From back left to right, these YAMENers are Gabriel Goddard (South Africa to Colombia), Nathanial Hembram (India to Colombia), Jason Were (Kenya to Cambodia), Rastone Hamapande (Zambia to Cambodia), and Kimleng Chung (Cambodia to Nicaragua). MCC photo/Min Panyakom

Sandra Reisinger, MCC representative for Myanmar, wrote the following reflection:

In July I was in Cambodia, where I was privileged to listen to stories of international service from 16 young adults representing 13 different countries. They had all gathered to debrief after a year of service in Africa, Asia and Latin America through YAMEN, Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network, a joint program of Mennonite World Conference and MCC. They all served in a country that was not their own nor in Canada or the U.S.

All 16 young adults have been:

  • Building bridges of peace, connection and understanding across the globe. 
  • Stepping out in courage as they set aside jobs and schooling and left the security of their families to serve and learn.
  • Venturing through enormous airports on their own to reach their destinations. (After years of travel, I know just how incredibly brave they were to do this.) 

And now, they are returning home. Some have already arrived into eager mothers' and fathers', sisters' and brothers' arms. Tables laden with their favourite foods await. Friends are eager to see them—themselves having lived through changes like new babies and marriages and losses. It's an exciting time of reunions and reconnecting.
 

From left to right, Marselina Wamebu (Indonesia to India), Joanna Sommer (France to Laos), Cecile Titianma Sanou (Burkina Faso to Uganda), Ariana Ribeiro De Souza (Brazil to Ukraine), Chunlei Xun (China to Colombia), Sokea Iem (from Cambodia to South Africa), Sonephan Lakongseng (Laos to Honduras), Tamarischa Putri (Indonesia to Colombia), Primadinar Ratri (Indonesia to South Africa),Tirzah Halder (Bangladesh to Nigeria) and Susma Rasaili (Nepal to Cambodia).MCC photo/Min Panyakom 

These 16 also go home deeply changed by their experiences. We heard stories of new self awareness, great faith, dark days of loneliness and fear, and friendships forged across differences in faith and culture. We heard about plans and goals for how they will carry this experience home: changing careers toward more intentional peace building work and changing majors towards social work and peacebuilding.

Gabriel Goddard from South Africa told me how he plans to cross the road that divides his white community from a black community to build relationships with the youth. I remember his words:  "I'm becoming aware of my white privilege, and it's really disturbing me."

I wish all of them 'wings of eagles' as they return home, reshaped to walk into what their futures hold. May they hold onto the bravery and courage that carried them through days of loneliness and homesickness, eating new foods, living in foreign family homes. May they be persistent as they were in language learning to hold onto the people they have become. May they go with patience and wisdom as they cross new new cultural divides as they return. May they hold onto their faith to see them through the joys and pains of coming home changed. 

To learn about the experience of other YAMENers who held their re-entry retreat in Colombia, read "Spanish-speaking YAMENers face unique challenges in Latin America" in English and Spanish.

YAMEN participants who gathered in Colombia paused for a photo. From left to right are Dina Molina (Honduras to Bolivia; Jhon Alex Martinez Lozano (Colombia to Nicaragua); Felizarda Filimone (Mozambique to Colombia); Marlly Ordoñez (Honduras to Bolivia); Juliana Arboleda (Colombia to Bolivia); Laurey Segura (Costa Rica to Cambodia); and Juan "Beto" Torrico (Bolivia to Mexico); Not pictured: David Jose Davila. MCC photo/Marisol Pena 

Make a difference