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We met Arlina last summer shortly after she and her husband, Dustin, moved to the UK from Washington, USA.

She is a Youth Pastor, writer, and fashion enthusiast. Honestly, Arlina seems to do it all, and do it well. We talked to her about her experience moving abroad, what motivates her and how she views success.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 28 years young living outside the bustling city of London in a town called Orpington. I was born in Washington State, USA where I stayed until I turned 18, graduated high school and moved a few states over to the stunning view that is the state of Montana. It was also there that I met and fell in love with my husband, Dustin!

I consider myself to have a simple exterior but a deep soul. My best and worst quality is my sensitivity and empathy. I am a chronic rule-follower, so even jaywalking brings me to repentance. I prefer salts over sweets and my guilty pleasures are forever fan-girling over Justin Bieber and watching The Bachelor(ette) like a hopelessly romantic preteen.

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What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about helping young girls find their true worth beyond the sea of stereotypes and pressures they face today. I am passionate about embracing raw, real, meaningful relationships both in my own life and in helping others sort through theirs. I love the moment when there is one unified voice worshiping God together. In those moments, I feel a small sense of what heaven might be like, and it humbles me to know God has given me a gift to help facilitate that kind of atmosphere.

I am deeply convicted by how factory garment workers are mistreated, particularly in the avenue that leads some into sex trafficking. I hope to be a voice of reason on how to pursue success and even money within an idolistic business world while still being a person of deep faith, morals and who values extreme generosity. I am passionate to see the church lead the way in creativity and the arts; bringing down unheard, unseen, sound and color combinations that produce the most quality products, films, music, artistic and literary work.

It’s important to me that people see that real Christianity is not actually about having it together, bypassing hardships or soaring above the clouds but rather it’s about enduring and even embracing those same struggles with a future hope and home in mind.

How has being a youth pastor changed the way you see our generation and the one you work with?

Though I’ve always been involved in youth work, working full-time as a youth pastor was never something I imagined myself doing. But the reward has been equally as unimaginable. Since my time in this position, the thing that has impacted me the most is understanding how greatly valuable this generation is! They are making their first steps into becoming adults, being deeply affected by the generation above them but also having a strong influence on the one just behind them.

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FIFTY A

FIFTY B

What have been your best and worst experiences in what you do so far?

The worst experiences are seeing the young people go through hard times and not being able to do much except encourage and pray for them. It always hurts to see them hurting.

The best parts have been the most unexpected moments; the things you couldn’t plan or replace if you tried. We took a group of 25 into London during Christmas to a huge event called ‘Winter Wonderland’. I was freaking out, worrying about losing one of these precious chickens in the craziest city during the busiest time of the year. We were pushing through tube cues and got to an escalator packed with bodies. Sure enough, a few youth decided to run up the stairs instead. I obviously lost my adult decision-making abilities somewhere back at the train station and decided I’d join them. Half way through, I am one with death—I cannot feel my legs, my heart rate is increasing rapidly. We finally make it to the top and I immediately regret all the things.

The next morning, one of the young people’s moms told me how her son came home raging about how ‘COOL’ I was for running up the stairs with them! I might’ve managed not to die on the trek up the stairs, but I died of pure joy when his mom told me this. That goes down as one of my most fond moments. It was well worth all the pain.

What was the hardest thing about moving abroad?

The hardest thing about moving abroad was everything for us really. We’d never been to England and naively assumed there wouldn’t be culture shock since we all spoke ‘English’. The small, entertaining differences you notice when you travel are interesting and even fun, but when you move somewhere new, know only two people, go from having your own apartment, car and life to sharing a house with a family, missing buses, walking everywhere and basically relearning how to do day-to-day things, it starts to add up and can weigh frustratingly on you.

We’ve adjusted now and are managing almost like locals! Plus, logistics aside, we’ve experienced amazing growth through this adventure! Dustin and I have always found value in meeting new people and different cultures to enhance our overall view of the world.

If you weren’t working as a youth pastor, what would you be doing right now?

I would most likely still be a full-time visual merchandiser for GAP. I’ve done retail for almost 12 years now, so you could say I’m comfortable with it. But I always dreamed of moving on to bigger and better things. The truth is, there is plenty I hope to do business-wise after my season as youth pastor, but I also realize it will be better achieved through God’s timing than mine.

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I am passionate about people feeling heard and seen.


FIFTY A

Who and what inspires you?

My husband inspires me the most out of everyone because he’s the most different from me, so there’s always much to observe and learn from his approach to life. He is reputable, kind but strong, incredibly trustworthy and loyal and such a people person. He gives people small things like eye contact and pats on the back to let them know he values them, what they have to say and how they feel. Everybody loves Dustin, really. It’s a joy to not only know someone like him but also to be fortunate enough to be his wife.

People’s stories and personal journeys inspire me, especially the quiet, humble people—those who work hard without recognition or return because they are simply faithfully faithful. Relentless financially generous people also blow my mind. I’m greatly inspired being by the sea or when I’m in big cities. Architecture inspires me from a creative standpoint as does fashion.

How would you define success?

When it comes to success, I am constantly walking a tightrope from one end of the canyon to the other. I aim to believe that it’s not about perfection but rather progress, but the reality is that I often struggle with my own work ethic of not running myself dry for the sake of success, approval or identity.

The sum of it all is that I would define success to be when my heart, mind, actions and thus results match up and ultimately bring glory to God. It may be a mentor relationship with a young person, a new creative endeavor or even a silly Instagram post. Either way, at the end of it, do I feel sound about it? Did I do my best? Did I treat people well? Did I lift heads or bring people down? What were my intentions and how did that motivate me? Do the results reflect this? Can people see characteristics of God’s patience, humility and grace through what I’ve just ‘accomplished’? These are just some of the questions that help me define success in my personal life.

Obviously, there are measures of success that we all face, even very valid deadlines we must meet and responsibilities we must fulfill, but I pray I stay more concerned about the character that comes from it than the finished product in itself. This is a lesson I am always learning again and again.

Read more of Arlina’s words and experiences on her blog.

FIFTY B

Find Arlina Donnelly


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