The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

Lessons learned on the sidelines

By Annessa Ihde

“This summer I had the incredible opportunity to intern at Arrive Ministries. As a legal intern, I witnessed firsthand the hard work and genuine care that characterizes all Arrive Ministries staff, especially the immigration legal services team. I’m so grateful for the time spent working to serve and care for refugees and immigrants here in the Twin Cities.”

And here’s what I didn’t post on LinkedIn:

This summer, I spent half my internship using the wrong envelopes for green card applications. I lost the company $10.84 in postage stamp funds after a mishap with the printer. I misspelled names, spent whole afternoons re-filing misplaced forms and recycled hundreds of pages that were meant to be in color. 

Most days, I felt completely inadequate. 

Nothing makes me feel more useless than not being able to communicate with someone because of a language barrier. Of course, most clients at a refugee resettlement agency speak very little or no English. Immigration legal processes are extremely long and confusing even without the additional barriers of language. As a legal intern, I was responsible for calling clients with case updates and follow-up questions, and all I wanted was to be able to reassure our clients with clear and accurate information. And yet, I found myself in many conversations where I was incapable of communicating even the most basic information without the help of an interpreter. 

The most embarrassing mistakes of my internship, however, had nothing to do with language or legality. No, the worst of my intern blunders took place in the mailing room with the printer as my witness, victim and judge. Take for example the time I printed an entire citizenship application (at least a couple hundred pages worth of forms, pictures and documents) when I only needed to scan and email the file to my computer. I remember how the copier mocked me. As I listened to its condescending clicks and the swish, swish, swish of paper, I was reminded of another humiliating time in my life. 

Fourth grade basketball.

I was the smallest girl on the team. I spent more time on the bench than the court, and when I finally got my tiny hands on the ball, I passed it to a teammate as fast as I could. My own little game of hot potato. When Coach put me in, I scurried like a mouse up and down the court, sprinting everywhere and rarely touching the ball. But for the most part, I spent my time in a hard metal chair on the sideline, swinging my blue basketball shoes back and forth. Swish. Swish. Swish. 

To be inadequate is to lack a certain required quality. It means failing to meet a standard. In other words, to be inadequate is to fall short.

I am inadequate. I fall very short of God’s standard of perfection. On my own, I am not enough. And that’s okay. Because I’m not made to do anything alone. In fact, my tendency to rely on my own abilities is delusional at best and completely arrogant at worst. Paul puts it plainly, “Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise” (1 Cor. 3:18). In the words of another great writer: Sit down. Be humble. 

This summer was a summer of sidelines, of wanting to prove myself but consistently falling short. Fourth-grade Annessa would have sulked and whined. She would have swung her legs impatiently and cried, “Put me in, Coach!” And then she would have hated every second in the game. She wasn’t ready. 

I’m not ready. But I’ve already tried the pity party thing, and it’s not cute. This Annessa is starting to understand that there’s a lot of learning and observing to be done in the waiting. Sideline life takes a lot of humility, and there’s no better place to be humbled than the copy room. 

Swish. Swish. Swish. 

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