LCN Article
From Living Education: The Work/Study Program

July / August 2023

Kaleb Johnson

The Living Church of God Headquarters employs Living Education students each year, giving them an opportunity to serve in God’s Work and offering them unique experiences. Both first- and second-year students work at Headquarters in many different departments. Have you ever wondered just what the students in Charlotte do in the Work/Study Program? This article will answer that question by describing some student roles available at LCG Headquarters.

The Living Education Department

Nathan KroonThis past year, Nathan Kroon served as the LE Department’s Media Associate. He was the Living Education Department’s primary video editor, official event photographer, and much more. His roles included creating LE’s social media posts, producing LE podcasts (“Digging Deeper” and “Brother to Brother”), formatting LE’s weekly newsletter, writing and posting summaries of LE forums, editing lecture videos for LE’s online courses, creating surveys and quizzes, and taking photos.

 “A bunch of different things get thrown at you,” Nathan said. “Mr. McNair is sometimes unpredictable with what he’ll throw at you next—keeps it exciting, but it also can be challenging. I think video editing has been most fun, especially when I am able to be more creative with it. But that requires having a lot of material to work with.”

Alongside Nathan, I served as the LE Department’s Staff Assistant. I performed many support tasks for projects in the Living Education purview, such as creating videos and slideshows for events and making scripture and quote indexes for new study courses. I also wrote and posted forum summaries and posts describing student life, created LE’s weekly online quiz, used Google Analytics to “Google analyze” things, provided support in video editing, and assisted with other ongoing projects. It is a lot of creative work—I’ve had the chance to write, create storyboards for videos, and brainstorm ideas. It is quite different from the experiences I’ve had in engineering—almost more challenging, as I had to be creative and think outside the box.

The Mail Processing Department

Jontavius MinceyThe Mail Processing Department forms a vital part of God’s Work. MPD sends out booklets, semi-annual letters, Bible Study Course lessons, and Tomorrow’s World magazines to thousands of people worldwide. The department ensures that everyone receives their literature in a timely manner and reduces cost wherever possible to help God’s Work be efficient and effective. This year, two students worked in MPD.

Jontavius Mincey worked as a Mail Clerk Assistant, helping MPD to meet its daily goals. His tasks included stuffing envelopes by hand, operating a mail-inserter machine, and delivering mail to employees in the office. Recently, those in MPD worked tirelessly to send out semi-annual letters. While he’d already gained experience doing similar things, Jontavius learned some unique skills, like how to operate a mail-inserter—which apparently involves a lot of unjamming. Jontavius’ main roles in MPD were inserting certain mail items by hand, organizing pallets of outgoing mail, operating the mail-inserter, sorting and delivering incoming mail, and assisting with loading and unloading deliveries.

Working in MPD is both fun and challenging. “If you make a mistake with the mail,” Jontavius said, “you have to go back and redo a lot. That is a lot of extra work and irritating.” According to Jontavius, the most fun aspect of the job is “probably being around Mr. Bonjour,” MPD’s Director. “He makes everything a lot funnier and more enjoyable to be around.”

Dawn RudeDawn Rude worked as a Mail Assistant in the Mail Processing Department, helping to perform labor-intensive tasks like stuffing envelopes, packaging literature, sorting literature requests, burning DVDs for delivery, and assisting with the labeling machine—all of which allows the department to run smoothly. She also operated the mail-inserter, though she “didn’t like the fact that it jammed so much.”

For Dawn, the most challenging aspect of her job was probably “staying focused when you don’t have anyone to talk to or headphones to listen to something. It can be a little repetitive, and that can get to you.” She most appreciated the social opportunities that working in MPD affords. “Sometimes,” she says, “we’ll just be sitting there, stuffing envelopes with booklets or DVDs with someone next to you, and we’ll just have some pretty crazy conversations. It’s nice.”

The Mail Processing Department operates just like a high-functioning business: it is about getting results in a cost-effective and fast way. Students gain experience working in a fast-paced environment, operating machinery, meeting deadlines, and simply performing manual labor like inserting envelopes. All of this experience can directly translate into countless warehouse and production-related jobs. There is, essentially, an endless amount of work students could do in MPD, and every bit of it is valuable.

The Maintenance Department

Andrew McNair and David Smith both worked as Maintenance Assistants, maintaining the Headquarters building and grounds and assisting on renovation projects. Their roles included loading the equipment truck for Charlotte Sabbath services every week, inspecting fire extinguishers and emergency exit signs every month, removing trash from the office grounds, and much more.

Andrew McNairPrior to accepting this position, Andrew had experience with carpentry and renovation, but he learned many new skills in this position and developed greater proficiency with skills he already had. He appreciated the opportunity to learn more about painting and carpentry projects in this position. David did not have a great deal of experience with carpentry or electrical work before working with the Maintenance Department, but now he has developed skills in both of these areas and is confident in his ability to “build a wall with two-by-fours and drywall.” 

Andrew and David agreed that the most challenging part of the job was the lack of consistency. “Some days it’s non-stop work,” David said, “and then others you jump from one task to another. What you’re doing one day may or may not be completely separate from what you’re doing the next day.” Andrew added that it was difficult “not really knowing how long we’ll being doing a project or what the next step will be. Who knows? It could be a week-long project or twenty minutes. It can be all over the place.”

David SmithBut there were certainly fun parts of the job, too. “Sometimes, you get to hit things out with hammers,” David said. “That’s really lowbrow, but it’s the most fun part. One time there was a piece of furniture that we needed to fit in the dumpster, so we got to hit it with a sledgehammer to make it smaller.” Seeing the fruits of their labor was also gratifying, as Andrew noted when he recounted “organizing the tools and stuff [in the maintenance corner of the warehouse storage area], because there are a lot of random things back there. It was great to finally see it all sorted out. There was a lot of chaos back there.”

But their renovation projects took Andrew and David beyond the Headquarters grounds, as well. For example, “we went to the girls’ dorm and fixed random things,” David said. “We fixed the alarm by doing the high-skill labor of replacing some batteries. We fixed a leak in the roof that was causing water damage. We tried to fix the downstairs bathroom, but that’s a problem that needs actual plumbers.”

As Maintenance Assistants, both David and Andrew spent time learning new skills and honing those they already possessed. Working in the Maintenance Department involves a variety of projects and tasks, but all of those projects are worthwhile experiences in a hands-on type of job.

The Accounting Department

Kezia CiesielkaThe Living Education program aims to provide students with valuable work experience and also assist the Church in doing God’s Work. Part of doing God’s Work involves accounting, which is very complex in modern times. Thus, having students work part-time is a great benefit to the Accounting Department, and it also gives students valuable experience that is in high demand in the working world.

Over the past year, students Kezia Ciesielka and Rachel Price worked in the Accounting Department. Kezia served as an Accounting Clerk; she is considering studying accounting and used this opportunity to experience the field, learning the ins and outs of business and accounting systems and using software like Great Plains and Kwiktag.

Kezia’s main roles as an Accounting Clerk involved processing invoices, ensuring that expenditures came from correct accounts, reviewing reimbursement requests, and classifying expenses. Sometimes, it gets stressful, Kezia says, “when we are coming up on a deadline and I think, There is no way I can do all this, and it all has to be done exactly correctly, because if I mess up, this is money we’re talking about. I can’t mess up. But then I just tell myself, I can only do what I can do.” At other times, though, it can be therapeutic. “Getting to sit down,” she says, Rachel Price“with a good bit of things to go through, when you’re not super stressed out because it doesn’t need to be done super quick, with your cup of tea, making sure everything is in the right spot—it is very satisfying, because everything goes where it belongs.”

Rachel Price also served in Accounting, working as an archivist to, among other things, create digital copies of legal documents. She worked on a multi-year project that involves taking old paper documents, scanning them, and organizing them so that they can be readily accessed. She has worked primarily in her office, with “Scanly”—that’s what she’s named the scanner—and Patrick, a possum hide she purchased for a Renaissance Fair. For Rachel, the most challenging part of the job was “not shutting your brain off,” she said, “because you are scanning and that’s a very mundane activity, but you really can’t just shut off your brain while you’re doing it, because you are naming these files, and if you name one wrong, it’ll be really hard to find. That’ll just bring issues in the future if it’s ever needed.”

The TV Department

Madeline McNairMadeline McNair worked as a Technical and Administrative Assistant for the Television Department as a first-year student, though she worked in the television studio prior to her enrollment in LE.

Madeline primarily cleaned the audio of the telecast recordings using Adobe Audition, removing intrusive background sounds picked up by the high-quality microphones. This requires a very attuned ear to pick up even the smallest clicks and rustles in an audio track. She also began making the closed captioning for telecasts, backing up video files and removing extraneous copies to save storage on hard drives, and finding wartime videos and images for the telecasts to use.

Audio correction can be time consuming, Madeline says. “It is kind of hard doing repetitive work like that—it takes a while to go through. It’s a 30-minute program, and it takes longer than that to go through each one.” However, she truly appreciates being a part of telecast production, “because the TV studio is a separate building than the office is, so it is a different experience. You really see a lot of the actual telecast production; I’ve seen them film a couple of them, which is interesting. It is interesting to see how much work goes into the production process.”

When asked if she’d like to share a story from her job, Madeline gave a heartwarming “candid camera” account. “One time we were waiting for a telecast to start because there was some delay,” she remembered, “and Mr. Ames was going to be filming. And he was just sitting, just waiting, and he started singing a hymn, just to himself. But he was mic’d, so everyone was hearing him just sing a hymn to himself.”

The Records & Information Services Department

Lauren SenaIn addition to serving in custodial work around the building, Lauren Sena also served in the Records & Information Services Department as Assistant Receptionist in the Headquarters lobby, taking calls and managing the front desk while the primary Receptionist was unavailable. This gave her a wealth of experience in leading conversations that often took considerable patience and maturity to manage.

The most challenging part of her job as Assistant Receptionist, Lauren said, was “the unpredictable aspect of not knowing if the person who’s calling is going to be nice—not knowing if they’re going to take whatever they’re going through out on you—and then knowing how to respond to that, having this very professional persona and reaction to everything. I’d never had a job before, so, this was my first experience with that. That was very interesting and very challenging to work with.”

On the other hand, “you also get little old ladies who call and are just so thankful that we’re preaching,” Lauren said fondly. “They thank you a million times, even though you only picked up the phone. They’re so nice, and they’re like, We love you so much. We’re always praying for you. Having those interactions is really valuable.”

Along with the irate and the thankful, there were callers who could only be described as strange. “I got this caller one time,” Lauren remembered, “who was telling me that he was a prophet and could predict the future, and that when he’s riding his bicycle on the highway, the birds just start singing to him specifically, and the entire creation acknowledges his presence. He said, You need to tell Mr. Weston that the earth is going to shake from this date to this date. And I was like, OK, well, you have a great day. The dates have passed—the earth did not shake. That was a very entertaining call. I have to wonder if he even remembers that he said that.” 

The Library and the Editorial Department

Rachel WhiteRachel White worked as a librarian for the Living Education Department and as a transcriber for the Editorial Department. Rachel also helped with Living Education projects, such as the “Germany in Prophecy” course. As librarian, Rachel’s duties included checking books in and out, keeping the library in order, and finding books and music for the library’s visitors. She also assisted the LE Department by transcribing videos and finding resources—such as quotations and photos—for and periodically updating LE’s bulletin boards and schedules.

Rachel’s Editorial work mainly involved transcribing different sermons and sermonettes to be distributed, and this was uniquely challenging: “One of the things I’ve had the most trouble with is the transcribing and trying to get what the speakers say to make sense in writing,” she said. “Everything they say makes sense, but it doesn’t always translate to paper. Trying to get what they say to work on paper is much more challenging than you would think.”

For Rachel, the most fun part of being HQ’s librarian has been setting up book displays at the library’s front desk. “I like setting up displays, especially when there is nothing specifically that needs to go up there,” she says, “because I get to decide what category of book I want to display. I did displays on the Psalms and Acts. We have a bunch of different books on the brain and how being religious affects your brain, and I’d like to do a display for that, too.”

Rachel also performed the duties of an archivist as part of an ongoing project to archive artifacts of recent Church history. “I found a folder in the archives that said, ‘Heresy Version,’” she said, relating her most memorable experience in that role. “I was like, ‘What is this?’ And so I opened it up and it had letters between Mr. Tkach and other ministers, and different stuff Worldwide was putting out during the apostasy. It was really interesting. The way it was worded was very confusing—changing doctrines and changing the mindset. So, yeah—I found the ‘Heresy Version’ folder.”

In going through all these departments, it seems remarkable how the Church integrates a different number of students every year so fluidly. No one sits around; no one is unused. Every department has basic work that students are able to accomplish, freeing up the more experienced employees to work on longer-term and more complicated or demanding projects. Living Education’s Work/Study program is quite extraordinary—and the more students help and contribute, the more God’s Work can do!