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Story by Matthew Franklin. Photos by Paul Bickford, Ann Carter, Bart Dalton, and Win Grant.

It is quiet. It is quieter right now than it has been in two months. My office, LL18, is empty. The lights are off, the room is still. An office that for the last eight weeks has hosted piano recitals, dance-offs, spontaneous games of dodge ball, and occasionally work is now a space that is too big for one college student to occupy.

I started my summer internship on May 18th, working closely with Bart Dalton and Buddy Burgess in First Baptist’s Youth and Recreation Ministries. With the Youth Ministry I went on the youth mission trip to Dalton, GA, a special experience for me (and quite possibly the highlight of my summer), since I spent my high school years in this group going on trips much like this one. Every Sunday night I was at a different host home doing Bible studies and building community with the youth. I got to see new youths join the group for the first time, graduated seniors begin to leave the group, and everyone in between grow in their faith. The FBC Youth Ministry played a huge role in helping Jesus come into my life – so it brought me overwhelming joy to be able to return the favor with the current youths.

I assisted Buddy by running sports camps at Essex Village and at Peter Paul Development Center for young children and middle school youth. The relationships I built with those kids are unlike any others in my life. Buddy also gave me an in-depth look at Recreation Ministry, a field I plan on getting into following school. I will leave Richmond with countless new resources and contacts in Recreation Ministry.

Going through this crazy yet rewarding summer alongside me were five other interns: Aaliyah Johnson, Keyonta Lee, Ellen Lipford, Ira Neely, and Emma Tilley. The six of us, though we had different areas of work, all came to call LL18 home at some point during the summer. We laughed, cried, fought, and ate… a lot. We got in trouble for being too loud – just ask anyone in the office who was trying to get real work done. We spent more time together than apart. We saw God at work in each other every day. We helped bring another part of the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, VA. We were The Interns.

“We” is now just me. Aaliyah, Keyonta and Ira have returned home to Helena, Arkansas. Ellen is in her first year of college at Liberty University, Emma, her second at William & Mary. I returned to school, my third year at George Mason University. But I can’t help feeling that there is still work left to do – more people to share the Gospel with. And I feel more equipped to do so after spending a summer at First Baptist.

Bart Dalton (Minister to Students) on Matthew Franklin:

franklin“Matthew takes on significant responsibilities and skillfully completes them in a professional and playful manner. I’ve been able to work with Matthew in many different capacities over the past five years – from a teenager in the student ministry, to a high school senior leader, and now as a college student ministry intern. God is working in Matthew’s life in noticeable and epic ways! This guy needs to seriously think about full-time ministry. He has all the necessary skills and talents.”

Ann Carter (Youth One Associate) on Aaliyah Johnson:

The Summer of the Interns“Aaliyah is one of the strongest, most practical people I know. She has a gift for relating to anyone she meets; her no-nonsense personality softened with good humor inspires instant trust. Aaliyah notices the people around her and what they may be experiencing or feeling. And that informs how she relates to others. Aaliyah inspires me to notice and to act boldly with courage seasoned by grace. Everyone should have an Aaliyah in their lives!!”

Candi Brown (Minister to Children) on Keyonta Lee:

Keyonte“From the moment I saw a tall, skinny black teenager carrying my son across the park on his back in 90-degree weather, I knew that something special was happening in Helena, AR. Jonathan later introduced me to his new friend, Keyonta. Their friendship has continued, and now, several years later, our family had the pleasure to host Keyonta in our home this summer. Keyonta, a college student, is a quiet, fun-loving and kind young man who is seeking God’s direction in his life. He has a heart for service, a love for God and a wonderful future ahead.”

Steve Blanchard (Minister of Compassion) on Ellen Lipford:

lipford“Ellen was a compassionate presence with those we served, especially with the elderly at Essex Village and a young lady we encountered who needed special attention. She had a willingness to serve God whenever and wherever and with such a sweet presence.”

Nick Deere (Pastoral Resident) on Ira Neely:

Neely-Booth“Ira possesses a huge and welcoming personality. He has an amazing ability to relate to others and to draw people into conversation. I enjoyed greatly Ira’s passion about his faith and his drive to help other people. I was tasked with assisting in teaching Ira this summer. While I hope he learned something from me, I can say that I learned a good deal from Ira, and I am thankful that I got to walk alongside him for this too-brief stretch of time.”

Lynn Turner (Minister of Christian Community) on Emma Tilley:

tilley“Emma has been a delight to work with this summer. She was eager to engage at every level of the work of Christian Community and has done it so well. I have found Emma to be sensitive, intuitive, creative, and most of all a blesser of those she is around. She always has a smile on her face and makes everyone glad to see her! She has been a blessing to me!”

Editor’s note: In addition to these six who served on site, Sarah Kyle worked as an intern for David Powers, FBC’s former Minister of Communication. FBC was the birthplace and nursery for Belltower Pictures and its first film, Shooting the Prodigal.

David Powers (director of Shooting the Prodigal):

The Summer of the Interns“Sarah served as my Production Assistant during principal photography of Shooting the Prodigal in June and July. She worked 12-14 hours per day for four weeks, handling all my communication with major production departments, keeping up with my script, storyboards and shotlists, and assisting in every aspect as I directed the film. Sarah even served as an extra in two scenes of the film.”


The Summer of the InternsMatthew Franklin is a student at George Mason University where he is studying outdoor recreation. He hopes that one day he can help people grow in their relationships with God and others using the outdoors. At GMU, Matthew is a student leader with the campus ministry Cru. He grew up at FBC and graduated from the youth group in 2013.

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