Los Angeles, Calif., - Jennifer Njoku, age 26, feels invigorated from her summer experience of serving homeless families in her community. Njoku attends Los Angeles Faith Chapel, a congregation of the Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference. This summer she worked with a program in her church that serves homeless families in the community by serving weekly homemade meals, providing basic toiletry needs, transitional housing and bible classes. Njoku was one of eight young adults from the West Coast region who participated in MCC's Summer Service program, a leadership development program where young adults of color serve their local communities through churches or related organizations.
1. Use three verbs to describe what you usually do in your current placement with Summer Service.
Serve - I serve homeless people who are in need of love and who need to be attended to. Our church serves food and provides transitional housing for people in need.
Help - I am taking the time to help people that normally wouldn’t be helped. Most people don’t want to help the homeless.
Love - Just how God has loved me and protected me all my life…I should love others. He pours love to me to pour out to others.
2. What is one story from your Summer Service experience that is especially memorable?
A man gave his testimony one Sunday…he has memory loss. He can’t remember any details of his life. When he met our pastor and the helpers from the church, he said it made him feel like he is now part of a family. Since he has been with us, he is now able to remember some things. He says that he remembers that God has planted a seed in him. He remembers the names of the people who are helping him get back on his feet. His testimony was uplifting to us. When we meet new people, we never know what their burdens are. We never know what impact you have. I am happy and proud to be a part of this work.
3. What has surprised you about your experience?
I have grown to be mature and willing to do a lot. It is gratifying. Sometimes young people are not willing to serve or volunteer. I am grateful and willing to serve out of my heart. I enjoy it…no one tells me that I have to do it. There is a fire in me. I want to be a leader. I used to be shy, and now I am out here working with a lot of people and happy about it. I have a determination.
4. What have you learned about leadership through your Summer Service experience?
I am learning to be patient and learning how to lead others. I am learning how to help the new people who come to serve. I am helping them until they are ready to lead themselves. To be a leader, you need time management skills and you have to know what you are doing. I am learning those skills. Someone passed the torch to me and now it is my turn to become a leader. I am willing and ready.
5. Describe the impact of your work with Summer Service.
I am serving others that are in need. I teach bible lessons to the children in our church. I am also helping the homeless people that come to our church by serving them food and providing for some of their basic needs. Our church is helping those in need of housing. We help people transition out of homelessness to be able to live on their own. I also serve as an usher in my church.
6. What role did your faith play during this assignment?
I grew up in the church. God put a seed in me when I was young. We all have been brought into this world to help, serve and love people. I think that just sitting down listening to the words in church and learning is not enough. I want to practice the works and do what God has instilled in me to do in my life. God has given us skills. If you don’t practice those skills, they will diminish. You have to live everyday by doing something that would be pleasing to God.
This is an amazing experience….I love what I am doing. This is something that I will continue to do. It is now a part of me. I like doing it!
Summer Service motivates and pushes you to learn what your purpose is in life.
7. Do you have any advice for future Summer Service participants?
It is an experience to go deeper in your faith. You help people in your community. It is way to be pushed in the direction that God would want you to serve. There are a variety of things to do. You can find out what God has planned for you.
The Summer Service Program is an opportunity for young people of color to serve in their church or local community for the summer. Participants improve their leadership skills and serve God all while building their resume and earning a paycheck. For more information on the Summer Service program, click here.