Name: Hyacinth Stevens
Hometown: Bronx, New York (King of Glory Tabernacle)
Assignment: As New York City program coordinator for MCC East Coast, I build relationships with the New York City Council of Mennonite Churches and its 18 Mennonite congregations in New York City and Connecticut. I also supervise the New York Mennonite Immigration Program, a program of MCC and the council.
Prayer and keeping Christ at the centre of the work and my relationship-building with partners is essential."
Typical day: Starts with prayer for balance, focus and navigation. These three components that begin in prayer are the heart of my day. Balance because, in addition to my MCC role, I’m a wife and mother of four children ages 15, 10, 7 and 5, and a co-pastor with my husband Benjamin. Focus because there is always so much to be done. Listing tasks and priorities helps me track progress—and provides a cushion for the temptation to feel overwhelmed. Our congregations with their demographic, ethnic and cultural diversity are like a microcosm of the world. Navigating this cross-cultural experience calls for active listening, engaging and developing relationships—all central to building and working together.
Joys: Working with our partners in New York is exhilarating. Having the opportunity to see and share faith lived and expressed through giving, serving and working collaboratively is a constant joy and renewal of spirit.
Challenge: Time and having enough of it! Almost all of our church leaders and pastors are bivocational, which presents a challenge for finding times to meet and plan together. Being flexible is a must. I have met with leaders at 8:30 at night because that was the only time when everyone was available.
What people should know about MCC’s work in New York City: The most surprising and recurring statement that people say is, “I didn’t know there were Mennonite churches still in New York City,” or “I didn’t know there were so many Mennonite congregations in New York City, 18 wow!” I want people to know the Mennonite church is ALIVE in New York City with congregations that are consistently engaging with their community and context.
How I first encountered MCC: Over two decades ago I connected with MCC as a Summer Service worker and then as a one-year worker for my local congregation … really telling my age here. Both service opportunities provided mentoring and professional development. But most of all, my heart was sealed with a passion for ministry and service.
I, like many other leaders, am a testament to how MCC’s young adult programs can lay a foundation for a life of service. When I see other Summer Service workers in my context, I look at them with great expectation thinking, “Where will you be leading or serving next?” I had no idea at the time of my service what was next for me. However, I attribute much of my preparation and readiness to the service I did through these MCC programs.
On giving and receiving through MCC: My New York City partners value missions. They support missions abroad as well as local mission initiatives. In the last few years, the New York City Mennonite congregations have committed to annual giving through the collection of varied MCC kits. In 2014, the group gave supplies for more than 300 hygiene kits and last year the congregations were collecting for MCC East Coast prisoner care kits.
We want to participate in the work of being Christ’s hands and feet. Through MCC kits and groceries, we extend care and love to someone who is in a dry space, in the wilderness."
MCC East Coast also has partnered with New York City congregations in giving out supplies. For instance, through the grocery bag ministry, churches receive bags full of groceries which can be given to the elderly or to mothers and children in housing shelters or used for food pantry donations.
As part of our immigration work in New York, children in families who had recently arrived from Honduras were given MCC school kits as part of a local church initiative. The 2014 Summer Service worker at our congregation, Tiara Downer, held a back-to-school cookout and gave out school kits to children whose families had limited resources. For these families, receiving that from the church, receiving that without any strings attached, it was a way of showing God’s love. It’s like, “You are the God who sees me. You are the God who knows me.”
We want to participate in the work of being Christ’s hands and feet. Through MCC kits and groceries, we extend care and love to someone who is in a dry space, in the wilderness. It might seem small, but any promise can bring hope. For me, behind each kit is the faith of the person who put it together and behind that faith is love. That’s part of what we’re sharing.
A treasured Bible verse: Proverbs 3:5 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.”) With confidence I trust in the Lord with all my heart the He will lead and guide me to do his will and work.