Hey Heartland family!

My name is Erin Bjerke. I’m from Page, North Dakota. I’ve been an intern in the Heartland Cornerstone program since December 2015. I’ll be staying on as an intern for the next year, but as we say goodbye to the interns who have been here since last September and get ready to say hello to the new interns who will be coming in a two weeks, I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned and ways I’ve grown since coming to Heartland.

I don’t have all the answers.

One lesson that’s been hard for me to learn is that everything has a learning curve. The Cornerstone program has taught me to ask questions and learn from others when approaching new experiences. Chances are that someone else has been in the same boat as me at some time or another and has some wisdom to share. Other times, nobody has the answer, and you have to figure it out on your own, learning by trial and error. Heartland has provided a great environment for trying things I’ve never done before, with room for grace if I mess up.


This past winter, the other interns and I took turns bringing hay to the camp’s horses every day. I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally let the horses out or got the truck stuck in the mud in the pasture! Every time, I would call Michael and he would talk me through what to do, or he and Jared would come out to the pasture and help me round up the horses or get the truck unstuck. The other staff at Heartland have really shown me what God’s grace looks like, and I still feel like I can learn a lot from them in showing grace to others.


The people at Heartland have really taught me the importance of living in a Christian community. Being from North Dakota, I had never even been to Missouri before I showed up at Heartland for the Cornerstone program. What was I doing, moving 600 miles from home to a place where I didn’t know a soul? I didn’t quite know, but I knew the Lord had good things in store for me. My prayers in coming here have been more than answered! I feel like I’ve really become part of a family, both here at Heartland and also at John Knox Kirk, the church that I’ve been partnered with each week. The people I’ve met here have really helped me discover what being in a relationship with the Lord looks like, as well as the importance of living in a Christian community—we’re all working together to live out Christ’s mission, loving, serving, and supporting one another along the way. I wouldn’t have gotten through the past year without the love and support of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Relationship with the Lord

Throughout this year, the Lord has been working in me to continually remind me of how much I need Him. When I came to Heartland, I took a leap of faith and trusted that God would provide everything that I needed, and He gave me the tools to thrive here at Heartland! Then, just about every week this summer there was a new challenge for me—whether it was just getting into the swing of things at the beginning of summer, or getting asked to help with something I hadn’t done before towards the end of the summer, like wrangling horses or counseling day camp. The Lord continued to work through these challenges to remind me to put my trust in Him rather than in my own abilities.


Before this summer, I had had some experience in a leadership role in a summer camp setting, but being on overnight lead staff this summer has helped me grow my confidence in leading others. Even though my role this summer as lead ropes facilitator was very specialized, and I was only directly supervising a few people, it was amazing to me how much all of the counselors looked up to me and looked to me for leadership. I guess that’s what happens when you’re one of the oldest and most experienced on summer staff. Not having been a Heartland counselor before, I was in the same boat as the new counselors for some things, but for others, my four years of doing camp back in North Dakota came in really handy ;) This gave me the unique opportunity to see the points of view of the new staff as well as the ones who have been around awhile.


I better mention something about our trip to Israel this past spring. It would take a lot more than a paragraph to cover that AMAZING experience, but I’ll sum it up here by saying that my experience in Israel drove home the fact that Jesus was a real person who lived in a real place here on earth. He’s not just a storybook character who did fantastic and amazing things—He was also a human like you and me who had parents and siblings, friends and neighbors, a hometown, people who liked Him, and people who didn’t like Him. This realization made Jesus Christ so much more relatable to me—He had human thoughts and fears, joys and struggles, and He knows us personally in that way.


As we go into another camping year, I pray that the Lord will continue to do His work through all of us in this wonderful place that we call Heartland!


God’s love,