Since the end of my internship, I have been intending to write an "internship recap" that would encapsulate all the lessons I learned over the course of the year. It would be exhaustive and very insightful. Thought-provoking. You get the idea.
In reality, every time I've tried to write it, I've gotten extremely overwhelmed and felt very inadequate.
My internship with Kingsland was one of the sweetest seasons of my life. With no exaggeration, I can say I learned more in the course of the year than I did in the entirety of my college career. (Some would argue this is because I went to work much with much more consistency than I went to class, but to those people I would say, you know, details. And shut up.)
I finally admitted defeat and gave up on a post that does the year justice. Instead, I want to share just a few things I learned — and hope I never forget.
First of all, if you get a chance to follow Omar Garcia around for a year, you should take it. No words to adequately express my gratitude to this man for his investment in my life — to say nothing of his investment in his community, both local and global, over the years. His generosity and curiosity are boundless, and I am wiser and spiritually richer for having spent a year under his leadership. Plus, I am now armed with more dad jokes than I will hopefully ever need. If that's not a deal, I don't know what is.
Humility is the key to almost anything. And nothing humbles you quicker than missions. Thankful for months of being in places and situations that leave me with no option other than admitting, "I don't know best — can you help me?"
Because it's taught me that it's almost always a great option.
Jesus transcends culture, context, and language. This sounds obvious, but when you're standing in the middle of a red-light district in Kolkata, or a slum outside Kampala, or a nameless island somewhere in Honduras, it's nothing short of a miracle.
Faced with finding common ground in such overwhelming difference, it blew my mind that the name of Jesus and the basic redemption story applied to and connected every. Single. Person. I met this year. It allowed me to look in the eyes of prostitutes in India and orphans in Honduras and find not just something in common in our stories, but the most important thing in common — a real need for rescue, and a good God who against all reason swoops in with it.
To an unreasonable degree, the Gospel is transcendent.
(The second most transcendent thing? A sense of humor.)
While it's not necessarily what I was hoping to learn, I'm most effective in my own culture and context. Most, apart from a true spiritual gifting (which some absolutely have!), are.
In my own culture and context, I know all the language, politics, and nuances I will ever need to deeply connect with people. There are no barriers to entry at home. I will never have more connection or leverage than I do in my place, with my people. Recognizing and acknowledging that over the course of the year taught me not to wish away impact in the name of wanderlust.
In a similar vein, my personal ministry strength is discipleship within the local church (which, in this season, looks mostly like youth ministry for me). Yes, I know I was, like, the last person in my life to know this. But for whatever reason, it took me this long to come around to the fact that I, Ryley Rush, was in my sweet spot in... the plain old American church.
Just like I mentioned in regards to the culture/context point, I think familiarity often simply breeds disinterest. My life has always revolved around church (just go back to the Pastor's Kid series if you need a refresher). There's certainly nothing adventurous about settling into that setting myself. Ministry is not cool.
But if "adventure" — this chase for excitement and significance and big-ness — removes me from a place and position where I'm clearly at my best and bettering others as a result... then, well, haven't I missed the point? (And, ironically, lowered my chances for all those things in the process?)
Yes, I loved every mission trip I went on this year, and the creative work I got to do for our missions partners was incredibly gratifying. But honestly, my deepest satisfaction and connection and joy came from my involvement in Kingsland itself. The relationships I built and the work I got to be a part of in student ministry, worship team and any number of random events or projects I wiggled my way into over the course of the year blessed me more than I could ever have predicted.
Does all that mean I've thrown missions overboard? Nope.
I still believe missions will (and should) be a part of my life moving forward — but it will look less like being a "missionary," and more like using the gifts and talents I possess to empower people already doing a mighty work in their place, with their people. And what an honor that is.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there's a real need for what I do in the missions world — and ministry in general, in fact. I don't know why we all so naturally want to separate ministry and marketplace into two separate worlds — pick one or the other, but you can't have both — when in reality, the crossover is abundant.
I love a good story, and I love telling it well. From crafting it (writing, photography, design!) to actually packaging it for and getting it to people (print, web, social media!), the process is one I enjoy and the final product something I take pride in.
For a long time, I thought there wasn't much spiritual about the creative work to which I'm naturally inclined, but after this year, I think I've finally arrived at the conclusion that bringing beauty in an ugly world is redemptive and reflective of the God I love. That's holy work. And channeling that work to worthy stories draws eyes and ears and hearts to Him and frees up others — from missionaries in far corners of the world to churches in suburban America — to keep at the work they are gifted for, instead of spending time and effort trying to do what I could do for them.
I could go on and on and never get all the things I learned during my time at Kingsland in one list. I'm sure I'm still unaware of some of its gifts. But suffice to say, it exceeded any and every expectation I had. This internship was a months-long answer to prayer, and I'm beyond thankful for it.