Name: Emily Bowman
Hometown: Goshen, Ind. (Waterford Mennonite Church)
Assignment: As connecting peoples coordinator in Honduras, I support MCC’s young adult workers here, send out Hondurans to serve elsewhere with MCC and lead learning tours that bring international visitors here. I also work with the Honduran Mennonite church and Mennonite youth on advocacy initiatives.
Typical day: On an office day, I wake up at 7:30, ride my bike to the office and spend the day writing and answering emails, coordinating meetings and checking in with young adult workers, supervisors and host families. I fight computer printers, work with visa processes, translate documents and plan service weekends for youth and logistics for learning tours. Sometimes after work, I go to the gym or to church, but I usually just go home to my wonderful host family. (Other work days, I spend visiting MCC projects.)
Learning: We learn best through telling stories — our own, those of people we meet. We learn by sitting down together, by realizing that all our actions and decisions have a human impact. (Read more stories in A Common Place)
Joys: Moments when you can form real friendships with other people and be yourself, when you have breakthroughs or when you are stuck on a question and realize the complexity of an issue. Watching the progression of workers through a year of discovery. Taking people just far enough out of their comfort zone that they don’t feel paralyzed, but can free their curiosity and question their reality.
Challenge: I previously worked as a wilderness guide in British Columbia and now it’s rare that I get to be in green places with clean air. I miss that.
More on learning on the job: When I first came, a suggestion in my Honduras connecting peoples coordinator manual was that I become a “mini-expert” on everything in Honduras: from mining to birds, bananas, politics, corruption, factories, policy and gangs to wild edibles. And there is always more to learn! Honduras is a dynamic and changing country and every day there is something new in the news to think about.
For learning tours, I work with MCC partners to visit projects and learn about the work of development and peace on the ground. And I work with the partners, host families and churches as they teach and learn together with MCC’s young adult workers here.
Our partners are inspiring in their wisdom, passion and long-term commitment to their communities."
I learn something new from our partners every time I visit. With tours and workers, it is my goal to ask good questions to guide learning, to provide enough information to make people curious – not to have all the answers.
On serving with MCC: I was raised assembling MCC school kits, but now on the other end, I am beginning to see the enormity and complexity of the challenge of development on a global scale and also my complicit part in that story as a person from the U.S. or Canada. I also see the potential power of long-term partnerships and investment in communities that MCC so strongly advocates for. I am realizing that the problems are greater than I had ever imagined, but that courageous people are dreaming and working just as powerfully to realize solutions.
When people speak about bringing Jesus’ message of peace and nonviolence to the earth here... it is radical and dangerous."
What I’ve learned about faith: There is nothing polished or pretty about truly serving and following Jesus. It is sometimes terrifying. It is a huge sacrifice. Sometimes it looks like a lot of paperwork. I’ve been re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia in Spanish, and I love the image of Aslan as “not safe, but good.” Following Jesus is not safe, but it is good.
When people speak about bringing Jesus’ message of peace and nonviolence to the earth here, in the midst of gangs and violence, it is radical and dangerous. For many Hondurans, faith is a lifeline. People do not have trust in their government, insurance agencies, health care or police. Instead they trust in God. In the U.S., I find that I have many institutions I depend upon to take care of me instead of relying on God. Maybe it’s ok, but maybe there is also a lesson to be learned in that.
What sustains me: Faith that God is using our flawed hands and feet and minds to bring the kingdom of God to earth. I have to believe that change is possible, even if that change is just me. Once you get into the details of development work, there are very few easy or straightforward solutions.
It’s important to be aware of the massive need. But I also look to see the first small plant growing out of a recycled tire in a vulnerable community, a returned young migrant graduating from a course in mechanical engineering and finding employment, a young adult worker in a one-year program who came with no Spanish giving a 20-minute discourse on his culture to a room of 100 other youth in Spanish.
I am sustained by the determination and hope and resiliency of our partners and by the curiosity and wisdom of our workers. I am sustained by gingerbread house decorating with all the little girls in my neighbourhood, by cool breezes and worship and walks with friends.