by Jordan Penner

[Note from the Rocky Mountain MCC Sale Coordinators: We put out information about $ amounts raised, and programs that benefit from MCC programs worldwide, but know that a personal story really says more. Therefore we have asked Jordan Penner to write an article for ZING. We have found him to be very knowledgeable about MCC and has volunteered for the program. There are many persons within the Mountain States Conference who have served with MCC. We know a few but far from all. If you would be interested in sharing your story, please contact us. Richard and Linda Wyse, Rocky Mountain MCC Sale Coordinators, 303-399-1428, rlwyse@comcast.net]

Just over a year ago, my wife Jenny and I returned from a three-year service term in Bolivia into the loving embrace of a hot, Central Californian day and my entire immediate family. We returned to the states, as most MCCers do, with a suitcase full of lessons-learned and questions still unanswered.

A year later, we’ve finally settled in Denver. We’ve still got a suitcase with a mix-up of things sitting in California, and today I wonder if perhaps I also left that bag of lessons and questions unpacked and neglected as well. Being back with MCC (as a Donor Relations Associate), and now being settled into life here, I guess it’s time to do some unpacking.

And what better place than ZING, a publication I heard about yesterday!?

What does it mean to “serve?” I believe strongly in the ethic of service that Jesus modeled for us in his life. However, “serving” others can become problematic if we do not have the right mind-set. Serving others can become paternalistic, for instance, when we don’t recognize others’ strengths and our weaknesses. “Service” with MCC can imply that the only way to do service is to move to another country. In fact all of us – the most rich and the most poor – are beautifully susceptible to those divine nudges toward service. We should all strive to be servants, and of equal importance, allow others to serve as well.

Our youth are pretty great: Sure, sometimes they go on a three-day hike in a foreign country while serving and do not bring along adequate food. But seriously, there are a great many college-aged youth and recent college graduates who are both service minded and also capable of taking direction and working with people very different from themselves. I watched youth slip into service roles with supervisors and coworkers that had different political persuasions, skin colors, mother-tongues, different class and national backgrounds, and different cultural assumptions. I observed MCC partners and MCC workers both show lots of grace towards each other despite their differences. In our current political environment in the US, this ability to build meaningful relationships with people very different from oneself is very important.

MCC’s people-centeredness is its greatest strength: You could give to an organization that just hands checks over to great local organizations in Bolivia. MCC also gives grants to great local organizations, but our work goes much deeper than that. We get to know the partners and people we work with. MCC cares about our partner organizations, and they care about us. I don’t know if that sounds like an important statement for people who have not worked in the field of international development, but establishing mutual accountability in partnership, and even more, mutual care and respect, is not something that is done lightly, easily, or without failure. But I think MCC does this very well, and I believe we do it well because of the abundance of great people who work with us.