My story with Hope Collaborative has been far too brief. I began as an intern with Hope Place in June – the first week of summer camp – and I finished the last week of July. Those first few days I felt as if I had jumped into a river; not a gentle, quiet river but a strong and swift current. As someone who has volunteered countless times for vacation Bible schools, camps and cross-cultural children’s ministry, Hope Place was an abrupt awakening for me. I finished my first week with a smoldering frustration and nagging insecurity, because I really had no idea what I was doing. No matter how many times I broke up fights, they happened again. Raising my voice didn’t seem to magically make the group of young boys in my care sit still. I really was just a body in the room, unnoticed and, according to my own perception, disrespected. Yet, I realized that God was using this swift river to cleanse me of years of residual pride and confidence in my abilities. Essentially, He was leveling the high places of my heart where I had exalted myself and set up grand plans for this summer and all the things I would teach these children.
A conclusion that I reached: Hope Place is much bigger than me and much greater than my time here. God was at work long before I arrived, and He will continue to work long after I leave. My work was short-term, but His is long-term. While I focus on making the most of MY time, He focuses on building something that will last.
I determined that my next step was to relearn, so I practically pleaded with Kristy to teach me how to BE with the boys. She helped me realize it was more important to build a relationship than control a classroom. It is far more meaningful to earn trust than command obedience. My posture changed from being an achiever to being a learner. I was not really a teacher, not really a leader nor really a captain. My job was simply to be present. I was only one drop of water in this river, and though perhaps I was unnoticed, my efforts and contributions were no less important. It was my job to supervise but not control, listen but not fix, and reprimand but not deride. Every moment I was with the boys was an investment – not in my ego or my résumé, but in their lives and in the long-term ministry of Hope Place. I began to see growth and kindness in the boys where I had only seen defiance before. When I pointed out the good instead of reprimanding the bad, they began to respond by letting me in to their lives. Truthfully, I learned more from them than I taught them – likely because I stopped trying to teach them and started listening to them.
As I regretfully but gratefully wrap up my time at Hope Place, I look back and see that the greatest lesson Hope Place taught me was LOVE – in its raw form. All of my previous experiences combined had prepared me for maybe an eighth of the work God intended me to do at Hope Place. When God loves He loves for the long-haul. He loves me from the beginning to the end of my sanctification. He loves me through my angry outbursts (although they are internal, they don’t look much different from a 10-year-old boy’s). He loves me through my self-righteousness. His love does not equal approval, but He does not give up. This is the kind of love that Hope Place brings to the community. The staff and volunteers there consider the people living in the neighborhood worth the time and effort it takes to build a relationship with them, demonstrate the love of God and see lasting, eternal growth. This is not a love that comes and goes with feelings or desires, but a love that means consistently making the choice to sacrifice and commit for the good, the bad, and the ugly of life. This is the love of God displayed in the gospel, and His diligent, patient work in our lives. Like Him, those who work and volunteer with Hope Place love for the long-haul.
Hope Place, Summer Intern