Mennonites on a mission

Three AuGres area 18-year-olds to be missionaries in Spain, Zambia


AUGRES — Lydia Kauffman, Jake Huber and Jesse Swartz are no strangers to the Mennonite religion, as they have a combined 47-year attendance record at Riverside Mennonite and National City Mennonite churches and several small-scale mission trips under their belts. For the first time though, the three will travel overseas —to Spain to Zambia — to share the Word of God with the Spanish and African nations.

According to Eugene Kauffman, father of Lydia, the three young adults will be participating in a Rosedale Mennonite Missions (RMM), Columbus, Ohio, program called REACH — which is described on the RMM Web site,, as a discipleship training and short-term missions program for young adults, beginning with training in August for three months, and concluding with a six to nine month outreach.

“[RMM] send youth overseas on mission trips to host mission families,” Eugene said. “It’s an outreach program to spread good news of God to other countries, working with friendship evangelism.”

According to Lydia, 18, who attended AuGres-Sims (AGS) schools from kindergarten until 11th grade before transferring to and graduating from Tawas Area schools, she and Huber, an 18-year-old graduate of AGS, will be stationed in Granada, Spain for six months beginning in December.

“We’ll be working in a coffee house,” Lydia said.

Huber added faith-based musicians and speakers would most likely be brought in to help bolster interest in the evangelical dispensary.

Swartz, 18, will be stationed in Kitwe, Zambia — the second largest Zambian city — where he says he’s not exactly sure of the details regarding his mission, however, he alluded it may deal with work at an orphanage of about 300 children with AIDS (Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome) awareness, as well as the possible construction of a youth outreach center.

Eugene says the three leave Aug. 28 for Columbus where they will receive language, instructional and evangelical training until Thanksgiving, whn they’ll return home for three to four days before shipping out on Dec. 1.

“Part of the training includes cultural training,” Eugene said, explaining a key part of missions is learning other peoples’ culture to avoid instilling American lifestyles on them.

All three say they are mostly looking forward to sharing their personal relationship with Christ with the locals, growing closer to God and experiencing the different lifestyles.

“[I’m looking forward to] just getting over there and experiencing a new country, meeting new friends and experiencing new food,” Swartz, who attended AGS schools until second grade before being home schooled, said.

“Going deeper in my relationship with God,” Huber said is what he is most looking forward to.

They also say being away from family and friends will be the hardest part of the trip.

Lydia, Jake and Jesse say they’ve prepared for this trip by reading “emotional” guidebooks and talking with people who’ve previously been on trips of this caliber, also suggesting previous missions — Lydia, a Tijuana mission during spring break a few years ago; Jake, various mission work; and Jesse, three missions to Nicaragua — have helped prepare them for journey ahead.

“They (RMM) gave us a packet full of information,” Huber said.

“My sister went to Argentina, so I’ve been talking to her about it,” Lydia said.

“You just have to get it in your head that it’s nothing like the U.S.,” Swartz said. “It’s really a humbling experience to see the shacks they live in (in Nicaragua) and then to see how nice our houses are here.

“I’m not for sure, but I’m betting the [living conditions] aren’t great [in Kitwe].”

The three also say while they have plans after they return from their missions, nothing is set in stone as they all expect the mission to drastically alter their life perspectives.

Eugene says the trip will be a great experience for the three.

“[They’ll] be able to focus on other cultures and values of things we have and realizing others’ needs,” Eugene said. “It’ll be a great opportunity, when they come back, to see the complexion and diversity of the world.

“They’ll see things other places have that we don’t and vice-versa. They’ll have a good perspective of evaluating important things in life.”

Riverside Mennonite Church is hosting a fundraiser for the three in the form of a baked potato bar with salads and dessert on Aug. 7 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall in AuGres.

For more information, contact Eugene Kauffman at 989-876-6813.


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