Bogotá, Colombia – “The gospel connects us all no matter where we are,” says Laurey Segura. She lived out this realization as a teacher and youth worker with the help of Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network (YAMEN), a joint Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite World Conference (MWC) program which allowed the Costa Rican Mennonite to serve in Cambodia for a year over 2016–2017.
“I was hoping to help a lot but instead, I feel that they helped me the most,” says Segura. Instead of being like an extended vacation with moments of fulfilling service, YAMEN “was also mostly a process of changes, for which I am grateful,” she says. “It was not easy but I learned a lot about myself and my perspective of life changed – in a good way.”
“I learned to love my neighbours, to serve the Lord Jesus, to serve the community without thinking about a reward in monetary terms,” says Felizarda Atanásia Filimone from Mozambique who served as a youth worker with Creciendo Juntos at Monte Horeb Mennonite Church, Soacha, Colombia.
Seek God whenever you feel distressed, look for a friend to trust and talk about your concerns, so you do not feel alone.” — Felizarda Atanásia Filimone
Life’s difficulties can lead to despair, but serving in the YAMEN program with Podcasts for Peace in Managua, Nicaragua gave Colombia Mennonite Brethren Jhon Alex Martinez Lozano hope “that there is a church that is at the service of people regardless of race, colour or stratum.” He learned about hospitality in a deeper way, and that “there is no distinction between people; we are all treated well.”
Before she entered the program, Filimone felt as though she had lost faith. Through YAMEN, “I was expecting a change in my life; I envisioned inner peace and spiritual growth.”
The challenging moments in Segura’s cross-cultural year of service taught her to “have [faith in God] as your hope in difficult times. Despite the good or bad things, we are being formed and these experiences will become good memories, future stories and good lessons.”
Through her service with Youth Equipped with Skill of Internship Center, Develop Our Village Economy in Phnom Penh, “I learned how important it is to make disciples and to stand by them before, during and after as a mentor and brother or sister in the faith,” says Segura.
Advice for those considering YAMEN service?
“Smile always, speak of God’s love…and talk about your country,” says Filimone. She urges people not to be ashamed of what they don’t know, but to respect and learn from others, especially those from other cultures. Future YAMENers should “share with family, friends and participate in youth meetings in the church. Seek God whenever you feel distressed, look for a friend to trust and talk about your concerns, so you do not feel alone.”
“Trust the direction of the Spirit of God in a way that reflects the life and teaching of Jesus, the unity of peace and reconciliation,” says Filimone.
A Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Central Committee joint release.