Tag Archives: Young Adults

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.

Overwhelmed by Generosity; Young adults to build relationships in Mexico City

A group of younger adults will fly to Mexico City this July to build relationships and learn about connecting with local community. The trip, led by Rockhill Mennonite Church and Franconia Mennonite Conference, will partner with the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM) in offering children and youth programs and community outreach.

“This is an exciting possibility for young leaders to contribute and learn in one of the world’s biggest cities, to help build on generations of leadership, service, and partnership between
American and Mexican Mennonites,” said Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation for Franconia Conference. “I love the energy of Mexico City and the creativity of young leaders
there.”

Rockhill Mennonite’s youth pastor, Angela Moyer, has taken her youth group on service trips to Mexico City twice and felt like the time had come to expand the relationship between Mexican
and American Mennonites. In the past, American churches have always sent money, she said, “but these churches don’t need our money—they appreciate our time and energy.” Time and energy used not to construct buildings, but to share in the task of ministry.

The growth of technology has meant that these new relationships, separated by thousands of miles, can remain connected in everyday life. “I can text them,” Moyer said. “We’re on Facebook.” As she looked ahead to this summer, Moyer began to imagine how to further nurture these relationships. The idea for this trip as a broader Conference opportunity emerged; a trip that will be mutually beneficial for both American and Mexican Mennonites.

American visitors are blessed by their Mexican brothers’ and sisters’ hospitality, passion, and love. “[The team] will be overwhelmed by generosity,” Moyer said. They will experience
what it means to be involved in local community in tangible ways and catch a glimpse of what Anabaptism looks like in a context that doesn’t include shoe fly pie and funny cake.

At the same time, “We bring them the world,” said Moyer. Because of financial and immigration issues, many Mexicans can’t make the trek to the US. When American Mennonites visit, the CIEAMM’s young people get a chance to connect with the global church beyond Mexico, have an opportunity to learn and practice their English, and discover that the US is more
than Hollywood.

The Americans’ presence is also an encouragement. Moyer noted that Mexican pastors have asked her, “Why are you guys here serving the kids in our community when most of our own
church isn’t here?” Something about the presence of visitors, working alongside local believers, increases the energy in their own church for Bible School.

And for the CIEAMM, Bible School is still a big deal. The thirteen congregations that form the CIEAMM are on the fringes of Mexico City, ministering to broken families. The children who
live in their neighborhoods have nowhere to go when school is out; Bible School provides a safe and loving place and welcoming diversion, just down the street.


“We’ll be creating space for the church to love the community, in whatever way the local pastors feel would be helpful,” Moyer said, adding with a laugh, “That could take on a very different
look.” One time, she remembers, her youth group joined Bible School children on a peace march. Another time, a pastor was invited to a child’s 1st birthday party—so he brought the
entire team along.

No matter what happens, this will not be a typical service trip—it’s not about accomplishing a project, but about supporting and encouraging the work of the Mennonite Churches in Mexico
City. For those who have never been on a trip overseas before, this will be a great way to ease in, said Moyer. And for those who are service trip veterans, this will be a breath of fresh air, a chance to experience the meaning of generosity and locality.

The Mexico City trip, July 20-August 3, still has several slots available. For more information or to sign up, contact Angela Moyer (moyer1218@hotmail.com). The cost is $1000 per person.

Youth in the city: Rooted in the future

Young leaders retreat into Philadelphia for a new kind of leadership formation

–Kayla Benner, Ambler Mennonite Church

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:5-7)On November 20, 2010, I attended the Youth Leadership Retreat along with youth from churches and ministries across Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conference. We were all chosen to attend this “retreat” because of leadership qualities that adults have already seen within us. As this busy and spiritually charged day went by I learned many things about my peers, myself, and most importantly the power of Christ and his people.

As the opening worship session began I was struck by the incredible amount of passion and joy that the people leading possessed. Their passion and excitement helped to wake me up and to get me ready to learn and grow throughout the rest of the day. After we were welcomed to Philadelphia Mennonite High School we were instructed to participate in the often awkward, and always dreaded “ice breaker.” This activity confirmed my worst fears that I had pushed myself too far past the boundaries of my comfort zone. After having short, one minute conversations with about five people the activity was over and I retreated back to the my familiar comfort zone. I was not able to remain there for long because we were then dismissed to our workshops which brought on even more chances to push myself.Out of the two short morning sessions the one that impacted me the most was the one titled, “Rooted in Diversity.” This workshop was entirely about the life and ministry of Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC). PPC is a new congregation that worships in a somewhat unorthodox way that requires intense perseverance and faith in the Lord. PPC is a congregation that serves to provide the needs of its surrounding community, primarily by providing worship services in three different languages: Indonesian, Spanish, and English. Many of the members of the church are undocumented immigrants who live in constant fear of being uprooted and deported from the United States. After the workshop I heard an incredible story from a girl how has had to live through things I couldn’t even imaging having to deal with and she’s exactly the same age as I am. As I was listening to her heartbreaking story I was struck by the incredible strength and faith she has. Though she has every right to give up she continues to have hope and faith in her Creator. As I became more familiar with her story I realized that not only her, but many other members of the congregation have to deal with the same problems.

Philadelphia Praise Center is a family to its members and they seem to have a bond that not many other Mennonite churches have. I think what draws people to church, especially a Mennonite church, is the sense of stability, which is something the members of PPC do not have. At any moment a family or a member of a family may be deported and the church must gather together and deal with that. I think in knowing that at any moment a church member may have to leave gives the congregation the ability to outwardly show their love more easily. They must give everything today because it could all be gone tomorrow. This is a valuable lesson we could all learn from the congregation of Philadelphia Praise Center.I spent a good part of my afternoon participating in a workshop called, “Rooted in Service”. I chose to participate in this particular workshop because I believe service is a fantastic way to spread the love of Christ. You can tell people about Christ and his teachings all you want, but they won’t believe you until you actually show them through your actions and the way you live your life. I was given the unique opportunity to spend this afternoon workshop talking with Dan Umstead. Dan uses his gifts to spread his ministry through Kingdom Builders Construction. As he was telling me a little about his ministry I was struck by the sacrifices he has made in order to live his faith outwardly. Through my afternoon of service I learned two major things. First I saw how little things can make a big difference and it is important that we do them. By taking the time to rake leaves in a few people’s yards our service group was able to make a handful of people happy. We provided them with the ability to have their yard clean again and hopefully they were able to see the light of Christ through our actions. The second thing I learned was through a conversation with Dan. He explained to me that giving and receiving requires a two-way relationship. If just one person is giving but not receiving, or vice versa, that relationship will not last. Only through the balance of give and take will a relationship be lasting.Before I knew it the day was being wrapped up in a closing worship service. We were all gathered together again to listen, sing, and praise God one last time that day. During the service I found myself reflecting on the impactful events of the day, the lessons I learned, and most of all the people I met.

I learned that leadership qualities can be found in anyone, It doesn’t take a specific type of person to emerge as a leader. I believe that introverts possess one of the most important qualities of a leader: the ability to lead by example. It is important to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others, to give and receive so that our relationships with others may stay alive. God may also throw things at us that we struggle with, but through the love and care of our brothers and sisters we can continue to have hope and faith.Together, as leaders, we crossed borders, we pushed ourselves, we inspired others, we grew, and we “fanned into flame the spiritual gifts God gave us. At the end of our event there was a table with many lit candles on it and one larger candle in the center. Marlene Frankenfield closed our event with the following words and as she spoke these words she raised up the largest candle into the air and blew it out. This was used as a symbol of our faith and how we should be as a flame by spreading our faith. May Marlene’s words be a challenge for all of us–“The light of God is not extinguished for it is in you.”Kayla Benner was part of the planning team for the special one-day youth retreat in Philadelphia, planned collaboratively by members a team of Philadelphia Anabaptist leaders along with Franconia Conference and Eastern District Conference including Barbara Moses (Philadelphia Mennonite High School), Dan Umstead (Kingdom Builders Construction), Joe Hackman (Salford Mennonite Church), Scott Benner (Eastern District Conference), Marlene Frankenfield (Franconia Conference), Andrew Huth (Ambler Mennonite Church), Maria Byler and Adrian Suryajaya (Philadelphia Praise Center). In the city, the youth worked with various churches and partnerships including Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Philadelphia Mennonite High School, Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust.

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