Seventeen new interns in The Michigan Conference’s Mission Intern Program begin their service this summer in United Methodist-affiliated nonprofits and local congregations throughout the state.
Mission and Justice Communications Intern
After 23 years, The Michigan Conference’s Mission Intern Program is still leading young adults through mission, service, and faith.
In 1999, Reverend Terry Gladstone began the internship program in the Detroit Conference. She had been inspired to start the program after her son, Carl Gladstone, had returned from a mission moment in Dallas, Texas.
“She got a vision for how we could do [mission and service] locally,” Gladstone said. “My mom got it going, and it was the beginning of something that would continue to grow, and be an important part of what our area United Methodists offered to young adults for helping them transition from a younger phase of their faith into making real engagement in the world.”
According to a 2017 article, the program began with a three-fold focus that “young adults would develop their leadership skills and discern God’s call in their lives while assisting congregations in implementing community-ministry that intentionally builds relationships with children and families living at or below the poverty line.”
This statement still rings true as 17 new mission interns begin their mission work at United Methodist-related nonprofits or local congregations across the state this summer. However, before they could begin their projects, they had to be trained for what is ahead of them.
On June 5, interns gathered from around the state at St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt for two days to meet one another, learn about where they each were serving, and most importantly be trained on working in areas with children and low-income areas.
As the program is centered around impacting the lives of children in a positive way, and building relationships between the church and rural areas, interns must know what to expect and how to handle difficult situations while serving.
Christy Miller White, Youth Ministry Initiatives Coordinator for the conference, shares with interns how to build connections and create a positive influence on children with trauma.
Interns learn that if a child is upset, it’s not always something they have done, and it is not their responsibility to fix all the problems in the child’s life. Instead, interns help alleviate the trouble in their minds and give them a safe space to be themselves.
Another area interns must be prepared for is working in rural and low-income areas. A handful of this year’s interns will be working with individuals who struggle to make ends meet.
Through training, interns learn what poverty may look like, as it is not always a run-down house and messy lifestyle the entertainment industry showcases.
Similar to how interns are to care for children, they are taught to build connections with those they are working with and do their best to uplift individuals in difficult situations, even if there are no solutions to their problems.
A key idea interns learn throughout their retreat is that they are sent out to their sites to serve and be positive influences in the community.
Gladstone says that having programs, like the Mission Intern Program, are critical pieces to have in the church. It offers young adults a chance to serve in their community, making God’s love, justice, and mercy real.
Reverend Alex Plum, ordained Deacon at Cass Community United Methodist Church and Director of Clinical and Social Health Integration at Henry Ford Health, was a mission intern for three years from 2005 to 2008.
Plum says for young people going into the program, it is important to think about what they are looking to get out of it.
“If you want to be in service, you can find 1,000 ways to be in service,” Plum said. “Are you looking for something more meaningful, are you looking for something deeper? Are you looking for a program that’s going to transform the way that you encounter the risen Christ through the lives of the folks that you are in service? If you’re looking to see Jesus and to make sense of what Jesus is doing in their lives, and in yours, this is the program for you.”
This program offers local churches a chance to be involved in a significant outreach ministry while having an impact on the faith journey of young adults. Plum says God is using interns in the puzzle of life, putting them in places where they fit and will make a difference.
This summer, 17 mission interns will be serving in communities across Michigan, being blessed forward from the retreat with God’s words at heart.