Apprentice Project fosters cross-cultural ministry
The Apprentice Project honored the work of its first cohort on July 31, celebrating the diverse ministry accomplished by three college students at three ethnic churches in the Oklahoma City area.
Over the course of an eight-week mentorship, students Suyeon Kim, Jazlyn Yarbrough, and Tayvion Devereaux worked in a cross-cultural setting to create and lead ministry initiatives in settings that were different from their own cultural background. The program was developed by Rev. Bessie Hamilton, the associate director of connectional ministry for New Faith Communities and Multi-Ethnic Initiatives.
“It was encouraging to see young people taking their rightful place of leadership within the church,” Hamilton said. “I’m excited that we were able to create an opportunity for students to begin thinking about ministry from different perspectives. We’ve learned so much from them as well.”
The Apprentice Project allowed interns to focus on developing spiritually, personally, and professionally. Through this project, each intern shadowed an ethnic pastor through the life of the church to which they were appointed. Interns were invited to incorporate their own passions, gifts, and sense of leadership into their experience. They also assisted the pastor with various activities and programs within the church. The ultimate task of each intern was to propose a project that they felt would help the congregation develop multicultural/multiethnic relationships within the community.
“The Apprentice Project was a long time in the making, but the renewed focus connecting the interns, local churches and mentors was a wonderful opportunity for all,” said Rev. Derrek Belase, the executive director of Connectional Ministry. “Seeing the projects they were able to accomplish together was certainly kingdom work. It was a beautiful sight to see.”
Kim, a Korean student who served at OKC-Quayle, an African American church, created a project involving “Tongsung Kido,” a type of Korean Prayer that translates to “praying/crying out loud.” Devereaux, an African American student who served at OKC-Quail Springs, a majority-white church, created a project that awakened a Gospel Experience, involving a compilation of African American songs and spirituals. Yarbrough, an African American student who served at OKC-Charis Alive, a Korean Church, introduced a Soul Food Sunday.
“They loved the food, especially the greens and cornbread,” Yarbrough said. “The best thing about the apprenticeship was the bonds I made with the people at Charis Alive. I don’t think I would have received that outside of the apprenticeship; they’ve been really good to me.”
While this was an opportunity for students to explore the meaning of church in different cultural contexts and gain a better understanding of the processes that keep churches healthy, it was also a chance to influence the environment of their appointed churches through their own cultural upbringings.
Tayvion says that “The Apprentice Project was a great experience for me,” Devereaux said. “It was nice being able to experience a different way of worship and being able to leave behind a part of what I grew up experiencing with them.”
Suyeon found this project “revolutionary,” as something that was both “unexpected and adventurous.” She grew in faith with the support of her mentor, Rev. Fuxia Wang, the director of international ministries at The Wesley Foundation at University of Oklahoma. The host pastor at OKC-Quale, Rev. Elvyn Hamilton, was very cooperative, warm, helpful with her projects, and he kept her plugged into the activities that were happening. She believes that the help of the staff and other church leaders, “it was impossible to fail.”
“I was asked to share my culture and my gifts to the church, but I gained more than I can ever imagine from the church,” Kim said.
Wang expressed that OKC-Quayle and its members were “very welcoming, open and embracing” in receiving a young female ministry leader from a different ethnic and cultural background. She thinks this project is “a great opportunity to train and raise students and young adult leaders” and prays that this is only the beginning of the good things the Lord will do.
Rev. Victoria Lee, Senior Pastor at Charis Alive, spoke of the joy that Yarbrough’s presence brought joy. Lee said Yarbrough was a respectful, creative, and helpful intern willing to cast her ideas, volunteer and lead. She believes Yarbrough left the congregation with new visions and suggestions for their ministry. Lee highly recommends this project be made available to many young adults “so they can be hands-on in ministry service.”
Elvyn Hamilton said Kim’s project was well-received by the church and believes “the church is more prayerful and open to new people” as a result. He said people felt a powerful release during the prayer time that followed the Korean practice.
“The unexpected came in the prayer service led by the intern,” Elvyn Hamilton said. “The project should grow and be expanded to welcome more churches and interns.”