Valeriia Alipova
MCC photo/Rachel Bergen

Valeriia Alipova, 20, recently finished working at Bethel Mennonite Church as a pastoral assistant through MCC's Summerbridge program.

When Valeriia Alipova was a child living in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, she received an MCC school kit containing items she couldn’t find in her hometown and decided she wanted to work for the relief, development and peace organization one day.

Now 20 and living in Winnipeg, Alipova took part in MCC’s Summerbridge program at Bethel Mennonite Church working as a pastoral assistant.

The Summerbridge program is an eight to 12-week summer opportunity for young adults of diverse cultural backgrounds. Participants are paid to serve in their home congregations and communities, taking on important projects and responsibilities to support the work of the church.

For Alipova, the experience truly was fulfilling.

“My faith is associated with relief, development and peace. For me, Summerbridge is bringing together my faith and a dream of working for MCC,” she explains.

That dream goes back to her childhood and adolescence in Ukraine, she says.

My faith is associated with relief, development and peace. For me, Summerbridge is bringing together my faith and a dream of working for MCC." - Valeriia Alipova

“I received a school kit in grade five and it was an amazing present for me. I opened it and there were crayons and fancy notepads and in Ukraine I couldn’t find anything like that,” she recalls fondly.

There were also some practical reasons for taking part in the program.

Alipova is entering her third year at Canadian Mennonite University where she’s studying psychology, peace and theology. She’s using Summerbridge to fulfill the practicum requirement of her degree and putting her studies into practice.

Alipova worship leads at Bethel Mennonite Church as part of her pastoral assistant role.Photo submitted by Valeriia Alipova

This summer she led worship, preached, visited members of the congregation at home or in hospital and organized a community festival.

“I’m practicing the tools I learned in school. It’s impressive how much these things are connected – biblical and theological studies, psychology, peacebuilding and ministry. So many pieces of puzzles are coming together and creating a beautiful picture,” Alipova says.

Alipova says this summer made her look at her faith in new and different ways.

“This work changed a lot how I see the faces of Jesus in the incredible energy of young children, in the faces of those at St. Boniface hospital who don’t have much energy, as well as the people who invited me into their home and shared their food and stories with me,” she explains.

I'm practicing the tools I learned in school... So may pieces of puzzles are coming together and creating a beautiful picture." - Valeriia Alipova

Summerbridge also prompted Alipova to consider a career in ministry.

“One of my main goals was to be a marriage and family therapist. It’s still kind of what I want to do, but I also want to do something connected to ministry now so I can do some pastoral care and work with youth,” she says.

Alipova enjoyed her Summerbridge experience so much she wants to do it again.

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