by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation
“I’m a white boy from Oklahoma,” shares Jeff Wright, leadership minister, based in Riverside, California. Yet, somehow, Jeff has found ways to connect and support with congregations who are culturally different from his upbringing.
“I’d always had a sense of calling to international mission,” Jeff reflects. “For a variety of reasons that never worked out, but I try to live out the definition of mission offered by David Bosch: to ‘cross frontiers in the form of a servant’.” Jeff’s work crosses frontiers as he interprets for those at the Pennsylvania core of the conference what it means to be church in California. He also works to serve as a human transcontinental bridge, connecting brothers and sisters in the same conference, but living on opposite coasts.
Jeff works with three Indonesian churches in southern California: Indonesian Community Christian Fellowship (Colton, CA), International Worship Church (San Gabriel, CA), and Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Anugerah (JKIA or Grace Indonesian Christian Fellowship; Sierra Madre, CA). He also accompanies San Francisco (CA) Chinese Mennonite Church, a Cantonese speaking church, in his conference leadership role.
“These churches are immigrants and first- and second-generation Americans,” and offer unique perspectives, Jeff reflected. “They have a global view of their lives, and many of them go back to their home countries often. This global perspective is part of these congregations’ DNA.”
As leadership minister, Jeff assists pastors with credentialing, coaches, and troubleshoots challenges they bring to him. He also prays regularly for the pastors and their congregations and connects them to other conference staff and resources.
“Working intentionally at intercultural competency is challenging for me, in a good way,” Jeff reflects. He has begun learning the Indonesian language, and he finds conversations with Chantelle Todman Moore, the conference’s Intercultural Leadership Coach, particularly helpful.
“To have a conference that is intentionally dedicating resources to and training for intercultural competency is an amazing gift that isn’t always available to other conferences because of size, capacity, or vision,” Jeff reflects. “These are the things we need to pay attention to in order to be the church in North America.”
Jeff first connected with Franconia Conference twenty years ago when he was a lead consultant in the conference’s vision and finance plan. Currently, aside from his leadership minister role, he also serves as pastor of Madison Street Church, a Brethren in Christ (BIC) congregation, in Riverside, CA and as president of viaShalom, a small nonprofit missional resource agency.
Jeff considers himself an “Anabaptist without borders.” He came to faith in the Mennonite Brethren (MB) church, was previously a pastor of a General Conference (GC) Mennonite church, has been a conference minister for MCUSA, and is now a pastor of a BIC church.
“Not being a ‘cradle’ Mennonite has helped me to learn from the different traditions,” Jeff reflects. “I appreciate the piety of the MB, the commitment to unity of GC, the holiness perspective of the BIC, and the commitment to scripture of MC USA.”
In his free time, Jeff either has a book in his hand, is watching the LA Dodgers, is attending a minor league baseball game, or is riding his bike.