The following piece is the first entry in our new Anabaptist Young Adults in Mission Blog Series, sharing reflections on Anabaptist identity and engaging in different cultural contexts than one’s own. The author, Wanza Mwenda, is currently working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partners in her home country, Kenya, where she builds sand dams to support agricultural initiatives.
For eleven months I volunteered at Coneflower Farm in Illinois, a thirteen-acre plot of land with three acres in vegetable production. We grew leafy greens, squash, herbs, berries, potatoes, and peppers, among other things. The farm also raises chickens for eggs, and goats for milk and cheese. We sold the produce through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and farmers market. At the farm my work included raising and transplanting seedlings in both the open field and the green house, weeding, hoeing, harvesting, and washing the produce to be ready for the market.
In Kenya I worked with an organization that partners with Mennonite Central Committee in the construction of sand dams in vulnerable communities. In 2014 I learned that we were to receive a volunteer from the Serving and Learning Together program (SALT). I did not know anything about the program, so began asking a lot of questions about it. The more I asked, the more I became interested in volunteering. I began to pray, and I saw my prayers answered when my human resource manager called me in her office and asked me if I was interested in participating in an International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP), and I said yes. I applied to the program, and, though I faced many obstacles in applying for a passport and the visa, the desire for service remained. And so I continued to pray. Though at times I wanted to give up, I knew God was with me. After much prayer I received my passport and visa.
From Akron, Pennsylvania where all of the IVEP volunteers had our orientation, I was sent to Coneflower Farm in Illinois. I had hoped to make friends with more people my age, but I could not find any. I began to ask God to show me how to use my time—possibly by finding a Bible study or prayer group that I could attend, even if it was only once each week. After several days I met a girl, with whom I began to chat with regularly, and eventually visited. During this visit, all we could talk was about was what it meant to follow Christ. The more we talked, the more I realized that God had brought her into my life, and that we might positively impact our community. We talked often and agreed to host a prayer meeting once each week. Though it began with just the two of us, our circle grew. Two guys our age joined us, and then two others. In total, we are now six young adults meeting once in each week. Even though one member is now busy with summer camp, he remains with us in our prayers.
Being in a new community is very different—the way of worshipping, the food, the culture, and the tradition are all new to me. Everything is different and sometimes it is difficult to adapt. But the whole experience has enriched my faith and has been an answer to my prayers. God’s presence has been with me throughout.
If you would like to contribute to this blog series, we are still accepting submissions in any language, so if you are a current or former volunteer in mission and would like to share how God is at work in your community, do let us know! Email Sarah Werner at firstname.lastname@example.org.