A Hui Hou, Julie!
Today’s post is in honor of long-time staff member Julie Iannarone, who has just closed out her last week on staff with STN. Her former fellow intern, Gisele McDaniel, caught up with her before she stepped out of the building.
One of the unique and special aspects about living at Surfing The Nations is the constant ebb and flow of incredible people passing through. Some stay for a month, some do a three-month internship, others commit to 15 months on staff – and some stay longer, waaay longer!
Julie Nelson came to STN in the fall of 2010 as a scrappy, Duck-loving Oregoneon, and leaves us this week as Julie Iannarone: a tender, feisty STN stalwart. With something like a midas touch, Julie has been in nearly every department and outreach we have here and has always, always brought major improvement to all she’s put her heart into. And that I think is the key to Julie – her heart. She runs full-steam ahead into whatever role she’s been asked to take on here, sometimes out of joy and sometimes out of sheer obedience (I mean, who reeeeally wants to work on organizational finances?!) But without a word of complaint, without looking back, without argument – Julie tackles her roles with love and perseverance.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from her example, however, it is that (as cheesy as it sounds) we are human BE-ings not human DO-ings. The amount of care, consideration and prayer that she has poured into the lives of those passing through STN is hard to measure. A quick estimate puts her influence at close to 1,000 lives. And that’s not counting all the kids from our outreaches, friends outside of STN, and the unseen moments she isn’t on the clock.
She is a personal friend and I am super honored to capture her heart and some of the superb things she has done in this Q&A.
What has kept you Surfing The Nations for all these years!?
The everyday opportunity for mentorship is probably what has allowed me to keep my eyes set on the big picture. What’s kept me here is the humble privilege of being part of changing people’s lives, of helping them realize the potential of what they were created to be, to help set fire to their passions.
I’ve had the honor of seeing so many dreams become reality for STN – like coming here and just having this old, gnarly bar and seeing the reality of the Surfers Coffee Bar working out!
What was your favorite thing about working here?
STN blew open the doors of the world for me. From getting to meet people from all over the world, to knowing that the world is an accessible place – there’s nowhere on the map I would look at now and say it’s not possible to go there. That realization was probably highly due to my trip to North Korea.
What are a few of your proudest achievements?
Taming the beast of the Freedom Surf Contest! Having the leaders of STN believe that I could run a $50k event and going through the stages of personally believing I could do it. It ended up being the last Freedom Surf Contest we did so I was really proud of being part of that legacy before we closed that chapter.
I am also really proud of where Summer Challenge progressed, from where it was to something more organized and effective. It’s a program that is making tangible change.
Maybe the biggest personal achievement for me is that I broke free from being stuck in the confines of stress and anxiety like when I first came. I was a stressball of ulcers and worry and I found freedom, eradicating anxiety from my soul.
How have you stayed motivated throughout the years?
The sincere support I’ve gotten from my family has been huge. Looking into the eyes of my nieces and nephews, I’ve always wanted to be an influence that makes them want to live selfless lives for God.
What is one thing you’re going to miss? And not miss.
This is maybe something only those who’ve been at STN will know but I will miss being able to smell Cindy’s perfume before i can see her! And I’ll for sure miss working with my best friends.
What I will not miss is finding 2-inch dead cockroaches under my desk at work!
Any special memories you will cherish that you want to share with us?
There are a few, like Cindy telling me to give Nic and our whole dating process three years and then exactly three years later walking down the aisle to become his wife. I will always cherish the huge impact Summer Challenge had on my life.
But possibly the most life-changing moment was when I sat on the tailgate of my Toyota Tacoma, praying through every conceivable emotion, and saying, “Yes, I will go to North Korea.” We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into on that first trip. I feel like it was one of the first time the rubber hit the road in terms of faith and surrender. And when I came back and was ready to marry Nic!
Favorite international trip?
They each encompass huge life lessons for me. Morocco is up there because Nic and I got to see what ministry together looks like. We shared that trip with Zach and Charis Ifland, so that was special. Of course North Korea was monumental for me as I explained earlier. Israel, Egypt and Jordan brought my faith and the Bible alive like never before.
There’s also this moment in Indonesia. Desert Point in Lombok was going off, totally firing. Tom and I pulled two plastic lawn chairs way out onto where the reef was shallow, sitting within 10 feet of some of our guys pulling into these huge hollow tubes!
Thank you, Julie for the years of service and the memories shared. We are proud to call you a part of our Ohana, no matter where you go. A hui hou.