An internship is an exciting opportunity to experience life on the field. Follow one day of intern Rachel’s* recent short-term trip to North Africa and Spain, where she was able to use her photography skills to support Christar workers there.
It was actually a siren that woke Rachel, not the jet lag she’s been fighting every other morning this trip. It’s funny how a siren can sound so foreign. This one isn’t quite like the ones she heard in North Africa last week and not at all like the sirens in Wisconsin.
She lies in bed thinking about how it’s all the tiny things added up that make another place feel so different. It is day numero dos in Spain—she loves it here so far, even though her Spanish is atrocious!
The smell of coffee cues her to head to the tiny kitchen for breakfast. Rachel and the two other interns staying in the same house join the Christar workers’ family to eat. A plate of delectable pastries on the table catches her attention and her stomach rumbles. As they munch on sweet cakes and sip coffee, conversation winds from plans for the day to observations of the local culture to tiny language lessons in Spanish and Arabic to tales of the family’s years here in Spain. She’s only been in the country for a couple days, but Rachel thinks she could imagine her life here.
It’s time to grab her camera and get to work. Rachel heads out with another intern to wander the neighborhood, exploring the tiny nuances through her lens—how shades of color pop out, how the sun here seems to cast deeper shadows. Even the smells are subtly unfamiliar. The chaos of foreign language causes her to see hand gestures and facial expressions more than she remembers noticing in America. Everything is new and every corner presents another shot she is desperate to capture.
As she meanders down streets, she is keenly aware that the camera around her neck screams, “I’m a tourist.” But she’s not. She’s a beginner to this culture, a learner. She’s an observer who has a week to pull out stunning colors, to capture scenes, to apply her photography skills in a way that will be useful to those who presently serve here and to help future workers understand what life in this culture is like. She imagines the stories her photos will tell to those who pray for the people in this neighborhood. But, as she walks, she still feels the gaze of the locals, knowing she looks like just another foreigner on vacation.
It’s a photographer’s skill to see beauty in the ordinary, to notice natural lines that frame a shot, to express a thousand words in a glimpse. As Rachel and her fellow intern continue wandering, they chat about their perspectives of the city. They are both exploring the possibilities of long-term cross-cultural work in a place like this.
Conversation turns toward future dreams, their passions to bring good news to the least-reached and to use their creative skills to connect cultures. Rachel is embarrassed to admit that this two-week trip has been harder than she expected. She misses her family and friends. The lack of language skill makes her feel a little anxious and the lack of air conditioning in such sweltering heat has been distractingly unpleasant.
The rich smell of spices, onions and peppers sizzling wafts out the door as they return to their hosts’ apartment. The windows are open, allowing a light breeze to cool them on this hot day. The fellowship of her host family and the other interns gathered for the meal similarly refreshes her spirit.
Over the last 24 hours, Rachel has filled an SD card with photos. Now she’s headed to the team office to spend the afternoon sorting and editing. She begins looking for the ones that best capture life here without skewing it. Because she sometimes shoots at hip level to avoid offending her subjects, there are quite a handful of terrible shots she can immediately discard. But others are stunning, and she is relieved to see the miles of wandering on foot produced some great images.
Rachel’s purpose on this trip is to obtain usable pictures that tell stories, reveal what life is like and demonstrate the work that is needed here.
After a brief walk around her office to rest her eyes, she continues her editorial hunt. A Christar worker asks Rachel how her internship has been so far. Their conversation gives Rachel the opportunity to ask questions and gain insights into how serving long term might look for her. Rachel can absolutely imagine herself working here—telling the story through her lens, connecting with the least-reached and supporting workers. Graduation will be here before she knows it and, as overwhelming as that feels, Rachel is thrilled as she wonders what God has in store for her.
She’s editing again—an endless task it seems. As the photos parade across her screen, she smiles, reminded that God created it all, and everything He made is good. A verse comes to mind: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14 NIV)
Those words have played on a loop in her mind throughout this adventure. As Rachel packs up her laptop and heads back to her hosts’ home, she thinks about how the world is filled with unique individuals who have their own way of life, how cultures can seem so drastically different and how beautiful that contrast is.
The three interns spend the evening at home with their hosts, first with dinner, then in prayer together for the work here in Spain among the least-reached. Then they sit and continue their discussion about life as a worker and their plans for the rest of their week here. These conversations have brought so much joy to Rachel, first in North Africa and now here.
As Rachel prepares to sleep, her mind continues the conversation. It’s been priceless to have the chance to spend even a few days with those who are already on the field, those who can talk about the realities of long-term cross-cultural work. But she also had so many questions that words weren’t sufficient to answer. This experience has drawn Rachel deeper into her conviction to go where the gospel isn’t, to use her photography skills to help others understand people in a way that highlights their need for hope, joy and peace. She wants to capture more than just images. She wants to see others captivated by the goodness and mercy of a God who knows and loves them. She wants to be a part of sharing that truth.
How can I get involved?
Ask God to guide Christar interns and to use their short-term experiences to call many of them into long-term cross-cultural service.
Get a taste of how God could use your gifts and skills for His glory in a least-reached community through a Christar internship.