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Summer program helps interns narrow focus of ministry

Summer program helps interns narrow focus of ministry

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Summer program helps interns narrow focus of ministry

By Jenna De Marco | Aug. 16, 2009 {1067}

College student Perri Bevan found a place to fulfill her passion for service this summer. She also got the chance to gain a better understanding of how she’s called to be in ministry.

The Florida Conference’s summer mission intern program provided both those opportunities.

Perri Bevan works with children attending Camp AMP. Photo by David Cott. Photo #09-1288.

“I know I have the call to be in ministry, and I feel I have the call to be ordained, but I don’t know which path,” Bevan said. “I am a certified candidate (for ordained ministry), and I love everything about ministry, so this was kind of an opportunity to get to know more about specifics.”

Since early June, Bevan and 11 other college students have spent the summer learning about and serving in a range of ministries in Florida.

Bevan’s internship, as well as that of fellow intern Samantha Perry, has been a “mosaic” of experiences, according to their supervisor and mentor, the Rev. Pam Hall of Community Outreach Agency, an outreach ministry of the Florida Conference’s North East District. Hall is also a deacon serving at Murray Hill United Methodist Church in Jacksonville.

Bevan and Perry worked in an adult day-care center, as well as a center for children with disabilities. They also helped coordinate the vacation Bible school and Celebrate Jesus events at Riverside Park United Methodist Church in Jacksonville. On other days, they assisted area United Methodist churches with food bank and homeless ministries.

Perry, a University of Florida student who is considering graduate school possibilities, said the internship helped her appreciate the unique influence of faith-based organizations.

“It’s definitely confirmed for me that I want to do work within the church,” she said. “I don’t just want to do (secular) social work … I definitely want to do it through the church itself, and it’s so much more powerful.”

The women also spent several weeks planning and co-directing the North East District’s annual Camp AMP, an overnight camp for economically disadvantaged third- through fifth-grade students. The camp focuses on helping children learn about Jesus’ message of peace and how to apply that to conflict resolution. Allowing Bevan and Perry to coordinate the camp expanded their learning, Hall said.

“Our North East District has given these two young women an opportunity to have a range of experiences that allow us to live out our Wesleyan heritage of social holiness,” Hall said.

Hall also praised the interns for their openness, maturity and willingness to serve, as well as The United Methodist Church’s commitment to developing a new generation of spiritual leaders.

“Giving motivated young people places to lead in these churches has been hugely important in helping them to lead,” Hall said.

Hands-on ministry with training

That’s the purpose of the internships — to provide young people with hands-on ministry experiences while serving areas of great need, said Melinda Trotti, director of the Florida Conference’s justice and outreach ministries. The internship was a collaborative effort between Trotti’s office and the conference’s camps and retreat ministries, led by the Rev. David Berkey. Trotti and Berkey acted as co-coordinators of the program.

Trotti said this summer built upon the successes of last year’s experience, the pilot for the program. Four interns participated then.

“I know that there are more ministries that are interested in and could use summer interns,” she said. “We started very small last summer intentionally, and then we increased the number of sites and interns this summer, and it’s a program that could grow based on our ability to resource the young people.”

Perri Bevan (left) and Samantha Perry helped coordinate vacation Bible school and Celebrate Jesus evangelism events at Riverside Park United Methodist Church in Jacksonville. Photo courtesy of Samantha Perry. Photo #09-1289.

Resources for the interns must come in two forms — funding and training. Financial compensation includes a small stipend, the cost of which is split by the agency the interns are serving and the Florida Conference. The agency also provides room and board if needed and meal allowances. This year, the interns served through one of four locations: Christians Reaching Out to Society (C.R.O.S. Ministries) of Palm Beach County, Sons of Thunder Camp for academically at-risk boys in the Titusville area, the East Central District’s Church and Community Connection and the North East District’s outreach agency.

In addition to on-site supervision, training included two overnight retreats and other mentoring sessions provided by the Trotti and Berkey.

“It’s an intensive program in terms of staff input because they receive training specifically (in) working with children in generational poverty and their vocational goals and exposing them to new spiritual disciplines and how they can hold each other accountable,” Trotti said. “So it’s a lot more than just a recruitment and employment program.”

The first training retreat began with team-building exercises and learning about the effects of generational poverty, defined as the experience of families in which more than two generations have lived in poverty, Trotti said.

“I think that (with) the idea of mission, people often think you have to go somewhere out on another continent to be in mission,” Trotti said. “And there are children in need and people in need right in our own communities, and we need to be offering young people that opportunity and giving them a framework for understanding generational poverty.”

Other preparation included specifics on how to help children change problem behaviors, guidance from Berkey on forming vocational goals, a group reading of “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne and a discussion of the interns’ specific concerns and successes at their sites.

Putting new skills to use

The Sons of Thunder camp at St. James African Methodist Church in Titusville provided Justin Clarke and Tyon Paul with the opportunity to implement several of the training concepts they learned. The camp is a cooperative effort between Titusville’s Indian River City United Methodist Church, St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church and the non-denominational Christian Life Center.

Clarke, a health care administration graduate student from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, said one of the most important techniques was the use of the “platinum rule” — treating others the way they would like to be treated. He said he accomplished this in part by developing camp rules, although he did not refer to them as rules. After some brainstorming, Clarke created camp-wide “free zones” that were intended to be devoid of hatred, pain, disrespect and “sagging jeans.”

“I (also) created full zones … areas of the camp where you are full of great things — full of happiness, full of hope and full of prosperity,” he said.

Aside from establishing boundaries, Clarke worked to build the academic skills of the 25 or so students attending the month-long camp. He recalls helping a 7-year-old boy learn to write the alphabet.

“By the end of the camp, he wrote his alphabet perfectly,” Clarke said. “I told him, ‘You can’t really have fun until you learn how to do this because work comes before pleasure.’ ”

Along with math and reading classes, the campers attended Bible study, took field trips and played games.

Clarke said he was originally interested in an international mission experience, but felt the summer internship expanded his worldview and spiritual formation without ever leaving the state.

“You’re teaching human beings about Jesus Christ,” he said. “It just blows your mind with how much … this has provided me with, almost, a purification of the soul. I thought I was a Christian before, but now I know that I am a Christian.”

Paul, a sophomore from Southeastern University in Lakeland, served at both the Sons of Thunder camp and in a one-week C.R.O.S. Ministries residential camp in Clewiston. Ministering to children, he said, meant focusing on being a good role model for them.

“I learned that there’s always a way that you can show that God truly loves people and you’re expressing God’s love through your actions and how you present yourself,” he said.

East Central District intern Julie Salomon, a Tallassee Community College student, said a poignant moment for her occurred while working with children in the Orlando area. A young child ran to his parents, full of excitement and joy about accepting Jesus as his savior.

“That touched my heart,” she said.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.