A guest post by Leah Sikes, our summer intern in the Vienna office.
I always knew traveling to Europe was in my future. I planned to follow in the footsteps of everyone in my family and attend Oklahoma Christian University. As the youngest, I watched as my siblings enjoyed the opportunities the school offered to them, including the Vienna Studies Program.
In the summer of 2014, it was my turn. I packed my bags, hugged my parents and boarded a plane to spend the next seven weeks of my life travelling and studying around Europe. Everyone seems to say their experience in Vienna changed their life, and my trip was no exception—I met Amy Beauchamp.
My next summer was slightly less eventful: I had my first full-time internship, and I spent my days at a desk with a computer glued to my eyes from 9 – 5. One of those days sticks out to me as the day I received an email from Amy simply reading something to the effect of “How would you like to go back to Europe?”
Fast forward a few months, and I am sitting in Credo House, a local coffee shop not far from campus. It’s homecoming week and I am meeting Bart and Tamika Rybinski for the first time. At the end of our meeting, Amy’s question came to fruition: I would be spending my summer in Vienna, as a graphic design intern for Eastern European Mission.
Once again, I packed my bags, hugged my parents and boarded a plane to spend a slightly longer summer in Europe. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I can now say with full confidence I never expected my trip to be so fulfilling and rewarding.
As valuable as my internship was, and as great of an experience it was, I met truly wonderful, inspiring people on my journeys, in and out of my work. To say I will always stay in touch with each and every one of them might be a stretch, but no matter how short of a time they spent in my life, they each taught me something unique that will last a lifetime.
During my time, I was able to work with churches and individuals across Eastern Europe. Though the work I did for them was the main reason I came to Vienna, and I enjoyed that work, I enjoyed getting to put a face to the name I had been emailing.
I spent a good deal of time working with a church in Graz, where I met Mark and Thomas. Prior to my trip, my older brother had said one of the things he wanted to do when he came to visit me was to go visit a church in Graz, where he had met a man named Thomas who had impacted his study abroad trip.
Once I began working with them, I put two and two together and learned it was the same church and the same Thomas—so my last trip to Graz was after I completed my project, and I attended service and met the congregation. It happened to be the same week they were showing the design I did for them to the church. It was a really rewarding experience for me to be able to see the fruits of my labor and who I was helping in a tangible way, instead of a step removed from it, as I typically am. After church, they invited us to a fellowship lunch where I was able to talk with the members and learn more about those that made up the church in Graz.
Coming from a very large congregation in the United States, seeing how these small churches in Europe run and the companionship the members have and how my work can truly add to people’s lives was incredibly powerful for me, and getting to use my skills to spread the word of God was an experience in and of itself.
I am so thankful I had this opportunity to work with such kind and understanding people, people willing to help and be my friend. I was worried about coming to Europe alone, but now I am sad to leave all my new relationships. I am forever grateful to EEM for giving me the experience of a lifetime, and hope this program will continue long past my flight home.
Leah Sikes is a graphic designer and writer from Edmond, OK. She blogs on her site www.leahsikes.com.