Last summer I sat down to chat with Julia, our Director of Children, Youth & Family Ministry. Unfortunately, I’m a terrible procrastinator - which is why this didn’t get done until now. Fortunately, though, I take good notes!
Julia was born in Leningrad, USSR, now St. Petersburg, Russia. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, missionaries were allowed into the country. They were Lutherans from Finland and held what Julia called "revival meetings" to baptize people, which had been illegal for years. Julia’s grandmother was Russian Orthodox and familiar with Lutheranism and wanted her to be baptized, so Julia was baptized at one of those meetings with 200 other people!
She got connected with a newly formed Lutheran congregation run out of an apartment. At 14 she started teaching Sunday School and from 15-17 was a kind of superintendent for about 140 kids in Sunday School, got involved in youth ministry and peer led a youth group with a friend.
Julia’s pastor approached her to go work in the U.S. and she got a visa to go to Trinity Lutheran Church in Issaquah, where she was sponsored by the Finnish ELCA and Division for Global Mission and also where she met, dated and married Jason. After graduating, she and Jason moved back to Russia for three years before coming back to the states. She taught at a daycare, worked part-time at a Lutheran church and subbed in schools, when Jason found and encouraged her to apply for this position at Trinity.
Julia has now been at Trinity for nearly 5 years. She described her role as essentially steering and keeping two ships afloat – Children’s ministry and Youth Ministry. She directs and coordinates over 70 volunteers for children’s and youth ministry, meets with the Children’s Ministry group & Youth group to develop and implement curriculum and ensure the needs of each group are met, she orders materials from snacks to wipes to art supplies, helps with Sunday School teacher training, scheduling, fills in to teach as needed, preaches in church 3-4 times a year, works closely with Rod and Matt to make sure worship involves children and youth, coordinates retreats, mission trips, service, other activities and established the Catechuminate ministry for our youth. I think we all know how dedicated and hard-working Julia is, but to hear all that she is responsible for was eye-opening and awe-inspiring.
I asked Julia what feeds her. She shared that she loves meeting with people, hearing their stories, talking about faith, talking about scriptures and preaching. She also spoke about being outdoors and going on mission trips with Youth – experiences like that tend to strip away the layers of superficiality and those things about teens that can be hard, and guiding those experiences is something to which she’s really drawn.
Julia loves playing with and reading to her two kiddos, Sophia and Daniel. She said “we’re the family who leaves the library with 50 books.” She also loves being outdoors, amongst trees.
Finally, when I asked how we might pray for her, Julia replied that she would like us to pray for help to prioritize those things in her work and life, for guidance to build inspiring leaders, and in juggling working and motherhood.
Many, many thanks to Julia for the incredible work she does for the little ones, the teenagers, and the families here at Trinity.