I grew up in a family that has always been very supportive of MCC and international friendships. My parents met during my dad’s MCC assignment in Germany after the Second World War. My mother was part of a Mennonite summer tour that volunteered at the same work camp. I was with MCC in Toronto, Ontario, from 1976–1978. I visited my sisters in Bangladesh and Mexico and friends in Brazil during their MCC terms.
My wife, Beth, and my first involvement with IVEP began when Brooke Strayer, young adult coordinator for MCC Great Lakes, asked us to host IVEPers from other states when they came to Goshen, Indiana, for Great Lakes IVEP gatherings. At first these were one-time interactions, but that all changed when we hosted Hilario Afonso Chivale (Mozambique) in September 2018. He came from Columbus, Ohio, to attend the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale. We talked until late in the night. The next morning Hilario asked us if we could be his “American mom and dad.” He did not have a host family in Columbus because he lived with several younger German volunteers who worked at the same daycare and after-school program he did. He missed having a host family like most IVEPers. That visit led to becoming “long-distance hosts” with nearly weekly phone calls and several weekend visits.
In April it became clear to MCC staff that Hilario’s work placement was not working out. Changing placements quickly was sudden and somewhat traumatic for him. Without hesitation, we agreed that Hilario could stay with us for a time of healing until another work assignment could be found. That took longer than expected. We planned many new experiences to make up for what Hilario missed earlier by not having a host family. We were all thrilled when MCC decided he could stay with us and volunteer locally in Elkhart, Indiana, and at Camp Friedenswald.
Although we didn’t feel we could host an IVEPer full-time the next year, we were committed to the program. We again offered respite care and met a new group of volunteers, especially Sethu Ndodana (Eswatini) and Ereny Botros (Egypt), the two IVEPers living in Goshen. This gave them a chance to experience a second U.S. family, especially with the restrictions of COVID-19. In May, Ereny needed a new home when her host family traveled for an extended time. Living with us was a natural transition since we already knew her. This too turned out to be another very rich and rewarding experience and she too stayed with us until the end of her term.
The following year there were no IVEPers due to COVID-19, so we were excited to meet another group in September 2021. Because Brooke was on maternity leave, Beth and I and the host families planned activities to bring the group together. This year, we hosted Luis Magopeia (Mozambique) when he came from Chicago to join the Elkhart/Goshen IVEPers. After Brooke returned, we continued to enjoy activities with the group and individuals IVEPers, including Christian Berambaye Nawai (Chad). While his host family was away for a week in early April, Christian was racially profiled and had an unfortunate interaction with the police. Brooke and Andrea offered Christian the opportunity to stay with Beth and myself for a week. Christian needed to feel safe. Again, we are so thankful we already knew each other, and that Christian felt comfortable in our home. After a week there was a mutual agreement Christian would live with us until the end of the term.
For three years, we have enjoyed interactions with many MCC Great Lakes IVEPers and opened our home for longer stays to Hilario, Ereny and Christian. So by now, these two retired folks with no biological children of their own have adopted a family of IVEPers from Colombia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Eswatini, Egypt, Zimbabwe and Chad. Thank God for WhatsApp so that we can keep in touch. My hope is that someday I will be able to visit them and give them the opportunity to host me. What a blessing for us and we trust for them too! Thank you, God, and MCC for these precious lifetime relationships.
Header photo caption: From L to R: Christian Berambaye (Chad), Beth Suderman, Rufaro Manyureni (Zimbabwe), Luis Magopeia (Mozambique), and Greg Suderman in Elkhart, Indiana. Photo/Christian Berambaye