AKRON, Pa. – Serving and ministering and growing in leadership skills is what Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S.’s Summer Service program for young people of color is all about.

Participants serve in their own congregations or participate in projects that improve their community for six to 10 week. They are paired with mentors who work with them to develop their leadership gifts and achieve their project goals.

In 2016, 50 people served as Summer Service workers. We interviewed four of them to gain a glimpse into their experiences.

Abigail Endashaw

Abigail Endashaw served at her church, Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Denver, in Aurora, Colo. She was one of the leaders of the church’s summer interns, teens to young adults. 

Describe the impact of your work with Summer Service.

[Our group of interns] spent a lot of time planning services, praying for the community, cleaning the church and brainstorming events that can serve the Ethiopian community in Aurora and actually doing those things. One difficulty that the Ethiopian community deals with is that the age gap between young and old people is accentuated because of language barriers. On July 4 we organized a free barbecue for the community with games for the kids and music going on, and in one room inside the church some interns were offering prayer to anyone who needed it. We prayed for people with relational, health-based and even financial burdens. People young and old prayed together even in different languages. This was one of the most unifying experiences we had. 

You can read more of her full story at https://mcc.org/stories/learn-plan-pray-summer-service. 

Emmanuel Lindsay

Emmanuel Lindsay, of Bronx, N.Y., spent 10 weeks as a program assistant supervisor at Camp Deerpark, Westbrookville, N.Y. The camp is operated by the churches of the New York City Council of Mennonite Churches. 

What have you learned about leadership through your Summer Service experience?

What I have learned about leadership this summer is that there are many different types of leaders and leadership styles. After having multiple assistants under me from different backgrounds and upbringings, I also realized that with each person you might have to lead them or give them direction differently because they all have different strengths and weaknesses as well as preferences.

You can read more about his experience at https://mcc.org/stories/learning-leadership-skills-camp-deerpark

Jennifer Njoku

Jennifer Njoku (left) served in her home congregation, Los Angeles Faith Chapel in Inglewood, Calif., where she worked with people who were homeless, including serving lunch after church on Sunday, like she is on this photo. Njoku also helped some people to transition from homelessness to living on their own. 

What role did your faith play during this assignment?

… Sitting down, listening to the words [of pastors and teachers] and learning it is not enough. I have to practice the works or what God has instilled in me to do in my life. It’s like he has given us skills. If you don’t practice those skills … they will diminish. You have to live every day by doing something that would be pleasing to God.

[Summer Service] is an amazing experience. ... I love what I am doing. This [work with the church] is something that I will continue to do. It is now a part of me. I like doing it!

Learn more about Njoku’s experience at https://mcc.org/stories/serving-those-need-q-jennifer-njoku

Keith Butler

With his home congregation of Community Christian Fellowship in Detroit, Keith Butler (center) worked with a program for community children that included mentoring, hands-on activities, empowerment workshops and conflict resolution classes.

What is one story from your Summer Service experience that is especially memorable, meaningful or one you just think should be told? What has surprised you about your experience or about yourself so far?

I had a 16-year-old kid who came in, and he had just lost his father. … He was speaking in the language of not wanting to live anymore and that sort of thing. By the end of the program, he’s doing much better. … He’s still dealing with different things, but his whole morale is very different. 

I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve been working with kids for a little while now – that is my passion. But I didn’t realize how powerful my testimony and my experiences could be. I didn’t realize that so many young people had gone through what I went through.

Learn more about Butler’s experience at https://mcc.org/stories/leading-back-q-keith-butler

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