This summer, four college students chose to spend their summer working and growing as interns with UrbanPromise Nashville. Each story of how the Lord brought them here is unique and different and each are walking away learning things uniquely for them. But I suspect they would all say they found themselves in a community that was special - one that felt like a gift from the Lord to us all for the time we were together.
These interns spent most of their weekdays serving at Camp Rise in the classrooms or on UPN projects, living life next to StreetLeaders, and discovering life in Nashville through the eyes of immigrants and refugees. We watched in awe and thankfulness as they willingly offered their gifts which became such assets to camp and to our community. As the Intern Director this summer, I had the honor of walking closely with our summer interns. Before the interns arrived, we dreamed up a curriculum for the summer that would help form our community and culture. We wanted to read books and walk in ways that would help us think through why we are doing what we are doing, help both honor and better understand the lives of our refugee neighbors, and remind us who the Lord says He is and what He has for us as we walk. Each week, we dove into readings, engaged in weekly developments that included experiencing life with our refugee neighbors, read a daily scripture plan, and met together around a meal. We read “The Displaced,” a collection of refugee stories written by refugees themselves. For both those of us who have lived life alongside refugees for years and those of us whose first experience with refugees was this summer, these stories were powerful and insightful and spurred wrestling, discussion, and a deep desire to honor and empower our neighbors. We were awakened to those whose stories so often include loss of identity and belonging- things we were reminded that Jesus Himself can fulfill in His kingdom and who calls us to walk with Him in holding up and helping restore. As a companion to this book that so beautifully helped bring context and understanding to the stories of those we walk with, we also read “Sacred Rhythms,” a book full of tools and rhythms aimed to help us rearrange our lives to walk able to be transformed. Each chapter focused on a different spiritual rhythm/discipline, helped illuminate the desires we live with and the ways our Father wants to meet us in them. The words of Ruth Haley Barton became sweet and holy reminders for us to simply come to Him (as we are) in the many ways that we need Him. I found myself sitting in awe and thanking the Lord for the ways He was moving among us during our small groups around the table. The interns found they related over their struggles and newfound joys. They shared how difficult it is to slow down, receive, rest, and know/admit our desires. They shared the sweetness of life they were experiencing in practicing Sabbath (some for the first time), reciting reminders of who our Father is in the moments we need to be reminded most, praying communally, and adopting rhythms of stillness and solitude throughout their days and weeks. Amidst any stretching, learning, attempts to carry burdens, or circumstance, this book was a perfect companion to our lives this summer, helping us remember we can receive from the One who is the source of life.
This summer, I got to watch these interns display their skills as teachers, designers, mentors, and advocates. I witnessed them further growing in their selflessness and willingness in serving others, their depth of empathy for and commitment to honoring the lives of refugee community members, their willingness to be teachable and wrestle with new things, and their desire and commitment to this community this summer. I rejoiced as they got to experience freedom, rest, the beauty of solitude and stillness and sabbath, prayer, and the depth of life in community that comes with vulnerability and seeking the Lord together. And now, we are sending them off, confident that He will continue to use all He’s revealed in them and to them this summer in their own communities. We are so excited to hear the stories! We are PROUD of YOU and so THANKFUL for you Maddy, Sophie, Rayah, and Kate.
- Kailee Balzer, UP Nashville Summer Intern Director and Mentor