At the start of this summer, I had the privilege of traveling with Wheaton in the Holy Lands for three weeks in Israel, a week in Greece, a week in Turkey, and a week in Italy (this year was the program's 42nd annual trip abroad). The classes I took were with professors in Wheaton’s bible and theology department, but I myself am not a theology major—I study history and international relations.
While I loved every minute of visiting churches and historical ruins, our visit to Jerusalem—one of the most relevant cities in the world with regard to International Relations—was my chance to engage with the sites of the modern-day State of Israel.
As a student of history, I firmly believe that to understand anything about current affairs, one must understand the history behind them—too often, onlookers try and jump in and offer a solution without actually understanding the underlying historical roots behind the conflict. Thanks to classes we took with the Shalom Hartman Institute, we got the chance to engage with the culture, history, and identity of the Jewish Israeli community. Marci Lenk, a scholar at the institute, gave us an introduction to Jewish life from the past couple of centuries.
These lectures helped pieces of the puzzle begin to come together for me. Suddenly, I understood what a Kibbutz was, why the streets were empty on Saturdays, and the explanation behind the variants of Jewish clothing. By learning about the past, we were able to better understand the present.
Not only did we engage with Judaism on a historical level, but the Institute also allowed us to engage with Judaism on a cultural level. For example, Dr. Lenk graciously hosted us for a Shabbat dinner. By participating with her, we were taking part in a tradition that has been practiced every Friday for thousands of years.
As Shabbat continued, Dr. Lenk invited us to Synagogue for a Shabbat service. We were able to see for ourselves the differences and similarities in which both Christians and Jews worship. I was able to observe and engage with a Jewish community at large. The entire experience is not really something I can even put into words.
The only thing I can say is I doubt that I will ever have the chance to witness and engage Jewish culture in that way again. The Shalom Hartman Institute gave me invaluable exposure—an integral part of my understanding of Jewish culture and identity—that will help me better understand the past, present, and future. No amount of books I have read, classes I have taken, or lectures I have heard could have taught me what I learned from the experience of engaging with the Jewish community of Jerusalem.
Elena Miles ’15 is a senior studying history and international relations. Photo credits from top: Gini Pera ’16 takes a study break in Jerusalem from the roof of the Jerusalem University College campus; Students celebrate after they conquer a hike to a ridge in the Judean Wilderness between Jerusalem and Jericho.
In September 2012, a group of Wheaton professors, administrators, and students began thinking about ways to conjoin a number of seemingly disparate topics: history, leadership, ethics, and Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, to name a few.
What resulted was “Authority, Action, Ethics: Ethiopia,” (A.A.E), an annual program for 20 students, featuring: (1) a semester-long, interdisciplinary course consisting of a whirlwind tour of Ethiopian history, with sizeable chunks of ethics and theology thrown in, and (2) an intensive seventeen-day visit to four Ethiopian cities, where we engaged everyone and everything from African Union delegates to orphaned street children; from underground monolithic Orthodox churches to chic Ethiopian jazz clubs. They let me join the team last year, and this is what I learned:
- Wheaton is a moldable institution. Our team underwent a complex 12-month process of convincing the College to insure student travel to Ethiopia, a country regarded by certain U.S. State Department officials as a “risky” place to be. After thoroughly researching the situation and lobbying for permission, Wheaton’s GEL department removed Ethiopia from the “no-travel” list. This process showed me that determination over an extended period of time can lead to minor (but important) institutional changes.
- Wheaton professors are extremely devoted people. Many of my papers written for the A.A.E course were met with handwritten comments that exceeded the length of my paper itself. I would respond to these comments via email, and my professor would reply at length before the next class period even began. In other words, my once-a-week class quickly morphed into a nonstop educational dialogue between teacher and student, and I had to push myself just to keep up. These conversations were usually perplexing and always involved a moral dimension, just as a liberal arts class should.
- People are multilayered and cannot be fully understood apart from their society’s history. Take Tsedale Lemma, for example. Tsedale is the editor-in-chief of Addis Standard magazine, a respected political publication based in Ethiopia’s capital. In a Q&A with our group, she explained two discouraging events of politicized violence and the wrongful imprisonment of journalists, the former following the 2005 national elections and the latter just days before we arrived in Ethiopia. Having previously studied examples of the aversion to political dissent found among Ethiopian leaders from Zara Yaqob to Haile Selassie, our class had a solid historical framework in which to situate Tsedale’s stories. “Nothing gives you security here,” she confessed, “but there are things that give you hope.”
Analogically, one might say the same of A.A.E itself.
David Robinson ’15 is a senior studying philosophy and French. Pictured at top: Wheaton’s A.A.E class traveling abroad, summer 2014; Middle: A.A.E’s CE 330 Intercultural Seminar class meets, spring 2014; Above (l to r): A.A.E’s leadership team on a scouting trip, summer 2013: Professor Andrew DeCort, course instructor and Ph.D. candidate at University of Chicago; Dr. Steve Ivester, program director and dean for student engagement; David Robinson ’15; Dan Haase, chief curriculum coordinator who designed the course syllabus and led the 3-day debrief at the end of our trip; Hailu, Ethiopian taxi driver; and Roger Sandberg, logistics coordinator, former Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) professor, expert in international disaster response.
Initially, I applied to become a Youth Hostel Ministries team member at Wheaton thinking it would “complete me” by forcing me out of my comfort zone into great conversations all around Europe that would magically strengthen my faith and make me bolder. That wasn’t at all what I experienced during my summer “vacation,” however—I instead found myself working through trying circumstances and practicing spiritual disciplines that broke me to pieces, trusting they would ultimately bear fruit.
While YHM was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, it was also one of the most beautiful and rewarding of my adventures to date.
The 200-mile “spiritual pilgrimage” our team took on El Camino de Santiago was a precursor to five weeks of work at The Pilgrim House welcome center in Santiago, Spain (a hostel started by Nate '97 and Faith Wen Walter ’97, two Wheaton College alumni). Throughout our journey on El Camino, we walked as a team, but in many ways had to learn what it meant to be individual pilgrims.
I learned throughout this time how to take the loneliness I occasionally felt and turn it into a time of solitude in the presence of the Lord. I learned that the pain of walking hundreds of miles with blisters on my feet kept me conscious and aware, and in the moments I had no strength left of my own, it was only God who could get me where I was headed. He provided exactly what I needed to make it through each moment, whether it be a good conversation, kindness, or the majesty in His creation.
Working with Nate and Faith at Pilgrim House in Santiago, I learned there’s beauty in God’s timing that comes from devoting yourself to following Him. Faith told us in their kitchen one evening that if they had known 10 years ago how long it would take to finally open Pilgrim House, they might never have begun. In the same way, had I known how difficult the Camino (let alone the rest of the summer) would be, I might not have had the desire to begin the journey. But God, just as He did with Nate and Faith, provided for me, and was with me every step of the way.
Instead of YHM “completing” me, I came back in pieces. In the same way my Camino shell (a symbol worn around your backpack to signify your participation on the El Camino pilgrimage) came back broken after our two-week hike, so too was I broken and scattered. My YHM journey wasn’t easy, but it inspired me to pursue the passions God has placed on my heart more than ever. On the pilgrim road, I realized my journey is far from over, and I want nothing less than to walk it well. I desire a “Buen Camino,” and I encourage everyone to consider a program like YHM during their time at Wheaton.
Alley Kammer ’16 is a junior studying interpersonal communication with a Spanish minor. She participated in Wheaton’s Youth Hostel Ministries program this summer. Top: Alley and Nico Lasta ’15 on El Camino de Santiago; Above (l to r): Pilgrim House founder Nate Walter ’97, YHM team members Luke Rynbrandt '16, Brooke Thompson '14, Nico Lasta '15, Alley Kammer ’16, and Pilgrim House co-founder Faith Wen Walter ’97. Read more about the Pilgrim House in Wheaton Magazine.
When I accepted a summer internship at Project World Impact (PWI), I was grossly unaware of what working for a start-up company entailed. Although I had networked with alumni for connections, applied for internships online, and loitered around Wheaton's career development center for months, the opportunity to work at PWI actually came from a friend—PWI’s Vice President Grant Hensel, a senior at Wheaton.
Alongside founder Chris Lesner (a Taylor University graduate of 2013), we are building Project World Impact. PWI is a marketing company and social search engine run by 20-somethings. No, you didn’t read that wrong—my bosses are 21.
Our site is like a Facebook made exclusively for nonprofits, except instead of searching for a long-lost-friend’s name, you search for nonprofits by cause and by location. You can see profiles of these organizations complete with photos, videos, and written information about the work they do, as well as donor, staff, and volunteer testimonials.
Although our work seldom looks the same day-to-day, we begin each morning with a devotional at our office. After a team meeting and huddle (yes, it is as fun as it sounds to collaborate with people your age), it’s time to work. From calling nonprofits to writing content for the website, working on social media posts to building websites and apps, our team is often engaged in more than one project.
PWI employed 19 Wheaton students this summer, so I get to work alongside many of my peers. They also have several full-time staff members who are Wheaton grads. It’s not a myth that a liberal arts education is a valuable and versatile tool—PWI is a testament to its success in preparing students for meaningful, varied careers.
Because our work is multi-faceted and often changing, I am grateful for the diverse coursework and varied extracurricular activities I’ve pursued at Wheaton. While I have relied heavily on my International Relations work (my international politics and economic growth and development classes have given me a unique lens for my research for the educational portion of our website), I have also used my journalism experience with the Wheaton Record, and my work in calling alumni with Wheaton Phonathon. These activities have given me a valuable skill set to use to build PWI.
Although I didn’t know what working for a start-up company would entail, I have loved my experience at PWI and will cling to the knowledge that, as is true for most things, you will get as much out of an internship as you are willing to put in it. Stay tuned for the rest of Project World Impact’s story to be written—we currently have over 3,000 nonprofits signed up to build profiles, and will be launching our website soon.
Anna Morris is Project World Impact’s director of content development, and is a junior at Wheaton studying international relations and French. Middle photo: A morning devotional, led by Bill Lesner, in Adams Hall; Above: PWI’s sales team celebrates after hitting their mid-summer sales goal of 2,000 confirmed nonprofits.
Welcome back, Wheaton!
Student feelings about the new school year are somewhat of a quarry. You’ve got the exhausted-from-summer pebbles, the I-don’t-want-to-start-studying-yet-but-miss-my-friends stones, the eager-to-boast-my-summer-adventure rocks, and the been-waiting-to-get-back-since-May boulders. Or maybe you’re a new student, and, well, you’re not sure what to feel.
Regardless, it’s a special time for all of us—a chance to be formed together as the worshipping body of Christ and to experience His goodness, provision, and mercies anew!
As part of this year’s Orientation Committee, I’m excited and expectant to see the ways the living Lord will use his already existing “wall” of Wheaton students to participate in His faithfulness to new students. With the combined effort of many, Orientation Week should register as a robust invitation and celebration. It’s a chance to say, "We, the returning students, are eager to accept you into this family, and are excited to serve you. Welcome to a place marked with the love and joy of Christ."
New students, here are some O-Week pointers for ya:
- Be ready for the same questions, but ask new and different ones. People want to get to know you, so questions like “Where are you from? What’s your major?” are to be expected. Instead, ask a random question, like “What excites you most about dorm life?”
- Embrace the rhythm of O-Week. The days will be full, and you’ll feel your head expanding with new info. Be excited, thankful, and enjoy!
- Take the initiative. The easiest way to meet people is through shared experience. Join a volleyball game, challenge someone to Ping-Pong, walk around downtown Wheaton, or compete in the O-Week Scavenger Hunt.
- Pride yourself on a good “Goodbye.” Don’t shy away from telling your parents you’ll miss them and you love them. You might as well go all out—heck, make it a Hallmark moment.
- Screenshot or Instagram a significant moment. This way, when someone asks about O-Week (which will happen), you have a concrete example to sum up the experience. Don’t forget to use the hashtags #mywheaton and #woweek14.
This year’s theme for Orientation Week is a powerful one: I AM THAT STONE. It comes from 1 Peter 2:4-5, in which Peter constructs a detailed metaphor out of a very common object: a stone. Christians, as “living stones, [being] built into a spiritual house,” are built upon the living Stone—which is Christ, the cornerstone. Thus, our fellowship is in the fellowship of Christ.
As each of us are called to form “a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ,” we should realize that living together is about standing upon the foundation of grace given to us by Christ. As such, a community of grace should always lead us to repentance to God and confession with others. Where grace is lived out, there is abundant life!
A community of grace a worthwhile challenge. And with Christ at the center, I am eager to see the Lord create a “joyful firmness” among Wheaton students this year!
Michael Daugherty ’15 is the 2014 Orientation Committee Student Director. A senior from Marion, Indiana, he’s graduating with a degree in Anthropology under the Pre-Medicine tract. He hopes to go into the field of medicine and global health. Top: Students gather at 2013 orientation; Above: Wheaton’s 2014 Orientation Committee. Don't forget to share your orientation memories with the Wheaton family on social media using hashtags #mywheaton and #woweek14!