EMM sends its first U.S. YES team in a decade

Baltimore unit serves inner-city neighborhood

Nov 24, 2014 by and

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BALTIMORE — This fall Eastern Mennonite Missions sent its first U.S.-based YES team in 10 years. The team, made up of four young adults between the ages of 18 and 21, is partnering in mission with Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church in inner-city Baltimore.

Esther Choi, in red jacket, and Evan Courtney, in black jacket, play with neighborhood children during an outreach event in Baltimore. — EMM

Esther Choi, in red jacket, and Evan Courtney, in black jacket, play with neighborhood children during an outreach event in Baltimore. — EMM

“I’m really excited about this team serving in the U.S.,” said EMM discipleship coach Troy Landis. “This generation of young people has a call to serve locally even as they connect globally. Urban areas are appealing to them, and those are the areas on our radar for future YES team locations.”

After two weeks of training, the team began service in Baltimore at the end of September. The team, made up of Esther Choi, Evan Courtney, Brianna Maust and team leader Maria Nissley, is tutoring students and helping teachers at Mount Clare Christian School three days a week and teaching English to immigrants at a local church building. Team members are also meeting neighbors and praying with them.

Glenn Kauffman, bishop of the Baltimore-Washington District of Mennonite Church USA’s Lancaster Mennonite Conference, contacted Landis about sending a YES team to Baltimore. Kauffman had extensive experience hosting YES teams in Hong Kong when he served as an EMM missionary there.

Landis and Kauffman met with district leaders to talk about bringing a YES team to the area, and decided the Wilkens Avenue congregation would host them.

“I really appreciate this partnership because it feeds into what’s already happening in Baltimore, and local YES alumni are mentoring the team,” Landis said. “This lines up with our vision for EMM and local churches working together to mobilize and equip young people for ministry.”

Lia Kauffman, who served on a YES team to Indonesia, and Nate Thorne, who served in Guinea-Bissau with YES, both in 2012-13, are mentors for the Baltimore team, organizing training sessions every Thursday. Training sessions include one-on-one mentoring as well as teaching and training sessions led by outside speakers.

“This team is open to transformation in their own lives and to seeing it in the community,” said Lia Kauffman. “I do not feel qualified to lead, as I am either younger than or only a year and a half older than the participants. But God is super gracious, and he provides creativity and inspiration.”

Lia Kauffman and Thorne are excited about the potential that domestic YES teams have for spreading the gospel in the U.S.

“Gospel seeds being planted in Baltimore and other cities must be nurtured and watered so that the fruit of transformation in people’s hearts and lives comes forth,” Thorne said. “YES teams sent within the U.S. can help to nurture and water seeds already planted, and also plant new ones.”

The last YES teams to serve in the U.S. served in Connecticut and Alabama, both in 2004.

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