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Growing in my faith through hosting MCC IVEPers

by Lois Thieszen Preheim

On our family farm we hosted thirty-seven Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) International
Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) visitors from eleven different countries. The young people ages
eighteen to twenty-five worked, worshiped, and lived with us; they were family. This first-hand cultural
exposure influenced our three sons as they became aware of cultural challenges. During our sons’
college years each seemed to find ways of helping other students from differing background whether it
was befriending, shopping, or studying. All in their adult years hosted someone in their home from
another country for an extended period of time. An awareness does lead to action.

We keep in touch with our international family. We have surpassed the number of having seventy
international grandchildren. And by now we are beginning to receive word of our international great
grandchildren. In retirement we have traveled to visit many of our extended family and some have
visited us.

There is one experience especially that I hold dear to my heart. It was Valentine’s Day in
2015 and my husband and I were in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa. We were chauffeured by our former
IVEPer, Samuel (his Christian name) along with two of his three sons; he had gained much experience
in driving since we had last seen him. We traversed rough roads and when the road ended we walked
for another mile to visit his Masai parents in their humble abode. We entered the earthen home, ate goat
stew, and walked around the stick fence in the center of their little village. This enclosure for their
cattle kept the animals safe from lions at night. When we parted, Samuel’s mother put her arms around
me and thanked me for caring for their son while he was in America with the MCC program. Dressed
in Masai clothing and wearing dangling jewelry she had made, she looked me in the eye and said, “We
are the bridge-builders in this world.” Our linked arms encircled each other in a hug. The exchange of gifts remains as a memo of that day.