It’s difficult to explain the feelings of sadness that I felt the last few days leading to the end of my internship at the Shepherd's House SDA Church in Wausau, WI. It was unexplainably painful to say goodbye to all of the people I had spent the summer getting to know. The thing that pulled me out of the sadness was reflecting on all that I had been able to learn and experience during this summer.
From Bible studies I observed the difficulties of helping people unlearn previous beliefs and bringing them to a new understanding. I was able to see first hand the struggle it is to accomplish this kind of change. Home visits alerted me to the amount of loneliness people have to process through alone and showed me just how much someone can be going through that an outsider would never know about. This gave me a greater burden for groups such as the elderly who often feel isolated. The evangelistic series I was able to assist with planning taught me how to reckon with unanswered prayer and times when God seems like He is not working. Success is fantastic, but pain proved to be a better teacher for me.
Because I had to wrestle through these questions, my faith and determination was built up. The internship as a whole forced me far outside of my comfort zone. I learned that meeting new people is not as terrifying as I thought it was and that it is acceptable to try new things and not be perfect at them right away. Failure does happen and it doesn’t need to cripple me. God can use it to grow me. Even my perceptions of what being a part of a church community looks like shifted drastically. I was able to, for the first time in my life, really feel like I was a part of a large family of believers that were all supporting each other through life’s battles.
Perhaps the most impactful part of my summer was simply working with pastor Justin Spady. His ability to be not just rational but joyful despite whatever curve ball was thrown at him was truly inspiring. He didn’t just spend his life talking about having trust in God, he lived it out every day. In addition to this, His wealth of knowledge about the Bible encouraged me to study my own Bible more often and more deeply. Despite his abilities, in every interaction with others, he was extremely humble. He told me time and time again to learn more from his failures than his successes. This humbled me greatly. It reminded me to always be giving the glory to God for any successes I have and to be a constant learner.
The last sabbath I spent at The Shepherd’s House, I told the congregation that my summer experience had been life-changing. I cannot fully express in words how deeply I meant that. God really knew I needed this experience in my life to train me for future ministry as well as to grow me as a person. Despite how painful and difficult it was at times, I really would not trade this experience for anything.