I stumbled upon the Journey internship during my junior year of college. At that time I was a part of a pretty incredible church that took a chance on this young leader, and they saw something in me that I could not yet see in myself. They gave me countless opportunities to learn and grow in leadership with their college ministry.
However, half way through my junior year, I started craving something more. I couldn’t identify what or put words to it, but I just felt like there was something else I needed and longed for. Looking back this part of my story makes me smile a bit, but I think it reveals a bit of the heart work God needed to do in me. I heard about the journey internship at the Big Stuff camp earlier that summer, but I quickly self-selected out and decided not to apply…what chance did this girl from Iowa, the flyover state, ever have at being accepted for an internship in Georgia and Africa? But I couldn’t shake the idea. I realized I loved the idea that this internship would give me a chance to continue investing in college age Africans, while also receiving investment back. That was it! That was what I finally identified I was craving… new opportunities to grow and be invested in by Christians who were further down the journey than I was. Maybe this internship could do that. So finally I applied in January, a day after the official deadline and said, “Well God, I have no clue what this internship is even all about, but I can’t shake the feeling that I need to at least be courageous enough to apply.” So I did.
Later that week I got the email and set up the time for an interview. I was in the middle of my shift at work in the college’s admissions office when my phone rang with a Georgia number popping up on the screen…it was two hours earlier than I expected, but I must not have accounted for the time change! I abandoned my call desk and took the call. Something pretty spectacular happened. I started talking to this lady on the other end of the line who responded in ways that showed that she really understood the the heart passions I was talking about. She started using the same language I used when she talked about God. As she talked about investing in others, I found myself thinking, Yes, that is what it’s all about! It was an instant connection. Not to mention, here she was, a wife, a mom and a ministry leader, who loved Jesus deeply. I had no clue those types of women really existed in the world. She seemed to model a type of leader I hoped to one day become. So after a few other logistics fell into place, I was accepted and headed to Georgia that summer for the Journey internship.
The journey internship was quite an adventure for me! During the first few weeks of pre-Africa training in the North Georgia mountains, God seemed to strip me of all leadership influence. At the time I had no clue this is what God was doing, it just felt that an epic struggle at first. The other team members weren’t looking to me for answers like most of the people back in Iowa did. My voice didn’t seem to be heard as the team struggled on countless low ropes course obstacles. I was completely disoriented…
A few days into training I was at my frustration boiling point! The directors told us at breakfast we were going to have a full day solitude retreat…that meant we were to go off on our own with our Bibles and journals and just spend the day with God. Sounds equally exciting and terrifying doesn’t it?!
I found a little 12x4 porch on the second story of some building. It felt like a little tree house that looked out on a canopy of trees. Perfect! Before I even fully sat down, my little hand started furiously writing…I was lamenting the wrestle the last few days had been, which quickly turned into pouring out my heart about some of the difficulties of the past year. Finally I started saying, Jesus...I want to love you…I know I do love you, but I just don't feel you. I'm not thinking about you...I just want more of you, and I can't figure out how to get more of you. I've tried hard for the past year, but I just don't know what the heck to do!!...
Exasperated, I threw my journal and Bible across the porch. Completely fed up, I slumped against the wall and stared up in the trees. Something caught my eye. It looked like a heart was in the tree. My first thought was, "They would! This is a Christian camp, they would go around and put paper hearts in all of the trees." Looking back I know how ridiculous this thought was, but I was truly irritated. I picked up my journal and continued writing and reading my Bible. But I decided to get my camera out of my bag and zoom up to check out this heart shape in the tree.
As I zoomed, I realized, to my amazement that there was a perfectly beveled heart-shaped leaf in that tree, with a stem and everything! In that instant I felt like I got punched in the heart with love. It's as if God's love for me just folded over me. God really does love me. God pursued me with his loves through various way for the rest of that summer. It was always in the movements when I least expected it and it was definitely in the moments when I didn't work for it. I would realize it as the African school children and I would laugh freely on the playground. Or when the Rejoice Project team leaders would co-teach...
You see, God almost muted my leadership in order to gently call me out from the hiding space I had found there, and he spent the rest of the summer tending to my heart and reminding me that His love is free. He didn’t love me because of what I could do for him. He loved me simply because I had inherent value as a child of God. He helped me believe that He had deposited value in me. He has made me to be a leader in His Kingdom, and as I focus on who He says I am, I will be able to walk out the Kingdom adventure He wired me for.
We headed over to Africa.
I left the journey internship with a new passion for the nations. I saw the impact of healthy, sustainable community development first hand through this internship. Not to mention the countless discipleship opportunities that were available through this model. My heart for spiritual development of college students was renewed and most importantly I left with a deeper, richer relationship with Christ.
God opened up an opportunity with my local church to help lead the church’s teams to Africa. I was fortunate to head back to a community I originally visited on Journey roughly six times. It was a fun opportunity to pass on the mission model knowledge I learned and experienced to the people in my local church.
I was also able to recommend the Journey internship to future college ministry students who I knew would benefit from a summer of intense discipleship and ministry experience.
Now I find myself in Arizona pursuing a masters at Fuller seminary.
You know, God used the journey internship to expose me to His mission around the world. I met countless couples who were modeling a life of genuinely following Christ: the East African Director of Compassion International, Christian Camp Directors, etc. They all had different ministries but the undeniable theme was that God had given them a passion and led them to the places they were at today. They chose to nurture that and pay the necessary costs that inevitably came as they started following Christ and their passion. After enduring the difficult set-backs, all of them started to see God work in unbelievable ways. I left the Journey internship with a great cloud of witnesses who reminded me that the Kingdom of God is active, and I have the invitation to join in in my unique way.
Jesus pursued me with his gentle, relentless love through this internship and untangled me from lies and insecurity that kept me from believing that maybe, just maybe, God was inviting me to be a part of His Kingdom adventure.
I'm thankful for how this internship impacted my journey.