John Van Peursem is living the dream!

June 8th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015

The life of a Poetice intern is nothing short of an adventure. We may have Fridays designated to ‘expecting the unexpected’, but the reality is that each day very well may have something new to offer. As busy as they keep us and as close as we’re getting, it’s also not rare for us to be dearly missing home. Personally, there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t longed to be with my parents or friends from school. Nevertheless, this is a decision each of us has made, and as we get a little deeper into the summer, we’re realizing more and more that this is our family until August rolls around. We’re also recognizing that time is going to start flying by, so we want to make an effort to get the most out of every moment. Family bonds and memorable moments were in full force today as we celebrated the arrival of a long-anticipated event. Our fellow traveler turned twenty-five today!

John Van Peursem, proudly hailing from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a man of God worth getting excited about. After graduating from a local university with an accounting degree, he hopped on a plane with Poetice, expecting a vacation. Instead, the Lord used this short-term trip to turn John’s perception of things upside down. Where he had only thought of his own needs and career goals, John was now consumed by a desire to love God and others. Upon returning to the States, he realized that while people can use their gifts to bless God in any context, he wasn’t pursuing the right vocation as things were. So he transitioned out of the accounting world and signed up for YWAM. While serving with them in Brazil, he felt an explicit call to follow up with things back at Poetice. There was a pastor with whom John developed a relationship, and at the end of two months, just before he left, the little Brazillian told him, “When you get back to the States, you had better not unpack your bags, because you’re going right back out there. This time, God has you in Africa.” That same week, the information material for this internship popped into his inbox. And let me tell you what – this guy’s been all in since the plane landed.

John has a passion for Poetice’s integral mission. There have been lots of Christian missionaries who focus exclusively on the salvation of souls, neglecting serious justice issues surrounding and interacting with the region’s spiritual climate. Poetice approaches ministry as loving and serving every aspect of a person and society. It’s an amazing, wise approach; my Wheaton people might find that it’s a close cousin to the ideal of the Christian liberal arts. In light of that understanding John’s paved the way in loving everyone with whom he’s been in contact. He has a strong awareness of how to best serve his neighbor, and that usually manifests itself in his dedication to listening; a commitment to really getting to know people, not just learning about them. He encourages me to step out of my shell on a daily basis.

Today was spent making bricks in Luanshya. We’re here in the Copper Belt for a week, sleeping in tents and doing all kinds of outreach activities. I don’t know if you’ve ever made bricks, or if there’s a less exhausting way to do it than our method, but all that time in the sun took the spring out of my step real quick. Yet somehow, John managed to pound out load after load of compressed mud, show genuine, engaging love to swarms of smiling children and even score the tide-turning goal at the end of our post-labor football match. It’s amazing – when you see someone doing exactly what he was made to, you witness true joy and fulfillment. This guy’s supposed to be here, and he’s loving every minute of it. He’s a hero who only points to Jesus; it’s easy to see that God’s got huge plans for his life.

Later on, once we finally got back to the home where we’re staying, Brooke (the photographer of our storytelling team – they’re calling me the journalist) and myself were responsible for keeping John out of the house so that the rest of the crew could throw together a surprise party complete with balloons, streamers and a cake. The picture at the top of this post is a product of our best stalling efforts! We followed him into the room a little too closely and caught the excess of a cold pot of water thrown in his face as everyone begin singing. Van Peursem has obviously had several memorable birthdays, specifically one in Hawaii right after his high school graduation, but the gigantic smile on his face as we unveiled his surprise party shows me that number twenty-five has been one for the books. Thinking of his friends and family back home, John wishes that he could be with those people on his special day, but he’s thankful to find himself with a new kind of family this time around. That’s how I’ve been feeling here every day. Pray that this diverse community would continue to grow and press into one another out of love for Jesus: the center and reason for everything we’re doing here.

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern