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Sithabile Ndlovu, a participant in the Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network, leads a song during a commissioning service at Akron Mennonite Church. Brenda Burkholder

Sithabile Ndlovu, a participant in the Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network, leads a song during a commissioning service at Akron Mennonite Church. Brenda Burkholder

Young adults from around the world begin service assignments

Tim Shenk
August 21, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – When Sithabile Ndlovu learned at her church about volunteer service assignments in other countries for young adults, she knew it was something she wanted to do.

"It has always been my wish to travel," says Ndlovu, who attends Pumula Brethren in Christ Church in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, a Mennonite World Conference (MWC) member church. "It's as the Bible asks of Christians – it says we have to go to different places to represent our God."

Ndlovu, 23, is one of 126 young adults from around the world who are beginning one-year volunteer assignments with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Nine international young adults are serving in international assignments through the Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network (YAMEN!), a joint program of MCC and MWC with priority given to exchanges among churches in the global South. Fifty-four U.S. and Canadian young adults are entering international assignments through MCC's Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program; and 63 international young adults are serving in Canada and the United States through MCC's International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP).

YAMEN! is intended to strengthen relationships across the global Anabaptist community. YAMEN! places single, international young adults, ages 18 to 30, in service assignments with churches and church organizations in another country. YAMEN! applicants are selected by their churches in consultation with MCC and MWC. More information is available at mcc.org/yamen.

Ndlovu, who most recently worked as a schoolteacher in Zimbabwe, is beginning a YAMEN! assignment as a librarian at a center for Low German-speaking Mennonites in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

While Ndlovu does not yet speak Low German or Spanish, she says she is eager to learn from her experiences in Bolivia and serve as an "ambassador" of her country and faith community.

Ndlovu also explains that she is glad to serve with MCC because of her appreciation for MCC's work in her community. When Ndlovu was in high school, MCC helped to pay for her school fees, she says. When she was younger, her Sunday school classes were often taught by former IVEP participants who shared about their experiences in Canada or the United States.

Ndlovu and five other YAMEN! participants attended a week-long orientation session with SALT and IVEP participants in Akron, Pa., which began Aug. 10.

A smaller orientation session was scheduled the following week in Ontario, Canada, for 10 IVEP participants who did not receive U.S. visas, and three YAMEN! participants were scheduled to attend orientation sessions in the countries of their assignments.

Ron Flaming, MCC's director of international programs, spoke to the larger orientation group during a commissioning service at Akron Mennonite Church and reflected on the power of relationships to transform a person's worldview.

"You represent more than a hundred ambassadors to engage in this kind of transforming relationship," Flaming said. "In the end, this may be more important than anything else you accomplish in your assignment, as important as that may be."

Ray Brubacher, MWC liaison for YAMEN!, expresses appreciation on behalf of MWC for the work MCC does in administering YAMEN! for the benefit of the global church.