This summer (2018) four Bethany students participated in !Explore, a summer theological exploration and gift development program of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Ind, for students in grades 10-12. Pictured above with the other five high school participants and two pastors are (beginning third from left): Elizabeth Eby ('18), Peace Muhagachi ('20), Sasha Dyck ('20), and Elaina Youngberg ('18). [Photo from AMBS}

Sasha reflects on her experience:

What we did:

During the two weeks we were together as a group we were based at AMBS. However, on the second day, our group went to Amigo Centre, a Mennonite camp, to embark on leadership training with Cheryl Mast. We did team building exercises, such as trust falls from a five-foot ledge and obstacle courses (outside in the 90 degree weather) which made things challenging, but we made it through :) I think we all learned a lot about ourselves and each other that day. We piled into the van and cooled off with some ice cream from a local shop before heading back to AMBS.

We spent about every other day on campus, and those days were always pretty scheduled. We'd start by waking up and having morning prayer all together between 7:30 and 8:00. After breakfast we would go to our Theological Exploration Groups in the AMBS Library. Our group of nine youth was split into two groups; each led by an AMBS professor. We had two-hour sessions, talking about our theological questions as a group, which we had thought of prior to the program. We had lunch at noon and then had some down time before heading off to our service locations, LaCasa in Elkhart and Greencroft in Goshen. We then headed back to campus and had some more free time before dinner.

Throughout the two weeks, we had several sessions with AMBS faculty on ministry skills, such as Pastoral Care, Preaching, and Worship Leading. Then each night we had prayers at 10:00. A good portion of the program was spent traveling to different areas of the Midwest, learning about how Christians of different backgrounds live out their faith. One day we went to Hungry World Farm in Tiskilwa, Ill., where we learned about the community’s commitment to sustainability. We also spent time at the Our Lady of the Road Church, an institution committed to helping those dealing with homelessness. We helped serve these people breakfast and sat down and talked with them.

My congregational experience isn’t finished yet, but I’ve done a number of things so far at my home church, Belmont Mennonite. As part of the program, we each choose three ministry skills to develop in our church. Mine are preaching, visitation/pastoral care, and discernment. I’ve gone on multiple visits with both my pastors and have attended meetings with the Safe Church Group at Belmont to figure out how we discern locking our doors on Sundays. (I was there when we made the decision to not lock the doors during the service). I’m also going to help plan a Sunday school class this fall based on new curriculum that MCUSA is implementing. And to fulfill the preaching piece, I preached on Sunday, August 5, on my theological question for Explore, which is "What does it mean to love our enemies?"  I’ve spent a good deal of the summer in the office that my church gave me for the summer, working on developing these three practical skills.

What I enjoyed:

Honestly, I enjoyed all of it! But my favorite part of this experience was getting to know all the incredible people in our group. Our group of people was so diverse in background and personality. It was so fun to be a part of the mix of cultures and different beliefs. Even though we were all so different, our group just clicked. We became a family so fast. I guess when you do EVERYTHING together, it’s inevitable that your group becomes like a family. It was amazing because all of us cared about one another and loved each other for who we were. Our group is already planning our reunion :)

We loved to have fun. On one especially hot day, some of us had a water fight. We also played games. “Body Body” became one of our favorites (which is ironic because as Mennonites we are pacifists, yet in our free time we played a murder mystery game). We played it so often that eventually we grew tired of it.

Besides just hanging out, I really enjoyed planning an AMBS chapel. It was completely planned and led by our Explore group. We picked the passage, organized and led the music, wrote homilies, and created the worship visual. It was powerful to me to realize that we put together an entire worship service on our own, and it was great to see it all unfold.

Another of my favorite things about this program was that I got to see all the amazing places and organizations that are right in our area! I had never been to and had never heard of a lot of the places we visited. For example, we went to an Oak Savanna in South Bend. We took 30 minutes to simply “be” in the beautiful shaded areas. It was probably the first time a bunch of us had alone time; it was a much needed reprieve from all the busyness of Explore.

How I grew/learned about my faith/ministry:

The idea was reinforced in me that as I continue my journey, I want to be alongside fellow Christians, with whom I can relate, learn together, and share God’s light. Being in Explore reminded me of how much I enjoy meeting new people and that being around others is really important to me. I was also reminded that regardless of where I go or what I do in life, I want God and my faith to be at the center. That is the most important thing. That doesn’t mean that I need to go into ministry directly, but I want my career choice to be a reflection of my faith.