(SALEM) - While most teenagers are looking forward to lazy summers of hanging out with friends or busy summers of finding and working at jobs, Connor Williams will be interning at a church plant in New Zealand.
Kate Wehlann, of the Leader-Democrat, reports the Salem High School junior has had a heart for missions since he went to Haiti with his youth group as a high school freshman. He had planned to go on another mission trip during the summer between his junior and senior year, and was excited to find that he could participate in an internship to the South Pacific nation.
"I started talking to my youth pastor about where I should go and what I should consider," said Connor. "He said 'I could score you an internship in New Zealand.' ... it's kind of crazy how it's all fallen together."
His youth pastor at Northside Christian Church in New Albany, Matt Allman, said Connor possesses an "uncanny wisdom" and a sense of discernment unusual for teens.
"When he came to me and we were talking about him going to New Zealand, I thought, 'Right on!'" said Allman. "I loved that he was dreaming God-centered dreams and planning things that most students normally wouldn't plan and looking for experiences that would stretch him. I was all about that. I couldn't be more enthusiastic or proud of him."
Connor started working with Tony Collins, a friend of Allman's while the two were students at Lincoln Christian University, during the winter of 2010. This past winter, Connor started sending out support letters to family and friends. He hopes to raise $4,000 for his day-to-day expenses while in the country. His mother will be giving him the $1,500 he needs for plane tickets and he will be living with one of the church planters, but some transportation and food are items Connor will have to provide himself.
"I'm very proud of Connor," his mother, Mia Williams, said. "I really feel that Connor has been a blessing from God from the time he was born."
Mia credits some of her son's wisdom and discernment with a car accident he was involved in nine years ago.
"When Connor was 8 years old, he was hit by a car in front of our house and fractured his skull, and, thank God, he made it through and he's healthy and I really think that helped change Connor's life and helped give him wisdom beyond his years as far as prioritizing his life and deciding what's important to him."
However, all the wisdom in the world won't stave off a mother's concern.
"I'm going to miss him so much," said Mia. "But I trust Connor and I feel that, if this is what God has called him to do, I'm not going to stand in his way of that. I really didn't feel like it was my place to tell him no."
Connor will be working with a recently planted church in Dunedin, New Zealand called Journey Community Church, which is part of the South Pacific Christian Fellowship, an organization that establishes churches throughout the South Pacific.
"New Zealand is about 95 percent unchurched and in many ways a post-Christian nation," said Allman. "[The SPCF's] goal and their dream is to reach that country for Christ."
Connor will also be working with middle school students in the youth ministry at the church, along with the possibility of working with an upcoming college ministry at Knox College in Dunedin. With New Zealand's teen suicide rate at one of the highest in the world, the church Connor will be working with is also starting a teen ministry to reach out to troubled teens and Connor hopes to be involved in that as well.
"Just odds and ends that a young church would experience," Connor sums up.
"I'm really looking forward to growing a lot spiritually and I'm sure that God will change me in that way, so I'm excited for that," he said. "I hope that it just grows my heart for whatever God wants me to do later."
So far, his support letters and a swim-a-thon he held at the Salem Middle School pool have brought in some funds, but he still plans on holding a 5K at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 7, at the Salem High School cross country course to help raise funds for the trip.
"We appreciate the support very much," said Mia. "Without the support, none of this would be possible for Connor."
For more information or to send a donation, contact Connor on his cellphone at 812-216-4983 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also accepting donations by mail to 606 N. Shelby St. in Salem.
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