By Amy Robertson
Front banner: CHS girls' dorm leadership. Left to right: Debbie Jensen, Sindy Smith, Terry Wolverton, Amber House, Autumn Essignton, Annie Erikson.
nnie Erikson has been a leader in Caronport High School’s girls’ dorm for nearly two years.
In that time, the high school girls came to love and respect her so much that in January, when the residence director needed to take a two-month-long leave of absence, she asked Erikson to step in.
Most leaders talented enough to lead a dorm full of high school students are veterans.
“I have never been involved in youth ministry,” she says. “Working with youth was never really something I had thought about before!”
Plans change sometimes.
Three years ago, Erikson’s involved missions work—not youth ministry.
After graduating from Briercrest College and Seminary with an A.A. in Biblical Studies in 2006, Erikson spent three semesters in Costa Rica.
Within a month, she’d contacted Briercrest about their TESOL program, knowing that’s where she’d end up after Costa Rica.
“Being overseas, and encountering many people that desired to learn English really impacted me,” she says. Language was a tool ... that I could use to go to different countries and teach as a missionary; so many people were eager to learn English from me, even though I knew very little about how to teach English. I taught English as a ministry tool while I was in Costa Rica, and it felt very natural to be in front of a classroom. Through teaching English, I could foresee this helping the people I taught to go and get a better job so that they could provide for their families better, and even more importantly, it was something that the Lord could use in me to meet new people and share the love of Christ.”
When she returned to Briercrest in January 2008, Erikson’s sights were set on teaching English in Latin America. So when Terry Wolverton, who was in charge of dorm leadership, approached her about moving into the high school dorm, she was taken aback.
Her? Really? She was a teacher, not a residence assistant.
Then Erikson remembered that she’d asked the Lord to make her more like him. Evidently, the high school girls in Hillson Hall would be his method for shaping her.
Erikson will finish both her studies in TESOL and her time in dorm leadership this semester. And as she looks back, she sees the two are more connected than she ever thought they would be.
The first and perhaps the most obvious connection is the fact that Erikson has had the opportunity to work with several international students in the dorm.
“It is so great to be at school studying how to teach English, and then to go home and to directly apply the skills I have learned with the students that are learning English as their second language,” Erikson says. “ I get to edit many papers, [and] explain grammar and phonological points.”
She’s also learned to live with and relate to girls from different backgrounds, solve problems, confront “hard to bring up issues,” and talk to the girls in her care about the Lord—all of which will be key in the mission field and the classroom.
Other connections are more subtle.
“At first, I had no idea why the Lord was calling me to serve in the dorm,” Erikson says. “I was so frightened months before I got to the dorm. But now reflecting on the last two years, I am able to identify why I think he might have called me to this. I think that one reason was to teach and train me to live a life above reproach. Living in the high school dorm is a very ‘real life’ atmosphere full of girls that are real about many things. This is good for me to live in because it is preparing for life after Briercrest and real people in the world.
“It has [also] taught me the importance of self-discipline (to be consistent in devotions and prayer), being patient—for both people and for God's timing, and even more than that to engage and love on his loved ones he has permitted us to take care of for the time being.
“I don't want to say I think he called me to serve in the dorm for me ... but that's the amazing thing about ministry. You enter into it hoping to make a difference and be a part of the Lord's work of changing and impacting people's lives, but really those that you are ministering to have that effect upon you in those exact ways and even more.”