This summer I had the opportunity to engage in a research internship in the Washington D.C. area, working on a tornado climatology project for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). I was definitely a little nervous going into this experience, being my first extended time away from home and having to learn how to survive in a “big city lifestyle.” God certainly taught me a lot this summer and blessed me with some great gospel and fellowship opportunities, but my time was not without trial and temptations either. It would be way too long of a post to tell all my reflections, so here are a few points that I think summarize my summer well.
1. God provides fellowship even through fear.
Life in Washington, D.C. is certainly not the corn fields of Indiana. I had to adjust to a lifestyle where everything is fast-paced, work-centered, and where homelessness and public transit reign. It was a little rough the first week at work in a cubicle environment which naturally cuts off interaction with others. I felt a little weak and confused, questioning whether this internship was going to be worth it. But by God’s grace things greatly improved and I was able to branch out and have so many wonderful opportunities with colleagues and new and old friends. There were the gospel-centered services each Sunday morning at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and a weekly intern Bible study at the church where I got to meet a bunch of other Christian interns. I got to engage in several conversations with colleagues about my faith and am especially thankful for after-work fellowship with an older, single scientist who loves the Lord. Several weekends I got to visit with former Kossuthites who have relocated near DC, such as Matt Bagnara, the Kampens, Kassebaums, and Hoaglands. God also gave me the opportunity to have weekly theological discussions with a couple of devout Catholics. While neither party converted the other, it was good to talk openly about our different views and how they relate to the gospel. Plus, a weekend trail running club I became involved with provided opportunities to talk with people from all walks of life. It was good to realize that even in a big, work-centered environment, one can find fellowship with other believers which is so essential.
2. It is easy and tempting to fall victim to a mindset that is all about promoting self and science.
God exposed my heart to a lot of pride this summer. While it was a blessing to do some really neat scientific research that I hope will one day make an impact and meet a lot of other climate scientists who share similar interests as me, it was so tempting to focus my mind on my work and how I can best promote myself as an up-and-coming researcher. Hearing others tell me about my potential and the good work that I did would puff me up even more. Yes, God wants us to glorify Him in all circumstances, so scientific work is not bad in itself, but I would often find myself dreaming about how to best market myself and my work for life after college. By God’s providence, I was led to Psalm 90:10 during my devo time the last week of my internship, and I think it is very fitting: “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength eighty years. Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow, for soon it is gone and we fly away.” All our work will ultimately not matter because it will pass away. Yet at the same time, 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminds us that “your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” This summer made me realize that while I may end up pursuing atmospheric science as a future career, I definitely want to couple it with the work that really does matter, that is, gospel work.
3. We are not promised tomorrow, so let us preach the gospel while we have a chance.
Shortly after I arrived in DC, I learned that my dad had crashed his bicycle and was seriously injured. Of course, it is the first summer that I leave home and he gets laid up for a couple months! I felt bad being so far away and not able to help take care of him, but I’m thankful for my mom and sister, and all the others of you who so graciously offered assistance. Another reminder of the frailty of life came in mid-July when my summer roommate’s dad suddenly died of a stroke. This affected me more than usual since he and his family are not believers and thus they have no hope in our future resurrection. My roommate let me pray for him and his dad a couple times while his dad was hanging on to life, so when he did end up dying, I found myself a little angry at God. How could my roommate trust in God now since it appeared that my prayers for healing fell on deaf ears, I thought? But I was then reminded through Scripture and friends that God is still at work and can reveal Himself to my roommate in this situation if He so desires. As Isaiah 45:5-7 puts it,
“I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.”
God had a reason for all this, and He will get the glory, even if I cannot see how right now. In a summer where work-centeredness and preparing for a future career were big themes, these trials served to humble me and remind me what is really important in life.
This was definitely a summer I won’t forget anytime soon. While it meant being separated from family, friends, and Kossuth for 10 weeks, I truly believe God used it for His glory and my good. And with probably only one more year at Purdue, it was good to get a glimpse of life in the ever-nearing ‘real world.’