Monday, 1 September 2014

How MDS Impacted My Life

The following is a brief talk I shared last week at MDS's closing ceremony in Staten Island.  I was asked to share on how serving with MDS impacted my life.  For those who couldn't be there, here it is.  This is the end of a chapter of my life.


I'm Margaret Neufeld, 22, and from Ontario.  I first found out about Mennonite Disaster Service a year and a half ago, from a radio ad in my town, and since then, I have spent 20 weeks volunteering here in Staten Island.  Most of that time, I have served as the Office Manager here.

The impact that MDS has had on my life is hard to put into words, because it has been so great.  So much so, that it has even compelled me to resign my job in order to come back here and serve.  I remember when  I first went home in April 2013 after being here for one week, how so many things in life seemed so insignificant and I knew I had to come back.  It has been an incredible opportunity for me as a young woman to serve and give myself to something that has been so meaningful.

MDS has allowed me to apply my administrative and leadership skills in a non-profit project.  The way in which MDS has involved me and so often invited my input has made me feel valued and allowed me to grow rich in experience.  I never felt like "just a volunteer:"  In the 20 weeks that I have spent here, I have sanded drywall, painted, cooked, cleaned, learned to identify a lot of different tools, kept the books, crunched a lot of numbers, assigned rooms to volunteers, wrote reports, and a lot of other things I won't mention.

For me, serving with MDS was an avenue to demonstrate my faith.  As it turned out, it also increased my faith many times.  I never would have imagined spending my summers in New York City volunteering in a disaster response project.  I have seen the Lord open doors when things looked impossible and have been able to spend much more time here than I expected.  I praise God for that.  There have been many challenges, many long, tiring days, and much budgeting at home to make it possible for me to go months without an income so I could be here.  Some would call it a sacrifice.  I consider it a blessing.  It has been rewarding beyond anything I could do for myself.  I have stored up memories, made new friends, learned from experience, discovered many of my strengths as well as many of many of my weaknesses, and become a richer person because of it all.

In the past year and a half, Staten Island has become a home, and the people a family.  Within the walls of this seminary and on this island, I have laughed, cried, loved, prayed, succeeded, failed, hurt, and healed.  I have lived life here.  I have met around 400 different volunteers, not to mention all the clients, staff, partners and church family.  I have lived and worked alongside amazing people who have been there to support me, cheer me on, help me recognize my potential and caused me to dream again.  Romans 12:15 says "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."  I have experienced that here time and time again.

MDS has shaped so much of who I am.  I look forward to hopefully one day sitting down with my children and telling them the stories of what I did during this time of my life, the people I met, the memories I made and the way it changed me.  I will miss this place and all the people here, but it will always remain a part of me and I know that many of our paths will cross again.  Thank you, MDS, for letting me be a small part of this project.

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