Issue 2
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Bienvenida          Bienvenue          ترحيب          欢迎          Welcome          vítejte          velkommen
International Guest House
50 years and 56,000 Visitors
“Dava, what does ’56,000’ mean to you?” one of the hosts recently asked the nine-year-old girl this question during evening tea time at the International Guesthouse in Washington, D.C.  Not surprisingly, the young guest didn’t supply much of an answer although she was intrigued by the question.  On Friday, June 9, 2017 Dava represented the 56,000th guest reservation at IGH. Current staff and guests celebrated this highlight with commemorative tee shirts and cupcakes from famous Georgetown Cupcakes. 

May 6 and 7, 2017 also found nearly 60 International Guesthouse staff, friends and past volunteers gathered to celebrate the milestone 50-year anniversary of IGH opening its doors to guests from all over the world, inviting them to experience “home away from home”.  From its beginnings, the guesthouse has existed to show Christ’s love through the ministry of radical hospitality.  As volunteers reconnected and reminisced throughout that weekend of open houses and tea times, many stories and experiences were tenderly pulled from mental memory books.  Touching stories, as well as hilarious ones, reinforced both the challenges and great blessings of living out radical hospitality.  While numerous stories were highly impactful to volunteers it’s often impossible to know what seeds were planted in the life of a guest.  How might they have been impacted? Other stories illustrated how volunteer/guest relationships bloomed into a continually evolving story. 

A vibrant collection of 180 flags line several walls of the IGH dining room representing countries guests have come from since 1967.  Against this backdrop, we listened as Mrs. Sheila Dandeker reflected on the early beginnings of IGH and expressed her great joy in the work that has continued.  There was also time of acknowledgement and gratitude for the very significant contributions of volunteers and outside benefactors.  Major remodeling; upgrades; yard work; house cleaning; quilt making; cookie baking; archive maintenance; monetary, furniture, household and appliance donations; and not least, prayer.  All these and more enable International Guesthouse to live out its mission and vision more fully and freely.

On Sunday morning, May 7, Hyattsville Mennonite Church spotlighted IGH’s 50-year ministry.  In 1963, then-pastor Kenneth Good and Mr. Kemlaker Dandeker shared a common vision for outreach to international persons.  In March 1967 the first Voluntary Service workers arrived.  In April 1967 a dedication service was held.  IGH and HMC have been interwoven ever since.  The international potluck following the worship service, complete with colorful table decorations, affirmed this continued ministry relationship.

International Guesthouse is a ministry that greatly impacts both guests and volunteers.  Its unique outreach strives to build bridges between persons of diverse cultures, beliefs and life experiences in a current world environment steeped in violence and hatred.  IGH depends on volunteers and supporters to be that fragrance of Christ.

Maybe you or someone you know would like to spend several weeks, months or a year volunteering at IGH.  Maybe you would like to donate money or several hours a week to IGH.  Maybe you just have questions! For any of these, please email us at or call  202.726.5808.

-Sharon Ressler
With Grateful Thanks to Ilene Weinbrenner
Earlier this year, the International Guest House Board (IGH) said farewell to Ilene Weinbrenner, who had served IGH and its ministry faithfully for over twenty years.
A native of Kansas, Ilene first came to IGH in 1983 as a volunteer. Finding the Washington area congenial, she decided to stay on after her term was finished: she started working with Delton Franz at the MCC Legislative Observer’s office on Capitol Hill. She discovered that the rough-and-tumble of Washington politics was not for her and returned to her first love: teaching. She started at the Lab School of Washington, a school for students with learning disabilities. There, she rose from teacher to her current position as an administrator.
In 1994, Annabelle Kratz did the proverbial tap on the shoulder and asked Ilene to join the Board at IGH, and she’s been with us until this past July, serving as a Board member and stepping up to become the Chair when Annabelle retired.
When asked recently about the biggest changes she saw during her time at IGH, she mentioned the spate of renovations, starting with the upgraded bathrooms and followed by the new floors and the facelifts in the basement and kitchen. She also mentioned the recent Strategic Planning Exercise that the Board went through as we try to map out the future of IGH.
But most of all, she said, she remembers two encounters with particular guests at IGH, back when she was a volunteer. She sent us this recollection:
“An Israeli family stayed at IGH and, through conversation with the mother of 3 children, I learned her perspective on living with Palestinians. She feared for her husband and children returning home safely each day, but she also expressed that Jews and Arabs had lived alongside, mostly peaceably, for many years. It seemed to her that the governing leaders stirred up conflicts that get in the way of establishing peace in the Middle East. 
“About a month later, a Palestinian family stayed at IGH and, through conversation with the mother of 2 children, I learned her perspective on living with Israeli Jews. She feared for her husband and children returning home safely each day, but she also expressed that Arabs and Jews had lived alongside, mostly peaceably, for many years. It seemed to her that the governing leaders stirred up conflicts that get in the way of establishing peace in the Middle East. 
“For me, the two conversations made a lasting impression on me and verified a repeated experience at IGH:  We are more alike than we are different. “
With grateful hearts, we say a hearty “Thank you!” to Ilene for her dedicated service, her passion and her vision. We wish her God’s richest blessing.
Call for Volunteers
Immediate needs: Full-year and short-term volunteers needed from April 2018 - 2019.

Volunteer staff needed at The International Guest House in Washington, D.C. with flexibility of three months to a full year for the ministry of Christian hospitality.  The Guest House (a ministry of Allegheny Conference) serves international and U.S. travelers. Volunteers are provided full room and board in the Guest House. Year-long volunteers receive a monthly stipend and health insurance as needed.  Rotating hospitality duties include cleaning, laundry, maintenance, baking, gardening, some office duties, and hosting breakfast & the evening tea. The service emphasis is on hospitality to guests and being a community to one another. The house is located in an established neighborhood with access to buses for exploring this historic city.

For inquiries and /or an application contact: Sara Fretz-Goering ( or current staff at the International Guest House ( (202) 726-5808
Meet the Hosts
Jonathan and Betty Schrag began at IGH on February 1, 2017 as volunteers.  Then at the end of July they transitioned into the host/hostess position as Lawrence and Sharon Ressler's term was ending. 2017 is the second year of their “Retirement in installments” adventure; in 2016, they spent the year volunteering at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp in Colorado.  Both years have been challenging, rewarding, fulfilling, and filled with new growth. They are finding new friends everywhere they go and feel deeply blessed to be in Washington this year. They are living the Quaker saying, “Way will open.”  They have five children and are expecting their first grandchild in October. Home for them is northern Indiana, close to Goshen.
Jonathan & Betty
Contact us here to let us know what you thought about the newsletter, or to make a reservation or get more information on the Guest House!
Copyright © 2017 International Guest House, All rights reserved.

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. 
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International Guest House | (202) 726-5808
1441 Kennedy Street NW Washington, D.C. 20011

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