Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network (YAMEN!) is a joint exchange program of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite World Conference (MWC). The purpose of the program is to foster cross-cultural learning and service for young adults from the Global South.
Sindy Novoa Caro lives in Bogotá, Colombia, where she belongs to the Casa de Oración church, a Mennonite Brethren congregation. In 2010–2011, Sindy served with YAMEN! in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as a teacher´s assistant in a school for children living near the garbage dump. Since her return to Colombia, Sindy has been helping to coordinate a local support network of former, current and new YAMEN! participants and people who have been part of MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program. Sindy works for Corporación Belcorp as a zone leader for catalogue saleswomen. Earlier this year, she spoke with Jana Meyer, an MCC worker in Colombia about her experience.
How did the YAMEN! experience affect your outlook on the world and on the church?
To know people who live on what they find on the street and yet continue to smile on life made me recognize how privileged [I was] to have water, three meals a day, the embrace of a mother or father, family time during the weekend and shelter at night. I got to know the value of someone who hasn´t been able to bathe but who wants your hug and who needs you to tell them that there is a supreme being who loves them and wants to care for them. Back in Colombia, I work in a different way with the people around me. Before. I might have only cared about someone´s economic situation. Now in my current work where I have to interact with a lot of people, I´m more interested in who they are as a person, how they are doing.
How might life have been different if you had not done YAMEN!?
I would be going about my life with the same lack of awareness that many in the world have. Many think that the world owes them something, that the world should be grateful for their existence, that daily blessings are a result of their efforts—not as a result of God´s mercy.
How did you grow in your relationship with God?
Although I was in a place far from my country, not knowing anyone, I never felt alone. I always felt God´s support and guidance. Every day was an opportunity to learn from God, to understand what God wanted from me during this time.
How did you grow in your vision for the church in Colombia?
I learned that the work of taking the gospel to others needs to be done in a holistic way. It’s not possible for people to hear that God loves them and seeks them, if they have not eaten for days, if there is no education for them or if an entire society rejects them. How can I presume to talk to them for 15 minutes and then leave? God wants us to come as Jesus did: giving up our blessings and offering them to the world, teaching by example and supplying physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
What is your vision for YAMEN!?
I would like to see different young people from Colombia take on this program, motivating themselves to do something for their brother or sister without worrying about the sacrifice, letting themselves be led by God. I would like to see us building relationships with our Latin American sisters and brothers and those in countries we might not be inclined to go to otherwise.
2012-2013 YAMEN! Participants
Patricia Calvimontes Arevalo, of Bolivia, serving in Guatemala; Vichara Chum of Cambodia, serving in South Africa; Fang Deng of China, serving in Indonesia; Glenda Aracely, of Guatemala serving in Bolivia, Humberto Lagos Martinez of Honduras, serving in Cambodia; MeiLing Dueñas of Honduras, serving in Nicaragua; Prashant Nand of India, serving in Indonesia; Cindy Tristiantari of Indonesia, serving in South Korea; Galuh Florentina of Indonesia, serving in Cambodia; Heri Purwanto of Indonesia, serving in Bolivia; Youa Xiong of Laos, serving in Bolivia; Maria Aranda of Nicaragua, serving in Honduras; Paola Duarte of Paraguay, serving in Mexico; Shammah NakawesI of Uganda, serving in Indonesia; Festus Musamba of Zambia, serving in South Africa; Olivia Muzyamba o Zambia, serving in Indonesia.
The above story is also available on the Mennonite Central Committee website at: http://yamen.mcc.org/yamen/en/