Stefanny Sierra Mendoza, an IVEPer from Colombia working the register at Nearly New MCC Thrift Shop in Reedley, Calif.
MCC photo/Carol Peters

Stefanny Sierra Mendoza, an IVEPer from Colombia working the register at Nearly New MCC Thrift Shop in Reedley, Calif.

I remember one occasion when someone told me, "keep smiling because it is your precious treasure." I immediately smiled at that moment, but then I kept the phrase in my mind. I tried to understand what that meant. During my service as an IVEPer, I have been living good and bad moments, and the challenge is how to manage them through Jesus' way.

First, I have the opportunity to serve in three different places — Nearly New MCC Thrift Shop, the Mennonite Quilt Center and the material resource center located in downtown Reedley, Calif. It sounds complex, but I'm grateful for it. I like to have a dynamic schedule and constant learning. Each place is unique, but they have something in common — each place is helping people. At Nearly New, through their sales, they're allowing the community to buy good stuff at low prices. The quilt center is a way to collect resources for MCC and a place where people can express their emotions and thoughts through their quilts and comforters. The material resource center offers relief through different kits to help the most vulnerable people worldwide.

Thanks to the different ways to help others, I have served with a good attitude and offered my experience and knowledge in different areas. My first impression when I arrived in Reedley was the manner in which volunteers and workers are passionate and enthusiastic about the work they do. The majority of them are retired, others are still working, but they come after their job or on their days off. My reflection about it is how God uses our lives and abilities for an important cause, sometimes it’s difficult because those places are busy most of the time.

I often feel exhausted at work but the volunteers are my best inspiration. Having the opportunity to take a break and enjoy the food with them is the best part. Second, because it is a space where everybody shares a little about their life and experiences, these moments also allow us to create a relationship and with time, they are like family. Their warm personalities helped me not feel homesick because they treated me with respect and love, looking out for my well-being.

One specific moment I want to share was at the beginning when I was learning to identify U.S. coins — the currency in Colombia is pesos, so these were different from what I was used to. To help me understand, my coworker Albert Triviño pasted the value of every coin on the register so I could give correct change to the customers. I was very thankful to Albert for doing that for me. I thanked him with a smile, full of gratitude.

Having the opportunity to continue my service to God during this program is amazing, and I learned that it depends on me how I want to volunteer and share my testimony. I have been trying to keep my smile and share it with others, mainly with the customers and all people I meet. I learned that time is valuable and passes quickly, so we don't have time to waste on worries. We have to try to approach every moment and live every day as the last one, walking in faith and working to find God's purpose in our lives.

Jesus is our support in every moment. As the Bible says in Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. But also, I enjoyed God's love in every place where I could be away from my country and still enjoy the warm sun, a vast blue sky that I think here is closer than in Bogota, different landscapes, trees and flowers but all created by God. My experience is to feel his presence and love through all of that and, most importantly, receive his smile from the heart.