Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Anna Wheeler is a woman who will strike you with her huge smile, infectious personality, and gentle spirit. She has known since college that she has a heart for ministry, and it was during her first job after college graduation that she heard her calling to be with youth full-time. It was only days after an initial conversation with her mom about her new-found calling that she found and applied for CYMT. During the waiting time she also applied for several other seminary programs (and was accepted!), but knew when she got the call that she had been one of the 12 applicants across the country to be accepted that it was the perfect fit and was, “overwhelmed with delight and unforeseen conviction.”
Anna recently completed her final year of the CYMT Graduate Residency Program, but has continued on to join her church full time. She has formed deep and meaningful relationships with her youth, as well as the staff of the church. When she first started at her church in 2014, most of the youth staff were new; creating a level ground for growth and development that has blossomed into a communal ministry and church family. Not only does Anna invest in her youth in the church walls, but makes the effort to reach them in their everyday lives by attending their soccer games, meeting them for coffee, or checking in before their senior prom. She once had a parent say to her, “Ministry isn’t just a one-way street. You know we are here to minster, care for, and love on you too, right?”. It is evident that not only are Anna’s students being ministered to by her, but parents, siblings, and other church staff are experiencing the love and presence of God through her ministry.
CYMT is dedicated to creating an environment where students can not only form practical and theologically sound youth ministries, but also be energized and recharged through their peer community. For a person like Anna whose spiritual gifts are listening and giving her personal time, it is important to us that she be poured into as well. She said it best herself with, “CYMT provides a safe community that offers a empathetic voice that says, “me too.” In the same way that we strive to surround our students to know and experience that they are not alone, CYMT reminds us that we are not alone in our jobs as youth ministers.”
Olivia Keffer and Makenzie Knowlden have been friends since the beginning of their CYMT graduate residence journey, and this friendship has turned out to be one of the things that helped them make it to graduation day. Their story is one of affirming fellowship between two women who, despite living in different cities, helped each other answer their call to youth ministry.
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