Franconia Conference empowers young adult leaders through summer ministry initiatives

Benjamin Sutter, Franconia Conference Communication Intern, benjamins5@goshen.edu

Franconia Conference’s vision is to equip leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission. This summer ten young adults, pastors and congregations embodied the Franconia Conference vision of equipping leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission as part of the conference’s ongoing leadership cultivation initiatives. This summer partnerships extended with partners in mission, Philadelphia congregations, Mennonite Central Committee, Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College—all for the sake of carrying the good news through a new generation and context.

Photo by Aldo Siahaan
Adrian Suryajaya rediscovered patience as he worked with children this summer. Photo by Aldo Siahaan

Adrian Suryajaya served through Mennonite Central Committee’s summer service worker program. He worked with his home congregation Philadelphia Praise Center and plans to attend Eastern University as a first year student this fall.

“I enjoyed working with the children and my pastor (Aldo Siahaan) during the summer,” said Suryajaya. “I rediscovered the value of patience, flexibility, and humility . . . to seek God’s counsel when I’m in tough situations.”

Suryajaya organized various church events including a free music concert, a block party, and a summer peace program for children.

The hardest thing I had to do during the summer was to come up with the Peace Program planning,” Suryajaya said. “Once the blueprint was set, it was easy to do the program.”

For now, Suryajaya will continue his education at Eastern and work towards becoming a physician. “The things that I’ve learned during my internship definitely will help me get through the process of becoming a medical doctor,” he said. “For instance, I have to be patient about how long it will take to get my degree and I know that God will always be on my side in any situation.”

Brendon Derstine

Brendon Derstine wanted a taste of every part of ministry while working with his home congregation, Franconia Mennonite Church, in Telford, Pa, this summer.

I have been joining in a variety of ministries including worship leading, preaching twice this summer, teaching Sunday Schools, . . . visitation, going to church meetings, delegating at Pittsburgh, and helping out in other ministries as well,” said Derstine, who will be a senior at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), Harrisonburg, Va. this fall. “My focus has been intentionally broad so that I could get a big picture of the life of the congregation.”

Over the summer, Derstine connected with the role model of Moses as a leader.

I liken the pastoral vocation to the character of Moses leading the Israelites throughout the desert wilderness in the Exodus story,” he said. “Like Moses, pastors lead us throughout our lives—we call on them in times of need and harp on them when things don’t go our way. They walk with congregants in the best of times and the worst of times and they are expected to be everything to everyone.”

Moses understood that even though he was a leader, he was human, Derstine said. “High standards are good, but we must remember that pastors are only human, too,” he added. “They lead us toward the Promised Land, but ultimately, they don’t go make that decision for us to follow God—we make it. They remain on the east side of the Jordan.”

For Derstine, serving in his home congregation has been a blessing. “One of the greatest rewards of my time here at Franconia has been reconnecting with my home congregation after being away at school for 3 years. Ministry is a lot about relationships and connecting people to the ways God is already working in their lives.”

Ministry is a constant up and down, according to Derstine, “An ever-changing mix of emotions. It can be messy, but let’s face it, life is messy. And yet in its messiness, God is ever present.”

Derstine will finish his studies to be a sixth to twelfth grade teacher next spring. “I don’t see education and church ministry as that different from each other,” he said. “Whether I teach in a school, or follow God’s call in another direction, I believe that this internship has allowed me to practice teaching and caring for people in a variety of ways—two important components in both church ministry and education.”

Erica Grasse speaks at Blooming Glen congregation on a Sunday morning. Photo by Kreg Ulery

Erica Grasse, a junior at Goshen College, Goshen, Ind., also worked with her home congregation, Blooming Glen (Pa.) Mennonite Church, this summer.

Grasse echoed Derstine’s joys of rediscovering relationships, saying that what she enjoyed most about working at Blooming Glen was returning to her home congregation and reestablishing relationships and coming to appreciate her roots.

I have been getting opportunities to teach and work with the youth,” she said. “To sit in on various leadership meetings, to see perspectives of layperson ministry; and to look at strengthening the young adult program to better match the needs and resources of the church and community.”

While she enjoyed her summer, she said she recognized the needs of pastors to enjoy themselves as they work. “Pastors are out to have a good time, too,” she said. “The work of ministry is a tiring and daunting task, but sharing humor and food are two ways to keep sane.”

At Blooming Glen, Grasse says she comes away from the program with less certainty about a future occupation. “This internship has confused me even more,” she said. “As someone who is studying biology, environmental science, policy and economics, I have been challenged to see the pursuit of ministry work as a complementary component to my vocational interests. Yet, I have come to realize that my future may consist of things I cannot currently imagine myself doing.”

Grace Parker and Monica Solis interned at New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, Va. Photo by Grace Parker

Seven other interns also spent their summer working through Franconia Conference contexts:

  • Monica Solis, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, served at New Hope Fellowship in Alexandria, Va. with Grace Parker, a junior at Goshen College.
  • Patrick Ressler, from Goshen, served at Germantown Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, through a partnership for supervision from Franconia Conference.
  • Jamie Hiner, senior, and Bianca Lani Prunes, sophomore, from EMU served with the Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association in Philadelphia.
  • Ben Sutter, a junior from Goshen, served with Steve Kriss on the communication team of Franconia Conference.
  • Joanne Gallardo, EMU Associate Campus Pastor, spent her summer doing a residency at Deep Run Mennonite Church East in Perkasie, Pa.
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