First, I think a short introduction is in order before I begin. I am a university student. I live in a city of about 750,000 people that has a large Mennonite population, but in addition to that, I live in the ‘Mennonite suburb’ of the city, where Mennonite churches are found every block and everyone is related to their neighbors. I am Mennonite, and proud of it:). And I have now officially, after many months of reading the articles but not participating, joined YAR. Upon the recommendation of my good friend ST, I accessed this site and found myself part of a community much different than my own.
When I began reading the articles on YAR, I did not know what to expect. ‘Young Anabaptists’ I understood. But ‘Radicals’? Weren’t those just our ancestors, people from years ago who fought for a bible in the vernacular, for the believers baptism and for a right not to enter combat? We don’t still have ‘radicals’ now do we? By this point, I can only imagine what many of you are thinking based on my naive and ignorant questions. However, I currently find myself within a community, a church family and a school environment that is, sadly, apathetic. With so many resources accessible for me to access global news, with so many protests, rallies and demonstrations happening to raise awareness for good causes, and with so many people around me suffering from my ignorance, why is that I rarely feel compelled to do something? I have participated in missions trips, I have spent time in the inner city with homeless people and prostitutes and I attend a University right in the middle of the most impoverished area of the city, and yet I have managed to remain in my bubble, separating myself from the things that are too difficult to acknowledge.
So how did this happen? Not that I intend to place all the blame on my community, because I am most definitely at fault as well, however, how did such a large community become so ignorant to the world around them? How is it that my Mennonite Brethren church can have a mission statement that describes their desire to serve their community, yet not know their neighbors? Why do my friends’ parents discourage them from participating in missions trips and rather pay thousands of dollars to take their family to Mexico for a vacation? Although these people are my neighbors, my family and my friends, it saddens me to think that this is my community.
This past year I took a class in religious studies at my university and we discussed the concept of institutional completeness, and the example that my professor used was Mennonites. While at first I laughed, agreeing that I knew Mennonite bankers, lawyers, electricians, teachers and travel agents, it hit me later on in the day that I was a prime example for this illustration.
So now what? I don’t want to be remembered (or perhaps not remembered) as the person who comfortably lived in her Mennonite community, oblivious to the world around her. But I also don’t necessarily feel the need to join in every march, petition, demonstration and rally. I still want to make a difference. And I want to do it in a way that makes my neighbors and friends come to see that the world is so much bigger than their own backyard…