Senior business major Kate Deak, pictured above on the Erskine campus, spent two months last summer in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a missions intern with Experience Mission (EM) in the organization’s Cross-Cultural Internship program. The internship is described by EM as “a hands-on mission experience,” with interns working together “to provide leadership and logistical support in the field for short-term mission teams.” Kate recently answered some questions about her time as an EM intern and also offered her opinion on whether such an internship might be worthwhile for other Erskine students.
What sorts of activities were you engaged in during the internship, and what was your daily routine like—if you had a daily routine?
Oh, gosh. Our daily routine was so sporadic that I wouldn’t consider it a routine. But I’ll try to summarize the gist of our days. As interns we were responsible for preparing food for our teams, so my morning started very early as we set up breakfast. We began each of our days with food and prayer. We would then take the team to their designated volunteer location. This varied week to week and teams would switch from morning to evening shifts. Some locations included the Salvation Army, a summer camp, Thrive DC, DC Central Kitchen, Food & Friends, homeless outreaches, and more.
The teams would then come together for dinner and we would facilitate the evening gathering where we would debrief the day, worship, and have a Bible study. The evenings were free for fellowshipping with the students and just getting to know the team.
What was the most eye-opening aspect of your experience?
I was just in awe of the number of students who had such hearts for serving. Most of the time, when I think of high schoolers, I don’t envision selfless, hardworking individuals who sacrifice their time and energy for the good of people they have never met. But that is exactly what I saw. I was astounded by so many of the students’ selflessness and willingness to go out of their way to make sure someone they have never met was taken care of. They really took to heart the idea of being “hidden in Christ” and loving others as individuals truly known by God.
Looking back on your time with EM, what would you say was the biggest hurdle you had to get over? And what was the biggest reward for you?
I think my biggest hurdle was pushing myself out of my comfort zones. The late nights and early mornings led to exhausting days. Some were easier than others. My comfort zones are safe, but they were not of use during that summer.
I have never been the one who is able to talk easily to strangers or work well when exhausted, but every day those comfort zones were tested. But if I hadn’t broken through them, I would not have met the amazing people I did or get to experience the things I did—which in turn were my greatest rewards. Getting to meet the teams, the kids at the summer camp, and the people we served made all the long, exhausting days worth it.
EM’s explanation of their cross-cultural internship is intriguing, especially their promotion of mutual influence. But what was it like to live this out? For example, how did the idea of encouraging “mutual influence and sustainable change” work in practice?
For me, it means seeing the people we served as individuals truly known and loved by God. So many people walk by the hurting and broken and view them as burdens. [I think that] coming to each person personally, looking them in the eyes, and loving them like a person [can] bring about real change. By showing respect and understanding, a sustainable change can occur.
Many times, short-term mission trips prove fruitless because there is no real time spent with the people we serve; however, on EM trips, we focus on the people rather than the tasks at hand, which creates an atmosphere of influence. [Also helpful] for change is that with EM trips, the interns stay with the community all summer. So, even if the teams leave week by week, the interns are there cultivating relationships with the community and encouraging growth and change. The coolest thing about these trips is that it is not a one-sided change, it is mutual. You leave a different person with new perspectives, and I think that is incredible.
Has your internship inspired you to get involved with any activities here on campus? What organizations are you involved with, and has your EM experience made a difference in how you approach these activities?
I am involved in a few! I am the secretary for the Student Government Association, a member of the Student Finance Committee, president of the Erskine Choraleers, a member of the South Carolina Student Legislature, and a writer for the Mirror. I was already involved in many of these organizations before I interned with Experience Mission, so it wasn’t so much an inspiration to join the organizations, but more that it instilled in me a drive to pursue my on-campus activities with everything I had. Rather than half-heartedly going through the motions and being swept away by the stress of everything, I understood that I have the opportunity to be a part of these organizations and that shouldn’t be taken for granted. My experience with EM also inspired me to volunteer more in my local community and to be constantly on the lookout for more opportunities to serve.
What might you say to a student at Erskine who is considering an Experiencing Mission internship?
Do it. It is hard work, and some days you just want to quit, but I have never been so changed in my entire lifetime. I have learned countless things about myself and how I work. I have met more people that have influenced and taught than ever before. I have experienced some of the most fun adventures of my life. And I saw Jesus in the ‘realest’ way—through people loving people. I have been changed, and I know if you intern with EM, you will be, too.
Founded by Chris Clum in 2003, Experience Mission began with a desire to bring opportunity and hope through meaningful relationships and exists to demonstrate God’s love by empowering communities, developing leaders, and mobilizing volunteers.