Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What it's like to work for WAR {w/ interns Cynthia & Courtney}

So, last week I got to have dinner with these two lovely young ladies who I also had the privilege of growing up with! They are both going to be seniors in college and have the most unique opportunity to intern at Women at Risk International this summer. You know the heart that Laura and I have for this wonderful organization. They partners all over the world with other organizations and safe houses to rescue women and children from human trafficking and sexual slavery. When I found out that my two friends were in the Grand Rapids area this summer, I couldn’t help but set something up to hear all the juicy details of what it’s like to work at WAR! We had such a blast talking and laughing. I loved hearing their stories and experiences!

They’ve graciously accepted my request to feature them on the blog in hopes that you will be interested in hearing with goes on behind the scenes at WAR and get to know these two great girls who have a heart for WAR’s ministry!

1. A Little Introduction: I asked them their college, major and what they’d like to do as a career.
Cynthia goes to Baptist Bible College, is in the Office Professionals program, and would love to work with WAR, Int'l as a full-time job, but is willing to do whatever God gives her.
Courtney, is at Houghton College, completing English and Writing double majors and hopes to find someone to pay her to write =)
2. A bit of background- when was the first time you felt your heart burdened for ministry in general  and then speficially the ministry WAR does?
Cynthia: I felt a strong call to serve God at a missions conference at my church when I was in eighth grade, and (for WAR) when missionaries presented their work at my church right before I left for BBC last summer. [Cynthia expressed how hard it was to leave when she wanted to badly be be apart of when her church was doing to help these missionaries.]
          Courtney: the first time I felt that God could call even me to do good in the lives of others was at a missions conference years and years ago when the Ebersoles [missionaries] were sharing. I heard about human trafficking in my junior year of high school, through a special issue of World magazine. I couldn't even believe that modern-day slavery still existed, my heart was broken, and I wanted to do everything I could to help. This passion has stayed with me in the 4 years since, cooling down and then being fanned back into flame.

3. How did you first hear about WAR and what led you to this opportunity with them this summer?
Cynthia: Becky came and spoke at BBC. I'd been hoping they had internships and they did :):) I applied last summer and interviewed over my semester break.
          Courtney: Cynthia told me about WAR when she was applying and I was jealous =)=) -- no, happy that she found such a great ministry that addressed our shared passion! when I told her weeks later that I was looking into opportunities for my summer, she realized, "hey, Courtney, I'm pretty sure WAR has a writing internship too!" Immediately it was my first choice (aside from the unpaid part), and eventually I decided that it was worth it to have a summer without income in order to gain this experience being part of such a great work!

4. What is your position and what does it look like day-to-day?
Cynthia: My internship role is executive assistant. day-to-day is full of filing, researching organizations, answering phones, data entry, printing, design and other general office work.
          Courtney: I'm one of a couple writing-type interns, working under the general direction of Jen Roberts and more direct supervision of our on-staff writer, Hannah Ketcham. My summer project is to work on the "Big Book of Stories" -- a collection of short stories of women WAR's programs and partners have helped. I spend the day-to-day on the computer (and looking at some hard copies), first reading info about programs, then specific details of an individual's story, before I start to write them up in a creative form. Save and repeat! =)=) Hannah takes a look at the drafts, and the next step is to have Becky McDonald, the President, read and edit them. I'll revise and she'll edit again, then the stories go to our "official" editor before Becky proofs them one last time for publication. That process will be very valuable for me to develop a tougher skin about working with others' criticism.
Other daily stuff... we have an hour break for lunch when Cynthia and I eat outside on a picnic table that is blindingly bright in the sunshine. =)=) I just keep chipping away at my little project unless Jen grabs us to inventory junk the former tenants left behind or work a table at an event, both of which were fun breaks from the screen!

5. What do you enjoy most about working at WAR?
Cynthia: I enjoy being apart of something bigger--it's not just about business... it's about relationships. Also, Volunteers are treated with appreciation, not taken advantage of.
          Courtney: This probably doesn't come as a surprise, but the people in the office are great. Within a week I felt at home! They're actually letting me and another intern who's staying with a family 3 miles away use the company SUV to drive to and from work when it's not being used for an event. That kind of generosity is something you'd only find within the body of Christ!

6.  What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since working at WAR this summer?
          Cynthia: The biggest thing i've learned is how and when to ask questions, and how to be resourceful. While everyone is more than willing to answer questions, there isn't always time to answer all of them. So learning how to organize my questions and move on to other things (multi-tasking in a sense) has been important.
          Courtney: the need for humility and flexibility when working with a ministry, a young organization, people in general... The focus on hope instead of suffering, on people over programs, and the strong directing vision of Becky's passion are really great.

7. How do you hope this opportunity will affect your future plans?
          Cynthia: I would love to be able to work with WAR Int'l, but we will see what God brings about after graduation. :)
          Courtney: I'm really happy to be getting experience doing "real" writing for a ministry making a significant impact. I hope it'll give me more of a sense of direction for my post-college plans.

8. What do you see day-to-day in the office that would be different from any other office?
          Cynthia: I see the willingness that people have to serve and help in whatever to accomplish our bigger purpose.
          Courtney: the level of interaction between all the staff, interns, volunteers, President -- everyone is busy, but everyone is willing to help, interested in each other's lives, all passionate to do their part to help women at risk.

9. Do you have any interesting or funny stories about working in the WAR office?
          Cynthia: Most of my funny stories would only be funny if you were there "in the moment." I love the jovial nature of the people I've had the privilege to work with.
          Courtney: being sent to do inventory for a bunch of office equipment and miscellaneous metal bits -- two girls who know very little about assembly parts (see, I still don't even know what to call them!). "12 small metal pieces." "4 medium-sized metal pieces." "other unidentified metal piece." We brought one piece out to ask 1 of the 2 men in the office and it turned out to be a ceilling slat that holds the tiles up!

10. Has there been a recent rescue that you could tell us about?
Cynthia: We were able to help a lady that decided to leave her strip club job start a new life.
          Courtney: I was writing a story on a girl in Thailand named "B" and realized the email updates ended a couple days before. She was rescued and then re-kidnapped... I had to wait a few days for the next update to hear that she had been rescued successfully and returned safely to the safehouse. It was neat to be hearing a story up-to-the-minute, and I had a happy ending for my story!

11. What’s the most exciting thing going on at WAR right now (in your opinion)?
Cynthia: It seems that we are going to be able to buy the building that we are currently renting. God has provided amazingly financially!!!
          Courtney: Wow, everything is exciting. Eve's Angels, a ministry to strippers in the Grand Rapids area run by an ex-stripper, had a witnessing booth at a huge porn convention in Chicago this past weekend. Although I came afterwards, moving all the offices to 44th was quite an ordeal, and we're still in moving mode a little bit, then we'll be expanding if/when we buy the rest of the building.

12. Is there something you would like to share with our readers about WAR”s ministry and the importance of it, or how they can get involved?

            Cynthia: While WAR Int'l has grown hugely in it's relatively short existence, there's still plenty of ground to cover. Making people aware of how they as "laymen" can get involved to fight trafficking and the many other risk areas that WAR Int'l adresses, is very important. Host a party, buy a gift, start a prayer group, go on circle tour... get involved with the talents and time that God has given you!!!
            Courtney: One misconception people can have about WAR is that we only address human trafficking and sexual slavery. That issue grabs the headlines, but Becky is/we are all passionate about addressing many "risk issues" that women face, including domestic abuse, hurting marriages, eating disorders, AIDS, really anything that women struggle with, where we can be "circles of love and protection" for each other.

The girls also told me about an exciting Civilian First Responder Conference that WAR is hosting this September. You can hear how Homeland Security is cracking down on trafficking in our area of West MI and how you/we can help those in slavery in our own backyards!

Cynthia (L) & Courtney (R)

Thanks Cynthia and Courtney for being willing to share with us! I love that both of your positions are what you love to do and are studying for in college! It was so fun to learn from you both having such a unique perspective! Have a great rest of the summer working for WAR and I’m so excited to see how God uses this in your lives and future vocations!


Anonymous said... [Reply]

Love this! Proud of your work!

Anonymous said... [Reply]

Interesting and eye-opening! Thanks for sharing!