This Student’s Surprising Realization About God’s Voice and Her Struggle With Anxiety
“Remember when you were younger, seeing the pictures of those footprints in the sand?” she asked me.
“Yeah,” I replied, not quite sure where the conversation was going.
“What would it look like to just see the Lord sitting next to you? When you’re not actually walking anywhere for the time being, but you’re just kind of sitting with Him.”
“But in the world we’re living in, if you’re not driving forward, you’re falling behind,” I replied. Then I thought to myself, What if she’s right? What if we all have these dreams that are so important to us, but we let them distract us from what really matters? What if it’s not what God wants?
“Jesus sat with people during His time here,” she continued. “I’ve learned that you don’t have to chase after what’s next. Sometimes it’s okay for people to sit in their own anxiety and depression and get the help they need for a time.”
The “she” in my interview was Leah Bartlett, a Youth and Social Ministry student from Crown College who graduated this past May. Suddenly, our discussion turned from me asking her questions for an article to her asking me questions, leading me to think more about God’s character.
Finding the internship
Before our conversation went deeper, I stuck to my notes and asked Bartlett about her time as a student. During her tenure, Bartlett played soccer, was a Resident Assistant, worked as a student ambassador, and completed a semester-long internship at Envision Twin Cities.
If there’s one thing that stands out about Bartlett, it’s that God has been guiding her life every step of the way, even through the moments God calls her to be still. From my viewpoint, Envision was part of a journey of self-discovery and spiritual formation.
“I didn’t hear about Envision Twin Cities until I took the Alliance Ministry course my junior year,” says Bartlett. “That’s when we went to the National Office of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) in Colorado. During the trip we drove on a bus, which made sleeping very difficult. The days were long and packed with learning. I had never even seen mountains before that point.”
While Bartlett doesn’t remember all of the details from her visit to the C&MA National Office, the Lord knew exactly what she needed to remember. Right after she finished praying that God would allow her mind to be alert for what He wanted her to hear, something miraculous happened.
“During all of these lectures and talks, my brain was exhausted,” says Bartlett. “I was constantly talking to God and praying He would wake me up. When the Envision team started talking, immediately the sleepiness was gone.”
“Then I said to myself, ‘Okay, this is weird, God! If this isn’t important, put me to sleep.’ I almost reversed my prayer, and God kept me awake the entire time the speaker was talking. I was super alert, and everything grasped me. They presented twice, and each time I was unusually alert.”
Once Envision finished presenting, Bartlett was immediately exhausted again.
“It was a really weird sensation,” Bartlett recalls. “But that was when I realized there was something God wanted to tell me about this ministry.”
After the drive back from Colorado, Rob Mapstone, senior pastor at The River Church in Chaska, MN, introduced Bartlett to Rick Wallace, the site coordinator for Envision Twin Cities.
“Leah was highly recommended by Rob and two other staff members at Crown,” says Wallace. “It did not take me long to see why. What stood out to me is her love for Jesus that fueled her desire to serve, her authenticity, and her confidence in what the Lord has called her to do. I concluded that Envision Twin Cities needed an intern like Leah, as the foundation was being laid for what the Lord desires to do through our site.”
Mapstone set up a meeting so Bartlett could ask Wallace about his vision for refugees, along with internship opportunities at Envision. There was only one glitch when it came to finding an internship. “I was praying for an internship close to Crown College,” says Bartlett. “I wanted to continue to play soccer my senior year.”
As it turns out, during her meeting with Rick, Bartlett found out that Envision was opening a Twin Cities site to help refugees right in Minnesota. After learning about the new site, Bartlett knew God was calling her into cross-cultural ministry and that He was opening the door to serve at Envision.
Starting the internship
When Bartlett started her internship, Envision Twin Cities hadn’t yet existed for an entire year. Bartlett started in August 2018, and interned through the semester.
“I don’t think I realized how new the site was when I started,” remarks Bartlett. “The team provided English courses and citizenship classes for the Butaneese refugees we were helping.”
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a country located in South Asia. According to the Culture Care Connection website, there are roughly 1,300 Bhutanese refugees living in Minnesota. Bartlett spent a lot of time trying to get to know some of the refugee women, since their culture is very segregated. She wanted to get close enough to hear their stories.
“War broke out in their country,” says Bartlett. “One woman said that she remembers running from fire and gunshots into the woods to go to Nepal, which is where many of them are staying in refugee camps. The Butanese Community Organization of Minnesota (BCOM), is the nonprofit we partnered with to teach ESL class and citizenship classes. We met at Rose Hill Alliance Church in Roseville every Wednesday for class.”
“Soul Care helped us identify rooted lies within our own lives and then allow God’s truth to heal us in those deep pockets of pain,” says Thoj. “We both walked away from Soul Care with the ability to take fresh breaths and know that God heard us and intersected in the spaces we asked Him to be a part of.”
Thoj says the time she spent with Bartlett was an opportunity to share life’s journey together, talking about their different family backgrounds. The mentorship turned into a time of listening to each other’s stories.
“Leah is kind-hearted, thoughtful, and very intentional with the people around her,” says Thoj. “She shared that for her birthday one year, she picked an indoor playground so she could be with her family — allowing her nieces and nephews to fully enjoy her special day by running around. That is a leader who can think multigenerational, which is a highly sought-after characteristic as our society becomes more multigenerational in our churches and spaces.”
“The end of the book talks about deliverance ministry, which was amazing,” says Bartlett. “I know I have communication with the Holy Spirit, so it was amazing to have someone around I could ask, ‘Do you ever feel like the Holy Spirit is saying to you to do something?’ It was great to talk through life questions with someone who had similar giftings.”
Bartlett’s ability to empower others with love and kindness shows in her passion to lead a small group and a young adult group at Westwood Community Church in Excelsior, where she currently attends. She has a gift for connecting with others and learning about God with them.
Though she has since graduated, not everything in college was easy for Bartlett.
The semester after Bartlett came back from her internship, she dealt with some lifestyle changes. First of all, Bartlett was no longer living on campus, so she had to navigate the change of commuting. On top of that her core friend group moved on from college the year before, leaving her feeling very alone. As an introvert, Bartlett felt out of place with nowhere to go between classes.
“Everything was different,” says Bartlett. “It was like the Crown I knew was removed, and I came back to a place I didn’t know.”
Although the change was difficult, after readjusting back to school for her final semester, Bartlett said she felt confident walking into the dining room again.
“There were times at Crown I would ask myself, ‘Okay, so if I could do this whole thing over again, would I come back to Crown?’” says Bartlett. “Even after the struggle of coming back from internship, not living on campus, feeling removed and like I didn’t have a place, the community came back around me. Because of that, I would pick Crown over and over again. I made new friends throughout the semester, I went to the coffee shop more often. Maybe there would be people there I knew, maybe there wouldn’t, but either way was okay with me.”
Dealing with anxiety
There was a lot of anxiety for Bartlett throughout the process of coming back from internship. According to the University of California, Berkeley, anxiety levels will only continue to rise as the younger generations grow older.
When asked what she thought the reason is for the rising levels of anxiety in younger generations, Bartlett says she senses a feeling of unworthiness as underlying the culture.
“We just sit behind a screen all day, so most of the time we don’t have to face people and deal with other issues,” says Bartlett. “There’s an idea on social media that if you’re not ‘in,’ you’re not worthy. But at the cross, we’re told that we are worthy. If anything, Crown — a place that’s shaped literally like a cross — should be a place that accepts everyone and tells them that their worth is not found in how many friends you have in the dining room or the coffee shop. It’s so much more than that.”
At the end of the interview, Bartlett shared her thoughts about her future plans. It was during this conversation that I realized how much her comments and questions were making me reflect on myself.
“So much of the healing part of life comes from taking the time to be still,” says Bartlett. “If anything, I’m not searching after what’s next; I’m just sitting and praying about what is now. Being present at my job, the place I’m currently at.”
Bartlett believes young people have the unique opportunity to change culture and share the love of Christ with others. Bartlett hopes her future dream job, working in cross-cultural ministry, will deal with that exact idea.
“There’s a really cool opportunity at Crown to shape our culture for the better,” remarks Bartlett with a smile. “I’m talking like I’m still going there — maybe I’ll come back! The transition was difficult, but a lot of growth came out of it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”