First, during IVEP we met many wonderful African friends from Kenya, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. They gave us glimpses of the continent in which we later wanted to serve. Getting to know them made us aware of a part of the world often unseen for many people in our beloved Latin America. We found connections through friendships, warm hugs and the amazing similarities between our music and theirs. When we shared with them, somehow, we felt at home. Our dream of serving in Africa together started to grow and to develop since our time in the U.S.

IVEP also helped us to develop our skills in teaching and farming, which along with our education have allowed us to have specific roles at La Casa Grande in Benin. Participating in the program also gave us a broader vision of the Mennonite world and it made us value the importance of building bridges, which we consider a very relevant task between these two continents and beyond.

We are grateful for many people who we met back then and who are still part of our lives and in many different ways support our ministry in Benin. We feel them as family even though the years have passed.

Of course, we are sure that all the events of our lives are connected and have been orchestrated by God. You can read more of our story beautifully written by Diana’s supervisor at EMU during IVEP and our friend as well, Donald Clymer in his blog: