BVS celebrates 75 years, volunteers attend mid-year retreat

By Walt Wiltschek

As the celebration of the diamond jubilee of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) continues, stories continue to pour in from people telling about the impact BVS had on their life. New stories are still being written, too, with 27 BVSers in the field currently, and more signing up for orientation this summer and fall.

Flocking to Florida

Each year, current BVSers in the US gather for a mid-year retreat to take a break, talk about their experiences, re-connect with one another, and prepare for the remainder of their service time. Last month, 20 volunteers (including two German volunteers serving with other placement organizations) met at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla., to share that time together.

Current BVS director Chelsea Goss Skillen, recent interim director (and long-time former director) Dan McFadden, and interim FaithX/short-term service coordinator Marissa Witkovsky-Eldred facilitated this year’s retreat, which included discussion and conversation, a service project at the camp, relaxation and games, and a trip to the beach.

We wish all our volunteers well as they finish up this year at their projects!

BVS Unit 333

Find your thrills at Inspiration Hills! This Church of the Brethren camp in northeastern Ohio will be host to this year’s BVS summer orientation Unit 333, and it’s promising to be a very good one. At least 15 people already have signed up to be part of it, and we would be glad to have some more join the fun.

Projects are available across the US, in Central America, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Japan, and elsewhere. Learn more and apply at www.brethren.org/bvs.

Marking 75 years

One of the places people are coming together to mark the 75th anniversary of BVS is on Facebook. A “Brethren Volunteer Service-75th Anniversary” group has been created, and more than 430 people have joined as of mid-April. An exciting flurry of photos, stories, and other recollections have been filling the page’s feed. Go to www.facebook.com/groups/709470850904528.

The group at the BVS mid-year retreat. Photo courtesy of BVS
The BVS 2023 Project Book listing the project sites where volunteers may serve this year is available on request from the BVS office. The project listings also are online at www.brethren.org/bvs.

Please pray… For the BVS volunteers who are serving across the US and in various countries around the world. Pray that their time of service will be a blessing to them and to others.

About 40 people met at Carlisle (Pa.) Church of the Brethren on March 26, sharing stories, hearing updates, and connecting with one another in celebration of BVS’ 75th anniversary. Former BVSer Burr Beard and others from the congregation put the enjoyable event together. Three current BVSers–Ben and Valerie Brubaker and Chloe Soliday–started things off by talking about their orientation and the experiences they’ve had since. Many others followed by sharing their BVS memories.

A BVS 75th anniversary tour will include several stops in the coming months, with staff visits and some special publications:

— Interim FaithX/short-term service coordinator Marissa Witkovsky-Eldred will be sharing about BVS with youth and advisors at Christian Citizenship Seminar in Washington, D.C., this week–as well as sharing ice cream with the group.

— BVS director Chelsea Goss Skillen will be sharing a workshop on the BVS anniversary at the Illinois/Wisconsin District “Potluck Experience” event in Dixon, Ill., this weekend.

The new BVS 75th anniversary book, A Year of Living Differently: How Brethren Volunteer Service Changed Our Lives Forever, compiled by Brethren author James H. (Jim) Lehman and published by Brethren Press, will debut this summer. Pre-order the book at www.brethrenpress.com.

At Annual Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, the BVS Luncheon on Wednesday, July 5, will feature author Jim Lehman speaking on “A Year of Living Differently: Celebrating 75 years of Brethren Volunteer Service.” BVS staff also will be sharing and participating in other events throughout the Conference.

— A cluster of articles in the July/August issue of Messenger magazine will highlight the anniversary.

Contact the BVS office for promotional supplies and other resources to hold local celebrations of the 75th anniversary of BVS.

Find this information and more in the latest BVS newsletter at https://mailchi.mp/brethren/bvs-news-2023-4?e=df09813496.

— Walt Wiltschek is part-time office coordinator for Brethren Volunteer Service as well as half-time district executive minister for Illinois and Wisconsin District. Chelsea Goss Skillen and Jan Fischer Bachman also contributed to this report.


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