BOGOTÁ, Colombia – “The gospel connects us all no matter where we are,” says Laurey Segura. From Costa Rica, she lived out this realization in Cambodia as a teacher and youth worker.
Segura was one of 25 participants in Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network (YAMEN), a joint Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite World Conference (MWC) program from the fall of 2016 to the summer of 2017. YAMEN gives an opportunity to young adults who did not grow up in Canada or the U.S. to serve in countries other than Canada and the U.S.
“I was hoping to help a lot but instead, I feel that they helped me the most,” says Segura. Instead of being like an extended vacation with moments of fulfilling service, YAMEN “was also mostly a process of changes, for which I am grateful,” she says. “It was not easy but I learned a lot about myself, and my perspective of life changed – in a good way.”
Other YAMEN participants also spoke about learning through service.
“I learned to love my neighbors, to serve the Lord Jesus, to serve the community without thinking about a reward in monetary terms,” says Felizarda Atanásia Filimone from Mozambique who served as a youth worker with Creciendo Juntos at Monte Horeb Mennonite Church, Soacha, Colombia.
Seek God whenever you feel distressed, look for a friend to trust and talk about your concerns, so you do not feel alone.” — Felizarda Atanásia Filimone
Jhon Alex Martinez Lozano, another YAMEN participant from Colombia, says serving in the YAMEN program with Podcasts for Peace in Managua, Nicaragua, gave him hope “that there is a church that is at the service of people regardless of race, color or stratum.” He learned about hospitality in a deeper way, he says. “There is no distinction between people; we are all treated well.”
Before Filimone entered the program, she felt as though she had lost faith. Through YAMEN, she says, “I was expecting a change in my life; I envisioned inner peace and spiritual growth.”
The challenging moments in Segura’s cross-cultural year of service taught her to “have [faith in God] as your hope in difficult times," she says. "Despite the good or bad things, we are being formed and these experiences will become good memories, future stories and good lessons.”
Through Segura's service in Cambodia, she says, “I learned how important it is to make disciples and to stand by them before, during and after as a mentor and brother or sister in the faith."
Advice for those considering YAMEN service?
“Smile always, speak of God’s love…and talk about your country,” says Filimone. She urges people not to be ashamed of what they don’t know, but to respect and learn from others, especially those from other cultures. Future YAMENers should “share with family, friends and participate in youth meetings in the church. Seek God whenever you feel distressed; look for a friend to trust and talk about your concerns so you do not feel alone.”
Filimone adds, “Trust the direction of the Spirit of God in a way that reflects the life and teaching of Jesus, the unity of peace and reconciliation."
A Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Central Committee joint release.