Austin Pettigrew, a Huntington University senior from Tower Hill, Ill., is fulfilling his PRIME commitment in Fresno, Calif.
Pettigrew, a recreation and sports ministry major, has traveled 3,000 miles across the country and entered a world that was previously unknown to him. His temporary residence is the World Impact Mission, an organization that strives to “plant churches in urban America.” The World Impact Mission in Fresno labors to share the gospel with impoverished people to empower them. The city of Fresno is the home to the greatest majority of poverty-stricken children in California, and most of those children live within five miles of the mission.
Pettigrew found his way to Fresno through the Huntington University PRIME experience. PRIME stands for Practical Research and Immersion through Ministry Effectiveness. It is organized through the university’s Department of Ministry and Missions. PRIME provides students with a seven-month opportunity to apply their ministerial classroom education to real life. PRIME is a requirement for all Bachelor of Science ministry majors at Huntington.
This is not Pettigrew’s first experience with mission work. His family has been involved in ministry for seven years at a camp in rural Illinois called Camp Maranatha. He also has previously served in Guatemala for almost four months with Inn Ministries. Pettigrew’s experience with World Impact has been divided into two parts. The first part he passed this summer while working in Lake Hughes, Calif., at a camp called The Oaks. He is spending the second part in urban Fresno. Pettigrew is working both in a camp and in the inner-city during his PRIME experience because he was interested in exploring both worlds.
Pettigrew fills various roles in his intern position. “I am involved with a local church called Bethany Inner-City Church, a church plant of World Impact. I am working with a junior high boy’s Bible club. We do team building activities. We study teachings from the Bible.”
As part of his experience, Pettigrew accompanied his group to the Sequoia National Forest. He also plays the bass guitar for the worship service. Additionally, he is teaching one of the high school boys to play the guitar so that when Pettigrew leaves, the church will have a new guitar player.
Pettigrew believes that he was well prepared for his ministry assignment because of his education and training that he received from Huntington. “What I have learned from Professor Connie Updike and Dr. Luke Fetters especially have helped me feel confident in ministry and realize that I needed to spend this time in my life to study and learn ministry.”
Pettigrew admits that working with inner-city youth is no easy task. In the summer of 2008, he invested a great deal of time working with a troubled young man from Dallas. “He was one of the most trying youth I have ever worked with, but with a great deal of patience and prayer, he came out of the summer a changed man.”
When Pettigrew feels discouraged during his mission work, he rebuilds his spiritual strength by remembering that friends and family all over the country are praying for him. He reaps tremendous encouragement from e-mails and Facebook messages that send prayers his way. He says the prayers have helped him through his difficult times.
Living the PRIME experience has changed the way that Pettigrew looks at life and the world. Pettigrew grew up on a farm in rural Indiana. He has gained worldliness and insight about the inner city after witnessing how God works through people who were previously at a dead end. The ministry has proved to be rewarding for Pettigrew. When giving advice for future PRIME candidates, he encourages students to “be in prayer as you are picking your PRIME spots. I went through three ministries and even had signed contracts before God led me to work with World Impact. Remember, God is in control.”