LANCASTER, Pa. — “Discipleship sessions were a big area of focus,” said Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) Kingdom Team Director Krista Martin when asked to highlight what is new for the program this year. The curriculum is based on EMM’s mission statement, providing instruction for Kingdom Team staff to help teach the program participants.
In July 2018, youth groups from four local churches will participate: Iglesia Cristiana Vida Abundante, Ministerios Peniel in Ephrata, Pa.; Mellinger Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pa.; Strasburg (Pa.) Mennonite Church; and Petra Church in New Holland, Pa.
Martin elaborated on the new discipleship sessions, “I focused on putting together solid lesson plans for the Kingdom Team staff to work from.” The new discipleship training is the foundation of this year’s experiences, providing opportunities for participants to grow as individuals, through an interactive and engaging curriculum.
In addition to participating in activities and sessions designed to strengthen individual discipleship journeys, Kingdom Teams provide opportunities for youth groups to serve students with refugee status and other non-native English speakers enrolled in the Leap into Language Program, offered by IU13 Community Education’s Refugee Center and Community School at Reynolds and the School District of Lancaster. Youth groups lead clubs, crafts, English conversation activities, sports and games, and other activities that build community and exemplify the love of Christ.
One of the students in Leap into Language, Younis, 9, returned for his second summer. He said that a friend told him about the program. EMM staff observed the growth of returning students like Younis. “I can really see how much he has grown,” said Angie Earl, EMM community engagement coordinator, referring to the English-language familiarity of another student who was participating in the program for his third year. “He is much more comfortable interacting with others and has a huge smile on his face as he greets people, whereas the first year he was so quiet and didn't want to engage much at all with others.”
During activities like ultimate frisbee, origami, or Minute-to-Win-It games, children were encouraged to practice speaking English with youth group participants. Uncertain of whether the language barrier would be a challenge, Mellinger Mennonite Church youth participant Aidan Sommers said, “I didn’t know how much they’d be able to speak English.” Sommers was surprised at how well many of the children spoke English. Earl commented, “I heard students asking about Aidan the following week because they connected with him so well.”
Brenda Weaver, a youth group leader from Mellinger Mennonite Church, shared that Kingdom Teams would help the youth to grow in their leadership skills. After two days of watching Kingdom Team staff lead the activities, youth from Mellinger Mennonite Church had the opportunity to lead activities for the Leap into Language students.
Ellen Lapp is serving her second year as a Kingdom Team staff member. When she heard that there was an entirely new Kingdom Team staff this summer, Lapp decided to join the team again this year. “I thought that having somebody from last year that they already knew and somewhat respected would be pretty helpful.”
Her familiarity with many of the students has been a significant asset to Kingdom Teams. Continuing her vocational journey, Lapp will be taking another EMM assignment as a mission intern this fall in East Africa.
In a variety of ways, Kingdom Teams are encouraging personal growth: students in the Leap into Language program are becoming more comfortable with English, youth group participants are learning how to lead, and Kingdom Team staff members are gaining the skills to step into new ventures after this summer.
“Kingdom Teams provide opportunities for growth on many levels, and for all involved. Youth group participants have been challenged to know the transforming love of Christ for themselves and then to share it with the world around them,” Martin indicated. “Through participating in the Leap into Language program, the youth can have times to practice what they are learning in the morning discipleship sessions and can discover many God-given talents they did not know they had.”