Acting on Faith: Caitlin Fettig Rediscovers Her Calling
Junior social work major Caitlin Fettig is one of the happiest and most positive people you will meet in your life.
If you see her walking across the George Fox University (GFU) Newberg campus, you might notice the extra spring in her step that makes her blonde frizzy curls bounce around and the cheerful, exclamatory greeting she has for every friend she comes across. She loves to express her love for other people through her work, her academics, and her faith.
With her positive and uplifting personality, Fettig works as a resident assistant (RA) and as an employee of the campus fitness center. She helps in the Spiritual and Intercultural Life (SPIL) office, and sings at chapel for Vespers on Wednesday nights.
“I feel that it is my purpose to pour out my life for others,” said Fettig. “I’ve always loved helping people and interacting with them. That’s what I’m meant to do.”
Even with all her campus roles, Fettig has an internship at the Friendsview Retirement Center.
“My hobby is being busy,” Fettig said. “I’m very fast-paced and loud. I’m very spontaneous, but extremely structured.
“My problem is that I want to do everything. I know that my career in social work will have probably a dozen or more focus changes.”
In love with her faith, Fettig dedicates her entire Sunday each weekend to going to church. Starting at Westside at 8 a.m., Fettig also attends the 10 a.m. service at Journey Church and the 7 p.m. Bridgetown gathering.
“I just like it. It dedicates the entire day to God. I don’t get that time to dedicate to him during the week. It’s my Sabbath,” Fettig said.
Fettig did not expect her beliefs and practices to take her to a small residential treatment center during the summer of 2017, where she would serve as a behavioral youth counselor in the remote area of Tennessee. As a counselor, she was constantly breaking up fights, disciplining those who required it, and keeping the residents from killing each other.
“This internship scared me away from social work,” Fettig said. “It was the most eye-opening experience, but mentally and physically exhausting. Walking into that environment everyday was emotionally unhealthy. It was awful.
“I got punched in the face trying to break up a fight once. I was sexually objectified every day and every moment. I was cussed at more than I could ever count,” she said.
Fettig’s role to care for the boys started when school ended and lasted until 10:00 every night. All of the boys were at least six inches taller and sixty pounds heavier than her small, athletic frame.
Occasionally, one or more of the boys would run away, leading to efforts of retrieving them or extensive documentation for the state.
Upon release, these children are often adopted by a foster family, or turn 18 years of age and go back to where they were before. Some leave for home with their families, and others are sent to jail if their crime was determined significant enough to deserve a prison sentence.
“If you take all the unloved, abused, and hurt boys and put them in one place, that is what this residential treatment center was,” Fettig said. “These boys didn’t see that we wanted to love them or further their treatment.
“Despite trying to love them, we had to discipline them. We were the parents they didn’t want. We were the bad guys in their eyes,” she said.
During the first two months of her internship, Fettig found the atmosphere to be demoralizing. She would count down the hours until her shift was finished. She hated her internship and would often go to bed asking herself the same question: “What am I doing here? Why this place?”
Approaching the third and final month of her Tennessee internship, something clicked into place for Fettig.
“I set out to love them…to love them fiercely. Everyone rejected that love, except for two boys. They made my time there worth it,” Fettig said. “For one of them, I’m on his DHS contact list, and he calls me during his weekly phone call. He will be on discharge soon.”
The other boy who attached to Fettig raised himself since age two. Recovering from developmental issues, the boy is improving.
“He recently wrote me a letter, and at the end he said, ‘You’re the best mom I’ve ever had,’” Fettig said.
“It shocked me…how much I could change their life showing them that kind of love for just one single month. It’s foreign to them,” she said.
After returning home in August, Fettig spent the remainder of the summer with family and rebuilding herself for the current school year. Returning for her junior year still with the social work major, Fettig shared how her positive outlook keeps her going despite the situations God placed her in over the summer.
“As a Christian, we’re called to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. God gave me the gift of empathy and the gift to connect with people. It’s hard to not stay upbeat and positive when you think about all the blessings you have.
“The Lord has given me so much,” Fettig said. “The key is being selfless,”
Fettig has found that throughout the various facets of life we all experience, it is easy to focus on ourselves rather than other people and the joy that we can bring to their lives.
“When I do get angry and pessimistic, I’ve found that I’ve been focused on myself and not other people. I’ve always loved helping people and interacting with them. I want to get my hands dirt,” she said.
“I’m going to something unordinary,” Fettig said. “I want to walk into a place of despair and be like, ‘This is really [bad], but we’re going to work it out.’”
Reported by guest reporter McKenzie Joy Schaffer