JEFFERSON CITY – The 2020 MBC Summer Missions program ended, Aug. 1. For the prior ten weeks, eighty-six college students served as interns alongside pastors, campus missionaries, and other ministry leaders. From mission trips to producing media, handing out homeless bags to mentoring youth, leading worship to planning events, the interns dug their hands in deep to real-life ministry – even in the midst of a global pandemic.
The internship stretched the students, both spiritually and in ministry skills. Brady Perkins, who worked under Student Pastor Jeff Moran at Lynnwood Baptist Church, says he’s always struggled with public speaking and event planning. “God has used the internship to help enhance those abilities,” he says.
The circumstances of the coronavirus provided additional challenges that fueled growth. Mission trips were cancelled, plans changed, and uncertainty lingered. “Since a lot of the events planned for this summer were canceled, my mentor and I had to do a lot of creative planning to reconnect with the ministry,” says Valoree Heitman, an intern with Cindy Mickan, Children’s Director at Faith Baptist Church in Festus.
“In the beginning I was really disappointed to miss out on what was canceled for the summer and wasn’t even sure if the summer program would still be happening,” Heitman continues. “I know now God used the disappointment to strengthen me and to show me that He is in control, not me. This pandemic was really challenging in general, but was something we all needed…I grew in my relationship with my mentor and got to become close to her, I grew in my love for ministry, grew in patience, and in all this strengthened my relationship with Lord.”
Madi House, who interned with Emilie Heitmann, a Mission Associate at FBC Arnold, says she, too, learned something valuable from the shifting plans. “It showed me that God works even when our plans are changed,” she says.
While the interns provide needed help in various ministry tasks, they aren’t just “free labor;” their mentors actively seek to help them mature in their relationship with Jesus and grow in their ministry skills. Kyra Johnson, who interned with FBC Huntsville’s youth pastor, Michael Hunt, describes one instance when her campers “hit me with a really hard topic. I didn’t know how to discuss it with them in a biblical manner.” She asked her mentor to step in and help.
Hunt’s mentorship not only helped her in those pragmatic moments but taught her more about her walk with Christ. “Through the one-on-one time with Michael I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about what it means to be a Christian and the instructions that we have,” she says. “It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things that I’ve just never really known before about Christ.”
For Nolan Puletasi, who interned with Scott Westfall, MBCollegiate Campus Missionary at Missouri Valley College, the program challenged him to “develop discipline and obedient habits for God to sustain my identity in Christ,” he says, despite the multiple mission opportunities that were cancelled because of COVID-19. The internship “has helped me build a foundation as a follower of Christ to illuminate to others with love and imitation,” he concludes.
The summer interns have seen the value of the Summer Missions program in their own lives – and it’s something they want other college students to experience, too.
“You get to experience the growth of your relationship with Father and grow in your relationships with others! You get to serve so much you are exhausted, but you still want to continue. You get to see the good and bad of different situations, but you also get to learn how to grow through them,” says Heitman.
Puletasi emphatically agrees, “It’s the most fulfilling experience you’ll get to have and treasure knowing that you’re doing the good works for our Lord and Savior.”