August 27, 2015

Why 20schemes is Not That Good, According to a Recent Intern

At 20schemes, we offer summer internships which have proved to be very popular and are vastly oversubscribed. Each year we wade through many applications, weeding out any potential muppets and giving priority to our church partners or people who have been on previous mission trips. They arrive mid-June all fresh faced, bushy tailed, and ready to take on the world. However, by week two the shine has normally worn off as reality kicks in. This is hard work.

This year we had one little difference as we had our first ever indigenous convert in the mix. She was a very young Christian from an English housing estate, and she added a dynamic we hadn’t seen before. For the first time ever, a US summer intern could actually have the full experience as they were paired together. There were some fireworks as they struggled to cope with one another culturally and personally. Regardless of their differences, they are both the better for it.

The following is RuthAnne's assessment of her time with us.

My summer as a 20schemes Intern by RuthAnne Irvin

My soul, mindset, and character are wounded as I return to my life in the United States after nine weeks in Scotland with 20schemes. As I continue to process the summer, here are a few thoughts about what the Lord taught me.

God pruned my soul in many ways. He used a book we were required to read, How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, to convict and encourage my heart. Each week we responded to questions about certain chapters. One specific quote summarizes my experience this summer well: “He [God] wants us to be a community of joy, but he is willing to compromise our temporal happiness in order to increase our Christlikeness. . . . God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth.”

This was my summer, in one quote. God worked for my good and sanctification, not my comfort, ease, or desires. And he is good because of that. When I began the internship in June, I never expected to finish my time in Scotland exhausted, aware of my sin and need for God’s grace so deeply. I also did not expect to leave at peace with how my soul loves God more, and myself a little less. I see the cavern-like need for community and discipleship, both in the church and my own life after this summer. My eyes, heart, and mind are scathed with both the beauty in Scotland’s landscapes and people, and what the Lord is doing amongst his church. It really was a summer I will never forget, and one I walked away from as a different person.

In one of our training sessions in June, we read and journalled about John 15. I always loved the verses in John 15 about our neediness and ability to do nothing well apart from Jesus. But I understand them more thoroughly today than when I began my adventure in Scotland in June.

Each day the alarm disturbed our sleep for early morning cleaning, prayer meeting, more cleaning, teaching, and working for churches in whatever way necessary—like building mountains for Holiday Club (the UK version of VBS), studying for prayer meeting and Bible study, talking with teenagers on day trips, and more. I left my life in Louisville, Kentucky, to live, eat, sleep, work, and serve with strangers for nine weeks. But these strangers soon grew into friends, including many babies and wee children, and an English girl who I travelled with all summer after only meeting her once. Every day presented opportunities to love others well, which I failed at often, like when the opportunity arose to choose my partner and her needs over mine. Each day I chose whether to abide in Jesus through Bible study and prayer, because I am useless on my own, or attempt to serve without his strength and grace.

Like Lane and Tripp say, God is not working for our comfort, ease, or happiness. He works for our growth, and I saw this first-hand this summer as he revealed my selfishness, self-righteousness, and discontentment. I saw this specifically with thinking about others before myself. We were often tired, over-worked, and constantly around people. I struggled to not grow easily frustrated when my thoughts and ideas or requests were denied, especially by my partner (though we both grew to love each other and our differences by the end of the summer). I also struggled with “the grass is greener” syndrome when other interns spent time together and my fellow intern and I wandered around cities and schemes together for the eight weeks. But I experienced the truth in one of my favorite John Flavel quotes: “Jesus Christ is in every way sufficient to the vast desires of the soul.” My soul desires selfishly, but Christ changes that for my good and his glory. And he is sufficient for every desire, struggle, and sin.

One of the most encouraging aspects of this internship was seeing the community at each church or group of planters. I often think of myself too highly, which leads to thinking I don’t need anyone. But what I saw this summer—both within my heart and in these churches—ignited a desire and thirst for community with my brothers and sisters. Each church I visited is filled with people who know their need for Jesus, which pushes them toward each other. Niddrie Community Church, especially, disciples people well and lives life together—not just on Sundays or Wednesday evenings, but Sunday through Saturday. In an inglorious, vulnerable fashion, these saints live together in an understanding way, preaching the gospel to each other through one-on-ones, prayer meetings each morning, a cafe ministry, and more. This challenged my idea of church family and community as we prayed with these saints each morning, cleaned with them, sang with them, served with them, and laughed with them. We need Jesus and we need each other, and they know this well and live it.

If this summer and the internship taught me anything, it is that I am needy and unneeded in God’s kingdom work. But in his kindness, he uses us and he wastes nothing.

I left Scotland scathed and wounded in the best ways possible. God showed me my lack of love, patience, selflessness, humility, and contentment. He showed me my need for community in order to grow. And he opened my eyes to the beauty of life when we are vulnerable and allow him to work both within our hearts and through other people.

I saw grace in the eyes and lives of people who are changed because of the gospel this summer, and I am changed because of it. My internship with 20schemes left a mark on my soul, and I hope it continues to mark my life. 20schemes is not grand and exciting, but what God is doing through these people encourages and excites me. I am thankful I saw God’s grace working through ordinary people in extraordinary means. And I am thankful to end my summer with a scathed, needy soul that knows God’s grace and kindness deeper.

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