Whitney in Florida

Whitney is a junior from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is an international studies and premed major. At SMU, she serves as a resident assistant and is involved with Campus Ministries. This summer she has an internship in Florida in a church youth department, and in the fall she will study abroad with SMU-in-Copenhagen.

A great summer in Florida

This last week has been a complete and total blur. I got home from the wedding and immediately had to hit the ground running for our youth week. Youth week is basically comprised of a series of nightly events that are insane, out of control, fun things designed for the students. The two that I was directly in charge of was our “muckfest” (aka, messy game night) and a photo scavenger hunt. I had more fun coming up with ideas for these things than probably anything else this summer.

Our muckfest consisted of two hours of all-out competition between the students using oatmeal dyed green, shaving cream, 3000 water balloons, flour, tomato sauce, soap, cheetos, oil, and pudding. I was so disgusting at the end of the night that I had to take two showers to get all of the mess off myself! I had intended to stay clean and dry, but of course, my students had other plans.

The photo scavenger hunt was awesome as well. I had planned to send the students out with their brave adult volunteer drivers and stay at the church to get ready for our worship time, but some of the adults decided that we should do the scavenger hunt as well. We ended up madly driving around trying to get our pictures done in time (with a 30-minute handicap!). We might have taken pictures with security officers, gas station workers, in a fountain in a VERY public place, at the movie theatre, and in someone’s house that wasn’t even home, but I’m not sure …

The scavenger hunt night was tough as well, because it was my last night in Florida. The church made a huge production out of my leaving, having a huge cake that said “God Bless you and Keep You” in Danish, and getting me some awesome guides to Denmark and Copenhagen as going-away presents. Right now, I am again airborne, heading to my parents house in Monahans, TX (which I’ve never seen, since they moved this summer after I left for Florida).

This summer was the best experience that I’ve had so far, even better than my last summer in Florida. I will miss all of the friends I made there, the students and my boss immensely.

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Wedding break

I write this on the plane as I return from a whirlwind trip to Utah and Idaho for my best friend in high school’s wedding. She is my first friend from high school to get married, and I have to say, the experience was sort of surreal.

First, if you have never been to Northern Utah or Idaho, I would highly recommend planning a visit. I had a cousin who lived in Salt Lake City while he was attending medical school, and he liked the city, but I never made it up to visit. The drive from Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls (site of pre-wedding showers, hair appointments, etc) is a gorgeous one, with mountains flanking either side of the road, with small farms and grasslands in the valleys. I got to see the Great Salt Lake, which for some reason was not as large as I had expected.

I was the maid of honor in this particular soiree, and as such, I had a role (albeit a small one) in helping with the wedding preparations. We had a great wedding shower for my friend where we played trivia about the couple, and had some great opportunities to just relax and hang out. I enjoyed every second of it, since this trip constitutes my vacation between working and going to Copenhagen.

I had always thought weddings were events that were destined to be highly stressful, complicated, unpleasant affairs. My friend and her family totally proved me wrong. The planning and preparation were basically all done by the time I arrived, my friend was really low-maintenance and relaxed, which I think helped the entire day go smoothly.

Now, with that trip over, the next major event to look forward to is the church’s youth week next week, which I have an ominous feeling is about to become the all-consuming event of my life …

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Chicken nugget disaster

Last night, we had our weekly Sunday night fellowship/youth group time. Normally, this is planned and prepared jointly by the youth pastor (my boss) and myself. This week, however, my boss was away from the church on a mission trip, so I shouldered the responsibility of planning and running the evening.

I thought I had things together for the night – recently things have gotten more complicated around here as we are splitting the ministry into separate middle school and high school groups. I planned accordingly, picking different games for middle school and high school, preparing my message and creating a schedule for the evening. My boss told me that he would support me with whatever I needed but that on the whole, he was going to stand back and let me run the night.

The beginning of the end was when I decided that I would be the “cool youth intern” and provide chicken nuggets to the students for dinner – they’re cheap, relatively easy to order in mass quantity and liked by most of the students. I called the fast-food restaurant in advance to prepare them for an impending order of 70 sets of nuggets and was assured by the manager that whoever picked up the food would merely have to arrive 10 minutes before they wanted it ready and that they would whip up the food in a jiffy. Great, I thought, I’m going to be a snack-supper legend for thinking up such a great idea. I sent a willing parent volunteer out to get the nuggets and waited …

An hour later, I had a pack of hungry teenagers (and adult volunteers) asking where the food was, and admittedly, I didn’t know. I shuffled some things around, trying to buy myself some time, but eventually I had done all I could do. I sent the students off to their small groups with loud protestations and grumbling. The food finally arrived, over an hour after I sent the (now not so willing) adult volunteer to get it.

The students all finally ate, but it was not a pretty sight. I had groups of high school students spread out all over the entryway to the church trying to have small group time while eating, middle school students who didn’t get to eat until the very end, and a group of sixth-graders running around in the gym smacking each other with pool noodles.

The well thought-out message I had prepared was crammed into a minute, after we rallied the troops and came together for our worship time. Overall, the night went completely different than I had planned and was extremely frustrating!

In the midst of the madness, I looked to the back of the room and saw my boss, gloved hand at the ready, dispensing chicken nuggets to awaiting teens. He gave me a Cheshire cat smile, saying without words … “See … it’s not as easy as it looks …”

And he was right.

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Preparing for Denmark

Somehow time has gotten away from me!

I started this week feeling pretty good about my departure – my plane tickets were bought, I had a list of what I needed to pack, had my passport and seemed to have it all together. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon some information that the program I’m studying abroad with sent me back in May that I began to panic.

I had (for some reason, perhaps procrastination?) forgotten to submit my paperwork for my Danish Residence Permit, something that you’re not allowed to enter the country without!

Frantically, I spent all day yesterday getting more passport photos made, making copies of my passport, filling out paperwork and talking through my panic with the nicest UPS guy in the continental United States. After everything, I happily sent my package off to the Danish Consulate in New York City. Hopefully I’ll get it returned and stamped before I have to leave!

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Planning a mission trip

I am back in Florida again for another summer of interning, and I must admit, I meant to start blogging much sooner. I can hardly believe that I have been here for five weeks already.

In the beginning, I was very nervous about returning back to the same church where I worked last summer. I stressed out about whether the kids would remember me, whether the connections I made last summer would still be there, and whether I would be able to “get back into the swing of things.”

I am happy to say that things are going so well I feel like I never left. Returning back for a second summer has brought many challenges that I definitely did not expect. When I first worked here last summer, the first half of the summer was spent just learning the job and getting to know students. This summer I have been given a lot more responsibility right off the bat, which is both awesome and intimidating.

I have already planned a recognition service for our graduating seniors, coordinated transportation to the camp we are going to, and planned and led a 6th-grade mission trip. I just returned Friday from this trip, which was the first I was directly responsible for. I think that it is impossible to understand the immense amount of responsibility that planning and leading a trip like this entails until you are the one actually in charge of it.

The students, along with some adult volunteers and myself, worked at a food bank for a day and then went tubing the second day. Confession: tubing in the murky waters of North Florida scares the dickens out of me. Add this to the responsibility of keeping track of 13 6th-graders while floating down aforementioned river, and a very interesting experience is surely created.

At one point, I thought we had lost one of our Adult volunteers along with three of our students. It turns out that one of them got hung up on a log protruding from the river. Without any cell phone communication, and having no other way of knowing, I spent a very tense half an hour waiting for them to reach the bottom of the river.

Overall, I think that the students had a great time, and many of them shared with me their excitement for the trip. At the end of the day, putting all of the stress aside and knowing that I’m making a difference in students’ lives makes it all worth it.

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