By: Maddie Christy
On June 25th, ECHO Florida welcomed two new interns! Will and Noelle will begin their 14 month internship with a month of orientation and introductions before easing into their specific areas on the farm. Even as they are still getting to know who ECHO is and what our mission is about we can already tell that are valuable additions to our organization. Help us in welcoming our two newest faces, and read the Q&A below to learn a little bit about who they are and why they chose to come to ECHO!
Will is from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He attended Clemson University and graduated with a B.S. in Biosystems Engineering. He will be the new intern in Appropriate Technology.
Noelle is from upstate New York. She first graduated with her Associates degree in Applied Science and then went on to graduate with her Bachelor’s in International Development. She will be the new Rainforest Intern.
What led you to be passionate about agriculture and missions?
The way God has wired me is very much about resource recovery. I have learned to see the world as an abundance of resources, that if stewarded well could benefit everyone involved. I don’t think people have to go hungry or go without. So that’s kind of how I approached my degree in biosystems engineering. There are many different applications of that degree and agriculture is definitely one of them. It’s just so practical in my mind. It makes sense to me that we can feed someone through teaching proper ag techniques and training.
I’ve encountered small scale farmers in East Africa and seen the need for help. Personally, Jesus has transformed my life and I want people to know him. So, I want to connect people to all of the agricultural knowledge available and to the God who has given all of these resources so that they may taste and see that the Lord is good and take the step into relationship with Him.
When I went into college to study agriculture I knew it was something I wanted to do with my life. I have always loved animals and nature. And I knew there had to be a way I could use it to reach out to people. But I had no specific vision of what that looked like and I didn’t know anything at that point about agricultural development or international development. I began to have a burden for overseas missions and I also began to learn about agricultural missions. I really felt I had to use my knowledge and my skills to work against environmental destruction and work towards restoration. Essentially, I want to help feed families in rural areas of developing countries and also share God’s love and Gospel.
How did you hear about ECHO?
I first heard of ECHO on a phone call with a missionary in Kenya about a year and a half ago. I was inquiring about how I could pursue an internship or volunteer alongside him. Long story short it wasn’t going to be a good time so it wouldn’t work out. But we just ended up talking life and he shared about ECHO because he had been an intern back in the 90s and that had really set the trajectory for his life. That was the first time I learned of ECHO and I was really impressed. I casually looked it up online and checked it out. I was mostly excited that this existed and that it was blessing people. But it didn’t really cross my mind that I would get involved with it.
Following that initial introduction the Lord placed a couple who had been interns in the early 2000s at the small church plant I attended in Clemson, I got to know another student who had ECHO connections, and I found out I had family members who were friends of ECHO.
It just kept going. The more I looked into it and initiated the application process I just knew in my spirit that this was something that God had set up for me for a long time. I kept taking steps towards it and he’s opened every door along the way.
I heard about ECHO about three years ago from a professor who had worked in Haiti. And then when I was traveling around doing veterinary work it kept coming up in conversation with people. Everyone was asking me if I had heard about ECHO. Then last year I spent time working on the Beer-Sheba Project in Senegal which is pretty closely connected with ECHO. There are a few graduate interns there who highly recommended that I come to ECHO. I considered it but wasn’t planning to apply until another one of my professors got an email from Brian Flanagan. He sent it on to me asked that I consider it. I sat down right there and filled out the application and had the feeling that I knew this is where I would end up.
What are you most looking forward to in your 14 months here?
I am realizing I need to have a purpose and direction in being here because this internship is designed to propel us into some sort of lifelong endeavor. I know God has begun to put the pieces together in my life and is directing me towards a destiny. As I have been discovering him and the desires that he’s put in me, I know that ECHO has a part in that. I know that he is going to continue to confirm things and give me more specific direction. I think I am excited to more and more uncover God’s desire and intent for my life and then intentionally take steps towards that. I hope it’s not just getting through the 14 months and enjoying it, but really thinking five to twenty years beyond this. I hope this is a place for dreaming about what the Lord has for my future.
I am looking forward to everything I am going to learn. Specifically, about agriculture. I am looking forward to all the techniques and technical knowledge that I can gain here. I am excited about knowing and seeing examples of how this information can be applied practically. I am also excited about diving into how agriculture can be our spiritual teacher especially in terms of God’s character and love. I want to glean as much as I can here so that I can take it to people and share it.
Also, eating a lot of really awesome food. And hanging out with all the amazing people here. This place is rich with conversations, and connections!
What has been your favorite experience so far?
Well, we are learning that Lee County is really prone to lighting strikes. Recently lighting struck a tree about 50 feet from where we. It just happened right in front of our eyes. So, that was certainly a memorable experience. Our ears were ringing and our hearts were beating really fast for like 10 minutes after. So we’ve certainly had some cool experiences with the weather thus far.
Also all the times that we are walking around the farm and people pull things off trees left and right for us to try. Being able to walk around and pluck tropical fruit from all the trees is so cool. So that’s been a constant favorite recurring experience.
What are you hoping your time at ECHO is preparing you for? What do you think is next?
I have a desire to live in certain parts of the Arab world. For me, I have a passion for East Africa and regions in the horn of Africa and people groups there who haven’t heard the good news of Jesus and who have struggled through political issue, wars, and famine. So, my desire is to live and work in that part of the world for potentially the rest of my life.
I too would like to go overseas long-term if God wills. I have a heart for Muslims, Arabs, Arabic language, and Arabic culture. To me they are a beautiful people. I would like to work with rural agricultural communities and help them with facing issues of daily farming and daily life as well as keeping healthy livestock.
I would love to take my skills into areas where foreigners and missionaries never go, where it is frankly very difficult for them to go. I have had a little taste of that and I absolutely loved it. My dream is to go to the Muslim world and make that my home. From there if my work and connections take me other places, I am fine with that but I think my heart will always be at home in that part of the world. But that’s just my hope, who knows how God might change my plans.
Any fun facts?
I will tell you some fun facts about Noelle. She is extremely gifted. She decided to raise dairy goats in high school. She just read up on it and did it herself. She has a gift for language. She determined to teach herself Arabic and succeeded with much prayer and helpful intervention of others along the way. She plays guitar, sings, and plays the harp. She is the real deal.
Well, Will. He has traveled all over. He intentionally extends layovers so he can explore other countries. To date, he has been to 18 countries. Which is a lot for a 23-year-old. He is 6’ 4’’ish. He is very good at sports. He played basketball and soccer. He also likes to fish. And he loves to read. Ultimately, he wants to live a life of faith, knowing that it will be difficult but difficult for the sake of living by faith. And thus being close to the lord and thus knowing God’s power in his life. He is ready to leave what is comfortable to him to live that kind of life and serve others. I think that is remarkable, and not something I often hear from young people.
Any last thoughts about ECHO?
One of the most beautiful thing about ECHO is that people here have a heart for God’s work globally. And so we’re not just learning agricultural or technical skills, but we’re getting an investment spiritually and relationally. I believe it’s really valuable and we wouldn’t be able to find this kind of opportunity many other places. It’s invaluable for young people to come and do an internship like this.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Some content has been censored at the request of our interns who hope to keep their options open in future career choices around the world.
ECHO’s internship is a paid, 14-month long program. ECHO is looking for college graduates interested in international community development and small-scale tropical agriculture or appropriate technologies. Click here for more information.