Salierno-Maldonado’s Return to IYC a Journey to Personal Roots

 In All Church of God, CHOG, IYC: International Youth Convention, Youth Ministries

By Carl Stagner

Lori Salierno-Maldonado is a household name in the Church of God movement. Though the youngest among us may be less familiar with the trailblazing leader, prolific preacher, and acclaimed author, not a single soul who attends the International Youth Convention this summer in Orlando, Florida, will be able to forget the unforgettable “Dr. Lori.” Sure, she speaks with compelling tone, engaging style, and gripping storytelling, but her testimony of IYC’s role in her life’s calling puts her over the top among reasons the 100th International Youth Convention of the Church of God is shaping up to be one of the best.

“IYC is a treasured part of my spiritual journey,” Lori exclaims. “The first time I went to IYC as a youth, I saw a woman speak from the main stage and I wondered if God could ever use me as a speaker. It is a great honor and privilege forty-seven years later to be invited to speak at the 2024 IYC. I am a fifth-generation Church of God pastor, so this centennial celebration of the IYC is of great significance to me.”

Passion and energy are signatures of Lori’s speaking.

Fifth-generation, but her father, longtime, beloved evangelist Gerald Marvel, made especially big waves across the Church of God. A telling of Lori’s story, apart from the impact of her family and her brothers and sisters in the Movement, is anything but complete. Lori Salierno-Maldonado has been in the company of such notable influencers like Mother Teresa, but she couldn’t be more excited to spend time with Church of God young people this June.

“My mother and father were the greatest influencers in my life and ministry,” Lori recalls. “I was a very feisty, self-willed child. They provided consistent discipline (which I needed all the time) and constant love. I think the thing that made all three of us Marvel children go into the ministry was the amount of laughter, fun, and music that was constantly in our home. We saw the hardships that the ministry can bring, but what we experienced in the home balanced it out so well that both my brothers and I said yes to the call of full-time ministry. Spiritually, my parents showed me that the sky was the limit and that I could do anything that I wanted to do for Jesus. There were no restrictions on the vision God had for my life.”

Lori Salierno-Maldonado began using her God-given gifts at an early age. As an eighth-grader, she began substitute-teaching second graders in Sunday school. As a tenth-grader, she was assigned her own class, growing it from six children to more than twenty-five in just one year! As a junior in high school, she embraced a call to full-time ministry and, as a senior, took Arthur Kelly’s Bible course at Warner Pacific College (now University). “After that,” she reflects, “I knew I wanted to be in ministry. I love the Church of God! I love the way the Church of God believes that women can do ministry, preach, and lead. The Church of God mothered my call and has been a great movement that I deeply believe in.”

Lori with her husband José.

While on staff at Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis, she took an interest in the life of Mother Teresa. In pursuit to learn more, Lori wrote a letter to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and received a response. Mother Teresa invited her to travel to Calcutta, India, and work in her homes there! Lori ended up leading her first Anderson University Tri-S trip to Calcutta at just twenty-eight years old, ultimately meeting with Mother Teresa four times in a total of five trips to India. “She influenced me greatly in starting the nonprofit I now lead called Teach One to Lead One (T1L1),” Lori recounts. “She told me that she worked with the poorest of the poor and challenged me to find the darkest spot in my own country and be Jesus to my people. [Today] we work with the roughest of the rough kids in our public schools and juvenile courts by placing mentors in their lives, teaching them character and leadership. I have a picture of Mother Teresa and me, along with a copy of her letter to me, hanging in my office. The picture reminds me that God uses simple people to do his work.”

According to her bio, “Dr. Lori doesn’t mince words as she challenges people to live with integrity, depth, and joy. Dr. Lori has authored seven books and has been a contributing author for other books and publications. She is a certified Youth Development Professional (YDP) and a Life Coach certified by the International Association of Professions (IAP) Career College. She has earned her master’s of divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and her doctorate in leadership development at Asbury University.

Learn more about this year’s IYC speakers and artists, watch life-change videos, find all the information your youth group needs to make Orlando your summer destination, and register for IYC2024 (June 27–30) at www.iycchog.org.

Feature (top) photo: Lori Salierno-Maldonado speaking at Church of God Convention 2019 in Orlando, Florida.

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