Almost every time someone asks what I’m studying in college–Supply Chain Information and Analytics–I have to repeat my answer and explain that it involves statistics, efficiency, and promoting productivity. These things, with their emphasis on excel sheets and probability statements, exist in a world seemingly light years from the ministry needs of the Brookside neighborhood; as one of the 2019 Urban Outreach interns at College Park, I wondered what I could possibly contribute.
My previous work experience ranged from being an archivist, to being a campus restaurant supervisor, to being a building manager (a fancy title for sitting at the front desk, and taking room reservations). None of these roles prepared me for the tasks I was assigned at the beginning of my internship: helping a young girls’ Bible study, attending a meeting with Safe Families to learn about its mission, and planning a day camp for Heart Change.
It was overwhelming. I often felt inadequate, wishing I had the skills and abilities of Pastor Dale Shaw, Cindy Palmer, or the interns around me. At every corner, I faced a task outside my skill set.
During the second week of the internship, Cindy Palmer noticed that I wasn’t in my element yet, and asked what might help. Through this conversation, I learned of a task that she had been wanting to do but didn’t have time. It all relied on creating a large excel file. Music to my ears! Soon after, I asked Safe Families if they had some administrative tasks that I could do. Thankfully–yes–they needed me to send out numerous emails, and to create another excel sheet.
At the first day of Heart Change, we all fit into our roles almost seamlessly. While the other interns taught the children, I set up the snacks and crafts for the kiddos, ensuring that every room they walked into was ready and prepared for them in advance. These kinds of experiences were little reminders from God that he has gifted everyone differently and every gift is important. I had been so busy comparing and critiquing myself that I couldn’t see the opportunities to use my strengths to help in different ways.
On a personal level, I especially appreciated the Christian fellowship of this internship. What a change from my life at Purdue, a secular campus with a small Christian community and limited opportunities for fellowship. At Brookside, I was surrounded by people who wouldn’t be offended by “Jesus talk.” That was such a refreshment! During this summer, I had the opportunity to be part of five separate Bible studies, all comprised of different sets of people. The studies were not connected with each other; but mysteriously and graciously, each study covered the same topics. Surprisingly, instead of it feeling repetitive, I found that this overlap allowed me to constantly glean something new. Being immersed in an environment of grace, love, and maturity in Christ was a glass of cool water every day. I will miss it all dearly when I return to school.
I pray that my contribution to the Brookside ministries this summer was helpful to the dedicated team serving there; but in the end, I believe I benefitted far more than anything I could have contributed. This internship is extraordinarily valuable and life changing.