Abbey McNeilly, the Children’s Ministry summer intern at Mariners, had plans to get out of California for the summer. She planned to trade the routine of her tiny hometown in Paradise, CA, for the bright lights of Chicago in hopes of studying teaching at Moody Bible Institute. “I wanted to get far, far away from California,” Abbey said. I felt a little disconnected from my community in Paradise and wanted a fresh start. I was tired of my job as a preschool teacher and my work with our church youth group. I felt I wasn’t connecting with the girls.”
But God had other plans. “Everything fell through when I wasn’t accepted into the teaching program at Moody,” she said.
Instead, a peer mentor who shares a friendship with Kaitlin Gehret, the KidMin Director at Mariners, suggested that Abbey apply for an internship here. She got the job. “It seemed like it was God setting it up. I couldn’t turn it down. It was just too perfect to work in a children’s ministry under someone looking for a person to grow in ministry and teach me the ropes,” Abbey said.
She has spent her summer teaching Kid’s Church, preparing for summer Day Camp and working alongside Kaitlin with children who attended Wagon Train Camp at Hume Lake. Abbey was particularly touched by watching the Holy Spirit move in young hearts. “Sometimes you think the gospel goes over kids’ heads, but at Wagon Train they were getting it,” Abbey said. “I had girls that just poured their hearts out and laid their fears out and gave them to God over the week with the understanding that they had value and God would take those fears from them.”
She also developed a new appreciation for her church community and work in Paradise, and now is planning to study education at Simpson University in Redding, just 70 miles up the road from home. “Now that I’m here (at Mariners), I’m realizing how my disconnect at home was my own fault,” Abbey said. “It wasn’t necessarily the programs, but my head wasn’t in the right place. Now, God has showed me how important the youth and children’s programs are by showing me community at the church here that I was taking it for granted at home.”
Abbey eventually hopes to teach in a public school. “But God has been known to steer my plans, so we’ll see,” Abbey said.