by Janie Anderson
The first time I knocked on their door, I was nervous. Did I really know what I was getting into? I knew I would be meeting with a Muslim refugee mother and her daughter to help them with English as a private tutor, but that’s all I knew. Walking up the steps to their apartment in the public housing complex, I was exceedingly aware of the two very different worlds we came from. Would I, with my limited experience, actually have anything to offer them?
One of my favorite parts of Peninsula Fellow so far has been the volunteer requirement. The Fellows program emphasizes that finding a way to help others is vital to a balanced, Biblically-based lifestyle, and I’m grateful to Peninsula Fellows for working with me so that I can volunteer in a way that really interests me, and allows me to get experience in a career field I may want to pursue.
In college, I studied English and believed I wanted a job in the publishing industry, where I could read and edit other people’s words in a quiet, orderly office. After two years of teaching English to college students in Asia, I have a completely different outlook on career and calling. I’ve realized that I want a job where I help people more directly, possibly social work, and that I desire to work with immigrants or refugees. I was connected with a refugee family through a member of Peninsula Community Chapel, and I’ve been meeting with them and growing our relationship every other Friday.
When I met Leila*, she was reserved, but I could tell she was excited. I found out that she’s in the tenth grade at the local high school, loves math, and dreams of going to college. By the end of my visit, she was excitedly telling me about her extended family and showing me photos on her phone of her old life before her family came to America. She told me she needed help with grammar and writing more than speaking. She went to show me her English homework, and to my delight, I found that her class was learning rules about comma use, and that it was something I knew well and enjoyed. We spent two hours going over it together.
Nadia* was more shy, at first, than her daughter. I finally bonded with her when we realized her youngest son has the same name as the young son of my close friend. She was so excited when I showed her pictures of them. On my last visit, we had fun going over the words to “Deck the Halls” together. Nadia is learning the Christmas carol for a Christmas party her church-sponsored English class is hosting. She needed help with pronunciation, and I enjoyed explaining what many of the old-fashioned words meant. At the end of my visit, I felt honored when Nadia invited me to attend their Christmas party next month to watch them perform.
Meeting with Leila and Nadia has blessed me in many ways, including showing me that I do have something I can offer them, and has given me a lens through which to view my God-given gifts, as well as clarity for how I might continue using my gifts in the future. The Leviticus 19:34 call to treat immigrants and refugees with kindness was made clear to me in new ways when I lived internationally, and I feel passionate about putting that into practice now that I have returned to the U.S. I am so excited to see where these relationships lead over the next few months, and I feel lucky to get to learn from and teach Leila and Nadia
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
About the Author
Janie graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2017 with a BA in English. After graduating, she taught English to college students in Asia for two years. Currently, she is a marketing intern at Alliance Solutions Group. In her free time, Janie enjoys reading and spending time in coffee shops.
by Kayla Reesey
After two months in the Peninsula Fellows program, I am processing a lot of new experiences and perspectives. I’m learning a lot about balancing work and life and how to implement my faith into my workday. Someone who has been a tremendous help with processing these new experiences is my mentor, Dawn.
Each Fellow is given a mentor who challenges and cheers them on throughout the 9-month program. These mentors are willing members of Peninsula Community Chapel who have a heart for young adults and who are ready to dive deep and talk about what really matters with honesty and love.
Time with Dawn is so life-giving. She balances homeschooling some of her kids while investing in the lives of refugees on the Peninsula. The more we meet, the more I see how big her heart is for her family and community. Dawn and I get together once a week, usually at my favorite local coffee shop, and she eagerly asks me how I’m doing, like how I’m really doing. When we’re having a good week we rejoice together, and when we’re struggling we talk through it together.
I’m in a unique situation where I have the opportunity to work three part-time jobs; I am an Administrative Assistant for Young Life, an IT Specialist for Summit Christian Academy, and a Team Leader for the 56 Ministry at Peninsula Community Chapel. Despite the flexibility that these jobs offer, I’ve recently been struggling to balance the workload.
During our meetings, Dawn listens patiently and offers much-appreciated advice. After I described my work-balance situation, she was able to help put my issue into words. She noticed I’ve been overwhelmed in my work and this actually led me to procrastination. While yes, this was very convicting, it was exactly what I needed to hear: I wasn’t using my time well. It was a reality check I wouldn’t have been able to accept on my own. We then jumped into how I can combat my urge to procrastinate. Dawn helped me create practical steps, like rearranging my work schedule to set myself up for success. Now she holds me accountable each week about these new habits.
Every time we meet, it’s more and more apparent why the Lord paired us together. Although we are in different stages of life, there’s something very special about learning similar life lessons while serving the same gracious God. I am so thankful for this new friend, who is patient and straight forward, yet perfectly encouraging.
About the Author
Kayla graduated from Christopher Newport University in December 2017 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Systems. Her hometown is Stafford, Virginia, but has remained on the Virginia Peninsula since college graduation. She is an administrative assistant for Young Life, IT Specialist for Summit Christian Academy, and Team Leader for 56 Ministry at PCC. Her favorite pastime is watching Youtube videos.
by Rachel Palekas
There was a three-month break between my graduation from Liberty University and the start of the inaugural class of Peninsula Fellows, and it felt like a lifetime. Not many people talk about the weird limbo of post-grad but pre-career life, but sometimes it felt like an early mid-life crisis. Every recent college grad knows the question well: “So what’s next?” Explaining to classmates, family, family friends, and just about anyone that I was moving to the peninsula of Virginia to start a nine-month program where I get a job, but not a full-time job, take some classes, but not a full load, and be in community with four strangers gave me some strange looks and a lot of “oh, well, good luck!” responses.
As I packed up my car and drove the 6 hours up to the Peninsula, I had not only a trunk full of my worldly possessions, but also four years’ worth of baggage from my college experience packed up with me. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was walking into: I didn’t have any certainty of a job lined up, I was moving into a family’s house that I had never met before, and I had four other Fellows (aka more strangers) with which I was going to be thrown into intimate community. I was clinging desperately onto the hope that my Father had a unique and significant purpose for me in Yorktown and praying that He would make the transition one of joy and peace.
Fast forward three weeks, and I’m busier than I ever thought possible, I’ve had vulnerable and intimate relationships form (over Enneagram memes and viewings of Spy Kids and National Treasure), and the Lord has whispered reminders of His love to me in so many different ways already. One way the Lord has really shown me His love for me has been through my growing relationship with my mentor. We’ve already spent hours just talking (mostly me ranting and her graciously nodding along) about anything and everything. She’s listened to my anxieties about building relationships and the baggage I’ve brought with me, she’s gracefully given me advice and reminders that I serve a God that loves me and knows me well. When I felt especially anxious about a number of different things, she reminded me of our enemy that prowls around, waiting like a lion for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and prayed intentionally against him. I was nervous to have someone we were asked to sit down and be extra vulnerable with, on top of all the other new relationships we’ve been building, but I have already been so blessed by it and I’m so grateful that it’s a built-in part of our program.
All of that said, any of my free time now is spent reading one of six books for class or making myself yet another cup of coffee (ask any of the other Fellows about my caffeine addiction) so I can stay awake to keep reading, but I feel so confident in the fact that the Lord is preparing us five Fellows for something so great this year, and I’m grateful to be strapped in on the first row of this roller coaster ride.
About the Author
Rachel graduated from Liberty University this past May. She grew up moving around with a military family, but calls Columbia, SC home. She studied Psychology and Biblical studies and is working this year with Bay Aging to develop Dementia Friendly Communities, a national initiative dedicated to creating supportive communities for those with dementia and their caregivers. She’s a proud Enneagram type 4.
by Becky Chappell
It started with a question: “What would it look like for our church to sponsor a Fellows program on the peninsula in Hampton Roads?” The question, after much discussion and many prayers, turned into the formation of a Launch Team, which over the course of a year gave birth to a recognized Fellows program. This month, the first class of Peninsula Fellows arrived.
I joined the Peninsula Fellows Launch Team as the new Assistant Director just three months from the launch date. The excitement among the group was palpable: God was doing something big and we all had front row seats. Over the course of the summer, mentors were trained, host families were recruited, and handbooks were written. This was really happening.
Then they arrived. Five Fellows from a variety of colleges, states, and backgrounds descended on a guest house in Williamsburg for a 4-day orientation retreat with the Director and his wife. The time was a mixture of business, relaxation, team-building and devotionals. The goal: create a close community of Fellows while gaining a vision for being fully alive in Christ through work, classes, service, and fellowship. They laughed, they cried, they napped.
The capstone of the week was a Friday evening Kick-off dinner with a room full of distinguished guests: pastors, mentors, host families, Launch Team, and of course, the Fellows. It was a beautiful time of worship and fellowship, celebrating together what God has already accomplished and expressing our hopeful expectations of what He will do in the lives of these Fellows over the course of the next nine months. In May, we’ll return to the same room to celebrate the end of a successful program year. Until then, our mission is clear: we will work, study, learn, serve, and grow, all to the glory of God.