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Summer mission internship program continues to grow

Summer mission internship program continues to grow

The Conference’s summer mission internship program continues to grow, expanding from a handful of persons four years ago to 33 this past summer.

“It is a way for the mission interns to commit a summer to ministry with children, and also to explore their own call,” said Melinda Trotti, the Conference’s Director of Justice and Outreach Ministries, “whether that’s a professional call to ministry, or a vocation. We are developing young adults to be leaders in our church, both in the present and the future.”

The program is a collaborative effort between Trotti’s office and the Office of Camps and Retreat Ministries, operated by Trotti’s husband, the Rev. David Berkey. Another entity is the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger, which is charged with ensuring that children who lose their free and reduced-priced lunch when the school year ends still eat during the summer.

Praise M'Mworia, summer mission intern

Interns typically range in age from 19 to 22, but some have been as old as 28. Trotti said she requires that they have lived at least a year away from home so they can be prepared for the experience. Some work in their own communities, but many travel to serve and stay in housing provided by the non-profit agency they are supporting. The agency site pays $1,000 for each intern and the Conference pays $1,000 as well, providing a total of $2,000 to each intern across 10 weeks.

“It is not a huge investment, but a considerable one on the part of the Conference to provide that internship. The program can really grow as large as funding will allow,” Trotti noted.

“The program enables us to do our summer camps at this point,” said the Rev. Pam Cahoon, executive director of C.R.O.S. Ministries of Palm Beach County. “What I like about the interns is that they’re committed. It’s not just a job for them. They understand that what they’re doing is ministry. Melinda and David (Berkey) do such a good job of training. It adds depth and quality to our programs.”

Cahoon observed that 61 children made first-time commitments to Christ this past summer across her agency’s three summer camp locations, in Lake Worth, Del Ray Beach and Belle Glade. A total of 12 interns served at these camps.

“I think the interns themselves just benefit so much. I’ve had several tell me that this was a wonderful growth experience for them, and they’ve learned so much,” Cahoon said.

One of the C.R.O.S. interns, Praise M’Mworia, served in Belle Glade and focused his efforts on helping children with reading and sentence structure — along with teaching Bible verses. “Some of them didn’t even know who Jesus was,” he recalled. “We also played a lot of games with them as well, to keep them active and moving around. I had an awesome team of three other individuals. We were pretty much the ones running the program.”

M’Mworia, a student at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C., studying forensic science and the son of the Rev. Silas M’Mworia of Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church in Daytona Beach, said his summer experience was one-of-a-kind.

“I didn’t know I had it in me. It was an opportunity for me to see how I can affect someone else’s life. In the end, it affected my own life. Some of the lessons I was teaching—I thought, ‘Well, I need to apply this to my own life. It was neat to see this and grow that way,” he said.

Since the interns are spread out across the state, the Conference facilitated a pre-summer and midsummer overnight retreat and a couple of online chats to help them connect with one another and not feel isolated. Each intern also read Shane Claiborne’s book "The Irresistible Revolution," which discusses Claiborne’s chosen lifestyle among the poor and destitute.

Adeline Fenelus, summer mission intern

Trotti noted that one of the goals of the program is to offer the interns an opportunity to integrate their personal faith with their understanding of social justice and their calling to ministry. Claiborne’s book is one such tool, along with teaching on spiritual disciplines such as breath prayer. 

Another intern from this past summer, Adeline Fenelus, is a Haitian-American who worked in the Orlando area based out of her own church, Berea United Methodist Church. Fenelus plans to start nursing school next May, and was hoping to intern at a hospital this fall.

“We did community service, helping people with low incomes,” she said. “I worked at a low-priced community grocery store, making sure everything was in the proper place. We had camps, and played some games, including a reading camp to get them ready for the school year.”

Fenelus said the most meaningful aspect of her internship experience was seeing kids having fun. “There was joy on their faces. Most of them don’t have food provided to them during the summer. Their parents are at work. Them being there and eating and having fun was a great moment for me.”