For the past 4 months we have had the wonderful opportunity of having Bethany Staley intern with our South Africa team as a part of the Our Generation Training Center internship. I very much believe in this program and the amazing missionaries that are being trained and sent out from there (I happened to marry one of them!) It has totally changed my outlook on missions and world evangelism. I hope this interview with Bethany about her time here in South Africa will be an encouragement to our readers and hopefully, as a result, there might be a few that decide to check out the Our Generation Training Center and what it has to offer. Here is a link to their website where you can find more info: www.ogtc.info
How did you choose where to do your internship?
I didn’t choose my internship the normal way, but one thing that helped me with the decision was that I knew the missionary families that I would be around all had experience and knew what they were doing when it came to ministry. I knew that the missionary wives would be great examples to me and that they would be willing to share their wisdom with me on how they came to be so wonderful. And I knew that they would help me grow and kick me out of my comfort zone. So, after getting advice from some godly people and praying about it, I chose South Africa, and I am thankful I did every day! (except for maybe when I am in language school)
Have you found that doing an internship on the field has better prepared you for your future? If so, in what ways?
I absolutely feel like this internship has prepared me for my future. Whether it be realizing how difficult learning a language is, seeing how the beginning stages of ministry go, finally going through culture shock and learning how to deal with it, or learning the importance of self- discipline and intentionally growing myself personally, I think I have learned lessons throughout this internship that I will recall and apply for the rest of my life. It helped me to realize all that goes into being a missionary wife, what they do daily, what they struggle with, what their ministry is, and I think that has helped me to think more about what I can do now to be better prepared.
What advice would you give a future intern to help them make the most of their experience?
I would advise future interns to go into their internship with a humble heart and a willingness to learn. Keep in mind that the purpose of your trip is to learn from the missionaries and experience life on the foreign field, and they don’t really need you there to build their ministry. You will learn more, and be an encouragement to them if you have a willing heart to help and if you simply do what they tell you to do, when they tell you to do it, and how they tell you to do it- without complaining. (I’m still working on that last part.)
Build relationships with the people in the country you are in, and don’t spend all your time thinking about home, family, friends, and when you can FaceTime them next. Be where you are, and be all there.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Mark and Amy have heard so many questions from me these past few months that they may not agree with this point, however asking questions is a great way to learn and when you ask questions, you can get answers!
Lastly, as a side note, if the missionary you are staying with has children, spend some time with them. I remember interns coming to Peru when I was younger, and many of them I still look up to. You never know what kind of impact you will have on this younger generation, but chances are they will remember you and the time you spent in their country. So be a good example, and love on them, even when they annoy you-which will most definitely happen at some point.:)
What advice would you give the host missionaries to ensure that future interns get the most out of their experience?
So, this is kind of a hard question to answer, because what I know about hosting interns is basically zero. So I am just going to write a couple of things that my host missionary family and the other families have done for me on my internship that have been helpful to me.
First of all, they are all big on this whole “getting out of your comfort zone” thing. I feel like their life’s purpose at the moment may just be to find ways to make me uncomfortable, which stinks at the time, but the end result is great, and I appreciate them doing that in a tremendous way. So always make sure your intern is doing something they don’t necessarily want to do. Communicate your expectations with the intern, and make sure they know how to do what you are asking of them to do. Ask them what they would like to get out of their internship, so you can know their expectations as well.
Next thing I would say would be to let your intern spend as much time with you as possible, even if it’s not ministry related. I have learned a lot from the missionary wives here just by hanging out with them, going grocery shopping, cooking together, or picking up kids from school. Seeing the everyday life of these ladies and being able to spend time with them and talk to them about normal, everyday things has been a great blessing.
Ask about what they are learning and studying in their personal devotions, and share what you are learning as well.
Tell them to get a list of questions together and go have tea or coffee to answer them.
Don’t think that you have to act like the perfect missionary wife who has it all together all the time. We need to see real life missionary struggles in order to learn and prepare for the mission field. Let them see you, the real you. Chances are, they will be able to relate to you more when they see that you are imperfect just like them.
What has been the most difficult thing you have done during your internship?
Learning the Xhosa language.
Has this experience helped you grow spiritually? In what ways?
Yes, it most definitely has. Not being able to understand church services at all has helped me to have a deeper personal walk with God, and to be more disciplined it that area. This internship has shown me areas in which I need to grow and mature in my faith. It’s shown me a few of the different struggles of missionary life that I never had thought about before, and the importance of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus daily; a choice that is well worth it when we think of the awesome God that we serve.
What have you experienced in South Africa that has impacted you the most?
One of the most impacting moments occurred in the first couple of weeks that we were here. We took a trip to the cemetery and our group talked to a man who was very confident in his belief in his ancestors. This man knew who Jesus was, but simply believed that He was a “better high priest”, meaning that they also needed to believe in the ancestors to talk to God and have a relationship with Him. This impacted me greatly, showing me just how blind people are to the gospel around the world, and how important it is to get the truth of the Bible to those who are lost. The Xhosa people have a belief in their ancestors, but it is not a belief that will save them from hell, or justify them in the sight of God. As Christians, we have a belief that can change the lives and eternal destination of the Xhosa people and people all over the world, and we need to share that belief with them.