What do you get when prominent Anabaptist leaders in the Central Valley of Calif., introduce innovative initiatives about justice in our world to a diverse group of young adults who are hungry to learn and want to make a difference in the world? GAP!
West Coast Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Center for Anabaptist Studies, celebrate eight years of Global Anabaptist Peacebuilders (GAP) - a nine day peacebuilding institute for young adults to learn about justice issues on the campus of Fresno Pacific University (FPU).
This year, West Coast MCC hosted 24 young adults at the GAP Institute, May 25 - June 2 at Fresno Pacific University (FPU). Participants stayed on the FPU campus in the dorms during the program and engaged in small groups to collaborate on what they learned. Professors from FPU and community leaders from the Fresno, Calif., area taught classes about immigration, restorative justice and environmental sustainability. The group spent the majority of the time visiting organizations and businesses that are redefining their field and striving to do justice by serving people.
Taylor Stark, 23, an Undergraduate Admissions Counselor at FPU and a Family Coach at Safe Families for Children, took the Migration and Resettlement class this year.
"GAP is such an amazing opportunity that I think everyone could benefit from. The investment that MCC makes in these individuals spans further than just the week they spend at FPU. These students take what they've learned and implement it in their schooling, careers and community." she said.
Last year, Stark participated in GAP and Summer Service, another MCC supported program for young adults. This year, she said she jumped at the opportunity to do it all over again.
"As someone who just so happened to come across the opportunity to serve with MCC and GAP, I have greatly benefited from the things that I have learned and the people that I have met."
The annual trip to Yosemite National Park to witness the beauty of creation is always a highlight of the week. Other group activities included, a meal shared with local young adult Muslims to build a bridge across religious affiliations and a tour of downtown Fresno to learn about gentrification and poverty issues.
While engaging with difficult issues, participants always form deep relationships with one another and have fun throughout the program. They enjoyed getting to know each other by attending local art events, playing games together during their free time and staying up to the wee hours of the night.
It was another great year. We believe GAP exists to empower today’s young adults to engage in the world, discern what is just, and work to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. West Coast MCC wants to continue to find ways to engage young adults and to give them tools to be active change agents in their communities.