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Field Trip: Water to Thrive

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In looking for additional ServeHere ministry partners this Spring, we were thrilled to discover Water to Thrive — a local non-profit with an international focus. Water to Thrive has an innovative and participatory approach for bringing clean water to communities in Africa that desperately need it. A great relationship developed between our organizations, and we are thrilled to have UT communications major Kemper Hamilton spending her summer developing marketing outreach and social media programs for Water to Thrive.

Water to Thrive Entry

In our initial meeting, Water to Thrive’s founder and Executive Director, Dick Moeller, quickly caught the vision of ServeHere and came up with a terrific suggestion:  field trips where our students can meet with the leaders of the various non-profits where their colleagues are serving. So, we were very happy to make Water to Thrive one of our first field trips of the summer!

Our gracious hosts provided a great perspective on how God turned an adult Sunday school class project into an impactful organization that has brought more than 500 wells to impoverished communities in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. Operationally, Water to Thrive has pioneered two innovative approaches that help set them apart from many other non-profits by:

  • using a unique fundraising approach to ensure every dollar donated for a water well goes entirely to providing the well and not administrative expenses
  • partnering with local experts in Africa in order to both reduce operational overhead and maximize the impact they can make in each community

Both Dick and Marketing and Outreach Manager Lizzie Kovach shared their personal stories and the decisions they made along the way that led them to a life of serving, regardless of where they worked each day.

A great chance to learn from Dick and Lizzie -- Water to Thrive is an awesome ministry partner!

A great chance to learn from Dick and Lizzie — Water to Thrive is an awesome ministry partner!

In addition to the time spent with Dick and Lizzie, the ServeHere students also engaged in a thoughtful discussion about their summer book reading assignment “No Greater Love”. It was a fitting location for this exercise, because it’s a story of a young businessman and his family move to the wilds of Ethiopia to care for orphans in communities like the ones Water to Thrive currently serve!

Where We’re Serving This Summer


There are many learning opportunities programmed into a summer with ServeHere but the most important is each student’s handcrafted internship placement with a local non-profit. This is their new classroom. It’s the place where each student is challenged to directly apply what they have learned in their field of study in order to make a profound impact.

This summer, ServeHere internship placements were made in seven different faith-based non-profits around Austin. These organizations each serve populations that struggle with deep poverty. But their clients, and their circumstances, are very different — spanning the homeless, underprivileged youth, refugees, African villagers, young mothers and more.

Our Summer 2014 Non-profit Partners

The work our students are doing inside these organizations is incredibly interesting and valuable. They are sharing the love of Christ while delivering new medical programs, educational curriculum, after school programs, fund raising strategies, marketing plans, financial models, operational approaches, mentoring relationships and telling the stories of the organizations and the people they serve.

Having non-profit partners who enthusiastically open their doors and provide such meaningful experiences for our students is an enormous blessing. I know they care deeply about the mission of ServeHere and embrace the opportunity to invest in and develop this new generation of servant leaders. Together, we can make a lasting impact in His name and for His glory!

The Summer Class of 2014


Students have a lot of choices for how to spend the summer before their junior or senior year of college.  Studying abroad, refilling bank accounts, F500 internships, that last camp counselor experience, or summer classes are just a few of the options that compete with what ServeHere can offer.

With that context, you might imagine that the person who choses to compete for the opportunity to spend their summer exploring God’s calling on their life, while intensely serving others, is a special individual. And you would be right.

By far, the hardest and most important part of my role at ServeHere is finding and selecting the right students for the summer.  There is just so much at stake – and to make things even harder – this year we were blessed with a bumper crop of very qualified students.

In the end, God’s hand was very evident in bringing forward the 11  Concordia, UT and Texas A&M students selected out of the 40 who applied.  Their interests and gifts are diverse — and their fields of study reflect that — from Education to Film Making; from Business to Biology; and far beyond. They are certainly successful in the classroom too — with an average GPA over 3.7.  But most importantly, each of them is a mature believer who wants to pursue Christ’s calling on their life. So they are dedicating this summer to the challenge of better understanding that calling and how it might translate into their life after college.

Having spent weeks and weeks getting to know this amazingly talented group of students during the recruiting phase this Spring – and now having spent two more full days interacting with them in training sessions and in the field – I couldn’t be more excited at the prospects for this summer.

As the program moves along, we’ll give you a deeper look at the inspiring people of ServeHere’s Summer Class of 2014.

Already Serving

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On a beautiful Sunday morning in Austin, what better way to start the day than serving and worshiping down at Church Under the Bridge (CUB)?  After a full Saturday in a conference room, we were all glad that Day 2 of the ServeHere Summer Kickoff training weekend began in field!!

ServeHere ministry partner Mission Possible has several different ministries, but it’s original one is a vibrant Street Ministry that all started with CUB.  When Mission Possible first started working with the homeless in Austin, they heard them say what they needed most was a place they felt comfortable worshipping and hearing the gospel. Years later, CUB continues to faithfully provide exactly that kind of welcoming environment under the overpass of I35 in the heart of downtown.

Serving at CUB gave each of us a chance to be productive helping with load-in and load-out. But more importantly, our students seized on the opportunity to personally connect with another group of God’s children who live very different lives. It was an eye opening and heartwarming experience for everyone.

ServeHere students help unloading CUB's church in-a-truck!

ServeHere students help unloading CUB’s church in-a-truck!

Sharing perspectives with long term CUB volunteers

Sharing perspectives with long term CUB volunteers

After loading-out, we headed over to the Mission Possible campus at 12th and Chicon for the afternoon. Lunch was provided by a food truck that donated the proceeds to Mission Possible’s kids camp program. So, we chowed down while listening to Beau Hamner, director of MP’s Street Ministry, and our 2nd speaker in the series.  It was inspiring to hear Beau’s personal journey — how God unexpectedly called him to minister to the homeless — and the obedient and sacrificial way Beau and his family have responded.  It’s a journey that led the family from youth ministry in Charlotte, NC all the way to the streets of Austin, TX.

After a great Q&A with Beau, the afternoon training sessions were focused on preparing the students for success on the job.  Tips, techniques and tools were shared to ensure that our students had the best chance of quickly fitting in and contributing as interns in their new environments.

Finally, each person wrapped up the day by carefully considering why they are spending the summer in this very unique way – and setting three goals that can be used to empirically judge whether our summer with ServeHere and our non-profit placement was a success.

We’re Off and Running Again!

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After five months of recruiting, reviewing student applications, conducting phone screens and in-person interviews, meeting with local non-profits and matchmaking summer placements– a shiny new ServeHere summer has begun!

The Summer Class of 2014 is 11 strong – more than twice the size of our inaugural class. We started the program with a two-day Summer Kickoff training event designed to introduce these gifted students to their colleagues, prepare them for a successful summer work experience and inspire hem to boldly consider their purpose in life.

With sessions like Non-profits 101, Called to Serve, A Different Kind of Internship, Who You Are, and other – ServeHere students were challenged to explore and grab hold of God’s plan to use each of us in building His kingdom.

Many thanks to Rudy’s, who allowed us to meet in the beautiful conference room of their corporate headquarters on Day 1! It was a generous gift and a great example set by a company that sees a bigger corporate mission.

Concordia's Joyce Sinclair helps interpret Meyers-Briggs scores

Concordia’s Joyce Sinclair helps interpret Meyers-Briggs scores

Thanks also to Concordia Career Services Coordinator, Joyce Sinclair, who led the students in an exercise to understand their personality temperament and how to harness that for maximum performance and service to God.

We are also grateful for John Calaway kicking off our inspiring summer-long guest speakers’ series as he shared his story of starting a Mexican restaurant in Kathmandu in order to help his real mission of planting churches in the mountains of Nepal after college graduation.

It was a great first day of summer – and I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for everyone!

Ministry Spotlight Surprise

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Drumroll please. This week our Ministry Spotlight is on… Chicon Pregnancy Resource Center!


Chicon Pregnancy Resource Center is in the heart of East Austin, and is a faith-based ministry that offers mentorships to moms, free pregnancy tests, material services from their adorable “Baby Boutique”, life skills classes, and a supportive God-centered environment.

Though none of our Servehere interns have officially worked alongside Chicon this summer, I’ve been extremely blessed by Mr. Panos connecting me to Chicon’s executive director, Debi Wehiemer, in hopes of creating a baby calendar together. I am blown away by Debi and many volunteer’s dependence on the Lord with every moment during the day, and how God is building East Austin through the strengthening of moms.

If you love babies and Jesus, be sure to volunteer at Chicon! And bring your friends too. Check out their website here: http://chiconprc.org

Ministry Spotlight: Hill Country Community Ministries

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Since 1983, Hill Country Community Ministries has confidentially served families in their own backyard. Through provision of nonperishable foods and gently used clothes, HCCM has humbly served countless under-resourced families in southwest Williamson county and northwest Travis county.

Hill Country Community Ministries

This past week, I had the privilege of walking through a typical day in Hill Country Community Ministries (with my camera in hand). I quickly learned that, if you feel like you’re in the way, you won’t feel that way for long. Every volunteer was joyfully welcoming, yet quick and efficient in their routine for organizing donations that come in from various churches, businesses, and community donors. The group as a whole knew exactly what to do with each truck load of food, and they knew how to have a fun time doing it!

ServeHere intern, Alex Wright, also knew how to joke around with HCCM’s executive director, Sherry McDonnell. I loved watching Sherry and Alex work together, because though they like to give each other a hard time every now and then, they get a lot of work done. Both do an incredible job impacting their community through humble service, and without asking for recognition, credit, or anything in return.

Overall, I was blown away by how much God is using Hill Country Community Ministries, and how selfless and joyful each volunteer served. If you’d like to learn more about Hill Country Community Ministries, or if you’d be interesting in donating, visit their website here! http://www.hccm.org/

Ministry Spotlight: Nineveh

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This week, Nineveh Ministries has the spotlight! Two of our ServeHere interns, Jordan Norton and Hayden Courtney, have worked for this incredible ministry. According to the Nineveh website, their mission is to empower “juvenile offenders to find purpose, personal growth, and achievement through the life changing reality of Jesus Christ.”  How cool is that?

Nineveh Ministries

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to take pictures at Nineveh’s boys retreat and be able to see just how much God is using Nineveh to transform lives. From ultimate frisbee, basketball, paintball, cross bow, to roasting a pig and seeing Man of Steel in theaters, this retreat had everything a boy could imagine for an epic weekend. In addition to a guest speaker and worship, Executive Director Chris Haskins also spoke and lead conversations about being a man of God. It was the perfect escape from burdens of everyday life, and a great time to have joyful, carefree fun.

If you’d like to learn more about Nineveh Ministries, check out their website here! http://www.ninevehministries.com/


Ministry Spotlight: Side By Side Kids

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ServeHere’s goal in doing a Ministry Spotlight each week is to educate our audience about the great ways God is moving through the ministries of Austin, Texas, and to show just who exactly our interns work with! This week, the ministry spotlight is on Side By Side Kids, which is a faith-based after school ministry for kids in East Austin. By encouraging, equipping, and empowering kids from kindergarten to fifth grade, Side By Side teaches these children to make wise decisions, excel in school, and grow in their faith with God.



The core values of Side By Side Kids is as follows:

Core Values

This image of Core Values was used directly from Side By Side Kid’s website: http://www.sidebysidekids.org/

ServeHere and Side By Side Kids intern, Emily Murray, is one who has the ability to genuinely care for and encourage anyone she comes in contact with. Working directly with Side By Side as an intern has allowed Emily to use her God-given abilities to bring the best God-give abilities out of East Austin children. This incredible ministry in Austin, Texas has transformed many lives in East Austin’s St. John community, and will continue to reach out to children this summer.

In fact, this summer, Side By Side Kids will be having summer kids club July 8th-12th! They are looking for volunteers of ALL ages to help this summer camp run smoothly. If you’re interested in helping out as a volunteer, sign up here: http://www.sidebysidekids.org/learn/summerkidsclub/

Kick-Off Weekend 2013

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Summer 2013 Interns

On Memorial Day weekend, the ServeHere journey officially started. With a laptop, pen, and bible in hand, five college students were welcomed into the Panos home, ready to learn from orientation sessions prepared by Dave Panos.

Previous to the Kick-Off Orientation, Mr. Panos had collaborated with each college student to purposefully place him or her at a faith-based non profit as an intern. During the first day of orientation, each student was able to get to know one another better, some for the first time, and give details about their ministry. These are the interns and their given ministries:

  • Jordan Norton: Nineveh Ministries
  • Alex Wright: Hill Country Community Ministries
  • Emily Murray: Side By Side Kids
  • Hayden Courtney: Nineveh Ministries
  • Cilla Sutfin: Freelance Photographer for ServeHere

In my opinion, the most powerful part of the first day was starting off with “The Call to Serve” as Jesus followers. Mr. Panos started off by giving us nine verses, one to focus on for each of the nine weeks during the mentor process with ServeHere. For the remainder of the first day, and also during the second day, Mr. Panos covered topics such as: basics of the non profit world, elements of an internship, experiential learning, and how to efficiently plan, get organized, find work, and adapt to your boss/work environment.

Kick-Off Weekend 2013

In addition to invaluable information given by Mr. Panos, Mrs. Panos blew us away with her amazing cooking, John Calaway did an incredibly inspiring job sharing his story as a guest speaker, and last but not least, Lottie held the award for cutest dog in the house. It was a joyful way to kick start the intern’s summer in their ministries and with ServeHere.

We are excited to see how God uses this summer, and appreciate prayers of all kinds for Mr. Panos’ mentorship and the interns in their ministries!