FPC has a tradition of bringing on special staff to the Christian Education Department during the summer months to develop emerging ministry leaders and make a deep, relational investment in our children and youth. The following is a summary about the impact of their summer staff experience!
This summer, I experienced God through the leadership of the Student Ministry staff. Coming to FPC from a previous church experience that was painful, I couldn't help feeling wary of having a similar experience here. By summer’s end, the thoughtfulness and wisdom of the staff undid some of the bitterness that had started in my heart. I am grateful for and in awe of the way God's care has overflowed through the staff to me.
I realized in many ways throughout the summer that I was put in a position that required me to trust and obey the Lord. I felt unsure, yet I had a familiar sense that the Lord was guiding me through this specific step in my life. My previous ministry experience had been with older groups, so I was uncertain about my effectiveness in ministry with elementary-age students and all the various new experiences that my circumstances brought, but the Lord was faithful through all of it. I feel that I have grown in trust, knowing that the Lord is doing the good work, and I'm along for the ride.
A major highlight was a conversation I had with Margie, who from the start felt more like my friend than a boss. There was a morning that I came in for my weekly meeting, and, instead of running through details of ministry programming, she asked me how I was doing. The conversation that followed was a very satisfying answer to a very difficult question that I have been wrestling with concerning the institutional church. I found myself close to tears, thankful to God for such a thoughtful answer to a prayer in my heart that had never been spoken.
The greatest thing I have gained from this experience is a greater trust in the Lord. As I move toward a totally new chapter of life involving marriage and, hopefully, employment, I will remember this past summer as proof that the Lord is faithful in a predictably unforeseeable and perfect way. I ask you to pray with me for employment, and life with my bride, Sarah Cuevas. A sincere 'Thank you' to staff and members and new friends for the warm welcome during my short time at FPC!
My summer working with high school was a beautiful, fun, wild and wonderful learning experience. While I was an intern in Dominican Republic last summer, the other interns seemed to understand what God had planned for them, which mostly involved overseas missions. I was the only one who didn’t quite understand what God had planned for me, but I knew I was missing home. I realized that God was calling for me was to stay and volunteer my time with the High School Youth Group back in Fresno through my homesickness. That following school year I continued faithfully to attend high school events, following my love for the students and God’s calling.
My partner in High School, Zach Oaks, is an incredible person to work with! Together, Zach and I encouraged the students to find and place their identity in Christ, instead of in worldly things. Through our teaching, several students shared joys, sorrows, struggles, and other ways they saw God working in their lives. It was very encouraging and moving for them to recognize God’s work in their wonderful lives. As a leadership team, we met once a week and discussed ways to improve our performance. We heard from others on ways they thought we needed improvement; I recognized that I needed help at first, but the farther into summer we got, the more I thought I didn’t need any more advice. However, God knew the areas I needed growth in, and the leadership team guided me in love and grace. Overall, this summer was encouraging, full of learning, fun, and an eye-opening experience to the business side of ministry.
I experienced God through the children when their eyes lit up as I taught, I saw Jesus in them because they truly understood my message. I used to think I wasn't a good teacher and couldn't teach above preschool, but the Lord showed me that I really can teach. My favorite memory is from the very first night seeing the kids get beyond excited when they found out I was going to swim in the pool with them!
My takeaway from this amazing summer is that God can use any situation and turn it around. Knowing that I am physically and emotionally able to teach above preschool makes me super excited about what the Lord may do in my life! Please pray that I continue to trust in Him, as he is faithful and completely trustworthy, and that I discover my next steps!
Firstly, I would like to thank the staff, congregation, and youth of First Pres and God, our Father, for giving me to opportunity to be a part of the Summer Staff. I have experienced God’s love and provision so much this summer, it feels unreal. Watching each student interact, grow spiritually, and show so much love and grace to me is a reminder of the wonderful God we serve. This experience as part of the Youth program has seen growth in me that couldn’t have been anything but of God. He has helped me to recognize my strengths and shortcomings in leadership and has shown me the importance of communication and working with others for His kingdom. These things have helped me to grow and prepare for other work that God will have me do in my life.
A big takeaway for me is just realizing how important, impactful, and precious our youth really are. This is an important part of their walk with Christ as they navigate these new life experiences and my hope this summer was to help them grow spiritually, which we did see the fruit of, but I never imagined the ways they would speak into my own life with such love and wisdom. Additionally, I did not anticipate how deep the relationships that were formed would be, and I know these will last a lifetime. This has taught me to experience everything, whether I am serving, being served, or just observing, through God’s lenses versus my own. God takes our experiences and uses them to show us His glory and to grow us as sons and daughters. As I move forward into the next season of my life, my prayer request are for my mother’s health, my family to be unified under Christ, and for Him to continue to show me the part I have to play in His plan on this Earth.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21