Graham Hildebran - Class of 2015
Pastoral Intern, Linville Evangelical Methodist Church, Linville, NC

How inspiring it is to watch young people emerge from high school, try new experiences, find their callings, and make their way in the world. Graham Hildebran is one graduate who has already faced a variety of challenges, explored new paths, felt a call to serve, and taken advantage of new and exciting opportunities.

Graham presently serves as a pastoral intern at Linville Evangelical Methodist Church. “I began this mission in January of 2021,” says Graham. “My major duty is to preach on Sunday mornings. I have to be prepared with a new and meaningful message each week in the hopes of guiding the congregation through an uplifting service. I really enjoy interacting with the people in the church family. It was challenging at first because we were all strangers. But they were very welcoming and supportive, and, as the months have gone by, I have so enjoyed getting to know them in both personal and spiritual ways. Being there through the happy times and the times of sickness and trouble is very rewarding for me. My job, my mission, is not about me but rather for God’s glory and for the blessings we all receive together. My reward comes from seeing the changes in people’s lives and the love and blessings that we share.”

Graham believes that his education, background, and previous jobs have helped prepare him for the ministry he shares today. He graduated in 2019 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a degree in multi-media communications.

“My first job was as a lifeguard at the Valdese Rec, and I enjoyed not only the interaction with people but also the responsibility of helping maintain their safety. It’s a job that one has to take seriously, and I regard it as a real growth experience.

“I worked for two years at Calvary Kids daycare at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Valdese, and in 2017 I began work at Ray Childers Day Care. I remained there all through college working with children kindergarten through fifth grade. I have always loved being around kids; they bring such energy and joy. I like playing sports and other games with them, and it’s fun to form relationships with them, meet them on their level, and see things from their perspective. Sometimes they have amazing wisdom, and most people, myself included, can learn from them.

“After college graduation, a different door opened for me. I accepted a job as a teacher’s assistant in the Exceptional Children’s Department at Patton High School. Most of the students I worked with had behavioral problems; listening and watching and practicing patience are real skills that help. Keeping a calm and soothing approach is important, while at the same time a person needs to be able to handle the situation if a student acts in a way that needs to be addressed. Often it comes down to being willing to love and enjoy their company. In addition to learning to meet the challenges of working in this different environment, I also gained perspective into what it is like to be on the other side of the high school experience. I believe that involvement in all of these activities has helped me develop many of the skills I need in the ministry

“My classes at Lenoir Rhyne also helped me to prepare for my duties today. While studying for a degree in communications, a student must get practice in a number of areas. For example, while taking journalism classes, I worked as an intern with the Newton-Conover Observer News Enterprise. It was a great experience with people who treated me well. I often wrote about events around town, festivals, sporting events, etc. Sometimes I would write articles about personal and family topics. I especially enjoyed writing stories about my sister, Graleigh, and her accomplishments. She has been very successful in sports, and when she was named valedictorian of her graduating class at East Burke, several people wanted to interview her. I was happy to be one of them.

“Growing up in a wonderful family and having a great church home have also played major roles in guiding me toward a fulfilling future. In addition to my parents, I learned so much from church leaders at Wilkie’s Grove Baptist Church, especially Thomas Herman and Thurman Roe. Studying with them and going on mission trips were great ways to learn.

“Many of my teachers at East Burke were also great influences. David Anderson, my history teacher and swim coach during my junior and senior years, was a great inspiration. I played basketball in the ninth and tenth grades and tennis in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. Coach Jerome Ramsey was also a great role model and felt much like a friend to us. Art teacher Brenda Castle is a great person; English teacher Crystal Morgan was always so helpful. Other teachers who made an impact were Gilbert Guittard, Jamie Bostain, and Brian Bowman. And I have to add that Mrs. Debbie Jennings was a completely awesome principal. Friends were also important. I made so many great friends in school. Even now when we don’t see each other as often as we’d like, the bonds are still there.”

Whatever challenges and successes may lie ahead for Graham, whatever paths he pursues, and whatever doors may open for him, he is ready and willing to take on the responsibilities. He is definitely one to watch, and there is no doubt he will carry with him the lessons and the joys that he has experienced along the way.

Published September 2021

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