by Cindy Angela, Digital Communication Associate
Over the summer months, four young adults worked as summer service workers in four Mosaic Conference congregations. Graciella Odelia (Nations Worship Center, Philadelphia PA), Christopher Jong (Philadelphia Praise Center, Philadelphia PA), Ser Luther (Whitehall congregation, Allentown, PA), and Alex Padilla (International Worship Church, San Gabriel, CA) participated in a ten-week program through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) that helps young adults of color in the U.S. cultivate their leadership skills within their community.
As the needs in the community shifted due to the pandemic, the summer workers and their supervisor had to quickly adapt their plans to better serve their community. “My job for this summer was supposed to be coordinating a vacation Bible school for the children in my church. But because of COVID-19, that didn’t work out,” Graciella Odelia explained.
Instead, Odelia produced videos for Nations Worship Center virtual church service, organized Zoom meetings, and helped pack groceries and deliver them to families in need. “God called me to serve the church and to help my community during this difficult time,” Odelia reflected.
Christopher Jong echoed the same sentiment. Jong was born in Philadelphia but was raised in Indonesia. He moved back to the US when he was 17 years old. Being a summer worker helped him reconnect to his South Philadelphia roots. “PPC [Philadelphia Praise Center] was the first church I was introduced to when I reached the US and I felt connected to the people ever since,” Jong recounted.
Initially, Jong was to organize a summer camp that got cancelled. So Jong and his supervisor, Pastor Aldo Siahaan of Philadelphia Praise, had to adapt and make new projects for Jong to work on. “We created projects such as grocery shopping service, free care package distribution, translation services and many more,” Jong explained.
Summer worker, Ser Luther, worked with the Whitehall congregation in Allentown, PA. During the week, Luther helped out at Ripple Community Inc’s (RCI) Community Building Center. On the weekends, he helped the Whitehall congregation with various tasks for their Sunday service. He prepared PowerPoint presentations, managed Zoom meetings, and even led worship services.
Luther’s supervisor, Danilo Sanchez (of RCI) observed, “Halfway through the summer I noticed a change in him. He became much more comfortable talking with new people at the center and public speaking.”
Meanwhile in California, Alex Padilla balanced online classes at the University of Colorado while also being a summer worker for International Worship Church (San Gabriel, CA). Padilla has been attending International Worship Church for a few years, where Pastor Buddy Hananto saw his potential and asked him to be a summer worker.
One of Padilla’s favorite tasks this summer was creating a virtual Sunday school class. “It was an incredibly valuable experience to be a teacher of faith to the next generation,” he shared.
This summer, these young adults may have taken on different roles and responsibilities, but all of them learned to lead, to adapt, and to keep trusting God in times of trouble.