(Photo Courtesy of Alexandra Angela)

Alexandra Angela participated in MCC U.S.’s Summer Service program during the summer of 2015 at Philadelphia Praise Center, a church in Franconia Mennonite Conference.

Applications are now being accepted for Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) 2016 Summer Service program. Young adults of color, ages 18 to 30, may apply for this paid summer position with their own churches. Learn more and apply by March 18 at mcc.org/summer-service

PHILADELPHIA – Leaving home. For me, that was one of the hardest things I had to do in my entire life. I left my home of 18 years in Indonesia and traveled thousands of miles away to the other side of the world to study in Philadelphia – a foreign land with new sceneries, new people, and new everything.

Once I was here, I was faced with a daunting new task: to fit in. I slept here, ate here, but Philadelphia was not my home yet. I always believed that one of the best ways to make your new house a home is to find a community you can embed yourself in. If God’s grace had led me to Philadelphia, I believed he had a wonderful plan to watch me grow.

Finding a church home

Finding a place to worship was one of the top things on my checklist to get settled in Philadelphia. A friend randomly told me to visit Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC) in the middle of South Philadelphia. They welcomed me, invited me and embraced me as a part of their family. I was amazed by the way Mennonites lived their lives and by the values they hold every day. (PPC is a member of Franconia Mennonite Conference.)

The church is very oriented toward peace, service and mission. At PPC, we want to be grounded in our community and let our actions speak volumes. I was very excited to join the church’s ministry and community work, volunteering as a multimedia operator, graphic designer and singer for the church.

Summer Service?

About a year after connecting with the church, Pastor Aldo Siahaan asked me to consider being part of a program by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) called Summer Service. This program is oriented toward young adults of color, ages 18 to 30.

It is widely known in PPC that if you were the Summer Service worker for that year, you must be prepared to do a lot of work. However, for me it sounded fun and interesting. One of the wonderful things about the program at PPC is that you have the flexibility to do whatever you deem beneficial to your church and the community surrounding it.

I sent a proposal to MCC and was approved to work for the summer of 2015.

I began the summer with an orientation session in Goshen, Ind. It was a rich experience of meeting fellow Summer Service workers, making new friends and expanding my knowledge about the Mennonites. Looking back, the short yet meaningful trip helped me a lot during tough times in my summer assignment.

Leading our peace program

The highlight of my summer assignment was a four-week-long summer program for kids ages 7 to 13, often referred to as “Summer Peace Program.” The theme for summer of 2015 was “Painting Tomorrow,” which I based on the verse 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (New Living Translation).

I wanted to focus on educating the kids in my summer camp about a future in Christ. I believe that as we plant biblical values in these children’s lives, they will have a natural impact on their characters.

I was the program director and a teacher, and I organized and recruited volunteers, as well as handled the financial and managerial part of the camp. It was not an easy task, but it was a very rewarding experience.

The kids in this program were members of the community; not necessarily part of the church. It gives me great joy to say that some of the children in the summer camp wanted to know more about Christ and joined PPC’s youth program even after the summer camp was over.

Giving pastoral support

Aside from the summer camp, for the duration of my summer assignment, I got to meet a lot of new people while being Pastor Aldo’s assistant. I consider Pastor Aldo as my mentor, and I learned a lot just watching him interact with people in our community. He helps without question, and this is a value that I learned from him.

I took people to the hospital, accompanied Pastor Aldo on house visits and helped people who needed help, no matter who they were. No questions asked. I truly was able to be grateful for God’s goodness in my life, as well as to see how God works through the little things that we sometimes missed.

More learnings

Overall, this assignment truly felt like an initiation for me into the community. If I look back on the things I was able to accomplish during my assignment, I am amazed by how much experience I gained just during the short duration of one summer – just 10 weeks of being the summer service worker for PPC through this great program by MCC.

This program definitely has broadened my view, and I felt truly blessed for the opportunity. I went from a nomad to a true contributing member of the community. As a summer service worker, I came to realize that even though I left home, God never left me.

Alexandra “Cindy” Angela is a student at Temple University, Philadelphia, studying Communication Studies and Digital Media Technology.