‘Project Columbia’ gets college students plugged into the community

By VANESSA MEUIR
neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

Instead of packing up and heading home this summer, a few college students decided to stick around Columbia for their months off of school. These students traded a summer by the pool for an internship called “Project Columbia” that allows them to make a difference in the community.

Every summer, Veritas, a college student ministry based at The Crossing church, gives students the opportunity to apply for an internship with the church to help enrich their time spent in Columbia. This summer, 14 students were accepted to become interns in various areas of ministry.

“We have students who intern in children’s ministry, student ministry, Vertias — our college ministry, and in worship,” said Kermit Summerall, co-director of Veritas.

Summerall has been involved with Veritas for four years and helped start the summer internship three years ago.

“The idea was to give students the chance to learn a little about ministry, learn a little about walking with God and to serve the church and Columbia,” Summerall said.

The church pays the students $1,000 for their summer of service, but for many of the students, the experience means more than the money that they earn. Rex Oberle, a junior in college and a marketing major, was accepted to be a Veritas intern and has been involved with the college ministry for almost a year. Oberle is from St.Louis, but chose to stay in Columbia to serve the community through Veritas.

“The reason I decided to do Project Columbia was because it seemed like a great opportunity to set aside a few months of my life and just dedicate myself to service and learning more about this ministry that I’m becoming really passionate about,” Oberle said.

Regardless of what area of ministry the interns are focused in, they dedicate a lot of their time to an office setting, in which they plan and organize events for the people of The Crossing and of the community to enjoy.

“I plan events for Veritas, attend staff meetings, set up for Veritas every Sunday night, and I also meet with students to get to know them,” Oberle said. “I also meet with a Bible study and work the Veritas table for Summer Welcome, so it’s kind of all over the place.”

Interns also get together to do service projects around Columbia. They take trips to Coyote Hill, an organization that provides homes for orphaned children, where they help with home improvement projects and spend time with the families there.

Project Columbia isn’t all about hard work, though. The interns also get to participate in what they call “ProCo-wide” events, which include bike trips, bake-off challenges, and pizza and pool parties. This experience has allowed Oberle and the other interns to make new friends and form stronger bonds with those they had already been friends with.

Summerall believes that the experience that the interns are getting will equip them with skills and knowledge that will be able to guide them for the rest of their lives.

“I think that as far as it affects our community, its going to have a long-term effect,” Summerall said. “All of the people who go to The Crossing are being impacted by these interns, that includes the children and the students, so over time, that’s going to work its way out into the community in a lot of different ways.”

Summerall went on to explain that he sees Project Columbia as a program that exports students into the world. He is excited about the long-term affects that this experience will have on the future churches and families that the interns will be involved in.

“One thing that is important for us at Veritas is, we want them to lead and to love God and to love the world for the rest of their lives, so this is really good preparation for doing that,” Summerall said.

Andrew Camp has been involved with Veritas for over a year, and serves as a worship intern this summer. He was drawn to Veritas by the people he saw involved in it.

“I really saw that in Veritas there was really a strong college community of Christ followers, and I just really felt like I couldn’t find that anywhere else, like a genuine community of people like that,” Camp said.

As a worship intern, Camp has the opportunity to plan the songs that will be sung on Sunday nights at Veritas, as well as music to be played on Sunday services at The Crossing. When he isn’t behind the scenes, setting up the worship experience, Camp is on stage, strumming his guitar and singing. Camp devotes around 50 hours a week to the Crossing Church and enjoys every minute of it.

“The most rewarding thing is being able to work hard for something that I’m passionate about and being involved with so many great people,” Camp said.

Jessica Watson is a junior in college who interns with the children’s ministry at The Crossing. Although her job is quite different than working with Veritas, she finds the same amount of gratification in her work.

“I was staying here this summer and I just wanted to do something with meaning,” Watson said. “I’ve had a lot of summer jobs, but none of them were really fulfilling and I didn’t feel like I was actually doing anything. I love children’s ministry, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Watson loves working with the children, from infants to age 5, and is constantly astounded by how much they can learn and understand about God. As a psychology major, she knows that what they experience as children will probably have a huge impact on who they become later in life.

“I hope that I’m personally an influence on their lives. I think maybe I will be … I really hope so,” Watson said.

Summerall is proud of the work that the interns do, and believes that the experience is helping to enrich their lives.

“I think they’re really enjoying getting some ministry experience and we mentor them as a Veritas staff and we give them some supervision,” Summerall said. “Our goal is to develop them and give them some opportunities to grow; we’re with them every step of the way.”

To learn more about Veritas, go to their website.

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