Love in action
An MCC youth event in Guatemala models service to others
For Rina Maria Garcia Rosal, faith isn’t just a thing you have, it’s a thing you do.
In Guatemala City last December, Garcia and other young adults in MCC’s Seed program spent a week sharing that ideal with Anabaptist youth.
Through the MCC-led Semana de Servicio, or Week of Service, 40 youth from three Mennonite conferences in Guatemala City, Guatemala’s Alta Verapaz region and El Salvador gathered to learn, serve and have fun together.
Garcia managed transportation and logistics for bringing the volunteers to and from three different locations where they served.
Many of the youth, she says, come from churches where expectations can be demotivating.
Garcia hears from youth who feel they’re expected to just sit in church services but who want opportunities to participate in service and to be more actively included, listened to and involved in the decision-making of the church.
The opportunity that expanded her own view of service was spending a year with MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) in 2017-2018, Garcia says.
Her IVEP term found her serving as far from her usual surroundings as she could imagine — teaching grade school students in the Spanish immersion program of Lancaster Mennonite School, then at the Locust Grove Campus in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
“It was so different. At home in the city, all the houses are right next to each other and there’s tons of cars. And there it was just us and the animals,” she says.
She was moved by how she saw service and growth modeled in the school. “I felt teachers were able to help the students develop and grow from their personal experiences, and they looked for ways to teach them through what they were doing,” she remembers.
Returning home to Guatemala, Garcia finished her university education, then applied for Seed, a two-year MCC program with a focus on discipleship through service.
It was with her Seed group that Garcia facilitated Semana de Servicio, which provides opportunities for youth like Julio Lopez.
Lopez, 16, doesn’t look like a typical church-going young man by Guatemalan standards — his hair is half-dyed blonde, his ears are pierced and he wears a number of rings and other bits of jewelry. But, he says, finding a church that saw past his appearance to his heart had reinforced to him what Christian love should look like.
Through his congregation, Casa Horeb Iglesia Anabautista Menonita in Guatemala City, “I was taught that God made us in His image and so what I do with my siblings in Christ, I treat them all equally as humans, and I don’t judge anybody because who am I to judge?”
“I was taught that God made us in His image and so what I do with my siblings in Christ, I treat them all equally as humans, and I don’t judge anybody because who am I to judge?”
His group spent the week at José María Castilla School, repairing and restoring the wood and metal desks that the students use. School holidays in Guatemala run from October to January, so Lopez and the other Semana de Servicio volunteers gave up some of their own vacation to be here in the name of service.
While he cut new desktops out of plywood, others sanded down the sharp edges, stained the wood or reassembled the desks. Over the week, they transformed dozens of desks from various states of disrepair to like-new.
Garcia’s pride in her volunteers is obvious, both for the quality of their work and their dedication to serving others. Even as her term with Seed ended in February, she carries with her the hope to continue sharing with young people how to serve and love like Jesus did.
“Our youth don’t need to be judged,” says Garcia. “They need to be in a place where they can be understood and loved. That‘s a big challenge to have such big standards, but I want them to understand that, even in the midst of our imperfections, we can be part of building the kingdom of Christ.”
Jason Dueck is a communications specialist for MCC Canada. Meghan Mast is a multimedia storyteller for MCC Canada.