[IM]PACT Internship leads to new life plans, new lives in Christ
Pastor & writer
The Estonian girl asked Converge interns one question.
“I missed the devotion this morning,” she told them. “Could you tell me what it was?”
Such a question wouldn’t be out of the ordinary or especially encouraging in many countries or ministries. But the teenager’s spiritual desire comes after several years of ministry among a culturally-atheist nation.
Converge global workers (missionaries) and interns have served for a long time at three summer camps in Estonia, she said. Many of the youth and children have never heard about Jesus but have become receptive to conversations about him as Converge global workers are invited back year after year to a very secular nation.
So, when the teenager walked from her camping tent to the tents where interns stayed, Giles and the others were listening closely. The teen, like others, might have been coming since she was a little girl.
“These things have been a long time coming,” Giles said. “We are seeing a lot of momentum and really great things happening in this youth atmosphere.”
Giles and the interns heard how the local teenager grew up around abusive adults, a common and sad aspect of life in Estonia.
“They’re really grasping for this hope,” Giles said. “We were able to share the gospel with her and gave her a Bible.”
Another service project of the ministry in Estonia involves Converge global workers who are leading a cooking center to build relationships. Estonians are coming to learn to cook and visiting a church that hosts outreach events.
At a cooking class, Giles connected with a 20-year-old and a spiritual conversation developed. That young adult, Giles said, “had so many questions and is thinking through all of her questions about faith and God and who Jesus was.”
“Many of these conversations we’ve had about Jesus, I’m not trying to pull it out of them,” Giles said. “They’re coming to me and saying, ‘You shared this thing and I’m interested to hear more.’”
How many times in one day can you share your testimony?
Leah Castleberry served in Togo for the summer as another [IM]PACT intern.
“Right when I got there, I shared my testimony five times in three days,” she said.
That’s a major shift from life back home in Warner-Robins, Georgia. She said people in her hometown don’t ask to hear her testimony much. Confessing Christ was a step of faith to obey the Lord differently in Togo, where she didn’t know anyone.
Sitting on the roof of a home in Togo, a small West African nation, Castleberry was a long way from her home in Georgia. But she was a lot closer to gaining God’s perspective on life.
“I knew the mission field was everywhere,” she said of the rooftop vista. “But that moment kind of changed my mindset.” Sitting on the roof helped her realize disciples can be made in Australia, Europe, South America and the rest of the world.
Before the trip, Castleberry said she was in a rut in her faith. She’d been interested in missions for a while. She’d even wanted to go to Africa since she was eight.
She’d achieved that goal by visiting Rwanda in middle school and Kenya in high school. For some time, she felt her faith wasn’t as vibrant or strong.
But serving God in Togo stimulated her faith and clarified her future path. She’ll be studying early childhood education at the University of North Georgia. As she starts college this fall, Castleberry said she’ll be thinking about places she can study abroad. Her motives aren’t entirely academic. The [IM]PACT Internship stimulated even more desire in her to embrace other cultures and obey Christ when studying abroad.
Where can being an intern lead?
Converge isn’t new to sending interns and global workers around the world to advance the mission of God. But [IM]PACT Internships launched this year to make a stronger offering to the world and the places we serve.
During an [IM]PACT Internship, Interns walked alongside experienced global workers in a variety of outreach activities, participating in daily missionary life, investing in lives and sharing God’s love with people who do not yet know Jesus. Their experience included personal teaching and coaching from a Converge initiative leader and appointed project leaders.
“We wanted to be able to provide it to all our initiatives around the globe,” said Tania Martin, Director of Mobilization for Converge’s International Ministries. “We realized that internships are a very good way to get people in the pipeline to understand God’s heart for missions.”
Malachi Hartsell, who lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina, was open to missions when he applied to be an [IM]PACT intern. But he didn’t think international ministry was the vocation of his life.
He heard about the internship at a breakout session while at a camp and applied to be an [IM]PACT intern on the spot after the breakout session on sharing the gospel across cultures.
Together with Converge global workers, interns reflected on life events and how God used those events to wire each person’s identity, Hartsell explained. Next, the [IM]PACT team identified their values and wrote a life statement of their passions and gifts.
“I exist to honor God and to help others by serving and building relationships,” Hartsell learned in the process. For him, he likes being on a team of people who are working together to advance the gospel.
Now, he knows his passions and gifts better and sees a way forward. His next step is seeking leadership development and studying theology at a university.
“God used this internship to do all these things in my life,” he said.
Meanwhile, back at headquarters, God was busy
For the first time, Converge’s mobilization team for international ministry had an intern at its national office in Orlando. Kyle Ryan invested two months analyzing Converge’s process of assessing internship candidates and global workers.
Converge International Ministry staff met Ryan at Trinity Baptist College’s first day of classes. Ryan shared his interest in mental health challenges and issues.
Growing up in a broken home with a multi-ethnic identity, Ryan was diagnosed with ADHD. His mom attended church, but his dad practices new-age spirituality. Ryan was an atheist until he was about 20.
He started attending a church in response to a God who seemed to be meeting him in many experiences. Surprisingly, he was asked to lead a small group in his Florida town before becoming a Christian. However, he dropped a student off one night after church and surrendered to Christ as Lord in the student’s driveway.
As a pre-med student, he immediately considered being a missions doctor. But he had a twinge he should go into ministry, which scared him. Eventually, he felt called more to missions than medicine.
Ryan feels God wants to integrate his personal journey with mental health into his service.
“I always wanted to work with mental health because I struggle with ADHD,” he said.
During a counseling class at Trinity Baptist College, Ryan’s assignment was to set up a counseling practice in any context. He envisioned a counseling program for missionaries to assess and support the mental health of global workers.
“I want to be a therapist for missionaries, for the trauma that they may face and the cognitive disorders that they or their children may be facing,” he said.
Ryan’s service to the Lord may not seem like traditional global service. But his work at headquarters will make a difference for years to come as the [IM]PACT internships continue.
“They took my gifts and put me in a position where I could thrive and contribute to others,” he said. “This is one of the few times that I felt like this was my groove.”
Jeff Lowery, Converge’s International Missions Mobilizer for new missionaries, supervised Ryan.
“We tried to assess if there was anything that would be impeding these missionaries from their truest potential for sharing the gospel,” Ryan said.
How does Converge support [IM]PACT interns?
Converge staff assesses interns before they’re approved. Then, Converge provides interns monthly training before the internship and a time of reflection after their service has ended. Also, interns commit to reading certain books and materials.
Reading “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown advanced Castleberry’s competency in serving as part of a team. The book emphasized the value of vulnerability among team members.
So, Castleberry participated in challenging dialogues and life reflections with missionaries in Togo. In turn, she grew in her faith and skills for serving with others.
“We call it hammering and chiseling,” she said when other missionaries asked hard questions. “There were a lot of challenging and deep questions they were asking to help us grow.”
Giles has questions too. But, like most people, her future has more choices than certainties.
The Kansas native worked as an engineer until the pandemic. Since then, she’s been working in other fields and has seen God at work in her details and decisions again and again. Still, God hasn’t given her a blueprint for the future.
Instead, the Estonians who sought Jesus with their questions and their prayers remain with her.
“Being here and seeing these people that have never heard about Jesus weighs heavy on your heart,” she said. “I like to share my faith and have those deep discussions with people.”
Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.