Learn & Serve: Meet the Spring Interns
This spring, we are privileged to have three Learn & Serve interns volunteering at SIFAT. They help plan and implement our programming with the many school, church, university and civic groups that visit SIFAT. Always willing to serve, our interns – Laurel, Lee and Mac – have become part of our SIFAT family. They will be sharing more in the next few weeks about some of their experiences while here, but first, we wanted to introduce them to you, and in their own words, explain how they came to participate in the L&S internship program. We are taking applications until May 1 for next year’s interns! If you’re interested, learn more on our website.
My youth group came to SIFAT while I was in the 11th grade, and I worked on Flex Staff the summer I graduated high school. During my time on campus, I came to see how SIFAT operates and how it came to be this way. To me, it is such a beautiful concept. It is not necessarily a foreign concept, but the simplified vision of SIFAT (to share God’s love in practical ways) put words and a central idea to how I wanted to live. I want to not just say that I love my neighbor, but I actually want to act out my love. I legitimately want to show my neighbor, my brother, my sister, anyone I come in contact with that God loves them through my actions and lifestyle.
At first, SIFAT gave me the chance to introspectively see how the worldview I had clashed with the way the world actually is. Now being at SIFAT, I can learn about ways to aggressively love people in my community and people in communities around the world through slum experiences and appropriate technology. Now, I get to give others the chance to walk in the shoes of those in need around the world like I did, as well as learn about how to help those in need around the world.
My journey to becoming a Learn & Serve intern began years ago when I was just a child who had no knowledge of the oppression or hardships faced by those living around the world, nor had I noticed the works of God in my life. My journey begins in Mobile, Ala., in a big church with happy people in happy families that gathered in a happy community to celebrate something called “the love of Christ” as something called “the body of Christ.”
“We are all a part of the body of Christ,” my Sunday school teacher was explaining to us, “You could be an ear, a nose, the lips, the hands, the feet of Christ, but we are nothing without the rest of our body. We all make up one big body to serve God.” Having only the capacity of a nine year old, I envisioned myself an ear on the body, being my own church, of Christ; I stuck with the idea that this really large body was made of my own church and only my own church.
As I said goodbye to the children’s ministry and hello to youth ministry of my church, we began to discuss heavy topics, including poverty, sex trafficking, homelessness and malaria (these just being the most memorable and frightening topics), all of which were new to me. This led to my first summer event with my church, SIFAT’s Learn & Serve Summer Experience. The week we spent on campus eventually changed the way I viewed the world.
After I digested the scenes to which I was exposed in the slum experience and global village experience, I remember being filled with two very strong feelings: being heartbroken and being empowered. This was the first time I had felt in touch with our brothers and sisters in different parts of the world, and I wept at not only my ignorance, but for the cruel conditions that in which they are living. A much more powerful feeling than the pain I felt was the empowerment I learned to embrace from the experience I had with SIFAT and the mission to spread the love, joy and salvation of Christ. I came home after falling in love with the mission of SIFAT and the technologies we teach and the God in which inspired it all.
After returning to SIFAT annually for four years, I went on a medical mission trip to Tanzania. I left the states with an open heart and hands ready to serve, and a mouth that’s only desire was to speak of the grace I had been given. The mountains and the skies and the songs and the people and the country won me over. On the night before we left, I called back home and said I was staying for another two weeks.
When I returned to school, I was given the opportunity to graduate a semester early. Inspired by the works I had seen done in Tanzania and filled with an even stronger will to “go,” I gained a sort of desperation to serve. Another opportunity soon came about — this internship. I set sail in the fall semester to prepare for the internship, and now I am here at SIFAT, hoping to gain much wisdom, to make new friends and to connect in new and powerful ways with the one very large body of Christ during this semester.
My first experience with SIFAT occurred on my last day of high school. I decided to take a gap year after graduating high school, and I had already applied to go on an Outward Bound course for my fall semester. I was searching for something to do for spring. That’s when one of my grandmother’s friends contacted me. She was on the board at SIFAT and thought it would be a great opportunity for me to apply for the spring internship. Having never heard of the organization, I was a little bit hesitant to look into it. However, I looked up the website, which seemed pretty interesting. I sent an email to see if I could tour the campus and see what SIFAT was all about.
After the summer, I came to tour and was very impressed with everything that was happening here. I immediately felt this was somewhere I needed to be. Everything that I was told I would be doing as an L&S intern seemed exciting, fun and different than anything I had ever done before. I was especially excited to work with participants in the slums and global village. After my tour, I applied as soon as possible. A few weeks later, I left for my 81-day semester with Outward Bound. I traveled to a bunch of places and saw a lot of cool stuff, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made the right decision. I had only been to SIFAT once – what if it wasn’t as awesome as it seemed?
I arrived at the SIFAT campus on January 5, and I met my fellow interns Laurel and Lee, as well as my supervisor, Becca. Immediately upon arrival, all of my doubts were cast away. I have loved my time here so far, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change.