Torn ACL leads to internship at First Christian
Three years ago, Erica Fernandez tore her ACL, causing her to step down from her national competitive cheer team and leaving her with nothing to strive for.
"It kind of went from a lifestyle where I was constantly pursuing that championship to a life where I didn't really know what I was going after," she said. "There was no end goal; there was nothing to try and pursue."
She was already a Christian, but after her accident, she began attending church more. She started joining Bible studies and developed a passion for her faith, investing in her relationship with God and with other people. So during her sophomore year at the University of Northern Iowa, she decided to discontinue pursuing a career in design and begin striving for the pulpit.
"I want to be a full-time pastor," she said. "I just really love working in the church. And I just really love talking about Jesus, so it seems to fit."
This summer she's interning at Lawton's First Christian Church, working with Pastor Brandon Johnson and assisting with the church's outreach ministries. Johnson is from Fernandez's home church in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Johnson was the first mentee of Liz Woodward, the pastor at First Christian Church in Cedar Falls, and Fernandez is Woodward's last mentee before retirement.
"She (Woodward) decided it might be a fun little deal before I go off to seminary to intern at a whole new place far away from anything I've ever done before," Fernandez said.
Fernandez has interned three different times before her internship in Lawton. She first interned at a Christian Bible camp in Newton, Iowa, and spent the following summer interning at Mary Ann First Christian Church in Mary Ann, Iowa. Last year she interned at her home church in Cedar Falls, where she also works full time during the school year.
"It's more fun for me than a job," Fernandez said. "So I think I win in the situation."
Her first day interning in Lawton was June 1 and her last day will be Aug. 6. While she's here, she'll work with the church's various outreach ministries, which includes its Health Clinic and Agape Meal. This will be the first time she has had a hands on position with outreach ministry.
"I think a gift God has given me is to recognize people who don't feel included or to recognize people that are alone or trying to find something and then plugging them into whatever they need," Fernandez said. "So I'm kind of an in between to where people need to go. And I think it'll be cool to tune into that and to see where God can place me in this community to see what people's needs are and to see how I can connect them with people who can put them places. But I've never really worked in outreach before, but what I'm doing now, I really like. I'm just a people person, and I like building relationships."