Elizabet preaching at Doopsgezinde Gemeente Aalsmeer, the Netherlands
Photo/Hedzer de Haan

Elizabet Geijlvoet (IVEP 1995–1996) from Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, preaching at Doopsgezinde Gemeente Aalsmeer, the Netherlands

Dear MCC friends all over the world,

When asked to write a short story about my year in IVEP, I immediately said yes! because of the tremendous experience IVEP gave me. And of course, this was due to all the different people I met, became friends with and learned to respect.

I was in a period in my life and study where I did not really know what my next step would be, and the program rang a bell in my mind. I was 24 and nearly finished with my divinity studies, single, but hesitant to find an internship in pastoral care. I needed a break from the books, I wanted to see more of the world and find out more about myself.

My father said the wise words, “I heard about IVEP and maybe you should just do this!” So, I went and got an application form. But I got nervous shivers when I received the news I was admitted.

This was the first year where one was obligated to work in their own field of work (for visa purposes) and I learned I had an internship at Eighth Street Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind. I felt like Jonah being swallowed by a fish after running away from his call to serve God. But I found out I was brought exactly where I was supposed to be: doing an internship in a church. Also, I was asked to work in Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. For the second part of the year, I was the activity assistant at the Menno Haven retirement community in Chambersburg, Pa. I lived in the homes of the sweet Johnson and Martin families, being, I guess, a true pain as all young people in their 20s need to be. I have to mention Marion Mennonite Church, too. I will never forget the tremendous experience of all the songs I learned to sing and appreciate.

I can say that year set me on the right track. Nowadays I find myself with about 25 years in ministry. First, I was at two Mennonite (Doopsgezind) churches in the Netherlands. Now I am serving in a Liberal Protestant church and am the chairperson of the interreligious group for peace and understanding in my region, Friesland.

Shortly after I came home to the Netherlands, I met my husband. He is a political refugee from Syrian Kurdistan. I learned so much from him and my in-laws about the politics of the kingdom of justice and peace. We have two children, Rojda (which means sunrise) and Hozan (which means singing of justice), and they are very involved in Mennonite peace work. In 2016, my husband and I, and then again in 2019 with our children, were able to attend the Global Mennonite Peacebuilding Conferences and Festival. The first one was in Waterloo, Ont., and second in the Netherlands.

I feel very fulfilled having been in situations where I met so many people who share the belief of non-violent ways of building justice and peace. That is what I also learned during IVEP. This belief that we are called God’s people, in a positive and uplifting way, is shared by so many good people around the world. The joy of learning this at an age when one is still searching for one’s own ways of believing and living was so valuable for me. It made me so strong in my confession that although we all have different ways to express these beliefs in our everyday choices in our personal lives, we share this strong belief that we are being held accountable in the way we are peacebuilding and reconciling communities. Even if this means we have to deal with the histories of our own churches, which might have made misjudgments in the past or currently.

The Mennonite worldwide church community is built with different understandings of how the scriptures are thought about in different countries and cultures, but I had the privilege to meet so many sisters and brothers in Christ that my life has been changed and enriched even now.

Elizabet Geijlvoet from Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, lived and worked in Goshen and Elkhart, Ind., and Chambersburg, Pa., from 1995–1996.