News Articles

Super Bowl interns learning new definition of student missions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–For both Eva Wolever and Zac Gorley, the idea of interning with the Super Bowl Host Committee wasn’t exactly their idea of doing student missions.

It wasn’t summer and Jacksonville wasn’t exactly next door to either of their home states of Washington or Oklahoma. In addition, instead of a lengthy application approval process, each had just days to decide whether to accept that challenge before packing up and heading to Florida.

Wolever arrived just before Thanksgiving. Gorley arrived a month later, just before Christmas.

The duo is part of a plan by the North American Mission Board to offer college students the opportunity to complete a stint as a semester missionary at a location where their work will interface with that of a local association — in this case the Jacksonville Baptist Association.

But instead of spending a semester doing more traditional missionary work, the interns actually are placed in a secular organization to serve as a much-needed liaison for the thousands of volunteers recruited through the local Baptist associations.

Their work doesn’t stop there. By serving as full-time office workers, the interns have responsibilities related to organizing, outfitting and training more than 9,000 volunteers who will perform a variety of community-based and Host Committee “sanctioned” functions in the days leading up to and during the Feb. 6 Super Bowl game.

Wolever was recently presented with a “Silence All Critics” award during a staff meeting.

“I think that the way you respond to different situations can be almost a ministry in itself,” Wolever said of how she maintains her Christian witness. “It’s always difficult to really be an outspoken ministry person in a secular environment, especially one as secular as the Super Bowl Host Committee.

“I think the best way to do that is to just build relationships with the people that you meet, the people that you work with. You have a spirit of peace that Christ gives you.”

At first, Wolever said she wasn’t too impressed by Jacksonville, known also as “The City of Seven Bridges.”

After a wrong turn which landed her at Amelia Island instead of at the Jacksonville Baptist Association office, the honor graduate with a degree in English said she questioned why she had accepted an assignment so far from home — when at that point she could have been doing data entry in the doctor’s office where she has worked off and on since age 14.

Within a short period of time, however, she met Stacie Davenport, a US2 NAMB worker at the Jacksonville Baptist Association who included Wolever in activities at Neptune Baptist Church.

“I think that’s whenever I realized, ‘God, it’s been a little iffy so far, but maybe this is really where I’m supposed to be,’” Wolever said

Gorley said when he received a phone call about the position, he initially scoffed at the idea.

“I’m like, I can’t do this, I need to finish school because I was expecting to graduate in May,” he told the Witness. “And then I hung up and thought about it and called him back.

“It’s not too late, is it?” Gorley said he remembered asking Marc Johnston, who is with the Greater Orlando Baptist Association. Last summer Johnston served as Gorley’s supervisor at the association, where Gorley served in summer missions.

Gorley said he credits God with working everything out so that he could serve as an intern. He looks forward to working in a sports-related field after he earns his degree in business from Washington State.

“I have a passion for sports and I want to do something with that,” Gorley said. “I am just trying to find out what’s out there.”

In Jacksonville, the two work closely, juggling job responsibilities and building friendships with Host Committee volunteers and Southern Baptists throughout the area.

“I have learned to love JAX and the people here,” Wolever said. “I expected to come to a big city — [and to be] thrown out of the water a little bit and so I was really surprised. People here have been so welcoming and so loving.”

    About the Author

  • Joni B. Hannigan