Rufus grew up in Liberia, became a refugee during Liberia's political unrest, and lived in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Ghana before immigrating to the United States in 2004. Today, he is a Luther Seminary MDiv and serves as the Intern Pastor at Como Park Lutheran with Pastor Martin Ericson. In this column, Rufus shares his experiences interning in a culturally unfamiliar context.
I see my internship as an opportunity for me and the Church for us to get to know each other, understand each other, and collaborate and do ministry together in a unique way. I was excited when Pastor Martin Ericson called me and told me that I have been called to Como Park Lutheran Church (CPLC) as our new intern pastor for 2013/2014. I said to myself, "Thank God that I have been called; and God knows why I have been called at this time to Como Park Lutheran Church.”
As I reflect on my internship, I can’t help but smile with joy. The past three months have been both an amazing learning growing opportunity and a great deal of fun. There are so many opportunities for ministry. The people at CPLC are welcoming and we (my family) have been well received. I have a good supervisor, Pastor Martin Ericson, who is willing to teach and prepare interns for ministry. The congregation is great at working with me. The Internship Committee has also being a great support. At our first committee meeting, the Coordinator, Janice Kragness, said, “We are here to support you. Welcome.” I felt glad within myself that I’m in the right church at the time for internship.
People often ask me how am I surviving in a different cultural context. I usually tell them that wherever God sends you, He prepares the people, place, and yourself for that area. I believe that God has prepared the people at CPLC and I see them as God’s people. The people at CPLC treat me as their intern pastor. I have lived in different countries under different contexts. It is important for me to understand that with joy and excitement of starting out fresh as an intern in a new context, that every new context requires building a new relationship and trust. It is relevant for me to understand my context and be respectful of the internship context. The new environment that has helped to shape me and to look at ministry through another lens. I always say to myself that I am at CPLC for us to work together; therefore, let’s work together as children of God.
My experience with the congregation for the first few weeks has been listening, asking questions, observation, prayer, polite smiles, coffeehouse meetings, building relationships, confirmation classes, leading worship services, and monthly Sunday morning sermons.
I feel that when Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that he was willing to “become all things to all men in order to save some,” he was reminding us that our strategy for mission or internship should be connected to our awareness of context. I have shared my life story with the congregation as another way for them to know my context. The story telling approach has helped with connections. I am grateful to God that I’m enjoying my internship because I have a good supervisor and a wonderful congregation.