My name is Michael Gutierrez, but everyone at MYTHIRDPLACE calls me ‘Mikey G’. I’m a youth ministry intern with M3P, currently overseeing the junior high branch of our Weekly Night Youth Gathering. I’m also a senior at Azusa Pacific University, studying Youth Ministry and Liberal Studies. I write blogs, do spoken word in my free time, and love hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
After doing youth ministry for 3 years in Glendora, I sensed God asking me, “What are you doing about all that is happening in Azusa? In your own backyard, right next door to your school?” My ministry in Glendora was a mostly suburban teen ministry and is vitally important for those kids to hear about Jesus, for sure, but I didn’t feel like it was the place for me anymore. I felt God’s calling into the urban neighborhoods of Azusa to work with teenagers, experiencing a different set of problems that could be worked toward a tangible solution.
With the direction that my life was going and the ways in which my passions were stirring, I felt called to students like those that daily walk into MYTHIRDPLACE. In addition, I’ve grown a heart for after-school programs and the role they play in the development, mentorship, and faith building of a teenager’s life. My career aspirations are to one day establish and direct my own after-school program. I believe M3P is the perfect place for me to be equipped to go into this career path.
The biggest blessing I’ve experienced while interning at MYTHIRDPLACE is the community that I’ve been surrounded by. When I first began at M3P, everyone was quick to tell me that I’d soon understand what it meant to be a part of the M3P Fam. However, at the onset, it was pretty difficult to get acclimated because I felt like I couldn’t connect with the teens. Yet, it was in the moments of plucking away and showing up consistently that I began to build relationships with teens, mentors, and Adrian.
The kids have all become like little brothers and sisters to me. The mentors have become some of my most cherished friends and will one day feel like siblings. Adrian has been like a big brother to me, counseling and encouraging me to be a better mentor and youth leader every day. I truly could not picture my senior year without M3P and all of the beautiful people that are in the family that is being formed and strengthened here. My favorite days include moments where I’m able to come laugh, converse, and process life with my M3P Fam.
My decision to begin interning at M3P was a direct response to the calling that I felt God had put on my life to enter into the community of Azusa and meet the residents that are living just down the street from me. Now that I’ve met teens and families living here, I understand how selfish it can be for APU students to move into the city and behave as though we’re the only ones living here. Through my work as an intern with M3P, I have learned how beautiful the city of Azusa truly is. For one, I’ve met so many welcoming families and have experienced, firsthand, the rich culture this city holds. However, if I’d never interned at MYTHIRDPLACE, I wouldn’t have met these beautiful people, or experienced this true and authentic Azusa.
I’m daily learning that life is not about me. And my time here in Azusa is no longer about me. It’s about loving others. It is about the work that I can do to love and serve teens here. I don’t want my time here to solely be about my education. I want it to be about what I can do with my education to better serve Azusa and the teens that live here.