My Daughter? An RUF Intern? Are You Sure, God?

Melvin Duckenfield  |  July 16, 2018

“She is Your child. When Your will for her life kicks in, I pray that You will give us the grace to recognize it and and support her accordingly.”

Those were the words I prayed to God in 1993 just a few short days after my wife, Norma, had given birth to our daughter, Jayna. I would pray that prayer many times through the years hoping that God’s plan would line up with my desires for our only child to be close to home, especially after graduation from college. I realized that He might have something different in mind but I had the conviction that the safest place for her would be in the center of God’s will, even if that center was a few hundred miles away. That conviction would be tested when Norma and I received a call from Jayna during her senior year at Appalachian State University, wanting to know our thoughts about her possibly doing a two-year internship with the Reformed University Fellowship campus ministry.

RUF had been a major part of Jayna’s college experience at App State following a challenging freshman year; one in which she periodically called called home and expressed a desire to transfer closer to home, Norma and I would always tell her, “Give it a year, and we will talk about it when you come home for the summer.”  It was also during her freshman year that she connected and got involved with RUF which provided a solid, biblical foundation for navigating the uncertainties and temptations of college life. Additionally, the positive relationships she began to establish within RUF would become a source of encouragement that would change her outlook about being an App State Mountaineer. Needless to say, our conversation at the end of the year about transferring from App State was “short and sweet”. Not only did she want to go back the next year, but she also had a sense of purpose to make a difference, especially in the lives of freshmen girls who might encounter issues similar to those she experienced the year before. It was encouraging also to hear that she would be leading a freshman Bible study and would later be considered for a position with the Student Orientation Undergraduate Leaders.

In addition to the rigors of academics, Jayna’s sophomore, junior, and senior years were filled with lots of activities, conferences, meetings, performances, and Bible studies. As parents, we could not have felt more blessed with all that she had accomplished as an undergraduate.

“Surely, she would consider graduate school” we thought.

A number of her professors encouraged her to pursue graduate work and she was more than capable. So, it came as bit of a surprise when we received word that she wanted to apply for an internship with RUF instead.

“Wait a minute. That means you’re going to have to raise support. You’re going to have to ask people for money - lots of money; one-time gifts as well as monthly support. Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you’re hearing from God?” While these were my initial thoughts, what I shared with her was, “Well, if God has called you to this, He will provide the resources.” I was amazed at how spiritual I could sound while doubts began to fill my mind. Almost Immediately, God’s Holy Spirit brought back to my remembrance the prayer I had prayed twenty-one years earlier and many times since then.

“Okay Lord. She is your child and you have given us stewardship over her for twenty-one years. If indeed this is your will, help Norma and me to be supportive and encouraging,” I prayed with a sense of resignation.

That was easier said than done, especially for Norma. Her baby girl was now a young adult who was beginning to make decisions about her future. I had come to know the Lord as a freshman in college through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) and my sister and brother-in-law served as missionaries with Cru for over twenty years. I was keenly aware of the impact campus ministries have on the lives of young adults searching for purpose and meaning in life. The major challenge for us was trusting God to expand Jayna’s faith to trust Him to lead her to people who were willing to prayerfully and financially become a part of her support team. Over time, our concerns were allayed as Jayna began to enthusiastically embrace the training provided by RUF and diligently apply what she had learned. With the encouragement of family, friends, former teachers, pastors, administrators, and neighbors, I began to observe the growth of Jayna’s faith as God began to to build her support team.

Admittedly, there were times when it seemed as though God may have had something entirely different planned for her. There were periods when financial support was slow to come in. Additionally, there was a period of discouragement when Jayna got the news that her original assignment at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA had been changed to Penn State in State College, PA. An assignment in Richmond meant that she would only be three hours away and close to relatives (I was born and raised in Richmond) as opposed to eight hours smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania. To say that we were disappointed would be an understatement. “Maybe God is shutting this door to open another,” we thought. Nevertheless, Jayna persevered in making contacts to schedule appointments. It was a struggle, but she was convinced that the Lord had called her to this ministry, regardless of where the assignment might be.

As the deadline approached for Jayna to have the targeted amount of financial support raised in order for her to report to her assignment in State College, she was still lacking a considerable amount. The Lord provided, however, as He moved on the hearts of more very special individuals to become a part of Jayna’s support team.

As we packed and made preparations to move Jayna to State College, Norma and I were at peace with God’s direction for this season in her life, all the while knowing that the next twelve months would be a year of transition for her. In the back of our minds we knew that what she had experienced four years earlier was preparation for what was to come; and what a learning experience it was. Being in a new environment and having to adjust to regional and cultural differences and expectations (even within the body of Christ) can be disconcerting, and such was the case for a while as Jayna began to get her bearings. At times when Jayna would call home and sound a bit discouraged, I would remind her that her work at Penn State was not unlike that of a missionary in a foreign country, to a degree. Building relationships would take time and her ministry would develop accordingly. Norma and I were also secure in knowing that she had good role models in the campus minister and his wife, Joe and Melissa Dentici, whom we met when we arrived in State College to move Jayna in.

What has been most exciting for us as parents is the spiritual growth, maturity, and leadership skills that have continued to develop in our daughter. The phone calls about the conferences she has attended, the texted pictures of some of the activities she has organized, the social media posts, and most importantly, the lives of the young girls she ministered to as the weeks and months went by have demonstrated that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us. We are so thankful and grateful for the ministry of RUF, Joe and Melissa, and every one of Jayna’s support team members who made an impact on eternity for the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over a year after completing the internship, Jayna is continuing work with RUF as the Intern Recruiting Associate in the National Office. In fact, my wife was the one who really encouraged Jayna to pursue this position. What a joy it has been to see God at work through this ministry in the life of our daughter.

Yes Lord, she is Your child and may You continue to cause her to be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord!