My grandparents were founding members of Upland Christian Church, which was born out of First Christian Church Ontario. I grew up with one foot in the Catholic Church and one foot in the Disciples church.  However, my spiritual home within the Disciples was clear by the time I was in junior high. Part of that sense of home within my small, local congregation was deepened because of a connection to the larger church in the PSWR.

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Going to camp at Loch Leven (starting at 9 years old) gave me a glimpse of God – of unconditional love lived out in community, which forever changed me. As a child, I was shy and quiet; still, there was a place for me, and camp was the highlight of my year. As a high school youth, I served on the Youth Leadership Team; there I felt God’s call toward hospitality and inclusivity.

Regional Assemblies also gave me a sense of the Church as larger than my own local congregation. I was excited by what we could do together and to experience worship in different ways! During my undergrad years at Chapman University, I was able to maintain my connections to the PSWR and grow my leadership as a camp counselor, camp director, youth leader, and educator. Supported through Disciples Seminary Foundation, I attended Pacific School of Religion for seminary. (Now I have the pleasure of serving on the board of Disciples Seminary Foundation.) After 12 years outside of the PSWR, I was called back, eventually to serve as Associate Pastor of the amazing First Christian Church of Orange.

Now, it is such an honor to serve as one of the adult leaders for the PSWR’s Youth Immersion Ministry (YIM). It has been one of my life goals to work with an intentionally multi-racial, multi-cultural group of youth – to be about relationship-building, anti-racism, and making the world a better place; we are doing just that as Disciples in the PSWR, and my heart rejoices!

In February 2017, the UNITE winter youth summit may have included more churches than had ever participated in a PSWR youth event! This gathering was a beautiful witness of diversity and leadership within the church. Youth were equipped with tools for ministry that they could take back to their congregations. It was a joy for me to help lead the drama track.

When people ask me about how ministry is going, inherently, I must include affirmations of ministry within the PSWR. I have lived in three different Disciples regions and counseled Disciples camps in over seven regions; having experienced life and church in all of those places has grown me into a better Christian. Still, I am grateful to call the PSWR my home – with all of the joys and challenges that come along with being Church together. Thank you, PSWR, for being home and for being builders of God’s kin-dom on earth!

Learn how your gift can help support individuals and groups, and affect real change throughout the region by visiting www.disciplespswr.org/give.

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt