From the Worldwide Faith News archives

MVSer grateful for experiences

Date 21 Feb 2001 10:50:08

February 21, 2001
Beth Hawn
Mennonite Board of Missions
(219) 294-7523

February 21, 2001

German MVSer grateful for two different experiences

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

AMERICUS, Ga. (CHM/MBM) – There are many facets to Mennonite
Voluntary Service, and Jonathan Kindlein says he is grateful to
have experienced two distinctly different ones.

Kindlein joined MVS in September 1999 as an on-site supervisor of
volunteers for the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity in
Minnesota.  In October 2000 he accepted a position here at
Habitat’s international headquarters as an architectural
draftsman.  The extension to a second year of service, and the
position shift – which is more in keeping with his training as a
civil engineer – has more than doubled the value of his
experience, says Kindlein.

 “Except for working for Habitat, it’s been two totally different
experiences in every aspect,” he says as he sits at his computer
terminal, tucked into a corner beside a bookshelf full of
building codes and displays of Habitat building materials.
“There [in Minneapolis], I had to get up at 6:30 and drive to a
work site.  I was probably driving 200 miles a week in city
traffic.  Now, I’m driving not at all.  I get up at 7:45 and walk
the couple of blocks to work.”

Kindlein says the work and unit environments are also distinctly
different.  In Minneapolis, he was one of two people in an MVS
unit that was very independent.  Here, the unit has fluctuated
between nine people, including a Colombian family with two small
children, to the current five volunteers.

“There, I was the only German or foreigner in the Twin Cities
Habitat office [out of 50 staff].  Now I’m living with two other

The larger unit has helped him feel more a part of a community at
home, says Kindlein.  “The first year, the coworkers were my
family.  We had a good time, but now the unit is the family.  We
eat dinner together every night.  It’s much more structured.”

The switch also included a change of cultures, Kindlein says.
“[Americus] is a small town in the heart of the South.  The Twin
Cities is the opposite: one of the biggest cities, very wealthy,
a very advanced social system compared to other states.”

The switch has been positive, says Kindlein, but “now I
appreciate some things about my first year that at the time I
didn’t see as valuable.

“Being outside all day, I was looking forward to an office job,”
he recalls as he recounts with just a hint of nostalgia the hours
of shoveling that went into building retaining walls.  “You would
be so tired, but you had the feeling after the day that you had
accomplished something.  You had a good tired.”

The switch also meant leaving behind people, including his best
friend.  “I’ve really missed him,” Kindlein says, recalling how
he used to get a ride to work every morning with him.  “We’d
always do things together – go to concerts or on trips, play
tennis together.  We even took a road trip to Seattle.  Here I
have good relationships, but not someone I would say are lifelong

Over all, Kindlein says, the two experiences have been worth the
hassle of moving to a new place.  “If I had gone back to Germany
[after one year],” he says, “I would have missed the South, the
laid-back atmosphere.  I would have missed a whole other
perspective on life in America.  As different as they were, it’s
been good to see both worlds.  It’s definitely enriched my life.
Which is the reason I came here: to experience a different
culture, a different reality.”

Mennonite Voluntary Service 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       PHOTO AVAILABLE

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