Abby Endashaw, MCC young adult program coordinator, reflects on the life-giving aspects of the Hope for the Future conference.
This blog is part of MC USA’s Hope for the Future series.
Abby Endashaw is a featured speaker at MC USA’s 2024 Hope for the Future gathering in Dallas, Texas, Feb. 9-11. She works for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States as the young adult programs coordinator. Born and raised in Aurora, Colorado, Abby has recently relocated to Dallas, Texas, the ancestral lands of the Wichita, Tawakoni, Kickapoo and Jumanos Indigenous Peoples. Her MCC work emphasizes community-centered programming, antiracism education and supporting local partners doing peace and justice work. Before joining MCC, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and master’s degree in professional counseling from Dallas Baptist University and worked as a community therapist for children and women survivors of trauma. When Abby’s not planning young adult programs or zipping around with MCC’s international volunteers, she is likely clicking “play next episode” on Netflix or feverishly preparing for one of the three book clubs she is in at the moment!
Visiting Ethiopia in 2018 with my family was lifechanging. There, in a rural town, my grandmother sat beside her children, her children’s children, her neighbor and her neighbor’s children, drinking buna (coffee) and chatting. People came in and out, saying hello, stopping for a fresh cup and meal as they walked by before carrying on their day.
My maternal grandmother, on the other hand, lives with my family in the United States. Emaye never learned English, to our benefit. She raised my cousins and I to speak Amharic, eat injera and to pray using stories of loved ones we would never meet. Now, most of the cousins have graduated, some have moved away, and many have entered the workforce. Her life is quieter with fewer responsibilities and fewer visitors. Life in the United States and life in Ethiopia offered my grandmothers quite different lifestyles, especially in their older years.
Last year, Netflix released a documentary series called “Live to 100: Life in the Blue Zones,” which featured communities who live long and full lives. Some of the takeaways from this documentary are expected: physical movement (exercise) and healthy, plant-based eating are keys to longevity. Others are less expected. According to the research, loneliness alone can take 15 years off our lives. Living in community with a sense of purpose, however, can increase one’s lifespan. One 96-year-old woman living in Okinawa, Japan, advises that forgiving quickly and playing are the secrets to longevity. A centenarian in Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean, attributes faith and hope as the top contributors to her long life.
This research is particularly interesting for those of us living stateside amid a loneliness epidemic. Living is more expensive, work is all consuming, and if we do not schedule in advance, we may not see our loved ones. Millennials have a word for the incessant monotony we experience, “chasing our tails.” And trying to keep up with the world around us – we call it “adulting.”
And yet, this lifestyle is not inevitable. The research in this documentary and the stories of our elders teach us that we can create ways of living that build community, strengthen our faith and lighten our burdens.
My experience at Hope for the Future in 2023 was “life-giving.”
Unlike conferences that are scheduled top to bottom, Hope for the Future is designed with participant needs for rest and play in mind. Life-giving moments of laughter and playfulness can be found when we do not overschedule agendas. Here, we celebrate our unique, varying and beautiful cultures through salsa dancing, storytelling by elders and breaking bread together.
While the world is often divided by our differences, Hope for the Future is uniquely positioned to allow Anabaptists of color, across all age groups, the opportunity to worship together. The act of worshipping with someone who I may not attend church with inspires a life-giving kind of hope.
This year continues the tradition of life-giving community gatherings among Anabaptist leaders of color as Hope for the Future takes on Dallas, a city I have called home for several years now. I invite you to join us, with open hearts, as we generously give ourselves to one another, knowing that we are far better together than we are apart.