By Jennifer Schrock, Leader, MCCN

In August, Doug Kaufman of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS) and I said goodbye to our 2019 summer intern, Olivia Smucker. We shared her labor and good humor for 13 weeks. We are grateful to Olivia and to the multiple organizations that contributed to the positive experience she had.

Sometimes it is a struggle to see the network that is part of Mennonite Creation Care Network’s name and goals. Olivia’s experiences gave me one such vision of the mutual support we strive for. Here are just a few of the ways that a web of relationships enabled a positive outcome, nurturing a future church leader:

Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions, Harrisonburg, Va.

CSCS initiated the internship and provided a stipend. Half of Olivia’s time was devoted to projects from this office and to assisting with logistics related to the pastoral retreats on climate change that CSCS funds. These tasks provided exposure to big questions regarding how transformational change takes place and what role Christian faith plays in bringing it about.

CSCS also provided Olivia’s lodging and registration fee for MennoCon19. Attending the convention was a highlight for Olivia. It enabled her to meet other young adults who also held roles with CSCS, and to discuss climate change with a variety of people. In an exit interview, Olivia observed that a faith lens made a difference in how people approached climate change. In her view, the most productive conversations about climate change that she was a part of were those that began with a grounding in faith commitments.

Mennonite Creation Care Network, Wolf Lake, Ind.

The other half of Olivia’s time was devoted to communications for MCCN. She conducted a number of interviews and wrote stories for our website and newsletters. I provided story ideas, supervision and feedback as needed.

I was particularly grateful for the chance to share the MCCN network with a young adult. I frequently found myself saying, “I think you’d enjoy talking with…” In one such interview, Olivia met a creation care liaison who is publishing a cookbook of sustainable foods. In another, she met a congregation that found inspiration in a downed tree. Olivia learned about recycling paint, planning a creation worship series and the experience of drought in the Global South, among other things. Thanks to those of you who took the time to be interviewed. I was proud of the worthwhile conversations that took place.

Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, Wolf Lake, Ind.

Olivia was able to live on an 1,189-acre nature preserve during the internship. This is because Merry Lea is the founding sponsor of MCCN, and I am employed by Merry Lea. Also, Merry Lea has lodging available at its biological field station for undergraduates. The perk goes with the job.

Since having a relationship with the land is important in our line of work, Olivia and I took occasional nature hikes together as part of the workday. Olivia was surprised to learn about the land restoration that has taken place at Merry Lea.

“It really opened my eyes to how land is used and what it means to think about who/what came before us and what we will leave for future generations,” she said. She learned a number of the native plant species that live at Merry Lea, including the beautiful swamp mallow, a wild relative of the domestic hibiscus.

Living at Merry Lea during the summer also provided a cadre of age-mates who were studying regenerative agriculture through Merry Lea’s Agroecology Summer Intensive. Overhearing her friends’ conversations about coursework and attending their final projects provided another window into what it means to care for the earth. Much of Olivia’s diet was grown by the agroecology students and came from the gardens outside her lodging.

“I also really enjoyed basing my diet this summer on what could be grown in our garden. I learned that some foods I thought I’d never like weren’t so bad once they were cooked right,” Olivia remarked.

Goshen College, Goshen, Ind.

Goshen College is one of three partner organizations that work with CSCS. As such, it was eligible to host and receive funding for a CSCS intern.

Olivia is a senior at Goshen College, pursuing an interdisciplinary major with study concentrations in communications, theater and psychology. A communications professor from Goshen College provided an additional layer of supervision, and this spurred Olivia to connect internship experiences with academic course work. She brought insights from psychology into her interviewing and applied communications courses to her writing.

Everence, Goshen, Ind.

Everence provides a sizable chunk of MCCN’s operating budget. Money from Everence paid travel expenses related to MennoCon19 and also covered display materials Olivia helped prepare.

When a new intern begins, I sometimes wonder how to explain the alphabet soup of organizations behind the scenes that support this enterprise. By the time an intern leaves, I am grateful for the role each supporting player has contributed to their experience.