Miraculously, all of our students were blessed with the opportunity to participate in a six week placement with local businesses and organizations in Hamilton and the surrounding area.
During my first few weeks with World Renew, I thought I knew what God was doing in me. I’ve realized I tend to do that, I tend to step into something new and think, “Ah, of course God wanted me here. It’s all so that I can learn such and such lesson or have this certain question answered!” During my first few weeks of my placement, then, I thought that God was trying to teach me the importance of doing that “garbage-collector” type of work we talked about. I thought he was teaching me about the significance of being behind the scenes and doing administrative work.
Thinking that I am an enneagram seven, that made a lot of sense. I thought, “God’s teaching me what it looks like to follow through, and what it takes to get there.” That is all well and good and definitely something I learned here. Yet the moment where I felt I learned something special, where I sat there thinking, God, you’re doing something right now, aren’t you? was during a presentation during my placement. World Renew has these presentations called “Caffeinate and Consider”, where they debrief and walk through a project as it is wrapping up. I sat in on one called “The Rohingya Response”, a project in Bangladesh where World Renew responded to the Rohingya refugee crisis. I sat there scratching down notes as fast as I could while my coffee grew cold next to me. Different members of the International Disaster Response (IDR) team walked through the political situation, the social dynamics, and seemingly every other factor that contributed to this crisis becoming big enough for World Renew to work there. They walked through all of their plans and the circumstances that led the IDR team to re-evaluate them six times.
I sat there, mind-blown and mesmerized and wanting to learn more. The very next day, our storyteller was Ken Herfst. This too felt like one of those moments where God was just standing in front of me, yelling at the top of his lungs (but joyfully, don’t worry), trying to tell me something. I sat there soaking again, listening to his stories and encounters with Jesus in Guatemala. I frantically scribbled this in my learning journal while he talked, “God works in the particular, not the abstract.” I think one thing I’m learning from World Renew and Ken Herfst is what it looks like to live that quote out. How Ken felt during Hurricane Stan, the bridges he built, the things he asked for and plans he made all show him living in the particular, being faithful by being present and listening to the real needs. He didn’t just force theology, he helped and pointed back to Jesus as the reason he was there. At World Renew, I’ve been learning about the ways they improvise during a project. They know they can’t just “want to help”, but must fully use what’s there and address real needs, as they show up. Wow. I LOVE THIS STUFF.
I have a sneaking suspicion that God is not done teaching me something in all of this. If I had to guess, I would say the roots of the lesson he has started working in me these last six weeks are two things. First, committing and following through when the big picture is actually fairly mundane, and second, learning that I am interested in international development and it likely could be part of my vocation.
Shifts at the Hub gave me life. It’s important to me that I am part of movements that I believe in. I love the way that the Hub meets immediate needs but also provides the wrap-around support that the people who go there, mostly experiencing poverty and/or homelessness, need. The staff know their names, many of their stories, and their coffee order. Jen, a social worker who has been working with people experiencing homelessness and/or poverty for twenty years in the Hamilton area, really inspired me. Jen has been impacting the same ten to fifteen now twenty-something-year-old boys since they were in the foster care system. Some have been incarcerated, some are living on the streets, most are using, some are surviving the shelter system, but almost all of them text Jen when they need to chat, cry or just sit. She assures that she sees them every night and she lets the paramedics patrolling the streets know to keep an eye out for them. She has cried and laughed with them. She urges them with tough love to get their lives together and actually helps them do that. She also loves to help people like me, to understand. She wants to humanize those living rough because she knows, and I have learned that when you simply talk with them, you realize just how human they are, how smart and wise they are, and you realize that they have no less than you to contribute to the world. Jen lives faithfully, using her experience and relatability and turning it into a vocation, a vocation she doesn’t get paid for, but a vocation that she loves and is so, ridiculously good at. I want to be like Jen in the way that I use my past, positions and my strengths to love others well and serve God’s Kingdom.
Other parts of my internship were done from home like scripting and editing videos and creating a bookmark for Philpott. I enjoy creative work but it takes a lot of mental energy and solo time in front of a computer or behind a camera, and when it’s for other people, it can be draining of creativity. It can quickly become a job, and at times is quite literally a job. When my arts are for other people, I can’t exercise risk or creativity as much as I could otherwise. I will focus so hard on finishing what I need to finish, making it perfect, but then, I don’t want to sit in front of a computer any longer than I have to, so I won’t create or let myself get into creative spaces for lack of time and energy given to things for others. I’m not quite sure how to balance this yet, but I think setting limits for work times and making time to take risks, sketch, dream up ideas and take crazy photos would be a step in the right direction. I have a love-hate relationship with solitary work. I like that I am the only one responsible for my success or failure. I need to assure that I make time for those around me, putting relationships before work. I need to ask for help when I need it and say no to things I can’t feasibly do. I was challenged by what Allan Buist said about checking how we measure our lives. I think I need to more often measure it by the love and depth of my relationships rather than the quality and effectiveness of the things I do and produce.
My next step in life is still unsure. Through my internship, I have seen that I am a person that likes taking responsibility for her own work and learning, enjoys a challenge, and can manage many things at once, but also a person that overworks herself and needs rest, relationships, fun and to be still. I need to be with and learn from diverse people, following relationships to the causes that matter. I want to use my background for relatability and for it to be part of where I go. Where His peace leads is where I want to be, and if I don’t feel it, make a decision and trust that He will be there with me and incorporate it into my story, but I need to stay interruptible. I’m excited to go to university next year and talk about big issues having had the experiences that I got from my internship and Act Five as a whole. I’m excited to go forth with the things that I’ve learned about myself, the world, and people. Next year, I hope to not only be an academic observer of the world and what God is doing but an active participant. I hope to be a restful worker in the Kingdom of God, a funny paradox that I constantly find myself learning to balance. As I’ve learned before, strength in Christ stems from rest in Christ. As I learn to rely on Him to sustain me, I hope to become part of the healing of the places I’m in as He works through me in whatever it is He would have for me to do, and what it is that would please Him. Jill Weber said in the “Rule of Life” video that a servant of the King asks “what would you have me do?” whereas a voluntary lover asks “what would please you?”. I want to be a voluntary lover.