Janine Bergey, Rockhill Mennonite
On Sunday, March 25, a group of 75-100 assorted youth, parents and young adults forsook their afternoon naps to gather at Franconia Mennonite Church for Why Object?, an event that included worship, discussion and pizza and was jointly sponsored by youth leaders from both the Franconia and Eastern District Conferences and the Peace and Justice Committee. Titus Peachey of Mennonite Central Committee presented an interactive approach to the topics of military enlistment, conscientious objection and voluntary service. If anyone assumed attending meant spending three entire hours seated and chewing gum to stay awake, I assure you this was not the case. I was out of my seat as much as I was in it as an activity used our positions in the room to show where we stood on certain topics: spending a year or more in voluntary service; chocolate; cell phones; Jesus in the military; patriotism in the United States. How do I feel about chocolate? I know that answer with clarity and great confidence—but my stance on military service as Christ-like service is less sure-footed.
As I listened I heard people speaking of peace and of justice. How do they balance? Why do we object to the violence that has desensitized us? And too, why do we serve? I sometimes feel the uncertainty of where to place my growing feet while walking the path of Jesus. The group that gathered Sunday afternoon spent some time contrasting two oaths: That of a U.S. service person and that of a follower of Jesus. It boiled down to seeing that the first pledged to follow the President and honor the country, where the latter pledged to follow Christ and honor his broader, international kingdom.
During the afternoon we acted out the story of the conflict between the Israelite nation and their neighbors the people of Aram in 2 Kings 6:8-23. Even from my lofty role as â€œKingâ€ in our spontaneous skit, I wrestled with the choice that lay in my hands as the conflict was not so much between people groups, but more so the clash between emotions over what God would ask of me and what the people would see as just. What choice was the best to make? Mercy didnâ€™t quite make sense even with the wise counsel from our resident prophet Elisha. Yet in this account from Scripture mercy became the move that was made. The captured army was not only released unharmed they were also fed! The surprising result: Peace!
To serve: When? Where? How? I asked these questions with greater intensity the further I got past high school graduation. It took a three year season of actively waiting, working at whatever my hands found to do or was asked of me, until an opportunity arrived in spontaneous form. After spending my 6th summer on staff at Spruce Lake Wilderness Camp, I was catching up on the phone with a long-time friend who shared with me her recent commitment to spend a year in Guatemala teaching English. At that time I was open to walking through any door that opened since I had no specifics lined up for that fall or beyond. In that moment on the phone with my friend I felt a pause that felt like desperation. It seemed that peers all around me were finding direction for their lives and I wanted the same. I had prayed for it. Almost in jest I asked her if there was the need for more teachers in Guatemala. The next few months were anything but spontaneous as that inquiry became a God-directed decision that put me in Mazatenango, Guatemala for 17 months.
I taught English to children and their little faces upturned to mine as their tongues jumbled the sounds of a new language. I lived with and was taught by a community of all ages. I walked the streets of a place that was beautiful because I had been there long enough to call it mine. I learned about the global body of â€˜mi Jesucristo,â€™ and that the way to worship and experience the love of Christ is a multi-lingual, active process. Sights on the streets of â€œmyâ€œ little Mazatenango became integrated in my daily life. Drunks sleeping on the sidewalks; watch your step. Horses grazing randomly; drive around that one please. Maids to do the laundry; no honestly I do this myself at home. No Adopt-a-Highway or front lawns. The place and people worked their way into my heart. Now I see differently. I think differently. I serve differently. The story is longer and ever so full of details, but here I bring out this thought. The choice to serve in this place for this time was a God-given desire, because I desire God. I seek for his heart to be my heart, wherever I am.
I chose to serve and that choice changed my life. Not to say that life would not have changed had I chosen a different path with different people. I ask, along with many of you: To serve or not to serve? When are we merely serving ourselves and when does our focus turn outwards? What causes the change of heart? What is required of us all as we profess Christ with our lives? I have often experienced the powerful pull of servant hood as it brings people into that buzzword of Christian faith today—community. I know it is often used and broadly defined, but I’m a fan. Service crosses boundaries–any time, any age. Doesnâ€™t it need to? What other way can one willingly become part of a greater movement; a larger body of people?
Janine “Bean” Bergey is involved in the community of faith at Rockhill Mennonite church and will serve as the girls head counselor at Spruce Lake Wilderness Camp this summer.