Cultivated in Community

Today's reflection features Claire Simons, who's served as a Study Center intern for three years. She meditates on her work here—gardening—and how the Study Center has served as place where gospel community can be cultivated.

Claire Simons
Photo by Abby Vendt.

I have been an intern at the Study Center for three years now. Throughout my time, I’ve had a lot of different responsibilities, but my favorite one has always been tending to the front garden. Each season bears unique demands for the small garden. In the springtime, we have to cut away all the dead leaves and put down new mulch, so that the plants can grow and thrive all summer long. In the fall, it’s constantly dealing with pesky weeds and watering the plants. In the winter, it’s watching it all die, waiting for the spring, and diligently pulling out the trash that gets caught up under the brush. 

Looking back, I can also see how I have been tended to through my relationships and time spent at the Study Center. I have found refuge and comfort during my hardships. Through guidance and friendship, my understanding of who Jesus is and who I am has been pruned and poured into. I have met some of my best friends around the intern dinner table, spent endless hours procrastinating in the kitchen, and taken so many naps in the nook. I have danced and sang and celebrated all throughout the building, too. 

The intern program provided me with two mentors and friends, Carly and Rachel, whom I love so dearly. They have been steadfast, constant beacons of light for me, pointing me to shore when the waters have been too rough for me to see on my own. They continually remind me of how loved I am. I can’t count the number of times I have fallen into the big blue chairs in their office, literally too tired to cry, and been blessed by Rachel’s sweet guitar playing and undivided attention. For the entirety of my fourth year, my doctor put me on a really restrictive diet. Carly has made sure that I had food available for me at every single exam snack, intern dinner, class dinner, and lecture that has happened since then. These people love me so well and they show it in action everyday. I can’t make the flowers in the garden grow, but I can cultivate the ground and provide an environment that promotes growth. That’s what Carly and Rachel do for me—they have created a space that so easily allows me to see the Gospel in action and catch glimpses of God’s character. 

I think that the Study Center as a whole works like this. It is rich and fertile ground for relationships and community to grow. It is a home where safety and comfort are palpable feelings as soon as you walk through the doors. I really really love this place and the people that I’ve met here—this reflection doesn’t begin to do the past four years I’ve spent here justice, but I hope that it at least begins to shed light on the good things God is doing in this place.