This truth became clearer as I started my internship with Encompass. I participated in Engage 5, five weeks of pre-field training, before entering my supportive role in the mobilization and communication departments. In addition, I volunteered with a local ministry called Café Clarkston and their work to connect refugees with employment opportunities. Everything starts in the preparation. God used Engage 5 training to prepare me for the good works happening in Atlanta. During those weeks, I both learned and lived out real-life ministry with six other adults (and one baby). It was really intense. We would spend mornings in the classroom learning about discipleship, church planting strategies, relationship building, and the importance of cultivating those relationships. Immediately after class sessions, we’d practice those lessons, directly applying them to our daily ministry contexts.
For example, a major theme we learned was rest. Our trainers provided advice from their personal experiences—explaining why those situations might have occurred. Some had suffered burnout or saw others ending ministry prematurely for not taking care of themselves. Everyone has a sweet spot where they enjoy doing work and find it refreshing and energizing rather than draining. In the midst of very full weeks of classroom and practical ministry, I wanted to discern what was restful for me. I found that rock-climbing was a way I could recharge while still fostering new connections—intentionally being light while having fun and “resting.” Taking moments to connect with God, especially in the unique ways that he built me to enjoy rest with him, were important for my growth here.
My learning didn’t stop there. Our training included practical lessons such as understanding cultural differences and learning how to be a student of culture. Visiting a local university, we were able to build connections in light of the lessons we had learned in class. I made a lifelong friend through this and had multiple opportunities to share the gospel with people who had never heard of the one true God. It became evident in my experiences: neither I nor any help from my instructors could have crafted these conversations. God showed up and used the Engage 5 lessons to bless those around me.
After my training, I carried those lessons over into the next 14 weeks of serving in the Encompass office. I understood more deeply how God could use so many diverse people in ways that go beyond their individual strengths. Encompass not only taught me to work in a team, they also gave me the opportunity to actually experience it through an internship. Although the daily activities were less hectic, the time spent actually practicing what I had learned resulted in a priceless experience.
Why am I here? I’m here for the dignity of God and his people. My time at Encompass taught me to accept God as the strength of my ministry and to constantly re-focus my wayward heart. God used Encompass to lay a strong foundation. I look forward to seeing how he will continue building from here.
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Ethan Higa interned with Encompass World Partners January-April 2016. He is Japanese Okinawan from Hawaii with a passion for cultures and for collecting hats. One cap has recently been added to his collection as Ethan graduated from Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, on May 7 with a degree in Intercultural Studies.