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Nazareth service experience awesome!


Kayla Thiessen (right) with her friend and fellow SERVE intern, Linda from Scotland, wear period clothing for their work in Nazareth Village. Thiessen’s service experience resulted from a Mennonite Church Canada advertisement in her church bulletin.

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January 6, 2012
-Deborah Froese

Winnipeg, MAN. —  Kayla Thiessen bubbles with enthusiasm when she talks about her short term service experience via Mennonite Church Canada in Nazareth. The University of Manitoba graphic design student experienced life far away from her prairie home, learning about life in biblical times and sharing her faith with children and youth in the area.

It was Thiessen’s first time overseas, said Gordon Janzen, Mennonite Church Canada’s Mission Partnership Facilitator for the Middle East.  The experience was facilitated through a Mennonite Church Canada partnership with SERVE Nazareth.

“I had been talking to a friend about the places I wanted to go. Israel was one of them,” Thiessen said. “A week later I saw the ‘Adventurers Wanted’ ad [about opportunities for service] in my church bulletin.  I applied and it took off after that.”

With four other young adults from the US, Thiessen took part in a three month Internship, a Mennonite Church Canada program designed to help grow the Kingdom of God in Nazareth through the service of volunteers and to grow the Kingdom of God within participants.  

“We’re excited about the potential of partnerships with organizations like SERVE Nazareth. These relationships help us offer programs suitable for young people, for adults, and even for groups,” Janzen said.

After spending a week in England to prepare for service, Thiessen’s assignment took her to Nazareth, Galilee June 1 to Aug. 16, 2011. She spent two days a week at Nazareth Village where a farm and Galilean village have been recreated to represent life in Nazareth as it was 2,000 years ago. Dressed in clothing of that era, Thiessen led a donkey around the threshing floor, trampling grain from the recent wheat harvest. After wheat kernels were loosened from chaff, she picked out individual grains by hand. 

Using her her graphic design skills, Thiessen designed stationary and posters. “I confirmed my direction,” she said.  Although she has had similar work experience before, in Nazareth “I had to do it more on my own, learning how I work and how to deal with new challenges and how to adapt.”

Thiessen related to the church in Galilee through Children’s Evangelical Fellowship (CEF) camps in the area and youth groups, including those from Arab and Messianic churches.  

“They are passionate about what they are teaching, hungry to learn what God wants to say to them,” Thiessen said about the youth groups. “The only difference was of their background, so they would do some things differently. In the Arab church they have singing at the beginning, a sermon, more singing – the same as here but louder. They are more outgoing in the Arab church.”

She also became aware of segregation between communities in Israel.  While she was there, “one  Arab Christian went to a Jewish (Messianic) church on his own volition and was welcomed. They are not opposed to interaction, but I don’t think it happens a lot because of history,” she said.

The experience allowed her “… to build relationships with people in Nazareth but it also allows you to travel and get a better understanding of the Bible.”