“This summer will test you in ways you never imagined; it will take you from the mountaintop to the lowest valley, yet you will come out of it stronger than ever before.”
-Riley, 2021 Summer Student
Riley, is there any part of you that has developed during this process that wasn't there at the beginning of the summer?
I think one of the biggest things that I developed throughout the summer that wasn’t there in the beginning was my confidence in my work abilities as well as recognizing my confidence of who I am through the Lord’s eyes. At the beginning of the summer, I quite literally had no idea what I had to offer to the organization I was working with and didn’t know I could hold the skills that I now have. In the same way, I lacked confidence in how the Lord viewed me as His child and had a hard time seeing what He saw in me. Throughout the summer, lies about who I thought I was were thrown at me in ways I’d never experienced before and found myself struggling with how to combat them. But, through deep prayer, being in the word, Tuesday cohort meetings, and time with my mentor I started relearning how the Lord truly viewed me and my abilities that glorified Him. Additionally, I learned how to be truly vulnerable for probably the first time in my life and not be ashamed to show weakness, confess sins, admit doubts, and not hide from my feelings. This was a freeing experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to have been around while this took place in my life.
How has your faith been challenged or strengthened during your time with ServeHere?
My faith was challenged and strengthened in multiple ways but I think a lot of that stemmed from debriefing or deconstructing bad traits from my past that I had either picked up myself or was told I had to do or not do in my walk with the Lord. I think I was finally asked genuine questions that I had never been asked before about my faith and had people there who actually wanted to listen to my answers and give honest feedback to them. I think this is something I’ve always lacked when it comes to that area of community, so it was incredible to see what that should look like and strive to look for that same thing in the future. In this process, I learned how to be my true self in conversation and not worry about what others would think about my response, which is something I have struggled with for the longest time when it comes to discussing my walk with the Lord. Being in areas that made me feel safe and known helped a lot with that and I’m especially grateful for that part of ServeHere.
Did you meet anyone that impacted the way you view God, life, work, or family?
There were multiple speakers, specifically women, who just absolutely blew my mind during our conversations with them. I feel like they covered content that a lot of Christian women don’t typically cover and weren’t afraid to have a conversation about it, which was super encouraging and refreshing to hear. I took a lot away from those conversations in ways I’m not able to even write down and I just wish more people could hear what they have to say. [My mentor] also had a major impact on my summer in that we were able to relate in some very specific ways and have very specific conversations that I’ve never experienced with someone before and I’m eternally grateful for that. She pushed me in ways I needed to be pushed, but I was able to come to her comfortably in all of it, something that I’ve struggled to do with mentor figures in the past. She was so easy to talk to and from the get go I felt like I could share literally anything with her. I love her a whole lot for the way she influenced me this summer and know she’ll be around in my life for a while because of it!
Did you experience any heart change this summer?
One of the biggest heart changes I had this summer was my perspective towards work, specifically virtual work. I came into the summer, after a long time of having classes online and dragging through those, that I just wanted to get through each day of work and not take much from it. It was a hard transition period in the beginning to understand the value and fruit of what I was doing, but towards the middle and end I came to understand where my work was being used and how I was developing new skills. It was super cool to be at the GLS summit and see all of the materials that I had created, ordered, and put out for people to use and then get to advocate about the information on those materials.
A final letter from Riley to her former self:
Dear Graduate, this summer you will be tested and pushed in ways you never even imagined, yet in that, you will see some of the greatest growth in your walk with the Lord. You will learn to be vulnerable, show your weakness, cry tears, confess your sins, and genuinely reach out to the Lord, resulting in liberation and freedom. The confidence you lacked in yourself will be overturned by truly acknowledging how the Lord sees you in His eyes, be quick to cling to that and don’t let it fall away when the lies of this world come knocking at your doorstep.
How do you think your faith has been challenged or strengthened through ServeHere?
I think something that has come up over and over again has been the idea of learning to relate to God as Abba Father. I naturally tend to view God more as Sovereign God than seeing Him as a loving, caring Father who loves me and cares about me more than anyone in the world ever could. The people that were in the ServeHere cohort this summer loved Jesus so much and it was so evident because of the way they love and care for others. I was so encouraged by each of the other interns and Iesha to love God by showing His love to those around me and genuinely caring for others.
- Corrin, Summer 2019 ServeHere Student
We cheered on so many ServeHere Alumni this past month as they graduated and could not be more proud of each and every one of you. So our Executive Director wrote you a letter...
Look at you. You have made it to the end of your time in college. Many of us in seasons ahead of you look at you and wish you didn’t have to walk through some of the things you have… that impulse is fear. When I take the time to pray for you, to put that fear aside… I feel something completely different. Hope.
While I am sorry for some of the things you have endured, certainly for some of the hardship you have watched unfold.. I am also so grateful for what you have lived through the last 18 months. Because now I can look directly to you, with all of the confidence we can muster up, and say : YOU WERE made TO LEAD TODAY. RIGHT NOW. With the tragedy, beauty, curiosity and confusion you have faced, you are leading us forward.
And I am so glad it’s you.
I have seen you step into a space that rejects division and easy answers. You have wrestled, shaken, laughed, prayed, and served. I’m not just trying to encourage you from a place of mentorship, these words I am saying… these words are coming from a place of submission. Yes, I am a season or two ahead of you. I’m leading the way right now for a while. But do you want to know how invested I am in you? … I am trusting you with my kids. I believe in you based on what I have witnessed God do through you… and now, I am saying to you. You were chosen for the job. Lead them well.
God is not concerned with your career or trajectory, he is concerned with how much of your day- every day- you you will trust him with. He is ready to shepherd you through a life anchored in Him, wherever you are. You are the one in any office who will bring gentleness, justice, and friendship to the people in the corner. You are the one who will give generously, sacrifice comforts, and reject idols. You are the leaders who will stand in the gap, following the ways of Jesus. Simply Jesus, and nothing else.
I am so proud of you.
I believe in you.
Your gifts are on purpose.
Everything is going to be okay.
After a year characterized by uncertainty, we are so excited to announce that we have officially kicked off the ServeHere Summer 2021 program with five incredibly gifted, Spirit-led women. What this year’s class has stepped into has not been easy. They have not only stepped into world-class internships, but they are opening up themselves to a program like no other. What we ask of our students requires a willingness to use every part of themselves to glorify God, process through some challenging questions of faith, and a complete surrender of their idea of success.
Every year our inbox is flooded with applications of students who are rising juniors and seniors. We have multiple interviews with them and spend the spring praying for those who will join our program. This Summer’s class is made up of rising seniors and recent graduates of Texas A&M and the University of Texas. There are a wide range of passions and career paths ranging from accounting to nursing to education.
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 they tackle a challenging curriculum designed to prepare them to lead a life of significance.
This summer, internship placements were made in five 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, young mothers, and villagers in Africa. We have also partnered with two incredible Non-profits whose main focus is on providing holistic women’s health care and promoting literacy across all age and people groups in the Austin area.
Our Summer 2021 Non-profit Partners
Mobile Loaves and Fishes – lifting up Austin’s homeless population
Texas Reach Out – providing post-prison transitional housing and support
The Source – providing high-quality, whole-person health services to women throughout Texas
The Archibald Project – using stories to educate people to care for vulnerable children
Education Connection – helping children fight illiteracy and decreasing school dropout rates
Previous summers have proven that the work our students do inside these organizations is both interesting and valuable. They are given more responsibility than students in traditional internship roles. While they are developing job programs, micro-enterprise programs, after-school curriculum, engineering best practices, marketing plans, and telling the stories of the organizations and the people they serve — they are also sharing the love of Christ.
Our kick-off session gave our students a chance to meet each other, reflect on their past year, participate in group discussions, and contemplate their goals for this summer. Already it is clear that this is a very engaging group of young adults who are motivated to live a life of significance!
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.