Saddleback Interns Give Back In-Turn

Luissa Tallo

Jessica Castillo now knows that God has been preparing her for ministry all ofher life. She says, “I always had good morals and integrity that I shared with my friends even before I was saved. I think God protected me and prepared to use me for ministry.”

God’s protection became clear to her two years ago at CRAVE Rancho where she accepted Christ. “It just started to make sense,” Jessica remembers. Christ became alive to her.

A year later, Jessica scrolled through her Facebook feed and read Johnny Montgomery’s (the former intern coordinator) post about Saddleback internships. Her interest immediately peaked, and she felt God press her to speak with Johnny. God confirmed her place at Saddleback when Johnny explained that he was just about to approach her with an internship opportunity!

Johnny connected Jessica to CRAVE where she could use her event planning creativity to coordinate college events. Remembering her first day, Jessica recalls: “I didn’t feel like I was new, I felt like I had a place even before I arrived.”  

Jessica blossomed in her natural giftings and soon was entrusted to plan all the details for College Nights. She loved what she did, and more importantly, who she worked with. The leaders became mentors who continually poured wisdom on her. This bond left Jessica torn when suddenly CRAVE transitioned into College Ministry and had a shift in leadership roles. She had to decide whether to leave and pursue a job outside of ministry, or stay and begin a second internship.

Her decision became clear one night at a Catalyst conference when Andy Stanley said, “Just because your ministry changes, it doesn’t mean that God changes. Your purpose for His plan remains.” Jessica wanted to leave, because she knew the change would be uncomfortable and uncertain. But she realized that ministry is not comfortable, and she felt God telling her she had more to learn. She remembered that her purpose existed from the beginning and had not changed.

College Ministry reaffirmed Jessica’s purpose daily. Although the adjustment was challenging, the people around her and the responsibility she gained continually blessed her. As a result, Jessica is a proficient relational minister who seeks out new faces in the crowd to lovingly welcome. “It’s important to let them know that College Ministry cares about them. I have so much fun sparking conversation and sharing God’s goodness,” Jessica remarks. Her main focus is to provide a place of support and stability for young people whose lives are uncertain.

The quality that has helped Jessica thrive in her internship most is her teachable heart. She has willingly learned and absorbed all that she can, even beyond the tasks she receives. “Come in with a teachable heart and your experience will be blessed,” she says. 

This is what sets Saddleback internships apart from others, Jessica says: “It’s not just the internship program that makes the experience so great, it’s the community of people who serve you and pour into you. It’s about being a part of something bigger than you.” An intern is able to learn and grow in a close environment that helps them blossom in their uniqueness. At Saddleback, Jessica can simultaneously be poured into while also serving others. 

Though Jessica has learned abundantly through interning, her most valuable growth has been spiritual. God has moved her heart so deeply that even her unsaved family has noticed. They look at her life and see her rich relationship with God. Her heart for service amazes them as she willing gives her time and abilities to serve the church.

God is answering Jessica’s prayers for her family. She says, “They’ve been going to church more frequently, and my mom has been reading her Bible and asking me poignant questions about my faith. It’s amazing to see what God is doing just since I’ve been an intern.” God is so present in Jessica’s life that it overflows and beautifully draws her family closer. 

Now Jessica is fired-up to serve the church. Though she loves doing events and planning, she has realized that her heart is for ministry—no matter what her task may be. ”I want to pass on the wisdom of my experience and what God is showing me to others,” she says. As her second internship comes to a close, she is not praying for a job to move on to, but rather for God to open the right doors.