In 2022, Pastors Beny Krisbianto and Angelia Susanto of Nations Worship Center in Philadelphia were concerned for the youth at their church. The married couple invited Graciella Odelia, a member of Nations Worship Center and a college student, to dinner. They shared their concern for the youth of the church with Odelia and told her that they sensed God was calling her to take up this work.
Odelia was a biochemistry major at Eastern Mennonite University and intended to go to medical school.
After the dinner with her pastors, Odelia prayed for guidance and felt a clear sense to accept the call to youth ministry.
She thought she was training to become a doctor. God called her to be a youth minister instead.
Meanwhile, Pastor Beny and his family visited the revival at Asbury University in Kentucky in February 2023 — a multiweek “outpouring” of spiritual renewal that began with a routine chapel service. He came away with a strong concern to encourage and equip the younger generation as leaders and shapers of the church.
As a result, Nations Worship Center decided to create a special service for youth. The congregation received a grant from Mosaic Conference of Mennonite Church USA to support the youth ministry.
The youth service, conducted in English, takes place on Saturday afternoons after worship practice. It includes games, worship, a sermon and informal times of eating and conversation. Odelia and Pastor Beny take turns leading worship and presenting a sermon.
About 20 young people, who range from ages 10 to 20, attend. Some are from Nations Worship Center. Others come from other Indonesian congregations, such as Philadelphia Praise Center. A few have no church home.
The service is designed to meet the needs of youth who feel they have outgrown Sunday school. The youth have also done service projects, such as helping to pack food for needy families in Philadelphia.
As Odelia served Nations Worship Center’s youth, she enrolled in a certificate program in Christian studies at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. She found the courses in biblical studies, theology and spiritual formation helpful.
“I felt that a single year of seminary education wasn’t sufficient,” Odelia said. “I lacked the necessary skills to effectively guide the youth in their spiritual journeys.”
This fall, she is beginning studies in the seminary’s master of arts in Christian leadership program, with an emphasis in youth ministry.
Odelia has discovered other opportunities and skills in her journey as a youth minister. To advertise for the youth service, she learned how to design flyers. She is also learning more about website design and video editing for Nations Worship Center.
“Exploring unfamiliar territories and learning new things have been an exhilarating journey,” Odelia said. “It was challenging, but I grew.”
Even though youth ministry was not her original plan, Odelia feels closer to God because of it.
“This calling pulled me back to God,” she said.
She is grateful for a deeper walk with God and thankful for where she sees God at work in her life and in the lives of the youth.