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Social work, faith meet A TYPICAL BUSY DAY
Two graduate student interns help Micah Ecumenical Ministries, Fredericksburg Baptist Church

 Bush scrubs the stairwell of a Fredericksburg apartment that Micah Ecumenical Ministries plans to use as a hospice center for the homeless.
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Date published: 4/5/2008


Two Texas graduate students spent this Valentine's Day in Fredericksburg, single and away from their families.

They left their apartment at 4 a.m. and didn't get back until 4 the next morning.

When Sarah Bush and Courtney Chapman signed up to come to Fredericksburg to learn social work, they didn't expect to work 24 straight hours on a holiday.

But Chapman said it was the best Valentine's Day she's ever had.

"Somebody's gonna have to do some great things on Valentine's Day to ever make it better than that one," she said last week.

At 2 a.m., the next morning, she dropped off another group of refugees, snapping their first American family portrait and standing with the family as they prayed thanking God for a safe journey and the blessings of a new home.

Chapman and Sarah Bush spent hours scrubbing, painting and decorating that house for the African newcomers.

The pair have spent four months in Fredericksburg learning to be social workers by becoming bus drivers, house painters, cleaners, photographers, researchers, movers and street sweepers.

"It's been so amazing, I don't feel like it's work," Chapman said. "It's like we get to serve and be a part of this community that's like a family."

They are two of 140 students at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, pursuing master's degrees in social work. All are expected to perform semester-long internships, said Diana Garland, dean of the school of social work.

The Baptist university's program of combining faith and professional social work is unique and, therefore, in high demand, Garland said.

"Our students are passionate. They're committed. They work hard. The word is out," she said.

She's been talking with Fredericksburg Baptist Church for about five years about sending interns to the area. Garland's husband once taught the Rev. Larry Haun, the church's pastor, while in seminary in Kentucky. Haun and Garland reconnected when he visited Baylor a few years ago.

One of his ministers, Jeanne Anderson, recognized the potential of social work interns, Haun said. She felt their training would organize the church's energy.

That is the goal of a congregational social worker, Garland said. It's a "specialized form of social work practice" and involves helping churches live their faith.

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SARAH BUSH: Age: 23 Hometown: Arlington, Texas

Bush wants to become a social worker because she is interested in missions and in helping people break out of poverty. Her specialization is church social work.

COURTNEY CHAPMAN Age: 24 Hometown: Eufaula, Ala.

Chapman originally wanted to go into politics but was inspired to try social work while an undergrad at Auburn University. She saw a poster encouraging people to change the world. Her passion is Africa and her specialization is global social issues.


The two met one another for the first time in July, when they began planning the internship. But both say it's hard to believe they haven't known each other longer. They spend most of their days together in Fredericksburg and find they fit together well. For example, Chapman is outgoing and Bush is more quiet. Bush is organized and Chapman said, "I don't have an organized bone in my body."

And the match works, they say. The pair get together and brainstorm and Chapman will think of something and say, "This is a great idea."

And Bush replies, "OK, how are we going to do that?"

"I can light a fire and torch the town, and Sarah will rebuild it," Chapman said.

"And have the paperwork to show for it," Bush added.

Baylor University interns Sarah Bush and Courtney Chapman said the first thing they learned is there is no such thing as a typical day. Their first week, they only worked about 30 hours and worried there wouldn't be enough work. The next week, they put in 70 hours. They've done things from cleaning homeless camps, picking up newly arriving refugees at the airport and opening Micah's hospitality center for the chronically homeless in the morning. They could wake up with a list of things to do only to arrive at their first destination, a refugee family's home, and discover a sick family member. Other chores get thrown out as they break out their Swahili dictionaries and try to figure out if they need to make a doctor's appointment. Flexibility, both said, was the most important skill they had to learn while working in Fredericksburg.