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In the fourth grade, I read the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, which tells the story of Bilbo Baggins’ journey through Middle Earth. Ever since then, I crave adventure stories in the hopes of having my own someday. Little did I know when I applied to CROSS Missions in 2017 that not one, but two summers would become my adventures.

Our adventures don’t usually involve dragons or trolls, mainly because we don’t have the time! We’re too busy leading our groups around uptown Charlotte, showing them how our neighbors experiencing homelessness are living daily. We’re out gardening on urban farms to bring fresh produce to Friendship Trays, and then we’re going to Friendship Trays to prepare and deliver meals! We’re sorting clothing, engaging in conversation, playing games, making meals, sharing meals, and so much more. We sit with our youth and help them ask important questions about our beautiful world created by God. We serve. We grow. We share Christ’s love.

My favorite moment in any CROSS week is when a student asks the perfect question or suddenly connects two dots because in that moment, I get to watch as a light bulb flickers on in their eyes and they see a new perspective in God’s creation. I can’t wait to see that light-bulb moment again this summer.

Although our summer has only just begun here at CROSS, it already feels natural for our intern staff to hang around the Cornerstone watching the Bachelorette by night and serving the city of Charlotte by day. Last summer, I learned and grew in unanticipated ways, yet I still went into my sophomore year at William & Mary with many unanswered questions. I can’t wait to be challenged and to dive deeper into my unanswered questions about poverty and God.

I am continuously in awe of the passions our staff brings to the table this summer. If you were to visit the Cornerstone on a typical night this summer, you might catch Avery writing poetry or Preston singing a few numbers from a Broadway musical. Ask Karen about the importance of American Sign Language, or ask Mackenzie about her interest in interfaith ministries. Even in our first few days, Keiara clearly has a gift for connecting with youth and making people laugh. Bailey loves talking about the ways you can use your own gifts to serve God outside of traditional ministry such as through nursing.

We’ve got quite a line-up this summer and we’re ready for adventures ahead with middle school students from all over!

-Emily Hinshaw