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Serving Youth for Christ "This is amazing, this is building life relationships with teenagers and just moving them towards Christ in a relationship building kind of way. In that moment in that green it was God speaking to me saying this is what I want you to do." ~Brianna Lietha~

Brianna Lietha was a sophomore in high school when she read a fictional book whose main character was a trauma psychologist. She was so intrigued about the position that she contacted the author to research it more. This led to her volunteering for the Red Cross and desiring to learn more about their work. She also took medical careers and psychology classes because she wanted to go into EMT training where she could use that knowledge to help people who were in traumatic situations.

Brianna with friends on graduation day 2012.

After high school Brianna attended Northwestern University in St. Paul. She enjoyed the small Christian college atmosphere like she had experienced at SFC, and she continued to pursue the medical and psychology fields.

Friends at Northwestern University

During the spring semester of her sophomore year, she studied abroad in Italy. She was taking Bible classes and doing a lot of exploring. “While in Italy I had a good group of friends that really helped me grow in my faith,” she said. She loved being in Europe and experiencing the different cultures while traveling. “I got that travel bug more internationally,” she remembers.

During the time she was abroad, another challenging situation developed. Brianna’s father was diagnosed with throat cancer. The treatment was very difficult on him, as radiation and chemo destroyed his saliva glands. “We really had to learn to depend on God and really listen to him. I probably had the best relationship with God in those months because I really had to listen and trust Him while I was here.”

Brianna with her father, Mark Lietha.

The summer after studying in Italy, Brianna was prompted to volunteer for a two-week mission trip called Project Serve, which was organized by Youth For Christ (YFC). Brianna spent two weeks in Northern Ireland. She was part of a team that worked in a community center also referred to as a “drop-in center”. It was an alternative place for kids to come and play games, hang out, and stay out of trouble. It was during that time she remembers a life-changing moment. “I remember laying on the grass with 4-5 other girls talking about different words in our languages. One of the girls asked a question about faith and it started a whole discussion. Brianna remembers thinking,"This is amazing: this is building life relationships with teenagers and just moving them towards Christ in a relationship- building kind of way. In that moment on that green, it was God speaking to me saying this is what I want you to do.”

Brianna with her team from Project Serve.

The next fall she decided to add “intercultural studies” to her major and began looking into non-profit organizations. The summer between her junior and senior year, she would return to Northern Ireland on a six-week internship with NOMAD. This was another YFC organization that travels around inviting kids to play cage soccer. An eight-foot tall cage is put together, and players do 2v2 soccer in the middle for two minutes. They would play soccer for 30-45 minutes and then do a short talk with kids. The team traveled to parks, schools, churches, and community centers. The approach to evangelism is highly relational. “You find out things you have in common with them, and you bring God into those conversations,” Brianna said.

NOMAD team (Benjy second from left)

This is also how she met Benjy, who was one of the eight members on the NOMAD team. “He was just one of the cool guys on the team,” Brianna remembers. Benjy would talk about his job in Germany working for YCF, and Brianna would tell people that is what she wanted to do someday. They became friends during those six weeks but Brianna had to return to the U.S. to finish her senior year at Northwestern.

During her final semester at Northwestern, she completed an internship for her psychology major. She worked with an inner city youth program for 3rd through 5th graders in New Brighton, MN. “Most of the kids came from awful backgrounds. They didn’t have anyone pouring into their lives.” She would help them with their homework and deal with behaviors. It was a very rewarding experience because of the relationships she was able to build with the kids.

Lietha family from left. Sonya, Brianna, Nathan, Mark

After graduating college at the end of 2015, Brianna continued working at CPY (Community Partners with Youth). During this time she was still snapchatting with Benjy, her “friend” who was in Germany. Her kids would tease her about the relationship. “I had liked him at that point, but I didn’t think anything would come of it.” Brianna also began a candidate orientation to learn more about serving with YCF long term. Brianna soon found herself having to make a decision between going back to Northern Ireland or going to Germany where Benjy was working. “I flipped a coin and it landed on Germany,” she said.

The next several months were filled with orientation, training, and fundraising. Finally, in the fall of 2016, she was able to go to Dusseldorf, Germany, for a six-week mission. Her long distance relationship with Benjy also continued to blossom. Benjy continued to work in Frankfurt, and Brianna served with Youth Compass (a sister organization to YFC) in Dusseldorf.

Brianna with friend Benjy

At the end of 2017, Brianna returned home. Before she could go back full time, she needed to raise one hundred percent of her support. A typical term for YCF is three years, and in March of 2017 she was ready to return. Brianna was serving in Dusseldorf while Benjy stayed in Frankfurt.

The primary goal of the ministry is to lead kids to Christ. The secondary goal is to help kids develop and grow into world leaders. The parents of these students have moved around a lot, and they have been exposed to many different worldviews. They also struggle with a national identity. “Most of the international kids we work with were taught to tolerate everything, but believe nothing,” said Brianna. “This makes it hard to get them to believe that one is better than another. Our goal is to reach kids that would never step into a church. We can connect with them, they can meet Jesus, and then we can connect them to a local church.” To do this they go into as many schools as possible and are willing to help with anything. They do a weekly club for middle and high school students where they play games and lead discussions. They also take kids on weekend retreats and service projects.

On a group service project in Serbia
High school club hanging out in their living room.

While Brianna and Benjy were serving through YFC, they also decided to make a commitment to each other. In July of 2018, Brianna Lietha became Mrs. Poore. Brianna and Benjy were married in Sioux Falls. In the fall of 2018, they returned to Germany and continue their work with Youth For Christ International in Dusseldorf. For the next couple of years, they will continue to serve with this organization and make a difference in God’s kingdom as they build relationships and serve in multiple ways. It will be interesting to see where God lead them in the future.

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