In their years spent together teaching and leading at Orange Lutheran, both Erin Shevlin and Rachel Eklund have taught each other through faith and friendship.
By Georgia Harris '19
Often times, high school is about developing lifelong friendships.
And that’s not a notion lost on Erin Shevlin and Rachel Eklund.
Shevlin and Eklund have constructed their “bff” relationship through the Orange Lutheran community. They share their bond each day with the students and staff of OLu, and have now developed a widespread family connection that endures well beyond the walls of the school.
Despite both attending Concordia Lutheran at the same time, Shevlin and Eklund did not meet until they arrived at OLu in a professional capacity. Their friendship was inevitable because as Shevlin put it, “We are all friends in this community here.”
Their connection solidified on a mission trip with Orange Lutheran to the Dominican Republic during the summer of 2013.
“Serving together and working together for a couple of years in this environment brought us together as friends, and we just stuck ever since,” Shevlin said.
Their friendship is ideal because they have both commonalities and differences, which Eklund believes creates a cohesive pair. For instance, Orange Lutheran recently provided all students and staff with the Myers Briggs personality test to help guide them in many aspects of their lives, and this test immaculately describes Shevlin and Eklund’s relationship.
Eklund scored an ‘F’ for feeler, while Shevlin scored the opposite, a ‘T’ for thinker. Because of these difference, the pair have become closer as time passes.
“We calm each other down,” Eklund said. “If I am overly sensitive, she is relaxed. And if she is over-thinking, I remind her to follow her feelings.”
This contrast also makes for quite an amusing pair. The two, always full of laughter, say that their friendship has created “a new level of sass” and that their interactions are full of sarcasm. This energy is evident in both of their leadership roles at the school, as Shevlin is the leader of the Ignite Program, and Eklund leads the Student Leadership Team.
This excitement and passion that the teachers bring to Orange Lutheran is learned and reciprocated by their students. Eklund recalls returning from maternity leave a couple of years ago and being greeted with decorations and a “Welcome Back” sign from her students.
It is these instances that truly develop the Lancer Family. For Eklund, OLu is literal family, as she is married to school principal Todd Eklund. And although Shevlin has no immediate family at OLu or in the Orange County area, she said that the OLu community has become her family.
“All of my best friends work here,” Shevlin said. “It is my community, it is the people that support me and love me, and it is the people that are there for me.”
Shevlin is quick to requite this same comfort towards her students as she pours herself into them while they attend OLu and continues to encourage them even after graduation.
Shevlin and Eklund can personally attest to the existence of the Lancer Family in myriad ways.
“Just recently I have just seen two different alumni from very different years and walks of life, but they are both back, and I love that,” Eklund said. “We not only get four years of their lives, but because of the place that OLu is, when they leave us, they always come back because this is that refuge, that safe place for them, and their hearts will always be in OLu. When they do return it is so amazing to see the things that they are doing in their lives that we got to help them prepare for.”
She also recently reached out to a family that lost their home in the Houston floods. Eklund was confident in texting her former student her regards for his family during the tough time because of the connections that are effortlessly formed through Orange Lutheran.
“Unique” is the word to define the Lancer Family. Eklund marvels at how cohesive the faculty and staff are at Orange Lutheran. She said that all of the staff have each others’ backs and act with the utmost respect for one another. Recalling previous teacher development sessions, Eklund remarked that teachers coming to OLu from others schools found it “incredible” to observe the affection amongst the staff.
Shevlin and Eklund feel that the relationships at Orange Lutheran initiate because of the faith aspect of the school.
“I love the fact that coming to work is not just like coming to work; it is coming to ministry.”
Both Shevlin and Eklund are inspired to share their gifts with the OLu community on behalf of their love and passion for Jesus and cherish that they are able to work in a venue that is open about God’s word. And the sharing of Christianity in the school has even facilitated the growth of their faith. The staff takes part in ministry alongside the students, and within their own community, they convene Bible studies and worship sessions. Shevlin recounts that in teaching theology, she has been able to share her faith with the students, and their responses have created a maturation of her faith.
Perpetual fellowship is born in the confines of the Orange Lutheran grounds, and though these ties may blossom beyond the school, both in physicality and era, they will forever remain. The Orange Lutheran community is a family that is able to share delight and conviction, the essence of which can be manifested through Rachel Eklund and Erin Shevlin. This is the Lancer Family, and as Eklund said, “That is what life is here and it is priceless.”