I write this article having finished my 10-week internship at the Upshur Parish House. Before I started, many folks asked, "What are your expectations for this internship? What do you want to learn, discover or achieve?" During the internship, many people continued to ask the same question. Now that it has come to a close, they ask, "Did you do what you expected you would do?"
I tried not to have high expectations of what I would learn or do because I did not want to limit what God had in store for me. I certainly was not disappointed! I can confidently say I have learned a great deal, and will take many things from this internship and apply them in my future ministry.
While I helped with all aspects of the Parish House ministry- like the food pantry, Crosslines, the Clothes Closet - plus many behind-the-scenes jobs (which ranged from shampooing the carpet, fixing leaky sinks, driving golf carts, making copies, running errands, to much more!), my primary responsibility was to help with the summer work teams as a "spiritual leader." This proved to be both the most challenging and most fulfilling part of my internship. The work team program is probably one of the lesser-known ministries of the Parish House, yet the mission work done by these teams is very important.
The coordinator of the Summer Work Team program is Eric Phillippi, who has a keen awareness that we are not merely building physical things, but we are building relationships with people. While building roofs, ramps, new floors, stairs and more is important, our primary purpose is to share the love of Jesus Christ with many who have never experienced this joyous love.
Most of the teams came to realize that they could minister more effectively through the building of relationships. I can confidently say I have seen God move in mighty ways through the summer work team program.
The need to build relationships with people before "evangelizing" to them is perhaps the most significant thing that I have learned over the summer. It took a while, but I have finally realized that by building relationships, we share the love of Jesus without preaching to them. This opens hearts that otherwise would be sealed from the Gospel. Through the building of relationships, lives can truly be transformed.
Matthew 25:33-41 shows us a picture of Judgment Day. Here, Jesus tells us that when we are helping the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and prisoners, we are ministering to Christ. If we do not prove our faith by actually living like Christ by loving the destitute, we are missing the mark! The only way to lead the lost to Christ is by building relationships with them and loving them. By doing this, we allow the Holy Spirit to minister to them, leading them to repentance.
I want to urge you: Find a place to serve! See where Christ is calling you. The Parish House has a plethora of ministry opportunities, ranging from the work teams; Crosslines, which offers rent, utility and prescription assistance; the Community Garden; hot lunches every day; and so much more. The pure magnitude of what the Parish House does on a daily basis and the lives it touches has truly astonished and inspired me.
I can assure you that if you volunteer at the Parish House or other mission project, you will be greatly blessed and will be taught many valuable lessons!
My experience this summer at the Parish House has taught me a great deal about Christian mission, leadership, spirituality and how to truly share the love of Christ. I would like to thank the director of the Parish House, Alicia Rapking; Connie Cutright; Eric Phillippi; the many volunteers; and the neighbors, all of whom have had an impact on me this summer and have taught me countless lessons that I will take with me through the rest of my life. Praise be to God!