GC junior combines passions for youth and Spanish in leadership role

By Katie

GOSHEN, Ind. ­ The youth group at Iglesia Menonita del Buen Pastor in Goshen know about change. Over the past year, they have experienced a turnover in adult leadership, the formation of two separate groups for junior high and high school students and the addition of a new and perhaps unlikely member, Goshen College student Erin Sigler.

Sigler, a junior Spanish major from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, began attending the weekly youth gatherings at Iglesia Menonita del Buen Pastor a year and a half ago in order to fulfill a requirement for a youth ministry class. The assignment was to observe a youth group and its dynamics, participate in activities and, if possible, help in the planning of some meetings. But Sigler, faced a problem when she realized that her schedule was full on Wednesday nights ­ when many area youth groups meet.

At the suggestion of a friend, Sigler inquired at Iglesia Menonita del Buen Pastor and found that not only did the meeting time suit her schedule, it also provided an unusual opportunity to blend her interests. “It seemed perfect because it combined two of my loves: the Spanish language and the culture of the Hispanic church and youth ministry,” she said.

At first it was difficult for Sigler to determine her role within the group, but the teens helped her feel welcome and at ease. “The most amazing thing about this experience is how they’ve accepted me into their group,” she said. “They never talk down or treat me like an outsider.”

Although Sigler sometimes helps lead Bible studies and offers ideas, she feels her primary responsibility is being a friend. The girls particularly appreciate her female, non-parental perspective, although Sigler is clear that her advice is only an addition to that offered by the youths’ parents. “I have been impressed with the relationships the youth have with their parents,” she said.

Sigler periodically invites the young people to campus to bridge gaps between youth and college students by playing games, playing in the snow or having tea. She wants to help introduce them to a campus setting and let them know that attending college is an attainable goal.

Last summer, the youth invited Sigler to join them at the biennial Mennonite Youth Convention, held in Atlanta, Ga. Extra fundraisers held to help pay Sigler’s expenses reflected the sincerity of the invitation. Sigler’s time with the youth group of Iglesia Menonita del Buen Pastor has impacted her life. After a year and a half, Sigler said “I don’t think I could leave; I’m too attached.”