Summer of Service in the West
by Isa Torres, Summer Intern
About the Author: Isa Torres was raised in Juarez, Mexico and later moved to Texas. He is an MDiv student at Truett Theological Seminary and hopes to serve as a missionary to the urban poor. The following is an edited, abbreviated version of Isa’s original blog post.
In late May (pictured L-R) Zachariah Seanor, Melani Lippard, Elizabeth Bauman, Isaac Justus, and I arrived in West Yellowstone, Montana to work as part of CBF’s Collegiate Congregational Internship with First Baptist Church. We came with the knowledge that this church was grounded in a tradition that thus far had limited the role of women in leadership. We had doubts and concerns before arriving that these differences might be a barrier, but our experiences have alleviated our fears. One of those defining experiences happened early in the summer, when we came together to serve Communion. Benny McCracken, the pastor at FBC of West Yellowstone, asked the interns to prepare and administer Communion. We did our best to plan for an inclusive Lord’s Supper. Benny prepared the bread while Sue Knapp and Brenda Geiger organized the sanctuary and the dishes that were going to be used on Sunday.
Zachariah, also a Truett student, helped prepare for the Communion service. Our scripture text was Mark 14, in which Jesus shares his last meal with his disciples, declaring that he will be betrayed by one of them. He tells them that the betrayer will dip bread with him, and soon after Judas’ hand is dipping bread into the bowl with Jesus’ hand. The scripture is an image of Jesus’ love for all us, sinners, and to each one of us, betrayers. Zachariah read the scripture and I led everyone to mediate and pray. Isaac, a graduate of East Tennessee State University, said some words before we ate the bread. Elizabeth, also a Truett student, led us in the drinking from the cup. Melani, a graduate of Western Carolina University, closed us in a prayer. It was a good experience for those of us serving Communion for the first time. We saw nothing extraordinary, or so we thought.
During the fellowship meal following the service, Benny stood up and announced that he had heard many positive responses to the Communion service. He told us that some women felt affirmed after seeing Melani and Elizabeth helping lead Communion. During the service, women had the same responsibilities and privileges as men, and that was something that some had never seen before. Afterwards, three different ladies shared with Benny their appreciation for allowing them to worship with the rest of the church. A visitor from Texas told Zachariah that she was sure the hand of the Lord was with us. Little had we realized what a radical experience the service had been for the church.
We recognize that we are coming from different settings and are from a different generation. We also acknowledge that this should not stop us from uniting and being one with those who see differently. We also believe that Jesus saves and that he can redeem everything. We believe that we were sent to speak of that inclusion to everyone who seeks redemption. We did this because we believe that Jesus seeks those who are being excluded. Even though Jesus wants to include everyone, we also believe in the choices that we have. So this is no longer a question of women being able to do something, this turns more into a question of, who is out there? And, is that person willing? The act of Communion is a basic function of the church and it is to be done with those who are willing. It does not matter if it is you, or if it is me, we are all called to be part of this Holy function. But our culture has permeated our mentality and it brings chains to bind us and keep us from who we are to be. And somehow always comes with changes, and change is uncomfortable.
Thankfully, the response of the church in West Yellowstone was positive. Through their service for us and our service for them we can understand the bigger and more beautiful picture. With First Baptist Church we came to understand that we are lost, and that we have a savior who calls us home; he calls us back to what we were meant to be. As interns, we tried to learn what this is, and how we are to do it. The church came together and dealt with some lingering issues. Together we served one another, helping one another see Christ and move together towards redemption.
Editor’s Note: During the summer, both Isa and Elizabeth Bauman preached at First Baptist Church West Yellowstone, and both messages were well received.
About the Author: Exter is pastor of Pole Line Road Baptist Church in Davis, California
While not exactly free help, the college intern program is a blessing going both ways. Thanks to the ministry of Wanda Kidd, CBF collegiate specialist and college intern program coordinator, our church was blessed with Juan Winstead, a senior music education major from Chowan University. Juan spent his summer serving in our church community. By the end of the summer, most of our church members were threatening to cancel his return ticket!
This was our second year to have a college intern. We try to adjust the ministry assignment to meet the gifts, talents and ministry interests of the intern as well as the needs of our church and community. With Juan’s musical abilities and our town’s love for music and the arts, we reached into the community in a variety of ways. Juan gave trumpet lessons, led a children’s choir, and went salsa dancing. Yes, we are a Baptist church and we knew that Juan was dancing. Through friendships he made at dance night, Juan was able to share the gospel and led two International students to start coming to our church. One young lady commented that through her friendship with Juan, she feels like she understands God more and has grown closer to Him.
Juan brought a fresh infusion of excitement to our church as our members were touched by his loving heart personally and witnessed his integration of ministry and fun. Likewise, he was stretched and grew personally and spiritually through a variety of cultural and ministry experiences.