Tonight, I have a story to tell you. On the surface, it is about where I am headed in mere days and what I will be up to, but more importantly, it is a testimony of depending on God and watching Him come through. I won’t hold my plans for the end; I’m too excited to craft that suspense. As some of you already know, rather than returning to Roanoke this Spring like most students who have already studied abroad a semester, I will be headed to Washington D.C. to participate in the Lutheran College Washington Semester, in which Roanoke is one of several affiliated schools that is a part of the program. LCWS sets up everything for us – housing and roommates, night classes, weekly field trips…they even help many students find an internship. This semester, I am living in a pent-house apartment in Rosslyn, taking both a Public Relations and Global Agenda class, and, most exciting of all, working as a full-time marketing and event planning intern at the Headquarters of InternationalJustice Mission!
This is how it happened.
In the fall of 2012, my friend Evelyn and I sat in the back of RC Admissions making money doing homework and not giving tours. She said she was going to do a study away semester in D.C. that spring, and she encouraged me to join her. The application deadline was only a few weeks away, and I already had a lot of campus commitments that year, so I opted not to join her. She got me thinking, though. Aside from finances and too many classes, the primary reason most students don’t study abroad is because they love their school so much; I understand that. If I went to Clemson, king of football tailgates, school spirit, and community, leaving for a semester would have been a lot harder, even if it was for an unforgettable world experience. But Roanoke and I don’t share that same bond. Our relationship is improving, but I could count on one hand the things I would really miss (my best friend Kayla, small group, Restoration Church, hiking, the English department). Two close friends chose to end their misery and transfer, making the possibility of a year away all the more tempting. I didn’t, and still don’t, loathe Roanoke enough to permanently leave, but why shouldn’t I go? I would be taking advantage of the opportunities Roanoke offers and encourages. By Christmas break, I was in planning mode.
Slavery, one of the world’s worst and most ancient injustices, is more rampant than ever before. Several years ago when I became aware of the estimated 30 million people enslaved today, I began considering a future career to help combat human rights oppression. I still have no idea what form that could take, or even if it is where I am still headed. I do know that, with God’s help, the staff at International Justice Mission already successfully seeks justice, freedom, and protection for thousands of powerless people. IJM is a non-profit human rights organization that protects the poor from violent forces of injustice. Comprised of Christian attorneys, social workers, criminal investigators and support staff, IJM partners with local law enforcement to rescue the poor. Case by case, over 10,500 victims – families toiling in brick factories, young girls imprisoned in brothels, widows whose land has been stolen – have found freedom in the past five years.
To learn more, you can check out Suhana’s beautiful story of redemption.
Once liberated, many of them receive counseling and guidance in aftercare homes, a crucial aid as they begin a new, restored chapter of their lives. IJM goes on to prosecute the perpetrators and ensure that the local public justice system is working properly, bolting oppressors behind bars and enabling communities to prevent future abuses. With each rescue, IJM is proving that justice for the poor is possible. I have wanted to be a more active supporter of their work for many years, so when I decided to go to D.C., I also began researching the possibility of an internship at IJM.
I made it, I will be joining 19 other interns in a week, but through the whole process, God kept me on a string, teaching me at each progression that this would work only through His will, His power, and my submission to Him.
How? How do I know this was God and not some retrospective bias or my hard work or just coincidence? The past certainly does clarify the way the Holy Spirit has already been moving, but I know primarily because I barely made it. Too many things went wrong; I should not have been able to even apply. Something would still go right, though, and in a small, uneventful way, the Lord would pull through yet again.
Summer gives you the feeling that you have plenty of time before you. Even I, Miss List-maker herself, inevitably put off to-dos for another day. My three tasks for August: work, IJM application, pack. I think I can handle that. I kind of kept thinking the application was due toward the end of August. Turns out the initial, very lengthy application, as well as all references and paperwork were due August 14, and I realized it a mere week ahead of time. Fortunately, a week is just enough.
On August 7, I journaled:
I guess this application process is teaching me that it’s all in Your hands. It’s not by any act or will of mine. Thank you for saving the opportunity and still allowing just enough time to have everything submitted.
And that kind of thing just kept happening. I was so interested in this opportunity that I saved the application to my computer last winter. I later filled it out, worried that the references that had to be mailed wouldn’t make it in time. I did not realize for several days that the file had since been updated. The references and transcript could now be e-mailed. Whew.
My first interview went pretty well. I didn’t really know which intern position I wanted. I’m a competent, joyful worker, but I still lack a specific skill set, and I had been praying (and worrying) a lot about what kind of career I might have someday. I remember the interviewer saying, Well it sounds like you have a good bit of experience with event planning. Would you be interested in that? Um, heck yes. That sounds perfect for me. Why had I never considered that before? So with the first interview, God laid aside, at least temporarily, some of the typical young adult worries I had carried of late.
I get placed for a second interview as a marketing intern. While the description to “assist with projects that help further the movement of IJM, raise public awareness of IJM’s mission, ongoing work and fundraising efforts” sounded good, the details of working with a lot of Google statistics and analysis did not. This isn’t event planning! I thought. Do I even want to do this? Should I look for a different internship? I prayed and considered it for a while. I still felt like this was the place; the possibility of working in that kind of environment for a cause I cared about was too good to pass up. Besides, I could learn some new skills.
I was well into my time in Italy when the second interview was finally scheduled.We decided to talk over FaceTime Audio, and I was to call at an appointed time. I was a little nervous, but prepared. I had tested out the audio with my roommate to make sure I knew how to use it. All seemed well. I called the number. It didn’t work. My heart started beating significantly faster. I am not trying to create an impression of irresponsibility here! Ahh! This is not happening right now. I e-mailed immediately. Fifteen painstakingly slow minutes later, the interviewer called me back on a landline the old-fashioned way. She sounded wonderful. I was frank and told her I don’t know much about Google stats, but I’m willing to learn. She tells me there have been some departmental shifts, and that is no longer part of the marketing intern description. It really would mainly be event planning. Hallelujah, praise the Lord! Quite literally. She goes on explaining everything and it honestly already sounds like I have the job. I get a little confident inside. At the end of the interview, she says she still has a few more people to talk to, but that the department should make a final decision shortly.
Dear goodness. This process has been so long. When we get off the phone, I am still seriously depending on the Lord. I ask for prayers from the gals in my Bible Study in Italy. Please Lord. I want this. If this is right, help me.
I’m supposed to get an e-mail by October 15. It comes and goes. I keep praying.Two days later, I check my school e-mail just to make sure. Low and behold, there is an e-mail from several days before with my status. They invited me to join the team! I need to accept or decline in the next two days. Once again, it worked out. It almost did not, but it still did. I accepted with enthusiasm and apologies for my slow response.
I was, and still am, stoked. On January 1, my family and I are hopping on a nine hour train ride to Washington, D.C. to help me move in, and orientation at IJM will begin next Monday. Even though I won’t be working with Google statistics, I still don’t have the details about what I am jumping into. This I am certain of: I will be with good, professional, hardworking Christians who believe that human rights for the poor are worth defending. I will be working far harder this semester than last, but I am eager to regain more purpose on a day-to-day basis. Once again, I will be in another new environment, but just like the whole process of heading to D.C., I know I will have a good God by my side and in my soul.
And I know that if you made it to the end of this, you have either contracted WVBS (Winter Vacation Boredom Syndrome) or you must actually care about me. If it’s the latter, I would appreciate your prayers as I enter one more new environment. Please pray for the work of IJM – for victims to be rescued and oppressors justly prosecuted. Pray for the international field offices and those working in D.C. Personally, please pray that the work I do will be effective and helpful. Pray that I rely on the Lord, seeking His guidance, renewal and provision. He really is a good God, and He has shown me that He is there, in my struggles at Roanoke, in my adventures abroad, in the barely-made-it interview process. He is right by not only me, but all of His children. He is right by you, too.