A Summer Job She’ll Never Forget

by Salvation Army
Categories: Feature
A Summer Job She'll Never Forget

A Summer Job She'll Never Forget

It started out as an employment opportunity, but Christina Plantinga’s time at The Salvation Army changed her forever.

It’s not every summer job that offers a life-changing experience, but that’s what Christina
Plantinga found in Campbell River, B.C., last summer, working with the community’s homeless and underprivileged.

Christina, 24, freely admits that she had no idea what she was getting into when she applied for a summer job as a community ministries assistant with The Salvation Army. The third-year student in kinesiology at Trinity Western University had hoped to return to
the fish processing plant job she had the previous summer. That job didn’t come through, however, and she’d resigned herself to doing volunteer work when her mother found the
Salvation Army opportunity in the newspaper. Christina applied and got the job.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?
When Christina wasn’t serving as a front-line worker at the shelter, the downtown Lighthouse Centre or the sandwich van, she worked at The Salvation Army’s thrift stores.

“I was all over the place,” she laughs. “The Lighthouse soup kitchen was fantastic. I was in the kitchen most of the time, doing everything from chopping vegetables to serving coffee to being in the dish pit.”

She also had the opportunity to do some “table ministry,” going out into the dining room and getting to know people. At the shelter, she helped serve dinner, then did a sandwich van route.

Christina got to know a community of individuals that many either don’t know or choose not to.

“I was raised in a Christian home, not in a lifestyle that involved drugs or alcohol. My first week at the Lighthouse, the dining-room manager talked about how there were drug deals happening outside because everyone knows the doors open at 11:30 in the morning, so they meet beforehand.

“I remember sitting at a table and thinking, My goodness, what have I gotten
myself into?”

A Blessing to Others
If that was a marker for where she started the summer, it shows how much the experience changed Christina in only a couple of months.

“To have a heart to serve, to love people where they are at, is something I struggled with,” she says. “Jesus would love them as they are. It was a challenge for me to say, ‘No matter where you are now, no matter what your lifestyle is, I’m going to love you.’ ”

She often wept over the brokenness and the hurt that these people experienced.

“I’m no different than they are, except I was saved by grace, but I’m certain if Jesus was walking on earth, these would be the people He would hang out with. He would be downtown at the Lighthouse. He would be downtown with the sandwich van.”

So what advice does Christina give
to anyone interested in volunteering?

“Go out and serve,” she says after a moment’s thought. “Those people need us so much. Try to understand them, try to understand that they’re no different than you and me. They’ve made some bad choices, but I could be one of them if it wasn’t for God’s grace.
They’ll always be there, that’s the reality, but that doesn’t mean we can abandon them. They need us.”

Besides, she says, you never know the lessons you might learn along the way.

“I think the biggest thing I learned was an acceptance of other people’s humanity, acceptance for who we are,” she states. “There’s a real sense of authenticity. There are no barriers, nothing to hide, they’re all in the same boat.

“I would say I’ve been more blessed, in working with these people, than I’ve been a blessing to them.

“I’ll never be able to forget that summer,” she concludes. “It changed me. Those people got into my heart.”

by Dan MacLennan
Photo: Dan MacLennan
Reprinted with permission by Campbell River, B.C., Courier-Islander