Like many of you, as the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded ServeHere has been challenged to adapt how we walk out our mission. Mobilizing a generation of faith to be on mission where they'll work and live continues to be what God is calling us to do. But our approach to pursuing this mission has to change, and it's no surprise because this season has demanded necessary pivots from all of us.
We want our college students to look back at this time and remember that when their life changed during COVID, their priorities, and the priorities of Jesus, were sweetly aligned. We deeply desire that ServeHere can help catalyze and connect our students to this reality. For ServeHere, this has meant an even greater focus on equipping college students to show up in these challenging times in ways that glorify God.
We reached out to Allie Yoder, a ServeHere alumna and college Senior, to share her experience during COVID. Allie interned through SerevHere last Summer and spent 10 weeks with us learning what it means to love God, love people, and discern God's voice in all circumstances. With a foundation of the power of God, and an upcoming cancelled college graduation, we were curious how she was navigating the uncertainty. We asked her: What are you learning through Covid that you wouldn’t have been able to learn without it?
Here's what she had to say:
There’s no perfect way to sum up what I’ve been learning during this season. It’s felt odd, relaxing, and all over the place, all at once. For lack of a better comparison, I feel like 22-year-old Taylor Swift, “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time...miserable and magical, oh yeah.”
God has really given me a lot in this season: a loving family, a safe home, the ability to preserve community through technology.
At the same time, as a Senior in college, there are lasts I won’t get to experience, people that I miss, and people I might never see again. I’m bummed. But, I don’t feel that I’m being shorted or wish I could turn back time. The Lord has given me such peace about how this semester played out and what’s happening now.
At the same time, I feel an underlying, unsettled yearning. I have more time on my hands, and I’m getting to rest more than I have all year. Part of me loves it, but part of me is longing for my routine. For a return to normalcy.
The other day, my mom mentioned that when we’re thrown back into a regular pace of life, we’ll miss this. I could see some validity to what she was saying. But ultimately, I thought about how I feel like I’m in a state of limbo. Everything is slowed down, and everything feels messy, and I’m just waiting for what’s next, waiting for this to pass.
I'm not sure that I will miss this.
Something the Lord has been teaching me throughout the year is that He is always moving, always working. Right now, in the present, He is up to something! He is not a wasteful, unaware God. No, He is always doing a work, in my life and in the lives of others and in the whole world. Even when I can’t see the full picture and don’t understand the details, He is bringing to completion what He started (Philippians 1:6). He is always in the process of working all things together for my good and for His glory (Romans 8:28, Colossians 1:16).
How quickly the strangeness of this situation caused me to forget this truth. I thought that the abnormality of everything was a reason to overlook, to disengage. But who God is and what He does is not limited by the realities of our finite, physical world. He is eternal, outside of space and time, and He wants us to share with Him in something bigger than we can see. He wants us to fix our minds on things of God, not on things of man. (Matthew 16:23). Even in our lamenting, our mourning, our recognizing that things are not how they ought to be, He wants us to look to Him.
Being reminded that God was surely up to something, I thought about what that something in my life could possibly be. I examined my contradictory emotions and thoughts and questions. And as I prayed, I began to understand that God could meet each of my concerns with truth from His Word.
As I have walked with and grown with Jesus, He’s shown me how faithful He is to meet me where I am. He met me in high school. He was with me and upheld me last summer. He’s been by my side this entire school year, yet my heart so quickly forgets that He is with me right now. Ready to meet me in the midst of abnormality and questions and weariness and thankfulness. He is here to receive it all and to give true rest to my soul.
In my longing, He tells me
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:23
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
In my gratefulness, He tells me
“Rejoice in the Lord always; Again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
In my impatience, He gives me
The Lord meets me in more ways than I could ever type into words. And even if I were to reflect on my whole life, there would be a million ways He met me that I would pass over or forgotten.
For those reading these words I want to remind you that God is in your midst. He is right here, ready to meet you where you are, teach you where you are, and take you on a forever journey with Him as your father, friend, and shepherd.
After taking stock of all that God has poured into me in this time, I suppose my mom was right.
I will truly miss the gift of extra time to press into Him and notice what He’s doing. Maybe you haven’t been afforded extra time in this season, but I assure you that God is doing a mighty work in you, too. Come to Him with what you’ve got, questions and apathy and emotions and all, and He’ll take you in and teach you. Even in our moments, our seasons, of feeling "happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time", we can trust that He is always at work.
Did you gain confidence about your life path through ServeHere? How?
ServeHere encouraged me to explore my true interests and God-given talents in a way that was very refreshing in the midst of completing a straightforward, by-the-book degree plan. I felt the freedom to dream big dreams, and to bring those dreams to God in prayer. I’m not fully sure where I will end up beyond college, but I certainly have a better grasp of the things that bring me life, and even the things that I don’t enjoy doing. Being able to process those thoughts with older, wiser counsel through ServeHere was a huge gift to me.
How do you see God's work playing out in your your future work life?
In a general sense, I want to carry the Spirit of God with me into every work setting I’m in. Being a missionary can be a daily job in any environment that has people. In a more specific sense, I would love to eventually work for a company or organization that has a direct impact on underserved people. An example of something I’d love to do would be to teach basic financial literacy or accounting skills to young adults in impoverished communities. My hands are now more open to opportunities and other dreams that the Spirit draws me towards. I’ve been encouraged through ServeHere to be active instead of passive, live into the freedom and the responsibility that God gives me, and listen for the Spirit’s direction as I move forward and make life decisions.
What was the main question you wanted answered this summer, was it answered?
This summer I hoped to discover what it was like to use accounting and finance skills in a non-profit environment. Through close interaction with the Controller at Mission of Hope, I felt like I got a much clearer grasp of what that looks like. After doing a fair amount of hands-on, field work in missions-oriented non-profits, I was eager to see the administrative side of the organization — the side that my degree has equipped me for. The experience I had at Mission of Hope -- the work itself as well as the people -- will serve as a valuable comparison as I intern in a corporate setting during this next season of my life.
What does MPA have to do with God (to you) ?
I think God created each of his people with unique skill sets, personalities, and preferences. It’s one of the beautiful things about the body of Christ. While I’m still discovering the things about me that are God-given strengths, I know that he has given me the ability to pay attention to minute details, a strong sense of thoroughness, a love for puzzles and problem-solving, and a desire to work with people. The MPA program is replete with resources, and my hope is that I will build such an expertise in accounting and the building blocks of a business that I can be an effective in employee and leader in a corporation or a nonprofit. God designed us to work, to be good at a craft, and to create culture that is glorifying to him. I hope that this unique skill set that I am pursuing will lead me to places where the gospel is needed, and that the utilization of the specific skills God has given me will bring glory to his name.
Doing ServeHere is one of my favorite things I have done in college. This program allowed me to experience the non-profit world and gain experience, use my gifts, and address my faith questions - many times it seemed too good to be true.
I explored my gifts and learned what I like and don't like, and it has encouraged me to pray for these specifics in a future job. I learned how important it is to believe in the mission of the organization you work for.
The community I experienced with my fellow interns was unlike any other. This summer I had the be surrounded by other believers who are also in the thick of discovering what they want to do with their lives. For the first time, I felt I was not alone in my wrestling with the questions.
Having other interns who were placed at non-profits all around Austin was incredible because it both encouraged me, and taught me so many things about all the organizations they worked for. Everyone's internship roles were so different from one another, and their work went towards such varying missions.
Every week, we came together to hear from guest speakers about their life's experience and their professional paths. Hearing their unique stories and experiences helped shape the questions I am asking and it gave me perspective about how much we really don't know what to expect from God. i have been encouraged to love God, love His word, and love his people above all else.
From a young age, we are constantly being asked some version of “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, and that was a question that I always dreaded. I would always start my answer with “I think” and end it with “but I don’t really know” or “we’ll see”. Heading into college at Texas A&M, business seemed like the easiest answer, so I went with it and figured that I would make decisions about the specifics later. Surprisingly, my reluctance allowed God to shape what I thought I might want to do into something I would do for his glory.
My freshman year of college, I never could have told you that my hesitant decision to major in business would turn into a passion for non-profits. Through my time with ServeHere, I have learned so much about the patience and the waiting that God calls us to as we navigate a world in which everything seems to be moving a mile a minute. Even further into that, I never could have told you that I would be placed in an internship with a nonprofit that serves the people that I have such a heart for. I could give you a list of dozens of technical skills that I learned during my internship (project management skills, website design, rebranding, donor management platforms, content creation, the list goes on), but my answer will always be that I got the chance to have a deeper understanding on how to better serve people from hard places. I learned methods of Trauma-Informed Care that can be applied to relationships in my own life. I had the chance to see numbers and statistics come to life and got the opportunity to work on a team who have personal passions that turned into career-driven goals. I worked with our partners to provide trainings for foster families who feel stuck or unprepared. These are all things that I would have never had the chance to experience firsthand in a classroom setting.
Specifically through Serve Here, I had the unique opportunity to experience community through our intentional time set aside every week with all of the interns to pour into the Word and hear from community leaders who have allowed God to guide their careers. I experienced a deep relationship with a mentor who was there to guide me through the ups and downs that are inevitable in any job. Overall, it was a remarkable experience in which I gained invaluable friendships, professional experience, mentorship, and a deeper relationship with Jesus. If you intern with ServeHere, I promise you that you will get to experience the same things.
My summer interning with Serve Here has been the most fruitful summer of my life.
Through the leadership of older believers, the community of other interns, the wisdom of guest speakers, and my internship, I have learned and grown in ways that have exceeded anything I could’ve expected. As a Marketing Intern for Mission of Hope, I got to explore the back-end of missions, something I previously knew little about. I became more confident in my strengths and worked through my weaknesses, and I felt incredibly blessed to work alongside people who love the Lord deeply. I now have a stronger sense of the things that excite me and drive me, of what I desire in a career, and I have a clearer idea of the steps I want to take after I graduate.
Spiritually, I got to know the Lord so much more through the people He surrounded me with. God intentionally weaves people into our lives for specific purposes, and I got to see that play out in the most beautiful way this summer. Through ServeHere and Mission of Hope, I have felt the depth and power that relationships centered on Christ can hold. From the sacrificial love, guidance, and support of my mentor, to learning from and building friendships with other interns and coworkers, I have experienced the life-giving unity of the body of Christ. What I learned this summer will impact me for life, and I’m so grateful that Serve Here is part of my story!
I came into this summer a little broken. This past year has been one of unforeseen adversities and honestly, unmet expectations. As I came upon my 2nd semester of my junior year, I knew I needed to find an internship for the summer. But, I wanted it to be impactful. I just didn’t know how to make my passions and major and professional career line up together. I asked my non-profit professor if he had any leads on anything, and he told me about Serve Here. Being a student at Texas A&M, and not having any ties to Austin, I had no clue what Serve Here was. I looked it up, and thought “hmmm okay, I’ll apply and see what happens.” Fast forward 5 months and I had my first day as a Marketing and Communications intern at Makarios. Makarios is a school that exists to love, educate and empower children and their families in the Dominican Republic. They have an office out of Austin, where I was all summer. During this internship, I learned what it would look like to work with people who are missionally minded, but pursuing that in a more professional and business setting, even if it is a non-profit. I had the opportunity to work under people that know what matters and how to take hard things (generational poverty in the DR) and make something beautiful out of them (ending that poverty, one child at a time.) I loved my time at Makarios and the conversations and people I worked with were life-giving, especially after a season of trials. If Makarios wasn’t enough (which it was), I had the incredible opportunity to be an intern in Serve Here. Every week, hearing from leaders and people that have quit stable jobs to follow God’s call in wherever that may be was amazing. I had the chance to hear from someone that is fostering children as a single woman to someone that was revamping the way we love and serve people who have been incarcerated. Week after week, I saw God in these people. I saw His character more clearly. I saw needs being met by people who were not qualified, but had just said “yes.” From these incredible speakers, but also from the interns in Serve Here with me, I feel compelled to dream and believe that what God has for me is big, mighty and scary, in the best way.
Iesha asked at one of the last meetings to describe our summer in one word. Mine was healing. This summer has reminded me of the Lord’s faithfulness and that He has me even when things do not make sense. He had ordained every single thing that has happened this summer, from Serve Here to Makarios to my mentor to the people I was surrounded with in this new city, He was there in the middle orchestrating it all. That gets me really pumped to follow Him forever and know that whatever I may be doing, He is going to be right there.
I am grateful for this summer; the lessons learned, the mundane, the faithful people I learned from and let me not forget, mopac expressway. Leaving Austin to head into my senior year, I am more prepared for whatever job/ calling the Lord has for me, which to me, is a HUGE success.
What would you tell someone who was on the fence about applying?
I would tell them that there is incredible growth to be experienced. I would tell them that rarely will your faith get to be put to the test so tangibly. In Austin, as students at UT, we can get caught up with only knowing people who look and act like us. In ServeHere, you will mentored and grown into a person who cares for and acts for underserved people groups who are often overlooked or forgotten. It is a chance to grow immeasurably in your faith in a way that is uncomfortable and unique.
What was your most impactful experience?
Every Thursday night during my internship I attended the TROM women’s bible study. These women, who are all formerly incarcerated, took me in like one of their own. They questioned, cried at, and loudly celebrated their faith. They interacted with God so surely and tangibly that I realized time and time again how I fail to do this. It is true that the comfortable act like they don’t need Jesus. These women are not comfortable, and they were desperately aware they needed Jesus.
How do you view God differently now?
I view God as an all-consuming presence, who’s personhood is not a question, but a fact. I do not want for God to show up in my circumstances, but look for the ways he already has. I fight to see God in people; he is in every one of us itching for us to recognize someone that it different than us, acknowledge the beautiful way they are created, and thus to see him in a new light.
What did the people group you served teach you about yourself?
I went into my internship at TROM recognizing a lot of prejudice and stereotyping within myself, and wanting desperately for God to clear me of it. I knew that I struggled with feeling physically threatened or intimidated often, and knew that working with formerly incarcerated individuals would deeply challenge my sense of comfort. I realized how strong and peaceful our God is and how he can literally vanquish fear within us. The people group I served taught me and loved me with abandon, reminding me that what I learn is directly correlated to how I listen.
We are thrilled to officially introduce and welcome Iesha Boitmann to ServeHere in her new role as Program Director.
This is a divine appointment that has been many years in the making! We had the benefit of getting to know Iesha well as a leader at Makarios International, where the interns we placed with her always sang her praises and grew like crazy. She was also a favorite guest speaker in our summer program, year-after-year.
In her new capacity at ServeHere, Iesha will be leading our programming efforts on a day-to-day basis. This is a big role that includes recruiting, discipling and mentoring our students, developing curriculum, making placement decisions, and managing relationships with our nonprofit partners.
This is a role perfectly suited for Iesha, whom we know to be extraordinarily discerning, a gifted discipler, and a natural leader. She is also well positioned to encourage and support our partners because of her experience as director of operations at a cross-cultural, high-impact nonprofit.
Iesha and her husband Brian are both UT alums who live missionally and are passionate about integrating their faith with their work and the world around them. They were recently joined in this journey by Lucia, their new baby girl.
We are grateful that Iesha was called to share her unique gifting with ServeHere in this exciting new way. Having Iesha on board is an important milestone in the growth and development of ServeHere and a reminder that God is always providing for what He is calling us to do!
We recently kicked off the start of our 5th summer program with 13 very talented college students who have been making a mark on their campuses and in our communities. A record 80 students applied for this summer’s program, making the selection process extremely challenging!
Students in the Summer 2017 class are rising juniors and seniors from the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Mary Hardin Baylor and Valparaiso. While there is a strong concentration of marketing & communications majors this summer, this group also stands out for its cross-cultural interests with students studying International Relations and foreign languages like Spanish, French and Arabic.
A summer with ServeHere provides many learning opportunities. The students’ new classrooms are the internship placements where they are challenged to apply what they have learned in their field of study in order to make a real impact. They also meet one-on-one with a mentor and in weekly group sessions where students tackle a challenging curriculum designed to prepare them to lead a life of significance.
This summer, internship placements were made in eleven different non-profits around Austin. Most of these organizations serve populations that struggle with poverty. But their clients’ circumstances are very diverse — spanning the homeless, displaced and disadvantaged youth, refugees, young mothers, severely disabled children, and villagers in Africa and the Dominican Republic.
Our Summer 2017 Non-profit Partners
Our two day kick-off session gave our students a chance to meet each other, learn from inspirational speakers, participate in workshops, and reflect on their goals for this summer. They are now off and running — applying themselves in full-time roles where they are learning to be as successful on the job as they have been on campus.
We started ServeHere with a desire to build deep and long-term relationships with the students who participate in our program. During the interview process, many students heard me express this philosophy in saying “I’d love to build a relationship where you’d want to invite me to your wedding.”
So…this was a particularly joyful summer as we attended the weddings of three ServeHere alumni!
SCOTT AND PAIGE SHAVERIn the summer of 2014, Scott Shaver and Paige Blomstedt found themselves sharing an office at Mission Possible, interning in the marketing and development area. Scott is from Austin and was attending Texas A&M. His officemate, Paige, was from College Station and attended UT. Despite having lots of things in common, they had no idea they’d end up sharing much more than office!
Celebrating Paige and Scott’s big day!
By the end of the summer, romance was in the air and they decided to try this distance-dating thing (made a bit easier with each person having their family home in their partner’s college town). It apparently worked pretty well as a junior year of dating turned into a senior year engagement — and an awesome wedding at a ranch in Navasota this June.
One of the things I love about this couple is their commitment to following God’s calling on their lives. Paige was a Supply Chain major and after spending her summer with ServeHere, she spent the next summer interning with Boeing in Seattle. Scott, a marketing and business honors major, spent his summer after ServeHere in the Dallas office of Concur, a very successful software company. Having vocationally experienced the worlds of marketplace and ministry, each of them felt the place they could live most significantly was directly in service to others. For Paige, that has taken the shape of leading YoungLife in the Woodlands. For Scott, he is teaching at YES Prep, a public charter school for low-income students in Houston.
These two roles are obviously far afield from the areas where Scott and Paige succeeded at in school. But they are exactly where God wants them to be, doing life together, with opportunities to directly impact the kingdom every minute of their working days.
KASSIE GONZALEZWhen I first met Kassie she was a junior pre-law student with the coolest sounding major of any student in the program – Humanities: Medical Law and Ethics. She had actively explored this world through internships in legal offices and in research associate roles at UT – but she was still trying to connect the dots between her faith and her vocational interests. Going to law school shouldn’t be just another achievement – if she was to spend three years there, Kassie knew it should be connected to a higher calling.
After a lot of discussion, we placed Kassie at Refugee Services of Texas in the role of a caseworker in the summer of 2015. She thrived in the environment even as she took on the burdens of helping settle displaced refugee families from the Middle East and Cuba in the very foreign city of Austin, Texas. Kassie’s internship at RST opened her eyes to the challenges and injustices faced by so many people, along with the need for someone with a legal background to stand up for, and stand alongside, these people. This insight helped give her the conviction to fully pursue gaining admission to a top law school.
In the spring of her senior year, Kassie became the first student to experience the ServeHere Master Class (SMC). This is a new program where we take students who have previously done a summer or semester with us and create a custom experience where they can go even deeper. For her SMC, Kassie was placed at Mobile Loaves and Fishes, working directly with the founder, Alan Graham. Kassie painstakingly researched the city of Austin’s statutes and brainstormed with Alan how our laws would need to be changed to accommodate programs that can employ the homeless community in street-based micro-enterprises.
Early in the semester Kassie shared the good news with me that she was now engaged to her long-time boyfriend Josh. Toward the end of the semester, we celebrated her acceptance into the UT-Austin Law School, her top choice. A couple of months later, we celebrated her wedding in the memorable setting of Chapel Dulcinea in the Texas hill country.
AND THERE’S MORE…I am thankful for each of the students God enables me to meet, mentor and encourage in their journeys. I’m especially thankful that He allowed me to develop relationships where I can be a part of lives — and moments — like these.
In the past month, two more invitations have arrived in the mail for weddings in 2017. How could life get any sweeter?