Micah Brickner

Micah Brickner

The General Fund is allocated toward recruiting, discipling and commissioning workers for the mission field, some of the cost of worker support, updating constituents through publications like Missionary Messenger, salaries and benefits for the staff who support these activities, and much more. It enables EMM to scout out new and pioneering mission locations in areas of the world where the church is in need of support, and to empower our local and international partners to multiply their ministry efforts in their communities. In short, the General Fund is essential to all areas of EMM’s mission.

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High School administrator, J. Richard Thomas, discovers the strengths of students who take a gap year.

“A wise person changes his/her mind, but a fool never does.” This is one of many sayings that I recall from my parents. It continues to guide me and helps me better understand life. Not all mind changes indicate wisdom, but neither is it wise to refuse to be open to the spirit, conversations with others, or personal observation.

A recent mind change for me has been my move from opposing a gap year between high school and college to supporting a gap year for many students. This break between high school and college has long been a tradition in Europe, and there has been a 20% increase in the number of students in the U.S. taking a gap year between 2006 and 2014.

Gap year benefits

Data is showing that “gap year students” demonstrate improved academic performance and experience easier job placement upon graduation. In addition, they:

  • Overwhelmingly report being satisfied with their jobs after college
  • Have a better sense of who they are as persons
  • Have a better understanding of other countries, people, and ways of living
  • Have additional skills and knowledge that contribute to their academic major and career
  • Report that a gap year had an impact on their academic major and career

Forbes Magazine says that “many of the benefits of taking a gap year are difficult to quantify: maturity, confidence, and a refined sense of direction.” Ethan Knight of the American Gap Association says that a gap year helps students to answer questions about themselves and to define what success looks like to them.

I began to rethink the gap year as I worked with international students at Lancaster Mennonite High School, and also as I observed other students for many years. I realized that an extra year before college can be beneficial for success in college and beyond.

More than just a year off

A gap year needs to be more than just a year off between high school and college. It needs to be planned to take the student beyond his/her comfort zone, to include time away from home (often in another country), and to involve service and spiritual growth. EMM offers a faith-based gap year experience that includes holistic personal growth and being a witness to the way of Jesus Christ in our world. It is gratifying to see our church agencies provide Anabaptist faith-infused gap year programs that lead to self-understanding, adventure, and growth in maturity and in the way of Jesus.

During the past 10 years, 29 LMH graduates have spent a gap year serving through short-term EMM programs. Other graduates have served in programs such as Radical Journey (Mennonite Mission Network), SALT (Mennonite Central Committee), and YWAM (Youth With a Mission) discipleship training schools.

Katie Rutt, a member of the LMH class of 2015, is taking a gap year serving with EMM in Honduras. I believe this will build on her LMH experience and equip her for success in college and career because of the proven benefits of the gap year experience.

So — although 15 years ago I discouraged a gap year, now I encourage students and parents to consider this experience through one of our church agencies’ programs.

Dick Thomas serves as superintendent of Lancaster Mennonite School. He enjoys observing the transformation of lives brought about by a Christ-centered educational community.

Daryl and Gina Beiler reflect on their experience of walking with three of their daughters who decided to take gap years.

My wife, Gina, and I try very hard to stay connected with each of our children. We knew that our daughters Mallory, Allison, and Sadie had all taken very heavy course loads in high school and had worked very hard, and we felt it was important for each of them to have a break from school. None of the three really knew what they wanted to do next; they were looking at colleges but weren’t finding great fits. Each of them individually then came up with the idea of doing missions for a year, and they came to us saying that this was what they felt God calling them to.

When they presented their ideas to us, my gut reaction was, “Why do you want to do this?!” But I caught myself immediately and recognized that they were seeking to do God’s will, and that this is a good thing. I particularly hate saying goodbye, so it’s very hard to send our children out. I have many mixed emotions. To other parents in this situation: I’ll cry with you and pray with you! But it’s also a gift to welcome them home again. God has been good. Our hope as parents is that they will be able to reflect on these experiences for the rest of their lives.

It was especially hard to send Allison, because she was headed to Nairobi, Kenya, just at the time of the Westgate Mall attacks there. Mallory had come home from Kenya just two days prior, and in fact she regularly went to a café at the Westgate Mall for her downtime. We had to trust God for our children’s safety in new ways.

It’s important to know your child well, and work to stay connected. We tried our best to be there with and for them, and to not force our way on them. We feel especially glad that our children were able to make these decisions on their own; missions wasn’t an idea we pushed them into, but they came to us and said they felt a need to do it. God has answered our prayers that they would take their spiritual lives seriously. It wasn’t easy for us to allow them to go overseas, but we felt it was best for these three. Every family, and every child, is different. I wouldn’t make a blanket statement that this is best for every child; I’m not sure if it’ll be the right thing for all six of our children. But for these three, it fit with who they are and what they needed.

After Mallory came home from Kenya, Lancaster Bible College’s missions classes drew her. She’s focusing on the missions curriculum, and she’s preparing to go to Macedonia with a group on spring break. I believe she’ll be involved with missions in one way or another for the rest of her life. Our fourth daughter, Natalie, is also considering how to combine missions with her medical pursuits.

Their time in missions gave our daughters space from schoolwork, and it gave them real-life experience. It didn’t force them to make immediate decisions about the rest of their lives. We encouraged them to take the time and be present, see what it’s really like in these other places, get to know themselves, and expand their horizons. After they came home and went through re-entry, then they could start to make decisions about the future and discern where God was leading.

Daryl and Gina Beiler are the parents of Ross, Mallory, Allison, Sadie, Natalie, and Heidi. Mallory, Allison, and Sadie have served on gap year assignments with EMM in Kenya and Southeast Asia.

Katie Rutt

served on a short-term assignment to Honduras.

Q: Why did you decide to take a gap year?
A: It was a combination of things, really. I pushed myself very hard in high school and I was feeling a little academically burned out, so I wanted to take a break from the books for a bit. I also really wanted to work on my relationship with God. Some things had happened in the past couple years that I needed space to process and to really seek God’s will for me in those areas.

Q: What do you hope to gain from the experience?
A: I hope to gain a deeper understanding of God and his love. I also want to become as fluent as possible in Spanish and to have a new appreciation for life and different cultures.

Q: How is the experience changing you?
A: I’ve realized how self-centered I am without knowing it. When I first got here, I assumed that everyone who spoke English thought in English. I have no idea why, but I did. I’m also learning how to process things on the fly and to be able to make games out of nothing, when we need to keep the children occupied but don’t have any supplies.

Q: What new ideas and skills do you hope to take into your next stage of life? How will these help you in the future?
A: When I return, I’ll be studying occupational therapy and I’m really hoping to work with kids one day. I’m very thankful for the chance to learn about how a different culture views children, and I hope to apply that to my work in the future. The language will also help since there are many Spanish-speaking families in the U.S. I’m also learning how to be more flexible. I love routine, and so not always knowing what is going to happen each day can be stressful to me, but I’m learning how to roll with the punches. That will help me later because I’ll be able to think more quickly about things and respond to changes differently than I would have before.

Q: How do you hope learning Spanish will affect your future?
A: I hope I’m able to connect with people on a different level using my Spanish. There really is nothing like hearing your mother tongue in a foreign country. I hope to work with a lot of Spanish speakers in my job and to help them feel more comfortable.

Quentin Clapper

took a 2014 – 2015 gap year with EMM in Kenya.

Q: Why did you decide to take a gap year?
A: I was planning to attend university this past fall, but during my K-team experience with EMM last summer, God spoke to me through my youth leader and an EMM intern about taking a gap year. I talked with God and my parents about the opportunity and decided to delay college.

Q: How has your gap year experience changed you?
A: I know more clearly when God is talking to me. I have learned patience and trusting God. I am better at valuing people and connecting with them.

Q: What new ideas or skills will you take with you into college as a result of your gap year experience?
A: I will take the skill of listening to God for His will in my life and use it to the best of my ability. I now understand the difference between being a disciple and just a Christian. With this, I hope to influence my generation to leave the domesticated church and live out their faith in a way more like the original followers of Jesus did.

Hadassah Stoltzfus

took a 2014 – 2015 gap year with EMM in Chile.

Q: Why did you decide to take a gap year?
A: As I was graduating from high school, I had a pretty good idea of what and where I wanted to study. However, I decided to take a gap year to “expand my horizons” a bit and experience a different culture. I saw an EMM opportunity to teach English in Chile, and I hoped to get some real-life experience before getting a degree. I was also hoping the experience would give me an idea of whether or not long-term missions would be for me.

Q: How has your gap year experience changed you?
A: At the start of my gap year, I did not think I had many expectations. I thought I was simply doing the program to serve God and learn whatever it was He wanted to teach me. I realize now that I subconsciously thought going to a different country would be a bit more of a dramatic, exciting experience than it was, and that I would surely feel fulfilled and joyful, as I would be dedicating almost a year to “service.” In reality, we did not have as much to do as I expected, and I spent long periods of time examining my life and my relationship with God. I realized I was not as open to what He had for me as I had thought, and that surrender is a hard pill to swallow. I learned that serving God can look different than doing work with tangible results and does not necessarily lead to always feeling fulfilled and joyful. Sometimes you cannot see the results of what you are doing or what God’s plan is in all of it, and God is silent. It’s hard. But God is still good, Jesus is still worth it, and I am learning to believe that God’s plan is bigger than what I am capable of seeing.

Q: What new ideas or skills will you take with you into college as a result of your gap year experience?
A: Due to constantly being surrounded by Spanish, I now know what it is like to feel completely isolated because of a language barrier, to feel left out because no one will talk slowly enough for me to understand. After experiencing this, I hope to be more inclusive of people for whom English might be a second language, or who simply have a hard time fitting in.

Since November 2015, EMM has been developing a plan for the 450 North Prince Street property purchased in September. Based on internal discussion, as well as consultations with numerous city pastors, non-profit leaders, and other interested persons, we have agreed on a vision for our city presence.

What began the process of EMM deciding to purchase a building in Lancaster City?

Over the years, various EMM personnel have explored the idea of relocating the EMM administrative offices to Lancaster City. Personnel explored various options and opportunities, but did not move forward with any of them. The discussion for a possible relocation emerged again in 2013 when President Nelson Okanya and the EMM Leadership Team commissioned an Innovation Group of EMM staff members. The Innovation Group was given this single question, “How might we create a stronger organizational culture of creativity throughout EMM?” One of the things coming out of the Innovation Group was a rebirth of the idea of EMM moving to the city. This included looking at several properties as well as delving into reasons/strategies for moving to the city.

Why would EMM move to the city?
Our vision for a city presence is continuing to develop. Key statements from our original vision document include:

  1. We envision staff members being an incarnational witness in a more populated location.
  2. We envision EMM facilities in a location with greater proximity to partnering congregations and other ministries.
  3. We envision EMM connecting more intentionally/naturally with a younger, urban-oriented population.
  4. We envision EMM in a commercial environment with proximity to business and professional environments.
  5. We envision EMM’s cross-cultural expertise being multiplied into new ministries and partnership opportunities in an urban context.
  6. We envision a corporate culture characterized by skill in changing and adapting to a changing world, because of the daily practice of working in an urban context.
  7. We envision enhanced opportunities for missional and discipleship training in an urban context.
  8. We envision a strengthened team environment with all staff functioning and relating in one building.

How does this property purchase fit into the broader EMM vision?
EMM’s presence in Lancaster City is a commitment to be involved in discipleship and mission locally. We aim for local involvement to complement and support our work elsewhere around the world. Increasingly, our constituency tells us that they want to be involved locally as well as globally. We see our potential involvement in Lancaster City as one expression of our local involvement.  

Is EMM planning to move all of its staff to North Prince Street?
Yes, EMM is planning to move its administrative offices downtown as progress allows.

What funds did EMM use to purchase the building?
Nearly half of the funds came from a property fund account that had been set up years ago when EMM sold buildings in Salunga and elsewhere. The remaining funds came from equity funds (reserves). The purchase was a board-approved decision.

Does EMM have a comprehensive business plan for creating a presence in Lancaster?
EMM leadership created a full business plan early in 2015. The business plan includes vision statements and rationale, the relocation process, stakeholders’ perspective and communication with them, property assessments, and other practical details. Initially the plan called for a capital campaign to occur before EMM purchased a property. EMM dropped the capital campaign as outlined in the plan when the seller reduced the price of the building by nearly 50 percent. We have developed a capital campaign to renovate and partially endow the building's use.

Why did EMM purchase the building on such short notice?
On June 1, 2015, the seller offered the building to EMM at a significantly lower price than had been previously listed. The seller gave EMM a few days to make a decision. EMM leadership (including the board) considered the options: Do we let this opportunity pass or do we purchase more quickly than we had anticipated? The location, size, quality, and greatly reduced price of the building led EMM leadership toward a decision to purchase the building. EMM acquired the building for $1,044,000. The original list price was $1,940,000.

How old is the building? Is it in good shape? Has it been inspected?
The building was inspected by fire, building code, and city inspectors prior to the purchase. The building is fully up to code including the fire sprinkler and alarm system.

How is the interior of the building constructed?
The building is a total of 32,000 square feet. This includes 21,000 square feet of finished space and 10,000 square feet of indoor parking. The indoor parking spaces are in an underground and first floor parking area accessible from the rear of the building. The finished internal layout is primarily office space. There is a large open area on the first floor. There is a second floor three-bedroom apartment on the Water Street side (rear) of the building.

What is the history of the building?
The North Prince Street building was built in 1923 as an auto dealership. Eventually it was sold to a land developer, who leased it to Newsletters Ink, a marketing company. The building has been mostly vacant for the past number of years.

Does the building have adequate parking?
The building comes with 12 outdoor parking spaces and 39 indoor parking spaces.  

For comparison purposes, what does EMM own in Salunga?
EMM owns three adjoining properties in Salunga, Pa. The appraised value of the Salunga properties totals approximately $1 million. The Salunga campus includes a total of approximately 20,000 square feet of building space; the primary working space is used for 35 individual offices, three conference rooms, a mailroom, and a large assembly room. The Salunga campus includes 62 parking spaces.

podcast

EMM workers Karen and Michael Baker were obedient to God’s call to West Africa despite the risks. Now living in a village with no running water or electricity and minimal healthcare, they and their five children have experienced both the challenges and the joys of following God’s call.

Focus is a weekly 3 minute radio program which airs on WDAC (94.5 fm) on Saturdays at 8:55 p.m. This program aired on Saturday, January 23, 2016.

podcast

As Germany continues to wrestle with Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, EMM workers in the city of Halle, Germany, have joined in the emergency relief efforts.

Focus is a weekly 3 minute radio program which airs on WDAC (94.5 fm) on Saturdays at 8:55 p.m. This program aired on Saturday, January 9, 2016.

podcast

Staff with the Micro Enterprise Development program have opportunities to build relationships and foster openness to change. They want to see transformation in people’s livelihoods, and ultimately to see Jesus transform their lives. The program teaches biblically based financial principles and provides mentoring and small business training.

Focus is a weekly 3 minute radio program which airs on WDAC (94.5 fm) on Saturdays at 8:55 p.m. This program aired on Saturday, January 2, 2016.

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