Meet Brenna Lakeson! Brenna is one of GWC’s Summer Interns.
Are you in school?
I attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University. I’m going into my third year there.
What is your major? And why did you choose that major?
For my undergraduate degree, I studied Music Education with minors in Spanish language and Latin American Studies. I’m currently in graduate school studying to get my Masters of Divinity with a certificate in Human Rights. In undergrad, I started out with the goal of teaching middle school chorus. However, my plans have since changed, and I now plan to be a United Methodist minister.
What is your job here at the Gateway Center?
Honestly, it depends on the day! Officially, I am Bec Cranford’s intern. I help facilitate volunteer groups here at Gateway. That’s probably the biggest part of my job. Unofficially, though, I help wherever I’m needed – from data entry to working in the clothing closet to helping at the front desk. It seems like I do a little bit of everything, but I like it that way. It helps me see all of the different moving parts of Gateway Center.
Why is serving others important to you?
For me, serving others is a part of both my call as a pastor and a requirement of being a Christian. Service to others is not just an action to perform but a way to live our lives. The Bible consistently tells us that taking care of each other is a part of our job as God’s people, so it’s one I take seriously. I see serving others as one of my main purposes on this earth. Our world is a broken and often hurting place, and if I can bring a little bit of healing and hope to one person while they bring that same thing to me, that’s all I could really ask for. Service, to me, is never one sided. God exists always, already at work everywhere, so I try to never enter service with others from the mindset that I’m going to do something totally unprecedented or that any group of people needs saving. From my experience, often I’m the one who needs saving and I didn’t even know it. So, serving others is not only my call as a pastor and a Christian, but it’s a way to take care of myself and our planet.
What are your dreams, goals, and aspirations?
I’m on the ordination track in the United Methodist Church, so, after I graduate from Candler, I plan to be ordained as a United Methodist deacon. That means that, instead of being the lead pastor of a church, my role as a pastor will be more focused on mission and connecting church and world. I want to continue to work alongside people experiencing homelessness in my future ministry as well as other people who exist on the margins of our society.
What is the most difficult part of working at the Gateway Center?
I wish that I could personally help everyone, but we have systems in place for a reason. Much of that reason is because the systems work. They’re in place to help people. However, we can’t help everyone with everything because there are some things we just aren’t equipped for. For example, we aren’t a food pantry and we don’t house women and children. There are programs who do those things and do them well. But I often find myself wishing that I could personally buy someone canned goods or let them sleep on my couch. Again, I know we have boundaries with our clients in place for so many good reasons, but it’s hard for me to turn people away or to just hand them a list of phone numbers.
What is the most exciting part of working at the Gateway Center?
When volunteer groups really get it. Of course, we appreciate all of our volunteer groups, and they all do wonderful work for us. We couldn’t function without them. There are a handful of groups, though, that really seem to click with Gateway. For some of them, they meet a special client who shares their story, and that allows them to more fully engage with what it really means to experience homelessness. For others, maybe a simple task like making lunches or working in the clothing closet allows that reality to set it. Sometimes groups get emotional in our debrief sessions because something they saw or did impacted them so much. This work is something I’m passionate about, so it’s especially rewarding to see this same work affect our volunteers too.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about volunteering with Gateway?
Come with an open heart and an open mind. Engage with the clients. Be kind. Be ready to learn.
Penned by Tyra Jones, GWC Summer Intern