Creating a Lasting Love for Missions

by Shaila Creekmore - Faith & Purpose

If short-term mission projects give students a taste of missions, then the missions committee at Southwest Church of Christ is hopeful their new Mission Internship Program will give college students a hunger for service

The intern program is designed to let students work side-by-side with career missionaries on long-term mission field assignments.

Under the direction of Chairman Michael Givens, the committee opened the first year of the Missions Internship Program to students who had been a part of the Southwest Youth Ministry Program and completed at least their first year of college.

The committee also worked closely with Michael and Lisa Shuttlesworth, missionaries in Szolnok, Hungary, to set guidelines and to develop the program to fit the missionaries' needs.

Each of the interns was required to raise a third of his or her expenses for travel, meals and other living expenses while SWCOC provided the remaining two-thirds.

One of the interns who inspired the development of the program was Kyle Coleman, a graduate student at Harding University, who had a life-changing experience on a short-term trip to Hungary. Coleman looked at the possibility of becoming a career missionary and he took interest in a program that would allow him to have hands-on training.

Initially, Coleman spent four months in Tampere, Finland and he is now completing his internship in Hungary with the Shuttlesworths.

"Being able to work with Michael Shuttlesworth, spend time with him, and basically see what he does on a daily basis has allowed me to see the side of mission work that not many get a chance to see," said Coleman.

The goal of the internship program is to give young adults like Coleman the opportunity to seek their calling in missions while gaining real experience.

"We know there's a lot of young people out there that have a desire for missions and the missions committee wants to be that catalyst," said Givens. "It gives the intern the opportunity to be part of missions on a long term basis."

Shuttlesworth said the program also "provides a better opportunity for the student to understand the greater vision and goals of the mission work that he is participating in" than those who go on shorter mission trips. It also provides the intern the opportunity to develop talents and skills.

"The internship allows the student to step out of his comfort  zone and try things he hasn't tried before. One result of this is the strengthening of the intern's faith and a greater confidence in the talents that he has and the ability he has to communicate about God," said Shuttlesworth.

Sarah Hackney, a sophomore at Harding University, and Drew Taylor, a sophomore at the University of Missouri at Rolla, spent seven weeks in Hungary working with youth and helping to run a summer camp. Both first became involved in missions on short-term trips they had taken as youth the previous two years.

"(The program) proved to be so much more that I could have ever hoped or dreamed for it to be," said Hackney. "God molded me and stretched me while I was in Hungry, and I am not the same person I was when I left."

Alyssa Edens, a sophomore at Harding University, spent six weeks serving at a Honduras orphanage, building homes, running medical clinics, and working with short-term mission teams from the United States, including a Southwest team.

The Mission Intern Program was developed to have students working with one of the five Southwest supported mission teams, Edens chose, however, to work with the Jovenes En Camino orphanage, an adopted mission of Southwest Church of Christ.

"The Shuttlesworth's helped develop the program, so they were the first to take interns," said Givens.

The committee plans to send future interns to work with the remaining four Southwest supported mission families: the McAnaultys in Romania, the Millers in New Zealand, the Smiths in Mozambique and the Allisons in Tanzania.

For the missionaries, having interns come to work with them can help further their work in many ways. Not only do they provide extra manpower, but they also help to bridge an age gap.

"The interns work mainly with teenagers in our city and although we have a good relationship with the teens, they are better able to relate to our interns who are much closer to their age," said Shuttlesworth. "The interns really encourage the teens in their faith and have exposed many new teens to the Gospel."

But beyond the help the interns provide to the missionaries, the mission committee hopes the experience will also leave the interns with a lasting love for mission work.

"These students will one day be the elders, teachers, mission committee members and parents who will send others into the world to teach about Jesus," said Shuttlesworth. "They might even return to the mission field themselves."