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New Avenue for Outreach

By Julie Riddle, '92

Joy Amado looks up from behind a group of whisks.Many of the residents of Spokane's Millwood community know poverty and hunger firsthand. In response, Millwood Presbyterian Church created a garden that stocks a food pantry, established nutrition programs, and built an industrial kitchen for nutrition and cooking classes. Health science major and Summer Fellow Joy Amado, '16, furthered these efforts by cultivating new garden plots, researching and writing nutritional curricula to educate children about healthy eating, and overseeing a weekly farmers market next to the church. Amado's work led her to make a powerful connection between food and faith.

"I learned that food is an amazing avenue for outreach," she says. "All humans share hunger and the need to eat. When we are able to provide meals for the community, a door opens for conversations on faith to follow."

The Whitworth Office of Church Engagement created the Summer Fellowship Program in 2015, funded in part by a $400,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Successful applicants are matched with a ministry based on its needs and the student's gifts and interests. Students stay 10-12 weeks with a family involved with the ministry, receive a stipend and on-site mentoring, and gain ministry experience. So far, 92 students have worked at domestic and international ministries; the program expects to place about 65 students next summer.

"Many of the fellows report that this experience is one of the most transformative they've had," says OCE Director Terry McGonigal. "The ministry partners deeply appreciate the fellows' work, whether the students are serving in a parish in Scotland, at a church in rural Montana, or at Union Church, in the heart of Amazon's complex in downtown Seattle. We're thrilled about the program's positive effects, and we look forward to its growth as more churches catch the vision of what it can mean for their ministries."

As a summer fellow, Amado caught a new vision for her vocation. She had been planning to become a dietitian, and her experience at Millwood Church expanded her goals. "After learning more about gardening, farmers markets, and the food and faith connection," she says, "I realized that what I really want to do is more holistic work involving areas including mental health, physical activity, nutrition, spirituality, sleep and stress." Amado is pursuing a career as a health coach.

Web Extra: View profiles of summer fellows and their ministry work.