When I first heard about the QuadW Missional Internship, I Google-searched the key words ‘education’, ‘ministry’, ‘internship’, and ‘Portland, OR’. At the time, it seemed a little desperate. I wanted to have a meaningful experience and be engaged in ministry, but I mostly wanted a place to be for the summer that wasn’t my parents’ house. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I put in my application and interviewed for the Portland site and soon I was on a train, never having been to a Methodist church, never having been to Gresham, and never having met in person anyone I was about to be working with for the next 8 weeks.
And so the adventure began.
During those first couple weeks, I realized that whatever I was running from was not nearly as pressing as what I was running toward.
I started to lean into community in ways I hadn’t before. I came from a church background where I was told I didn’t belong and that God was disappointed in me, and in Gresham UMC I found a community of people with open arms and open hearts who drew me nearer to the heart of God and the body of Christ.
I began the internship afraid of engaging with the other interns, but, when I was brave enough to open up, I found deep wells of friendship and we still keep in touch.
Our Spiritual Reflection Fridays with Jessie and Garrett helped us explore the beautiful Northwest as well as our own spirituality. My 4th and 5th graders in the summer school, the kiddos I taught to paint at the art and reading program, the lovely folks from the church who hosted us for meals, working with our friends living outside in Portland, random adventures in Portland with the interns and so many other things we did showed me the fingerprints of God on this city. I started out looking for something, anything to do for the summer and ended up tripping and falling into the abundance of God in the rich experience of working with these folks for the summer.
So, naturally, I came back. I was asked to come back as an RA and to work on the summer school curriculum, and getting to be a part of the lives of not only another group of kids at the summer school but also a new group of interns was an honor and a challenge and a pleasure. LaVerne and Steve were so good to me as we prepared for the interns to arrive, and when everyone was finally here, we embarked on an adventure all our own with new personalities, joys and struggles.
We planted tomatoes in a community garden, we wrestled with our own faiths, we painted murals, we jammed on drums and ukuleles, we hiked out to waterfalls and we taught children the reading and math skills they need to succeed in school. We learned our limits and we learned our strength.
To me, this is what this internship is about. It’s about the struggle. It’s about looking inside yourself but it’s also about leaning into community. It’s about being brave. It’s about “paying attention and being intentional”. It’s about running toward something and tripping and falling into the reality that God is “beholding you and smiling”. It’s about laughing and crying and being ‘with’. It’s about feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and bringing the peace and justice that is the Shalom of God through even something as simple as multiplication facts cards or making burritos.
It’s about leaning in. And I am so glad I did.