Jalen Ontoy, Junior Biblical Studies Major
To say that I have greatly learned during my pastoral internship would be an understatement. My time in Shannon, IL has given me much exposure to pastoral ministry.
I realized that pastoring takes intentionality. It takes intentionality to lead biblically and blamelessly. As Christ’s under-shepherds, it is our delightful duty to lead both the family and the flock. This does not happen overnight, however. This only happens once people come to trust us. But how do we build trust? We build trust by lovingly caring for others. This aspect of ministry is called shepherding. We shepherd the sheep by our genuine interest and involvement in their lives.
By God’s grace, shepherding came easily in Shannon. The population of the village (Shannon is too small to be considered a town.) is 800 people, and it only takes two minutes to drive across the village. Because the community is small, people naturally have more intimate relationships with others, especially at our church of less than 100 members. Every single night of our internship, Nik (the other intern) and I would have supper (They refrain from the term dinner in the Midwest apparently.) at a church member’s house. This allowed us from the very beginning to build personal relationships with the church. Some families had us over once a week, which gave us the ability to experience life with them. We spent hours with them going shooting, watching movies, boating on the river, or even babysitting their kids. All these unique opportunities gave us the chance to truly know the people we were ministering to.
Almost every Sunday night we would have a fellowship at a church member’s property. This allowed me to spend time with the youth group specifically. We would play basketball, volleyball, gaga ball, and other various games. This was a fun time because it gave me the chance to know the kids in an informal setting. Because of my age, I was able to relate to them and understand them. This opened the door for me to minister to some of them as well.
Shannon Baptist Church started in 1962. Today, there is one founding father remaining. This godly man has impacted many souls for God’s Kingdom, including mine as well. Each time we went to his house, he would share stories from the past. He told us of his amazing wife who entered eternity over ten years ago. Through this, he stressed to us the importance of finding a godly wife who was passionate about people and committed to ministry. His testimony opened my mind to the necessity of surrounding myself with godly mentors.
My main mentor this summer was Pastor Tim Lehman, the head pastor at Shannon. He has served God faithfully at Shannon for over 25 years. The main lessons I learned from him occurred outside of the church. Pastor Lehman graciously allowed us to stay with them in their home during the internship. This was the biggest blessing of all because it showed me how a pastor should deal with his family at home. The consistency that Pastor Lehman showed both “on and off the court” ministered to me in tremendous ways. His family taught me that there is no false dichotomy between ministry and fun. There is joy in doing things together as a family. Whether it was chilling at home to watch TV or going outside to cut wood, I found that making the most of every opportunity with family is extremely important to the success of the home, and therefore the success of the church.
Even though I learned many good truths about ministry, I also learned many hard truths as well. I realized that ministry is not easy. Pastor Lehman told us of how division in the church caused a split over ten years ago. He told us of countless individuals he spent hours discipling who no longer attend and even criticize the church. He told us of changes the church made that surprisingly caused separation. Yet these painful stories reminded me that nothing worthwhile is easy. My main responsibility is to faithfully serve God. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
Overall, I left this internship amazed with God’s goodness and sovereignty. It was not luck that led me to this internship. God actively worked in my life to bring me to Shannon because of what I would learn. His goodness renewed a passion within me to pursue pastoral ministry. Yes, I am uncertain of where He will lead me. And yes, I am uncertain of the hardships it will bring. But I am certain that as I stay satisfied in my Good Shepherd, He will lead, and I will follow.
Jacob Stupke, 2021 Cross-Cultural Service Graduate
It’s easy on a day-to-day basis to forget that our lives are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s easy to slip into thinking that life revolves around us and lose track of our ultimate purpose. This summer, I’ve been reminded that God is using my life and everyone’s life to accomplish His plan for humanity – His plan of redemption.
God opened the door for me to spend eight weeks in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, this summer for my internship. For the first time, I was able to experience life in a foreign culture and see how God is expanding His kingdom across the world. Puerto Maldonado is a jungle city located on the outskirts of the Amazon Rainforest with a population of roughly 100,000 people. The city sits right in between two rivers that flow together, providing the reason for the city’s original location. Along with the many people in the city, there are many small tribal villages scattered along the edges of the riverbanks. Both the people in the city and the people in the tribal villages need to hear about the good news of Jesus Christ.
During my time in Peru, I was able to experience many new and exciting things such as meeting new people, tasting new foods, seeing and hearing different wildlife, and working alongside a growing local church full of new believers. I also experienced some not-so-exciting things like feeling overwhelmed by the culture and not being around anything familiar, as well as feeling inadequate and unable to help like I had hoped. One of the biggest challenges that I worked through on my internship was thinking through how I, or anyone else, could be motivated to dedicate their lives to full-time service for God. As I was struggling with different feelings throughout the trip, I sometimes questioned why I was there. I struggled with the purpose of the internship and what was motivating me to fly across the globe to spend two months away from everything I loved. And I struggled with the idea that I was considering doing something like this for the rest of my life. God had laid a burden on my heart for missions, but now that I was there, I was questioning where God had led me. As I worked through these thoughts and feelings by praying, reading God’s Word, and talking with other people, God showed me what it was that would motivate me or anyone else to spend their lives serving God.
In 2 Corinthians 5 verses 14-15, it says “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
I realized that the only way someone can dedicate his life to serving God is by having an overwhelming sense of God’s love for him. If one does not recognize God’s loving-kindness demonstrated in God sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins, then he has no motivation to daily serve God. Life becomes about living for yourself and doing what you can to be successful and happy. But when you understand the gospel, when you understand your sinful state before a holy and just God and understand that you don’t deserve anything good in this life, that Jesus has died to pay for your sins and rose again so you may have new life in Him – then you begin to see where your motivation comes from. If we are children of God, then we must no longer live for ourselves, but rather we must live for the One who gave us eternal life.
2 Corinthians 5:19–20: In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.
When God opens our eyes to the truth and shows us how much we’ve been forgiven, we soon become overwhelmed by His goodness to us. Not only has God shown us such amazing grace, but He then miraculously uses broken and sinful people to carry out His ministry of reconciliation, His ministry of redemption for humanity. God loved me enough to die for me and save me from my sin; He wants me to daily recognize Him as my loving God and Savior, and He wants to use me to share what He’s done in my life to bring other people to Himself.
As I was struggling with being on the mission field and wondering why I was there, God showed me that I needed to be completely overwhelmed by His unconditional love for me. When we understand everything that God has done for us and given to us, then we have the motivation to dedicate our lives in service to Christ in whatever context we find ourselves.
God has given us the ministry of reconciliation through Jesus Christ, and He is drawing people to Himself throughout the world, using people like you and me. We need to recognize God’s amazing love and be moved to serve in whatever capacity God is calling us.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.