From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Serving others, and learning from them

Date 14 Feb 2001 13:10:15

February 14, 2001
Beth Hawn
Mennonite Board of Missions
(219) 294-7523

February 14, 2001

Service Adventure:  serving others, and learning from them

Grant Rissler is serving through Mennonite Voluntary Service as a
writer and photographer.  After spending a year as intern at the
Mennonite Central Committee United Nations office in Manhattan,
he is traveling for five months by bus to 20 other MVS and
Short-Term Mission sites, gathering the stories and experiences
of other volunteers and communities.  A weekly column by Grant
can be found on the web at

RALEIGH, N.C. (CHM/MBM) – Serving is about giving, say the
members of the Raleigh Service Adventure unit, but what they’ll
remember in the years ahead are the things they received.

“It’s an eye-opener,” says Andrew Weber from Baden, Ontario, of
his six months of service in Raleigh.  “There’s a lot more going
on than I thought there was, a lot more I can do than I thought I

The Interfaith Food Shuttle, Weber’s morning workplace, is
evidence of possibilities turned into reality.  The organization,
funded by faith groups and staffed by volunteers, picks up the
produce, baked goods and packaged products that area supermarkets
and doughnut shops throw out because they are no longer “fresh.”
The trucks also gather the unused food from buffets at
restaurants – food that is still good if refrigerated and
reheated properly, but food that the restaurants cannot sell.
The volunteers then deliver the food to shelters, halfway houses,
and other organizations needing food.

“When this place started (a decade ago), it was two people and a
station wagon,” Weber comments as we walk into the parking lot
where four 20-foot box trucks sit outside a warehouse.  Inside he
shows me the walk-in refrigerator and several dozen shelves of
food.  Each week they shuttle hundreds of pounds of edible, but
discarded, food to those who need it.

“A lot of our clients are African-Americans, and it was really
intimidating being a young rich white girl and asking them [in
entrance interviews] who they are and why they’re here,” says
Anna Ruth Hershberger from Goshen, Ind.  Hershberger works
mornings at the Urban Ministries Crisis Intervention Center,
which provides showers and a safe place for homeless people, as
well as targeted financial employment assistance for unemployed

“I mean, who am I to ask that?” continues Hershberger.  “It
wasn’t until I could start thinking about how they give me
something back that I was comfortable.  The interviews are so
amazing.   One, who was about 80, was really sweet.  I asked him
the typical questions about his income, his gas bill.  When I
looked up, there was a tear running down his cheek.  I learned he
had just been diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have the money to
deal with it.  There are a lot of people hurting, but certain
ones just strike you.  But they [also] inspire me; they give me

Being touched by others’ lives has affected Hershberger’s
thinking about her future as well.  She joined Service Adventure
partly because she didn’t want to go to college right away.  Now,
she looks forward to bringing her experiences into a college

“In school, it’s so self-centered.  Watching people my age,
they’re so focused on fitting in that they don’t realize the pain
that goes on around them.   Now I have a wider view that I’m not
the only person, and I don’t take it for granted that I can go to
college.  Taking a break has made me go back and really want to

Part of the learning for the unit also comes from their
supporting congregation, Raleigh Mennonite Church.  Eleven years
ago, the primarily Caucasian congregation moved its meeting place
to the Hope Elementary School, where several Service Adventure
participants work, just two blocks from what was Raleigh’s
largest public-housing complex.  That continues to be an example
for participants.

“The church is so wonderful,” said Christine Plett, a former
missionary kid in Nicaragua whose most recent of 17 homes is
Winnipeg.  “Being a pastor’s daughter and having lived in so many
churches, I’ve seen a lot of communities.  Here, they’re so great
at welcoming people in, but also at sending people out into the
world (to do missions and service).”

For Mary McMahon, who also works at Urban Ministries in the Open
Door Clinic and the homeless shelter for men run by the
organization, one of the lessons comes from being away from home.

“I like people needing me to help.  [But the distance] is the
hardest thing for me, being 700 miles away from home and getting
a call [about a problem] and you can’t fix it.  But then, that’s
taught me the power of prayer.”

A few hundred pounds of food later, as we drive through downtown
Raleigh, Weber stares out the windshield.  “I’m going to miss
this place when I’m done.”

Service Adventure is a joint program of the Commission on Home
Ministries of the General Conference Mennonite Church and
Mennonite Board of Missions of the Mennonite Church.

* * *

Grant E. Rissler       PHOTOS AVAILABLE

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