Tag Archives: Justin Burkholder

The Unfathomable Movement of the Spirit

by Justin Burkholder, South Philly summer intern

Mennonite Convention 2019 was a fresh experience providing fruitful conversations, an open space to connect with God, and learning from one another about how God is moving, particularly through the Mennonite churches in this country.

Delegate sessions were fulfilling because of the unique opportunity to unite in Kansas City as brothers and sisters of various ages across the country. Conversations circled around shortcomings, mountain-top experiences, future challenges, and the unity of the Spirit laid out in Ephesians. Through three sessions on Ephesians, delegates were equipped with the charge of living cohesively amidst the reality that the church is messy; both locally and globally. The church was reinvigorated to praise God instead of allowing the differences to divide or define us. Tension or chaffing can be helpful because uniformity does not allow the space for challenging one another. In a world stained by sin, complete uniformity is not an option. Living together in harmony is encouraged, however, as Paul heavily emphasizes in Romans 12:18. The call to the church in Ephesus to “maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3) has powerful relevance to the church in the twenty-first century.

Meghan Good teaches on the breath of the Spirit. Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church USA.

A speaker I thoroughly enjoyed was Meghan Good. Her sermon was titled He Breathed on Them. One story she highlighted was the unexpected call from God in her life. It was an ordinary afternoon when she felt an unquestionable revelation from God asking her to show up in a room for an unknown purpose. Waiting for her were two friends who were eager to pray for her life and calling. She felt the Spirit pour over her and comfort her in unfamiliar ways. It was a moment she felt renewed by God and credits it to the breath God breathed in her.

Meghan emphasized that much of our church has been running on empty, not seeking the source of our energy, our breath, our ruach. In scripture, God’s Spirit is also translated as wind, breath, energy. Meghan highlighted Genesis 2:7 which describes God breathing life into Adam. This is the original design and source of energy for humankind who believe in God as the creator. She gave the analogy of a hot air balloon because the balloon must be fueled by a consistent release of air or it will crash. Running through life without this source is exhausting and frustrating, but I—we—have learned to adopt the routine of faking it until it becomes too difficult on our own. God did not intend it to be this way.

Tom Yoder Neufeld led equipping times for the delegates on Ephesians. Photo by Vada Snider.

I believe our church must do a better job of accountability and vulnerability, because we have mastered and become comfortable with going through the motions. These motions are built to eventually return emotions of guilt, shame, and loneliness. God instead demands freedom. As Leonard Dow taught, the chains suddently fell off for Paul and Silas in prison when the wind-energy was released through the space (Acts 16:25-27). I believe God intends to release that energy through the church today so that we all witness and experience the power of God’s Spirit working through us. God is waiting with his arms wide open, ready for us to receive him. When we take one step towards him, he runs, eager to embrace us (Luke 15).

I was encouraged at convention to seek him directly. I do not want to run on my own and grow weary. We are not asked to go through any religious hoops to access him. Thanks be to God for the gift of his church and his Spirit.

              

              

Transformative Experiences at MC USA Convention 2019

by Justin Burkholder, South Philly summer intern

Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) held their biennial convention July 2-6 in Kansas City, Missouri. Three thousand energetic youth, children, and adults assembled for a week of learning, worship, serving, fellowship, and fun. The convention aims to build the vision and mission of MC USA as the church together embarks on God’s mission in the world.

Adult delegates met to discern the vision of the church together and for times of equipping.  Youth groups shared worship time with the adults and attended seminars during delegate sessions. Servant projects were also available each day for those who chose to join the efforts in the local community. The worship band was led by Seth Crissman (Walking Roots Band) and included various instruments, which created magnificent harmonies.

Youth worship in front of the stage at #MennoCon19. Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church USA.

Chuck Tirtasaputra was a youth attendee from Philadelphia Praise Center and found the worship especially meaningful. “There is something about a group of people singing together to worship God that moves me,” he reflected.  Youth crowded in front of the stage each worship session to gain the full experience of worshiping side by side with believers from all over the country. Mike Spinelli, pastor of Perkiomenville (PA) congregation, appreciated the passion of his church’s youth group: “The worship was a breath of fresh air as the youth enthusiastically moved to the front of the stage and full-on sang and jumped to the rhythms of grace.”

Beny Krisbianto (Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia, PA) in table discussions during #MennoCon19 delegate sessions. Photo by MC USA.

Worship also included a speaker each session who captivated the audience with an appealing story or message of God’s moving in their life. Speakers Dustin Galyon, Hesston College basketball coach, and Meghan Good, teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church (Glendale, Arizona), were inspiring to Kyle Rodgers, youth pastor of Franconia (PA) congregation. Galyon emphasized that fear hates community, while Good highlighted that the breath of God is required to sustain our lives, in contrast to our own breath or the breath of others.

Delegate sessions were introduced on Wednesday morning with the formation of table groups. Tom Yoder Neufeld, professor emeritus at Conrad Grebel University, led three sessions from Ephesians titled Gathered as One on the unity of the Spirit. There was time for table discussions and eventually question and answer following each teaching session.

Justin Burkholder and Graciella Odelia become Franconia Conference’s first voting youth delegates. They were attending #MennoCon19 through the Step Up program. Photo by Emily Ralph Servant.

In the afternoon delegate sessions, table discussions centered around the Journey Forward, a conversation continued from convention in 2017. One discussion prompt read, “Identify one part of our shared peace witness we should work on together for the next biennium.” A variety of perspectives were discussed, including shared belief that our church must care for the migrants at the Mexico-United States border who are experiencing inhumane treatment. This focus was reflected in the passage of a resolution that condemned “the treatment of immigrants families and children at the border, as well as around the nation, [as] a horrific violation of the Image of God and God-given human rights.”

Another resolution that passed was the opportunity for congregations, churchwide agencies, and conferences to send additional voting youth delegates (age 16-21) to future conventions.

The next convention will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the summer of 2021. As attendees reflect on lessons to share and ways to integrate what we experienced with our congregations and communities, the divisiveness in relationships remains an area for which the church yearns for God’s healing. Franconia Conference board member Yvonne Platts of Nueva Vida Norristown (PA) New Life echoed this thought as a significant take away from convention. She voiced that our churches and relationships are broken due to decisions and splits.  Tom Yoder Neufeld called this “checking the horizons” and still seeing the hope that is there. May we, as one body, look upon the horizons and see Jesus calling us closer to him despite our shortcomings.

Read further reflections on #MennoCon19 from Justin Burkholder and Wendy Wong (Souderton congregation):

Openness to Change

by Justin Burkholder, summer intern with South Philly’s Indonesian congregations

Justin (middle row, 2nd from left) with his new friends in South Philly

In the blink of an eye, camp has reached its endpoint.

Philadelphia Praise Center ran its annual summer Peace Camp during the month of June. I was responsible for part of its leadership by organizing the kids from the community and congregation, planning trips for the group, and managing the volunteers who dedicated their summer to the children. Our team served up to sixty energetic kids over the duration of four weeks. We had a blast doing so, but it did not come without expected difficulties.

Peace Camp activities

This was a stretching month for me.  I have been learning to be more flexible with the way I approach ideas and time. Through leading camp, there were days when weather, sickness, traffic, loud children, or other forces resulted in a shift of plans. I have always been the type of person to set a routine, attempt to execute it, and then repeat. I’ve learned this month that life can’t always be lived like this because God moves in ways we can’t predict; we can’t always control or change things with our own hands.

Processing everything that happened this summer has been difficult because of the speed at which everything has been moving.  When it seems like I am not hearing from God, I attempt to slow down and retreat to the avenues where I have experienced His presence in the past. Recently this has come in the form of worship music, quiet time, new relationships with believers in Philadelphia, and other hobbies I enjoy.  I’m looking forward to fellowship at the Mennonite Church USA Convention this week in Kansas City.

My time in Philadelphia is flying by, but the experiences are valuable and have pointed me to Christ. I don’t love learning to be more flexible, yet it is a characteristic that has shaped how I journey with God. For that I am grateful.

Summer Interns to Serve and Learn

by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation

Listening for God’s calling. Serving their home communities. Learning from new communities. Cultivating pastoral skills. These are some of the hopes that six interns bring to their time of service and formation with Franconia Conference this summer. They come as part of the MCC Summer Service Program, the Ministry Inquiry Program, as well as the Conference’s own summer placements.

As part of the MCC Summer Service Worker Program, Jessica Nikomang will work at Philadelphia Praise Center. This summer she will direct a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for kids ages 5-12 as well as work with the Indonesian community around the church and her neighborhood, providing translation support and other help. After the summer, she will begin studies at the Community College of Philadelphia as a first-generation college student in pursuit of her dream to be a school counselor.

This will be Rebecca Yugga’s second summer serving at the Crossroads Community Center in partnership with her home congregation, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship. Rebecca studies Nursing and Spanish Language/Hispanic Studies at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). She will be planning activities for children and build on leadership skills and strategies she cultivated in the program last year.

Graciella Odelia

Graciella Odelia will serve at Nations Worship Center, which has been her home church since 2013 and where she is an active member of the worship team. Graciella studies Biology and Chemistry at Eastern Mennonite University. She will be organizing the summer VBS program in July and August at Nations Worship Center.

“Seeing kids excited to worship God makes me look forward to what God has in store for the next generation. By participating in the MCC Summer Service program, I hope to discover how God can use me in His church,” Graciella shares.

Andrés Castillo

As the Conference’s summer placement, Andrés Castillo, a member of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life, will serve as a communication intern for the conference. Andrés studies English at West Chester University. More of his writing, photography, and videos will be shared on our website throughout the summer. Andrés is excited to make connections in his communication work between Christ’s teachings and the social issues about which he’s passionate.

Justin Burkholder, who attends Deep Run East, will be working with the conference’s south Philadelphia Indonesian congregations. He will be serving with the peace camp at Indonesian Light Church as well as summer VBS programs at other congregations. Justin is in Intercultural Studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

“I grew up traveling into Philadelphia just for ball games or cheesesteaks and I was disconnected from the lives of people living in the city,” Justin shared. “I am looking forward to building relationships and learning what it looks like to serve the church and community in South Philly.”

As part of the Ministry Inquiry Program, Luke Hertzler, who studies Bible, Religion and Theology at EMU, will be working with Whitehall and Ripple Allentown congregations. Luke will help at Ripple’s Community Building Center and garden and test out gifts on Sundays at both Ripple and Whitehall.

“We hope Luke will bring new ideas and energy. Right now we are forming gift groups at Ripple and I hope Luke can give some direction to this new model,” Danilo Sanchez, co-pastor for Ripple Allentown shared. “Internships are important to Ripple because we care about raising up leaders. Ripple is a different kind of Mennonite church and we like to show young adults that pastoring and church can take a variety of forms.”

Summer interns are an important part of Franconia Conference’s commitment to leadership cultivation. “Each year it is a gift to interact with this next generation of leaders. We learn alongside them and contribute to their formation in the way of Christ’s peace,” Franconia’s executive minister Steve Kriss shared.

We are grateful for and look forward to sharing more about the work that these six young people will offer Franconia Conference this summer!