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Elevate Church  | Peterson Xiong & Panghoua Thao

Becoming a youth leader in a church can be a transformative experience. For Peterson and Panghoua Thao, their journey to becoming youth leaders was unexpected yet filled with divine guidance.

Panghoua, who grew up in the church, never considered being a youth leader until she recognized the need for help during a youth night. Inspired by the opportunity to support and guide young individuals, she joined the Elevate youth team. On the other hand, Peterson had a different background, coming from a non-Christian family.  Peterson realized his potential impact as a youth leader when a student sought him out for prayer.

Peterson shared that his leadership journey started with minor roles, such as providing security at the Hmong AG camp. However, it was a conversation with his old youth director that opened his eyes to the influence he had on the youth. Peterson and Panghoua naturally transitioned into leading the Surge Youth at Elevate Church.

As youth directors, Peterson and Panghoua have embraced their roles with passion and dedication. They organize weekly Friday night gatherings, quarterly hangouts for boys and girls, and spontaneous activities. Their involvement extends beyond regular events as they strive to create a sense of ownership and participation among the youth. By sharing their personal experiences and the importance of community, they inspire the younger generation to grow in their faith.

The youth camp organized by the Hmong AG national board is an important event that brings together several Hmong churches. One significant accomplishment for Surge Youth was a recent fundraising event. With the rising costs of attending Hmong AG youth camp, Peterson and Panghoua initiated a fundraiser selling chocolate bars. The overwhelming response surprised them. The youth sold around 90 boxes, raising over $3,000. Panghoua reflected, “Honestly, they surpassed my expectations. I wasn’t sure if we could sell all those boxes, but they did great!”

Through their role as youth leaders, Peterson and Panghoua have witnessed incredible transformations in the lives of the youth. They have seen students fully surrendering their lives to God and embracing their faith. Stories of shy students stepping out of their comfort zones and becoming active participants serve as powerful reminders of the impact of youth ministry. Peterson recalled, “On one of the last nights of camp, a student who doesn’t talk much surrendered himself to God, and the only comment he made was, ‘Man! I love God.’”