Internship Connects Spiritual with Professional Growth

Litany during her summer in D.C. as an EYA intern.
Litany during her summer in D.C. as an EYA intern.
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I spent the summer of 2018, right after college graduation, as an Ethnic Young Adult (EYA) intern for the General Board of Church and Society.

Your support of the World Service Fund apportionment supports program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church.

I focused on disability employment and the issues of subminimum wage law as a public policy intern with the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN). I found that my experience was defined by engaging with the concept of social justice and the questions: Who is my neighbor? What does it mean to serve my neighbor?

These questions were informed by my desire to explore the relationship between justice and faith. As a pastor’s daughter, my idea of serving my neighbor and living out faith involved the traditional church community, either through offering music or participating in church-driven mission. My other experiences as a youth leader within the Northern Illinois Conference Christmas Institute, a yearly Filipino-American youth gathering, was another way to explore my culture and faith.

As I grew into young adulthood, I felt like there was something missing between my church upbringing versus the choices I wanted to make in a career. During college, it was a major decision for me to choose not to do a career in healthcare, which was valued in my family and church communities as closely connected with serving others. I thought: What else can I do to serve others? Must my work and faith be connected? By the time I graduated, my move towards a career around disability rights was a new venture. This laid the groundwork for my decision to do the EYA program, as I longed for the space to piece together my upbringing, faith, and sense of purpose in my career through social justice.

Litany Esguerra December 1, 2021 
Litany Esguerra December 1, 2021.

The lasting impact of EYA on my development cultivated the idea that spiritual and professional growth can be connected. This was best answered by the reflections my EYA cohort held on Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” The passage spurred me to critically consider what justice and serving the community meant in our society now.

In my internship, it meant that I needed to be aware of my allyship and how to center the perspectives and activism of the Disability Community in policy solutions. EYA was a driving factor in demonstrating how my internship focus can be interpreted in a modern context through scripture and social justice. To “do justice,” I discovered, meant that serving the community and involving my neighbor in this process was just as important as developing a practice of spiritual reflection with others.

My time with EYA and living in D.C. was an energizing experience. This energy led me to pursue an internship with the Obama Foundation; work abroad in rural community healthcare with an NGO in Jamkhed, India; and pursue a master’s degree in disability studies at the University of Leeds in the UK. Three years later, the skills around disability employment policy and the knowledge of social justice I gained through my EYA internship currently reflects my work. Now, I am an academic advisor with the Co-Op Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I am helping develop a fully integrated academic certificate program that expands career and networking opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

I am thankful that my experience with EYA led me to where I am now and I feel ready to continue embarking on a career path that shows how spiritual and professional growth can be nourished through social justice as a way of living faith.

General Board of Church and Society website

The World Service Fund provides basic financial support to program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church. Through World Service funding, agencies support annual conferences and local congregations in living out God’s mission for the worldwide Church. General agencies also provide essential services and ministries beyond the scope of individual local congregations and annual conferences through services and ministries that are highly focused, flexible, and capable of rapid response.