East Coast and Central States IVEPers canoeing together
Photo/Caitlin Jones

East Coast and Central States IVEPers canoeing together during their combined retreat at Brethren Woods Camp and Retreat Center in Keezletown, Va.

In early December, the East Coast IVEPers gathered for a winter retreat. During that time, we enjoyed some American holiday traditions, visited famous Philadelphian landmarks and reflected on our learnings this past year. It has been a learning year for all of us. The IVEPers, as they learn a new culture, work in a new job and develop English language skills. And me, the process of learning a new role as I joined MCC this past June.

I am constantly impressed watching our IVEPers as they navigate all these new things and I think often of the joys and challenges that come with these experiences. Trying something new demands humility, as there are mistakes made in the process. On both our retreats, we had the opportunity to try out canoeing and paddle boating, which both were fun, but also challenging. One of the canoes flipped on the first trip, and on the second trip, the boat seemed to stop paddling in the middle of the lake. There were moments of stress in each of these challenges, but they also provided an opportunity to learn and work together.

Trying something new engages our minds, expands our ways of thinking and allows us to develop new skills. Even more importantly, learning something new helps us to understand ourselves and one another in deeper ways. In conversations with IVEPers, the challenges of practicing a language that is not a native language often comes up. In my own language learning (I’m currently working on Spanish), I recognize the difficulty of using the limited vocabulary I have to try to explain something that I don’t have the right words for. It’s a challenge when you can’t express yourself or the thing that is on your mind! While it can be a frustrating process, it offers the opportunity to learn more about a different context and be able to better relate to others in a new way. It’s an encouragement to learn along with this cohort of IVEPers and I look forward to continuing to learn with them as they move through their year of service here with us.