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A Reflection from Savannah

My time as a young adult intern at First Olympia and Tumwater has come to an end. I had to complete an internship as part of my graduation requirements for a Bachelor’s in Human Development from Washington State University (Go cougs!). It’s been a whirlwind of opportunity and growth. I wrote in my courier introduction on August 24th “My time as an intern will include planning and facilitating young adult programming in the church, as well as building my knowledge of non-profit work and growing into professional skills.” That sentence, above anything else, reflects the expectations I held for the 10 weeks I’d be an intern.

I did, in fact, learn and do what I thought I would. I’ve handled most communications to young adults, planned activities, and collaborated in the pursuit of making a meaningful young adult retreat. I saw the day-to-day life of the church- everything from the way meetings are sometimes put on pause for 2 hours so that the pastors can care for congregation members and strangers in need to the exceptional amount of intentionality, detail, coordination, and discussion that goes into planning worship each week. I have had discussions about navigating professional appearance vs. comfort, I have learned that, despite my orientation towards leadership, I have a hard time stepping into authority, and I’ve made mistakes in walking the balance between the many roles I hold in First Olympia.

When deciding where to intern at, I felt a call to FUMCO. I felt there was something I needed, but could not name, and hoped I’d find it here. I held the expectation of learning about non-profit work and growing into professional skills, but it became clear very quickly that I had deeply underestimated the gifts of the people I’d work with — Cathy’s cheery disposition, Patty’s perseverance, Barry’s warmth, Lauren’s tolerance of my never-ending questions, Pastor Heather’s strength, Pastor Kellen’s care, Chris’s enthusiasm, Daryl’s cooling presence — but I would not be doing justice to the value of my internship if I did not speak to the depth and breadth of gifts I’ve received from Pastor Alexa.

It might be obvious from my expectations of what I’d learn that I’d also expected a supervisor. That expectation came from stories I’d heard from my peers about their internships. Instead, I was met with a brilliant woman who, without knowing me, decided that she would not be my supervisor, but a mentor. This decision was one she stuck to in the face of my resistance to being cared about. I felt I could not be a whole person in a workplace and she dared me to change that story. There are many experiences she could have softened for me, making it easier for me to process but at the cost of the growth I have found most meaningful. Instead, she pushed me, asked me to expand, to tolerate discomfort, to make different decisions, to think about the broader context, and she did not fear the emotions that arose as I processed all that came my way.
Early on in my internship, she told me “We can talk about what you’re feeling as you navigate this experience” and I looked at her, affronted, and asked her “Why? Why, why, why, why? Why do you care?”. She told me “Because I care that you succeed, however that might look for you, and I will support you in that journey”. I left her office that day bewildered and defensive. The following Sunday she preached and said “Beloved is where you begin”. I realized she didn’t need to know me in order to believe I could be worthy of effort — that she leads by stepping first into the risk that is vulnerability and hope; that she asks others to follow her, not blindly, but with faith. I didn’t have to earn her effort or her care, I just had to have faith in her, allow her to give me what she could offer, and make an effort to foster our relationship in return.

In the last 10 weeks, I have been gifted language from her plethora of books and podcasts, come to know a funny, bright, and compassionate human, had my behavior presented to me with a challenge to step further into my best self, and have been changed for the better because I know her.
My internship has held infinite value; so much I can’t name it all in this reflection. I can say, however, that anyone who’s had a great mentor, someone who cared about you while challenging you to do better, knows a little bit about that value. The skills of professionalism and knowledge about my future work are incredibly important, but I will reverently carry so much more than that out of this internship.

So with that, I want to thank Pastor Alexa for her courage and persistence, Pastor Heather for her support in our ministry work, Pastor Kellen for his collaboration in the young adult work, and, last but not least, the Tumwater and First Olympia congregations for making this internship possible. I will still be in the office on Sunday mornings indefinitely and you’ll see me around the church, but this is the end of my internship and I look forward to seeing how my relationships evolve.


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