Anna Peters ('09) | Bible, Missions and Ministry
If it hadn't been for a flat tire, Anna Peters probably wouldn't be at ACU. And Anna readily credits God with the turn of circumstances that brought her here.
When she was in high school, she and her mom decided to go on a college road trip. They hadn't planned to visit ACU for financial reasons, but when they got a flat tire in Abilene and Anna's sister got sick, they decided to stay the night. Since they were already in the city, a tour of the ACU campus seemed to make sense.
'We can find a way'
That tour changed the shape of Anna's future. She discovered that she liked the feel of the school, loved the experience of going to Chapel, and realized that ACU was willing to work with her to relieve the financial burden of tuition. As her admissions counselor said, "We can find a way."
For Anna, that willingness to help made a huge difference. "It feels really good to know that a school will help you out," she said.
Five years later, Anna has a baccalaureate degree in Ministry to Children and Families and is currently pursuing graduate studies in social work. For her, the two disciplines blend into a single purpose - to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. One of her goals is to make churches into places where families can find not only spiritual guidance, but also practical assistance with other issues.
This is the juncture where Anna's love for children and her interest in social work come into play. She wants to be the kind of minister who is willing to step out of the church doors in order to step up for children.
"They need to have an advocate speak for them," she says.
Part of her motivation stems from the fact that in her childhood, her family's church acted as an advocate for her and her family. The memory of that gift has created a reciprocal spirit in Anna.
"Because someone advocated for me, I want to give it back," she says.
Advocacy can take many different forms, Anna says. Sometimes helping others could mean that churches give counseling or scholarship aid. Sometimes, help could be as simple as walking with a family through a difficult time, serving as a listening ear.
"You might not know all the answers," Anna says. "But the fact that you're in the room, standing up for them - that makes all the difference. They usually just need someone who sits there and holds their hand."
For her, social work has brought out the practical side of ministry. And applying the concepts she learned as an undergraduate has been a rewarding process.
"Social work opens so many other doors you wouldn't think of otherwise," she says. "I've learned so much about ministry. You have to make ministry practical in order for it to be effective."
Anna had another opportunity to explore the practical side of ministry when she did an internship during the summer of 2009 with First Colony Church of Christ in Houston. She worked with about 500 children, doing Vacation Bible School, organizing the summer calendar of programs, and collaborating with parents. From May to August, she lived and worked in Houston, staying with two host families and collaborating with a supervisor and another intern.
A family affair
Anna says the experience helped her realize that children's ministry doesn't just affect the children involved, but reaches their entire families as well. And with children from multiple backgrounds and with a wide range of family situations, she found that her students composed "a rainbow of families."
She also was impressed by the depth of the children's spiritual commitment. They were smart, she says, and very verbal about their relationship with Christ. They also absorbed information and responded in surprisingly mature ways.
"It was just amazing to hear," she says. "They soak up everything - they're like sponges."
Anna loves working with children for many reasons. She loves their sense of humor and their different personalities, and gets a kick out of the fact that even the ordinary can become funny to a child.
"They can repeat one word over and over the whole day," she says, laughing.
She also loves the innocence of children and the spiritual example they set for the adults in their lives. Children love unconditionally, Anna says, and that openness and trust reminds her of her own commitment of faith.
"I love the fact that they're like Christ," she says.
However, working with children also presents some challenges, she points out. One difficulty she's faced involves respecting a child's right to want her involvement. Although she wants to help, she realizes she can't push too hard for a child to do something he/she isn't ready for.
Parents can also be a challenge at times, Anna says, but knowing the whole family and seeing a child's background is important in order for her to fully serve the child’s needs. And through that service, she hopes to reach others in a positive way.
"You can open up a door," she says.
She also has come to accept that sometimes the consequences of her work aren't in her hands.
"You come to that theological perspective: 'God, do your work. Plant the seed,' " she says.
During her time at ACU, Anna has been involved in other things besides children's ministry. She has served in the Residence Life program for three years, working as both a resident assistant and an assistant director in two of the women's freshman dorms. She also works as the production manager with student productions, which handles Freshman Follies and Sing Song. She has been involved with Sing Song for four years, serving in an act, as a hostess and as a co-chair.
A matter of mission
Despite her enjoyment of other activities, Anna feels that her mission is clear. She knows what talents God has given her, and she's determined to use them to benefit the community - even if she's not sure where that road will lead her in the years to come.
"I don't know where God's going to take this," she says. "When the right situation presents itself, you're going to know."
She is committed, though, to making a difference in the lives of children - whether that's through social work, ministry, or a combination of the two.
"Social work is ministry," she says. “I want to make a change. Right now, I don't know where - and that's OK.”
ACU has given Anna the tools to fulfill that dream of changing the world through the hands of children.
"I love the fact that I have this background and this passion," she says. "That's my ministry. That's how I'm contributing to the kingdom."
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