I struggle to write this today not because I don’t have anything to say, but because I have too much to say. Unfortunately, this was my last week at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. I leave on Monday. In reflection upon all that I learned, I cannot help but be overjoyed about my entire experience. I am overjoyed that my university cares so deeply about my pursuit of my passion that they are willing to pay me additional stipends and carefully read my reflections on my growth each week. I am overjoyed that this summer was nearly everything opposite of what I expected, and I discovered Jesus in a whole new way because of it. I am overjoyed to have learned powerful tools of ministry design, which can overflow into so many facets of my life. I am overjoyed to have 24 new friends who live all across the country and already plan reunions before we even leave each other. I am overjoyed to have so much energy and excitement and vision coming from my experience here for the upcoming school year, for my part time job as a youth pastor, for my graduate school plans, and just for the future that God has planned for me. I have no intention of being super “churchy,” but it is impossible for me to talk about my life and my summer without everything being centered on God. I am incredibly saddened to be leaving, but my enthusiasm to go forth and use all that I have used this summer is far greater.
I will attempt to summarize all that I learned this summer here, even though I’m sure I will forget parts. Cultivate class allowed me to see and experience new ways of thinking. The whole concept of divergent thinking was difficult for me because I am all about moving on and getting things done, rather than investing time in brainstorming. I feel well equipped to conquer a larger multitude of problems in both ministry and life because of this experience. Spiritual Formation was slightly disjointed in my opinion, simply because of the crazy schedule, but I still got to learn about validating people’s passions. Though Adam could be dry and somewhat disengaging at times, he is very clearly animated about theology and its application to our lives. Even listening to other interns like David and John and Kathy, that particular content was important to them and thus that part of our schedule is vital to getting the most out of the internship. Avondale was definitely a challenge for me. Not only was this my first hands-on experience in a low-income community, but also children are not always my specialty. I found it difficult to truly find my place and my role in our time at Avondale, which surprisingly still taught me a lesson. There are points in life (probably way more than we would like) that you are pushed out of your comfort zone with little to no information on your job there. That doesn’t mean that God’s not working. That doesn’t mean that you get to just check out and wait for a better activity to invest in. And that definitely doesn’t mean that you aren’t contributing by trying your best in every situation. Ema was also an eye-opening opportunity for me. Working with Charlee to just canvas in the Avondale community and speak life and affirmation into these young mothers was simply beautiful. It was heartbreaking at times to see the vicious cycle presented in that particular type of community, but it was uplifting to see God at work there, fighting against every tendency of the world to tell them that they are not important. My role as QLC and project completion associated with that was a huge source of growth for me. I’ve always known that I am a huge details person, but this summer was a totally new experience. Having all details on my shoulders full time was a refreshing and humbling experience. Working in this department also opened my eyes to the places in ministry where I can best serve. Knowing that there will be time after seminary, before ordination and before I can step into a “big girl” pastor job, it is affirming to know that my personality traits and specific skills can still be used for the betterment of His kingdom. Out of all areas of the entire internship, debrief/housing was the biggest source of joy and growth for the summer. Learning to share, learning to listen, learning to let go, learning to invest, and learning to not be in control are just a few of the things that come to mind. In complete honesty, I am a hard person to get to know. However, this summer I have made friends that know me and love me and check on me and support me, which is worth more than anyone could ever know. All in all, this summer brought challenges, questions, change, lifetime connections, and ultimately a closeness to God that can never be taken away.
The last words I will say are probably most important to me (hopefully someone made it all the way to the bottom). Our last breakout activity from last night was one of the most heartwarming, most encouraging, and most beautiful things I have experienced in my life. It’s called an affirmation circle. Every person gets a candle. You start with one person, who lights the candle of a friend in the circle and just speaks about the impact they had this summer and the beauty that makes up their life. After everyone else who has something to say has said it, the person with the newly lit candle lights another person’s wick and so on. Honestly, I could have not even had a candle and this still would have been the most influential activity of the summer for me. Of all the mental pictures I have taken of this summer (both because I’m bad at remembering to take real pictures and I believe that mental pictures are significantly more meaningful), last night will remain forever imprinted in my mind. My candle was lit last night. My candle has been lit all summer long. My candle will continue to burn so brightly that it cannot help but light up every single room. All because I believe in a God who lights up rooms. I believe in a God who gives us the gift of relationships on deeper levels so that we can have enough fire to light the next friend’s wick. I believe in a God who sustains us and reminds us of the light inside us when we feel like darkness is the only thing around. Now the challenge is to continue to push ourselves outside of what we believe we can do, to use every single bit of this knowledge for His good, to love people as we are called to love them, and to light the candles of those around us so that the world could shine brighter for our Heavenly Father.