My Wheaton

Student Ministry Partners: Bethlehem

Posted July 12, 2016 by Jackie Westeren '19

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wheaton-college-palestinian-dinner-student-ministry-partnersWhen I heard Wheaton wanted to send a group of Student Ministry Partner (SMP) students to Bethlehem for the first time this summer, I immediately was interested because of the rich history, complicated and ongoing conflict, and a desire to better understand life in Arab culture. 

Now that our team of six students is here partnering with the Palestine Summer Encounter program at Holy Land Trust, an interfaith NGO that seeks peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land, we have experienced more learning and meaningful conversations than we ever could have imagined. 

On a typical day, after enjoying Arab breakfasts with our host families, we set off to service projects. They vary each week -- we have painted a YMCA building, taught English, worked with disabled youth, and farmed. We then spend the remainder of the day taking Arabic lessons, hearing lectures about the history of Israel/Palestine, doing cultural activities, or touring historical sites. 

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While all of these activities have taught us a lot, the most impactful part of our trip has been the relationships we have formed. The staff and participants at Holy Land Trust, our host families, and other people we have met living here have taught us more than a classroom ever could have. 

One such example was during our first week here when we were invited to a new friend’s grandmother's house for the afternoon. After a warm greeting from people we had never met, we were overwhelmed with hospitality, being offered cucumbers, tea, coffee, pita, and cookies. We felt incredibly welcomed into their home, and had hours worth of meaningful conversations about family life in Bethlehem and how the occupation and intifadas have personally affected their lives. They allowed us to enter into immensely emotional stories while also showering us with love and comfort—something that has sparked further conversation amongst our group that couldn't have happened in a classroom. 

It's also the simple encounters we have daily with shopkeepers inviting us to coffee, people buying us medical supplies and water when we fall in the street, and friendly faces who are genuine when they say they want to get to know us that make us realize that Bethlehem, and all of Palestine, is a place of incredibly kind people who teach us what hospitality and loving people well looks like. 

While many things we have seen and heard here have challenged us, we continue to seek truth and pray for peace. We are leaving in less than a month, and until then, we look forward to continuing to learn, serve, and see God at work by living side-by-side with our friends in Bethlehem who yearn for peace.

“Peace is not contemplation, but active hunger and thirst after righteousness.” -Abuna Elias Chacour 

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Jackie Westeren ’19 is an international relations major participating in Wheaton’s Student Ministry Partners project in Bethlehem this summer. Learn more about Student Ministry Partners on their website. Photo captions (from top): SMP participants cook a traditional Palestinian dish together; a view of Bethlehem; SMP students listen to Sami Adwan, co-director of the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME) and professor at Bethlehem University, deliver a lecture.

Beauty, Brokenness, and Hope in Cape Town

Posted June 29, 2016 by Latreece Mitchel M.A. '17

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Lukahya Education Center

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” -- Psalm 119:105 

As an intercultural studies student at Wheaton College Graduate School, my Wheaton education has taught me the importance of being prepared, getting myself outside of my comfort zone, and stretching myself. What I love about the intercultural studies program is that it gives me practical tools to use while doing cross-cultural ministry. 

This May, I was able to apply these skills while traveling to Cape Town, South Africa to take part in a short-term internship with a team of Angelos Biblical Institute missionaries from Fresno, California. Excited and eager to begin our journey partnering with local churches and day camps, we were warmly greeted by 20 of our brothers and sisters in Christ upon our arrival. Experiencing such a warm welcome from people who rarely knew us and had only heard about us immediately enhanced my expectations for our trip.

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In Cape Town we taught at several conferences held by local churches. We also led workshops about church ministries, volunteered at educational centers, planned for future conferences, and much more. Every day we would pack up in small cars and head to churches in South African townships where many people publicly admitted their fear of violence and corruption within their communities and ran away from us.

Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, and Samaro are townships where there is much poverty, crime, and brokenness. But when we entered the churches of these townships the people had so much faith and hope--hope in the promises of God. They praised and worship God even in extreme conditions. The pastors in the churches of the townships occupied small spaces and had no instruments or any of the things we sometimes think we “need” for church. Instead, they had Bibles and each other, and did not let their situation stop them from worshiping God.

This showed me the beauty of Cape Town displayed in brokenness. 

The beauty of Cape Town was displayed through the people and their generous hospitality. All of the churches and day-care centers we partnered with gave us a clear and sincere picture of what it means to have a “servant mentality.” 

While I experienced an abundance of cultural differences in Cape Town, one thing that remained the same across all cultures represented was the brokenness we all share as sinners. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” During my time in South Africa I saw the brokenness that exists in another country, but I was also able to see the hope that exists through faith in Jesus Christ. Being in Cape Town was not just about nurturing future Christian leaders. Instead, going to South Africa was about experiencing the love of God in a way that we never have before through beauty, brokenness, and hope.

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Latreece Michel M.A. ’17 is a participant in Wheaton’s Intercultural Studies Graduate School program and recipient of the William Hiram Bentley Award for Ministry to the African-American Community. To learn more about Intercultural Studies program, visit their website.

Photo Captions (from top): Pastor Roman gave his all for kids who did not have much by building them a school with his retirement savings called the Lukahya Education Center; Latreece served women who desire to learn, grow, and be encouraged in the word of God at a women's workshop in Khayelitsha; The A.B.I. team's first day of service in Cape Town. Below: Surprise! Latreece's boyfriend proposed at the airport when she returned home. She said yes!

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Wheaton in Washington

Posted June 22, 2016 by Kristen Hermes '17

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“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – President Barack Obama 

Each one of us desires to do something meaningful with our lives, something that will make a difference. We see the brokenness in the world and wonder what we can do that will make terrible situations better. While the goal of the Wheaton in Washington program was not to give students all of the answers to life’s hard questions, it did show students different ways in which they could work towards change in the world through various careers. 

The first two weeks of the program were spent in the classroom discussing topics of special concern, including the 2016 presidential election, the Syrian refugee crisis, mass incarceration, and religion in politics. During this time, we wrestled with the aforementioned topics and were forced to think more deeply about issues while hearing new perspectives from our fellow classmates. After our initial classroom sessions, we traveled to Washington D.C. to meet individuals who are actively involved in making a difference in social justice issues. 

One of the most exciting parts of the program was during the first week in D.C. when we were given a tour of the Pentagon. Being inside the Pentagon and talking with Wheaton alumnus Peter Cairns who works there was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I will not soon forget our Pentagon visit as it reminded me that Wheaton students and alumni go on to do extraordinary things. I would encourage anyone who desires to work in politics, or simply see how change actually can come out of government, to participate in the Wheaton in Washington Program. 

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Overall, Wheaton in Washington was special to me because I am a rising junior who is constantly thinking about how to make my future career meaningful. This experience allowed me to see all the different areas in which I can work in politics, and more importantly, how working in any of these political jobs can help create small but positive changes in the world. 

Kristen Hermes ’17 is a political science major and participant in the 2016 Wheaton in Washington program. To learn more about the program, visit Wheaton in Washington website

Photo Captions (from top): Wheaton in Washington participants Camila Moreno '19, Lauren Rowley '19, Laurel Nee '19, Amanda Wade '19, and Lydia Granger '19 enjoy a restful moment between meetings on the lawn of the Capitol building, photo credit Skyler Hein '19; Wheaton in Washington participants in front of the White House. Row 1 (l to r): Amanda Wade '19, Skyler Hein '19, Phil Kline '17, Madylin Reno '19, Emily Hillstrom '17, Lauren Rowley '19, Kristen Hermes '17, Emily Fromke '19, and Thea Boatwright '19. Row 2 (l to r): Laurel Nee '19, Gabriella Siefert '19, Lydia Granger '19, Will Lauderdale '19, David Criscione '18, and James Dingwall '18.

My Internship With Chick-Fil-A

Posted June 16, 2016 by Laura Jauch '16

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This summer is shaping up to be better than I ever could have expected. It all started last December, when I began preparing for internship interviews with Wheaton’s Center for Vocation and Career (CVC). They helped me put together my resume and rehearse the interview questions that landed me an internship with one of the most loved quick-service restaurants in the country: Chick-Fil-A. Internships are becoming more and more important for today’s college students and I couldn’t be more honored and excited to be part of such a fantastic and well-known organization. 

I have the privilege of working with Chick-Fil-A’s Information Technology department, helping them develop innovative enterprise solutions using Amazon Web Services. As a member of Chick-Fil-A’s well-developed internship program, I am gaining experience in technology initiatives, leadership, as well as in personal and team development. In fact, this year’s interns have already gone on a team-building retreat with WinShape Teams (a member of Chick-Fil-A’s nonprofit arm). 

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The experiences that accompany the internship speak volumes about the heart and humility of the company. We recently had the opportunity to eat dinner at Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy’s house, which included crazy activities like operating a full-sized excavator, if one so chose (pictured above). Our summer calendar is full of “Lunch and Learns”: informal gatherings where we get to hear from and get to know senior executives and key company leaders. Chick-Fil-A’s corporate campus in Atlanta includes access to an on-site fitness facility, outdoor running trails and, yes, free lunch every weekday. Seriously, this job is amazing. 

It is fulfilling to see the results of my Wheaton education being used to solve real, on-the-ground problems that have the potential to contribute to the company’s success. My classes at Wheaton provided me with the technical understanding and problem-solving skills I need to be successful in a corporate environment. Additionally, my professors and classmates have taught me how to communicate clearly and ask good questions so that I can work best alongside my supervisor and take full advantage of the rich opportunities Chick-Fil-A has to offer. I’m excited to grow not only technologically, but also as a leader and team player. 

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Laura Jauch ’16 is a computer science major interning in Chick-Fil-A’s Information Technology department this summer. Learn more about Wheaton’s Center for Vocation and Career on their website. 

Photo captions (from top): A welcome board on display at the Chick-Fil-A interns' WinShape Teams retreat; the excavator at Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy’s property; Laura at her internship desk.

From Wheaton to Israel and Greece: Wheaton in the Holy Lands

Posted June 9, 2016 by Henry Prinz '19, Valerie Ann Griffin '18

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For the past 40 years, Wheaton in the Holy Lands has sent students to explore their faith in its original setting in the Middle East. The six-week program sends 40 students to sacred sites in cities including Jerusalem, Galilee, Athens, and Rome. We (Henry and Valerie) chose to participate in this program this summer for the amazing opportunity to study the Bible with scholars who are thoroughly acquainted with the region. 

In preparation for our studies and travel abroad, we heard lectures from various professors on campus and got to know our team. In late May, we traveled to the Middle East. We just finished the Israel portion of our trip which was very rigorous but gave us a whole new perspective of the Bible. Our teachers were very experienced in engaging with Middle Eastern landscape and culture, and we absorbed much of their wisdom to carry home with us. 

One of our favorite memories of our Israel travels came in the desert of Negev where the children of Israel wandered for 40 years. While hiking through the treacherous terrain, we encountered a freshwater spring flowing out of a canyon. We then turned our eyes to the Psalms of David's joy in the refreshing springs of the Negev's living water. These kinds of experiences have helped us come to a better understanding of the narrative of scripture. 

Outside of class, we have explored the ancient and modern sections of Jerusalem. While have gotten to know a few people in the city and are sad to leave them behind, we are excited to move on to our next destination, Greece, where we will be spending two weeks learning about the New Testament and enjoying the Mediterranean Sea. We will finish our trip in Rome while we explore the Vatican, St. Peter's basilica, and eat unhealthy amounts of gelato. 

Learn more about Wheaton in the Holy Lands on their website.

Photo caption: Wheaton in the Holy Lands students explore a spring in the Negev wilderness.

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