Spiritual Life

The Fellowship of the Rope

Posted December 2, 2016 by Juan-Fernando León M.A. '17

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A historiography class reminded me why I fell in love with history. Though I’ve always liked it, I never knew history would hold my hand as I rediscovered myself. We often have well-rehearsed speeches about our dreams and decisions, but rarely do we pause to reevaluate the journey or reflect on progress. In our fast-paced society, it seems that we pause only to catch our breath.

Well, I am pausing; not only to catch my breath, but to remember. I am pausing by looking back at the memories made at Wheaton College alongside fellow students, faculty and staff in this intellectual adventure. One of my fondest memories occurred in a historiography class where the fellowship of the rope story appeared in an article we read. Bluntly put, the author declared that in order for the teacher to survive in us, the professor in us needed to die. The author expressed the difference between teachers and professors as an analogy of those between climbers and mountaineers. 

Climbers are driven by the thrill of summiting; they are constantly looking for the next peak to climb and the fastest way to do it. They take unnecessary risks and shortcuts to reach the top. On the academic mountain, a similar dynamic happens. Many of us climb the academic mountain for the sake of reaching the top and will do anything, risk everything, to achieve our goal. The zenith of our efforts is to be a tenured professor at the cost of fellowship, which results in isolation. 

Mountaineers, however, are driven by the fellowship that forms in climbing a mountain. They are not only looking to summit a peak but rather they are looking with whom to do it. Similarly, there are those of us, who in pursuing our academic careers, look for the fellowship that comes from listening and learning from each other’s stories, experiences and strengths. The zenith of our efforts is to be a teacher at the cost of our own self-aggrandized ambitions, which results in fellowship.

The challenge for me was rediscovering who I wanted to be—a climber or a mountaineer; a professor or a teacher. I knew I was interested in history but was uncertain as to what exactly I wanted to do. However one thing became clear: history is best studied in fellowship. Poor history happens in isolation.

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Let me explain this in mountaineer parlance. For mountaineers, the fellowship of the rope embodies an ideal—a nostalgic image—of a time during which mountain climbers relied on one another more than on gear. Despite ever-improving gear, the rope has remained central. Because the rope can pull, hold, and link together climbers of any experience as they journey up a mountain, it can also be lethal. When inexperienced climbers slip, the rope harnesses the experience of expert climbers in order to avert the fall. At the times when mountaineers slip, the same rope has the ability to take the whole group down. 

This is an important reminder not only as I continue to ponder on the type of teacher I want to be, but more so, as I witness the fellowship of the rope as an intrinsic method to study history in graduate school. The words we use to write history are the ropes that pull, hold, and link us together as students of history. Ropes are to mountaineers what words are to historians. When we give voice to the voiceless and the marginalized, we are binding ourselves together with their struggles as we communicate their stories. History is about learning in fellowship with those around us and with those who came before us. When we study history, we are not only entering a foreign land—we are entering a fellowship that exceeds time and space; a fellowship that prevents us from being chronological snobs. In fellowship, we learn about ourselves and others. In fellowship, isolation disintegrates.  

The historiography class, and those in it, taught me that the climber in me needed to die if I ever wanted to see the mountaineer in me become part of the larger fellowship of learners. Here at Wheaton College I am learning alongside peers, faculty, and staff how to be an intellectual mountaineer. So friends, if you are climber, consider the mountaineer. If you’re already a mountaineer, rejoice in the fellowship of the rope. 

Juan-Fernando León M.A. ’17 is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in history of Christianity. Photo captions (top to bottom): Juan-Fernando hiking; Juan-Fernando with Dr. Jennifer McNutt and fellow graduate students and friends at the movies together.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect w/ Wheaton College Graduate School Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Confronting Identity Through Traditional Dance

Posted November 18, 2016 by Serena Suh '18

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serena-suhIt is the night of the talent show. Over the past three months, I had probably practiced every second of my dance more times than the hours I’d slept this semester. The emcees call my name. I walk out and take my place on stage. With the audience, I watch a short clip of a young girl and her father in traditional Korean dress prancing merrily down a dirt path. It is a scene from Spirit’s Homecoming (귀향), a film dedicated to comfort women during the Japanese occupation in Korea. Although I am two generations removed from the colonial experience, the memory of terror and injustice still remains in painfully striking ways. I am a 1.5 generation Korean American (meaning I was born in Korea but moved to the states at a very young age), and therefore face the dilemma of belonging to Korea or the United States, yet I still feel a strange sense of familiarity to this history. 

This—Korea’s story of pain and resilience, my story as a Korean American—is the story that I wanted to convey at the talent show. 

However, it was not always so rosy for the few months preceding the show. There were multiple times when I doubted my performance. You see, Asian Americans have a history of being seen as an “other” in the United States. It has been manifested in so many ways throughout history. Especially as a person who has called the States my home, this is hurtful. The question arose: am I just perpetuating the othering experienced by so many Asian immigrants? Will my dance be received well by the audience? While talent show was a very fun experience, it also forced me to confront the questions of identity that I never really had before. In the end, I was able to perform that night with a calm heart. However, it was only through the conversations with different students, staff, and faculty that I confidently walked onto stage. Fellow students encouraged me to be confident and cheered me on as I spent hours in the dance studio; faculty and staff were affirming and comforting, reminding me that what I believe and who I am should be embraced. 

Although sometimes stressful, this experience has reminded me why I am still excited to be at Wheaton College. There are so many people here that encourage, stretch, and grow me in ways that I cannot imagine happening anywhere else. And so, inspired not only by the video of the Korean father and daughter, but also by the amazing support of my friends at Wheaton, I danced. 

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Serena Suh ’18 is a philosophy (integrated anthropology) and international relations double major at Wheaton. Photo captions (top to bottom): Serena performing a traditional fan dance at the 2016 Wheaton Talent Show; Serena and fellow Mac 4 floormates at the 2016 President's Ball.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Finding Beauty in Form and Function: the Applied Health Science Major at Wheaton

Posted November 9, 2016 by Phil Bagley '17

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Coming into Wheaton, I was initially a bit unsure about which major to choose. However, I ultimately chose to pursue a major in Applied Health Science because I did not have my sights set on a specific career (though I was interested in science) and wanted a major that I could take in a variety of directions. What initially caught my attention about it was the diversity of subject matter and the direct applicability built into the major, and I have not been disappointed. 

There has been so much to be thankful for in studying the sciences at Wheaton. I have personally been blessed by the instruction of professors who are both deeply rooted in their faith and established in their field. From these professors I have not only learned the material, but also lessons for life. Probably my favorite example of this occurred in Human Anatomy when Dr. Townsend encouraged us to pray for the families of the cadavers who were undergoing an extended time of mourning between the death and funeral of their loved ones while they allowed us to interactively study the human body. This challenged me and my peers to look beyond our own studies and back to the good of others. 

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My advice for those who intend to or are already involved in the sciences at Wheaton is to maintain a sense of wonder. Allow your classes to give you an opportunity to truly appreciate God as the Creator. It can be easy to lose perspective when times are stressful, but if you work to consistently appreciate the opportunity that you have and the beauty in the form and function of the human body, you will be well on your way to making the most of your time here. Staying positive and–above all–thankful will go a long way towards maintaining not only the best frame of mind for learning, but also towards using your knowledge and gifts to the glory of God. 

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Phil Bagley ’17 is a senior studying applied health science, and has also participated in crew and served as an RA in Traber and Evans Hall. Click here to learn more about the sciences at Wheaton. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now. Photo captions (top to bottom): Phil and partners using ultrasound technology in the physiology lab; Evans Hall residence assistants; Phil and members of Wheaton crew.

How Wheaton College Graduate School is Preparing Me to Work in Student Development

Posted October 12, 2016 by Sarah Sagredo '12, M.A. '18

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My decision to apply to Wheaton College Graduate School's Christian Formation and Ministry – Student Development program was heavily influenced by my time living in the dorms and serving as a Resident Assistant as an undergraduate student at Wheaton. Being involved in Residence Life provided me the opportunity to take a broader look into the many ways students are supported outside the classroom. That year I started to consider what it might look like to work in the field higher education in a role where I would be able to walk alongside students during their college experience. 

While I looked into some other schools to continue my education, returning to my alma mater was my first choice. I knew that I would be receiving the highest quality education from professors who cared just as much about my personal and spiritual growth as my educational and professional development. Another important draw was the opportunity I would have to apply for an assistantship where I could gain practical skills and work experience while still in school. 

This year I have the great privilege to serve as the Graduate Student Assistant for the International Student Programs Office. We work to understand and value the unique needs of undergraduate international and third culture students and guide them to holistic success and meaningful engagement with the broader campus community. My primary role this year is to serve as the advisor for Ladder, one of our office’s student organizations. Ladder is a group of 16 international and third culture students who are making intentional connections with their first-year peers to help support them through their transition to Wheaton College. 

What I love most about my work in ISP is the opportunity to build relationships with the truly amazing students who are involved in our office. Though they come from all corners of the globe, their differences do not divide them. Instead, they celebrate the diverse ways that God made them and continues to shape them. They challenge me with their faith, especially their commitment to prayer. Every day they demonstrate to me what it means to be the body of Christ.

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Sarah Sagredo '12, M.A. '18 was a biblical studies major at Wheaton and is now a graduate student in the Christian Formation and Ministry – Student Development program. Photo captions (top to bottom): Ladder leaders for 2016-17; Ladder leaders "hanging out" during fall retreat.

Why I Came to Wheaton

Posted October 7, 2016 by Rebecca Carlson '20

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To be honest, Wheaton wasn’t even on my radar when I began to look at colleges. I knew quite a few Wheaton graduates and loved their stories, yet I never considered that Wheaton might be the place for me. When I had crossed off every school from my “prospective list,” Wheaton began to frequently pop up. I would randomly meet people–for example, a new intern at my church–who went there or knew people who went there. I felt prompted to visit.


Immediately upon arrival at Wheaton during my first campus visit in October 2015, I found a loving community, a wonderful tour guide and overnight host, and fantastic classes. Wheaton’s motto, “For Christ and His Kingdom,” spoke to me and what I want my life mission to be. I immediately got the impression that, unlike many other colleges, Wheaton stands behind its faith. Its motto impacts all aspects of life. I knew the search was over. I felt like I belonged, and knew Wheaton was a school where I would be academically challenged and where I could be honest about my religious struggles yet grow fiercely in my faith.

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And now I’m here. I’m almost two months into my freshman year, and I still can’t believe it. Wheaton is incredible. As a public high school graduate, I am still constantly amazed that, through the liberal arts curriculum, I am discussing how biology, elementary education, Spanish, and many other topics are “For Christ and His Kingdom.” There are hard days through the transition that come with moving 15 hours away from home, yet I couldn’t ask for a better community. My floor is incredible, my professors truly want to get to know me and care about my life, and God is good. Everyone here is cheering for one another.

My advice to any prospective students: Trust in God, He knows where you need to go. I hope and pray that Wheaton is the place that He is leading you to, because this is a beautiful place that will support you, love you, and challenge you to lean on the Lord as you grow into the person He created you to be. However, if He is leading you elsewhere, I pray that you will lean on Him throughout your first year because He is our firm foundation.

Blessings.

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Rebecca Carlson ’20 is an elementary education major with an ESL endorsement. To learn more about Wheaton and to apply, visit the undergraduate admissions website. Photo captions (top to bottom): Rebecca’s cabin with Dr. Keith Johnson during the Wheaton Passage program; Rebecca with floormates from Fischer Hall on a bro/sis trip to Chicago; Rebecca and her parents during Orientation Week.

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