By Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation
“Even though I am far away from my home, I feel like I am home. I feel welcome and encouraged as I learn from the Franconia Conference culture and work with people from different backgrounds. We have a sense of unity and community here,” says Hendy Stevan Matahelemual, Franconia Conference’s Pastor of Formation and Communication.
Hendy was raised in Bandung, Indonesia, 100 miles south of the capital, Jakarta. He was educated in law and for nearly 10 years he worked in a law office as well as the music entertainment industry. After Hendy found Christ in his community, he was baptized again and made a commitment to dedicate his life to God. In 2008 he started volunteering in his church, Elshaddai Creative Community, in music ministry and leading a cell group. He got married to his wife Marina, got a promotion in his job, and felt ready to settle down.
“My hometown is a nice city up in the mountains with great weather. Ever since I was born I always expected to stay in Bandung,” Hendy describes.
But after the transformation in his spiritual life, Hendy felt that God wanted him to move from his city. He prayed to God to understand this feeling and had a sense that he might be called to move to Jakarta to plant a church with other members of his cell group.
While he was still praying about it, Marina came home one day after her work as a secretary in their church, where she learned from their pastor that an Indonesian pastor in New York City was seeking someone to help do ministry there. “Well let’s go then,” Hendy replied, mostly joking. But later their pastor invited Hendy to seriously consider the idea.
Hendy and Marina accepted this calling, and Hendy resigned from his job working in the entertainment business. But unexpectedly, for two years in a row, his visa to come to the U.S. was rejected. Patiently he worked as a pastor in their church in Bandung until his visa was finally approved.
For over two years Hendy was a pastor at Bethany Church in Queens, also providing counseling and community outreach. Hendy became acquainted with staff and pastors within Franconia Conference and began studies at Eastern Mennonite University toward an MA in Christian Leadership, which he received earlier this year. Hendy received a call to serve as the pastor of Indonesian Light Church in south Philadelphia. So Hendy, his wife Marina and their two children, Judah and Levi, moved once again.
Hendy has also served in his conference role since May and helps to plan worship services for conference-wide events, shares stories through articles and creating videos, and supports the Conference’s social media work. Hendy is part of the new Youth Formation Team, coordinating events that offer training and resources to youth leaders and youth ministers, and he’s also a member of the Faith and Life Committee, which gathers credentialed leaders together quarterly for theological reflection and dialogue.
Additionally, Hendy serves on the conference’s Intercultural Team which provides training and resources for intercultural formation. “Revelation 7:9 provides a vision of what God wants us to be as a church,” Hendy shares. The scripture says, “There was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Hendy says that this and other scriptures provide encouragement and a biblical base for how the church can grow and learn from each other, as people of different cultures.
“This is complicated work; in a conference that is predominantly white, recognizing that every group has its own dominant culture at work, to redefine norms together so that every culture can have a voice, and that each church’s expression of loving God, loving people, and serving the community is lifted up,” Hendy says.
Hendy has found the mutual transformation of his intercultural work to be a rewarding part of his Conference ministry, as he and colleagues “work together as the family of Christ, even though we come from different backgrounds.”
Hendy is excited to continue to grow in his ministry with Franconia Conference. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, swimming, and going on road trips. Recently, his family drove to MC USA Convention in Kansas City from South Philly—a 17-hour drive!