An Unlikely Intern, An Unexpected Awakening


Thinking back to the start of my involvement with Because Justice Matters, a wry yet grateful expression crosses my face as I recognize that the organization and I were not the most obvious fit from the get-go. I most certainly defied all expectations of the typical intern, being in my late fifties and already established in my profession. BJM, in turn, brought its own array of surprises and challenges to my well-ordered life, boldly asking that I open up room in my heart and faith for all things that struggled to fit effortlessly into these carefully inventoried spaces.

My shift into ministry began with a crisis of sorts. Despite having gained considerable success throughout a 30-year career in management, it became increasingly difficult for me to remain motivated by the corporate mission.  I felt an intensifying dissidence: the enterprise ceased to matter to me as much as the people with whom I worked. No matter how hard I tried, I continued to grow further and further away from engagement and drifted more into estrangement. I soon perceived the door of my career closing and became aware that another was opening: a passion for furthering God’s kingdom on earth, here and now.  

I discovered the pulse of this passion to be the experience of women, particularly in the context of our ongoing battle for identity.  For many of us, our identity has been high-jacked, and we become women who feel devalued and marginalized, women who are abused or simply do not know that we are worthy of love. I was drawn to BJM because of the ministry’s focus on serving women and girls, many of whom have been exploited and wounded by life. Their struggle, though initially appearing so different from my own—my life having been one of relative privilege—was, at its core, the same: what is my worth?

My relationship with BJM began with Nail Day, a setting where one becomes quickly acquainted with this struggle and its manifold expressions. I immediately insisted that I’d rather stay behind the scenes in administrative support, as I did not consider myself suitable for the front lines of ministry, particularly with a nail file or buffer in hand.  Try it just once, my cohorts encouraged. So I came that first day, and I found that, regardless of calm or chaos, everything we did was steeped in prayer and intercession. Jesus walked among us, guided us, laughed with us, and sought to make His perfect and personal love known to the women who sat across from us.

When they began coming in the door, I saw broken, hurting women seeking a safe place to rest and be seen and loved with a cup of coffee, a brownie, a touch, a chance to color or sit alone. They were yearning for a kind word, a prayer.  I then witnessed that each was met by God, exactly where she was at, loved for who she was; he called her “Beloved”. The next morning, during devotions at home, I sat and cried, unable to forget the names and faces of those women. Jesus showed me the compartments which had thus far comprised my life: faith, finances, fitness, family, friends. The women of Nail Day did not fit in any compartment. Instead, they moved in my heart, flesh and blood.

Jesus was there with them, and He did not fit in any compartment either.  He gently invited me to leave the false “safety” of compartments—my attempts at control and security—in order to accept His invitation to live and serve with Him. Constant busy-ness, living for external achievement and approval, had left me stressed, tired and numb to those around me.  As I experience my own healing, Jesus is increasing my capacity to stand with other hurting people and share the love and healing that He has for all of us.

Christ is the only hope for my own brokenness and the brokenness all around me—in my own family, my community, the Tenderloin, our nation, our world. Serving with Because Justice Matters has given me the opportunity to awaken to the pain surrounding me, and at the same time, to the beauty of Christ in us. Sharing the love of God opens the door for the hope and healing He is bringing. It may not conform to expectations—whether they be my own or the ones of those around me—but this is the life I was meant to live.

Tate Callejas