Issue 3       February 2018
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In this Issue
  1. Meet an IGH Board Member  -  Elham Eftekhary
  2. Who has been  Volunteering (Aug-Dec 2017)
  3. Recent Guests at the Guesthouse
  4. Newest Additions to the House
  5. Reflections by the Miller Family
  6. Call for Volunteers
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The International Guest House is a non-profit house owned and maintained by the Allegheny Conference of Mennonite Church USA. We are run by an all-volunteer staff eager to show the love of Christ through the ministry of hospitality to guests from all over the world. We look forward to serving you!
IGH Webpage
Meet an IGH Board Member 
Elham Eftekhary
Some incidents in your life are not accidental; they happen for a reason. They happen to make you grow, to change your life, to challenge you and to stay with you as a valuable memory forever.  Whenever I think about the time I was volunteering at the International Guest House, my heart fills with joy and happiness and I can't help smiling. I’ll never forget the day Cindy Lapp recommended that I volunteer there, even though she said she was not sure if I’d like it or not.  Now I believe it was one of the best experiences in my life. 

It was so interesting that from the first day I met Cleta and Orv Gingerich, who were volunteering there as a management team, I knew we would start a life-long friendship. Being with them made me feel at home.  I started volunteering at the guest house in September 2014 for 8 months and every moment that I spent there was a new lesson for me. I didn’t know how deeply it could affect my life. 

The welcoming people, spiritual environment, and the unique management encouraged me to go there 3 days or sometimes 4 days a week. I loved those moments around the breakfast table with different people from all over the world praying, eating and talking about different topics. I can still smell those fresh muffins in the morning, which take me to happy memories of the simplicity and peaceful environment which made everybody feel at home.

I was practicing my faith every day and I could feel it. I learned how to control my anger, how to trust people, how to love those I had never seen in my life, and how to discuss my opinion without hurting anyone’s feelings. I also learned how to serve people humbly without any expectation from them. The first days I began cleaning the bedrooms, it would upset me how carelessly the guests would leave them for me to clean again the next day. But I was surprised how quickly I began to accept that this was part of my mission.
The most important thing from the Mennonite tradition which affected me was practicing what we preach: How to be caring and useful to the people we are around and getting along with people who I had a hard time with and also praying for them.  I also learned how to be patient  and respect everyone with every culture and religion.

I remember how hard it was for me sitting around the table with one of our guests who was talking about polygamy and patriarchy in Saudi Arabia.  When he was asked whether his wife travels as well, he said his wife’s duty is to stay at home with the children.  Those kind of views made me feel uncomfortable and I left the table with anger, which the guest noticed. Feeling unsettled, the next day I brought up what happened with the team at lunch.  After having an eye-opening discussion, I learned that even though I disagreed with him, I should have maintained my respect for him because he was our guest.

When I think about how I am in in my current job, even during tough times, I see that much of the patience I have is thanks to the collection of lessons I learned during my time at the International Guest House.

I always cherish the memories I’ve had with Cleta, Orv and Liz, and I am grateful to Cindy for leading me there. 

These words are now my mantra:
I will stay kind
 Even if no one appreciates my kindness
I have a God that makes it all up to me.

Elham Eftekhary
Elham spent 8 months volunteering at IGH in 2014-2015.  She has been a member of the IGH Administrative Board since October 2017.
Who has been  Volunteering

 Aug-Dec 2017

Betty and Jonathan Schrag 
Indiana  (Current hosts
through May 2018)

Cynthia and Roger Neufeld Smith
Kansas (2 months)

--I saw IGH as being most significant as a vehicle for bridge-building when guests from very disparate backgrounds had meaningful, respectful, open conversations around evening tea or morning breakfast.  Those opportunities are very rare in life, and IGH provides a unique environment where that can happen.  On a personal level, I loved living and working together in Christian community with the other volunteers.  We bonded quickly over shared values, goals and tasks, and meaningful conversations.  Working at IGH was a treasured time!

Clair and Joel Cannon
Pennsylvania (2 months)

Janis and Sheldon Burkhalter 
Oregon (3 weeks)

--Memories abound! Of many engaging stories shared with guests from multiple communities enriching our lives. Of teaming with staff in house cleaning and meal preparation paired with time off for touring the stimulating museums and sites of DC.

Madelaine and Phil Friesen
Saskatchewan (5 weeks)

--Meeting guests from all over the world, camaraderie with fellow volunteers and generous time off for sightseeing made for a memorable stay.

Tammy Martin 
Pennsylvania (10 days)

--The whole experience volunteering was a great experience. So well organized and easy to learn what to do. Such an interesting experience meeting people from around the world. 

Ginny and Herb Buckwalter
Ontario (2 weeks)

Sharon and Ed Heide
Ontario (5 weeks)

--Our SOOP assignment at the International Guest House was a richly rewarding experience, hosting guests from around the world while also exploring some of the city’s very appealing features including free Smithsonian museums.

Jane and Frank Yoder 
(arrived in November for 5 months)

Staff outing to National Arboretum: Left to Right:  Betty Schrag, Clair and Joel Cannon, Cynthia and  Roger Neufeld Nafziger.
Phil and Madelaine Friesen,  Janis and Sheldon Burkhalter
Julie Swartzendruber, Phil and Madelaine Friesen and Lin Hunsberger share a meal together in the renovated kitchen.
Phil Friesen fixing the sidewalk curb.

The following volunteers filled in for one or two weeks as needed:

Ray and Mary Kratz 

Twila Gingrich

--Meeting guests and volunteers from all walks of life is always enriching. It gives me a new perspective on life.

Anita Frey

Liz Hunsberger

Mary and Merlin Grieser

--The experience of Thanksgiving 2017 at IGH showed us truly how large our family is. The meal was prepared by Board Member Kim McClain along with staff helping. The conversation was stimulating and it was pleasant to share food with new-found friends. The world needs more IGH’s!

Recent Guests at the Guesthouse
Teatime and breakfast conversations continue to inspire and energize volunteers. Most recently guests with origins from China, Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Ethiopia shared their stories, some in DC lobbying for DACA (Consideration of Deferred Arrivals for Childhood Arrivals), some for March for Life, and others here to visit family. 
The mission statement of IGH is to "show the love of Christ through the ministry of hospitality to guests from all over the world."
Newest Additions to the House
IGH continues to be grateful to Bruce and Anne Hummel who have organized and contributed to many renovations to the house, including a complete remodel of the kitchen in 2017.  In addition, the board recently approved funds for the purchase of new desks for guest and volunteer rooms and several new chairs for volunteer rooms to replace chairs which have outlived their useful life.  
Reflections by the Miller Family

We live in Walnut Creek, Ohio with our twelve year olds, Julia and Nathan.  Eric is able to take a leave of absence from his rural family medical practice every three years to do volunteer work.  We look at this as a way for the kids to be exposed to service and to also spend considerable time together as a family out of our ordinary routine and in a new community.  In April 2017 our family made a short term move to Washington, DC to work at the International Guest House through the SOOP Program.

We all worked at IGH:  cleaning bedrooms and bathrooms, baking muffins and cookies, recording reservations, mowing and other yard work.   Having the kids and homeschooling required some flexibility and creativity.    We appreciated the warm welcome and willingness to work with our scheduling needs from our first day and  throughout the following weeks.


We rented a small, furnished apartment, 2 miles south of IGH.  It was a beautiful bike ride to IGH, along the length of Rock Creek Park, or we took public transportation.   We appreciated having the separate space to do schoolwork, and for the kids not have to worry about always being on their best behavior.  However, we found ourselves several times travelling to IGH when only one of us was working or on days off to visit and/or pitch in just for fun.

Living in DC was a great experience, with opportunities to visit museums and cultural events, which also aided in our schooling.  We all enjoyed getting to meet guests from around the world, and visiting over breakfast or evening tea.  And we all especially enjoyed spending time with Lawrence and Sharon, Jonathan and Betty and Emily, even while we were folding laundry.  It was in working with them that we saw true hospitality.  IGH is a special place and we hope to return again soon!

Eric and Jodi Miller,  Julia and Nathan
Volunteering at IGH?
Many of our guests inquire how they might become staff volunteers and put into practice the idea of faithful Christian hospitality at the International Guest House.  The “job” requires a genuine interest in people of all cultures, a willingness to rotate the physical work tasks of making beds, cleaning, cooking, baking, and interacting with guests, and an understanding that as you serve, you are also living in close community with one another.

For more detailed information or an application for a short term or long-term assignment, please contact Sara at:
Subject line:  Volunteer Staff Inquiry.
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