Leading worship at Wheaton has been by far my most challenging and most rewarding experience during all of college. Challenging, because there is nothing that forces you to grow more than being in leadership of other leaders. And rewarding, because I have the privilege of seeing lives radically transformed—though, most often, it tends to be my own.
Since my high school days in Tokyo, Japan, my identity had always been wrapped up in being “the worship leader guy.” My reputation more or less consisted of being an “extra-spiritual,” serious, rule-following musician, and I tried to live up to those expectations for quite some time. Coming off of that intense period of ministry, I did everything in my ability to flee from this unhealthy identity. I entered Wheaton determined to avoid that label. The strategy of escape from leadership worked—well, for a total of three days!
Upon arriving at HoneyRock for the Wheaton Passage program, I was asked to sing for the retreat’s multi-lingual, international worship service that occurred one of the first days, and since that day God has persistently reeled me in to be a part of his work on Wheaton’s campus.
Our Freshman Class Council selected Whitney Hall '15 and I to co-lead the freshman class worship team in September 2011. Since then, our heart for authentic worship on our campus has exponentially grown with each passing year. Freshman class leader turned to sophomore class leader, and sophomore class leader turned to junior class leader. Much of our original band stuck together through the years, developing a fun and loving camaraderie that now gets me up in the mornings.
Last spring, Whitney and I were selected by the Chaplain’s Office to be the Chapel Band Leaders for the whole student body, responsible for working with Student Chaplains in planning All-School Communion and the musical program to many Chapel worship services throughout the year.
You are likely to find worship at Wheaton to be profoundly different than most other Christian environments you might find yourself. This school is a hub and launching pad for young believers across a wide array of denominations, theological backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures populated predominantly by 18 – 23 year olds.
Wheaton, like any real community of people, is messy. We make mistakes, we compete, we argue, and we drift from God’s call to be the Church. The main thing that changes from season to season in our community is not how impressed we are by our accomplishments, but how aware we are of our messiness. This conviction, brought about by the good news of Jesus Christ, propels us to worship God with a sincerity that shatters strongholds and heals diseases. That brokenness is made beautiful.
Leading worship at Wheaton has taught me how essential it is for any leader to become profoundly aware of their own brokenness and need for grace; and from there we invite our community into that messy place to experience the wonders of God’s love and power poured out for His desperate yet hopeful people.
Andrew Sedlacek '15 is a senior studying interpersonal communication. Photos (above): Andrew and the 2014-15 chapel band leading worship at All-School Communion in Edman Chapel, October 2014. Photo credits: Whitney Bauck '15.
For Kendall Eitreim ’15, it’s hard to imagine what her undergrad life would have looked like without the Wheaton women varsity soccer team. “Being on the team has 100 percent completely shaped my Wheaton experience,” Eitreim says.
While she has been playing soccer since she was two, she senses a real difference playing on a team made up of Christian peers.
“God has been so faithful in using people on the team, using the coaches… to be instrumental and encouraging. And it’s fun to do life alongside the girls.”
Eitreim believes that living together and offering friendship and support off the field allows the team to work better together once their cleats hit the turf.
Though she knew from day one that she wanted to be a communication major, Eitreim enjoys taking classes from both inside and outside the department that she believes will prepare her for life beyond Wheaton.
“I just take those classes because I enjoy them and because the professors are wonderful.”
The unifying thread that connects Eitreim’s life as a student and an athlete is the way people at Wheaton—whether in classes or in the locker room—seek to emulate Christ in their daily lives.
“There are people I’ve been surprised by again and again who have really shown the love of Christ ... There’s something about that that I think is very unique to Wheaton.”
Kendall Eitreim ’16 is a communication major. Learn more about Wheaton soccer on the Wheaton Thunder website, Twitter @Wheaton_Thunder, and Instagram @Wheaton_Thunder.
The tiki torches’ flickering light reflected off each face, illuminating them, as we weaved through the woods and up HoneyRock’s ski hill. At the top, I gathered with about 150 of my fellow freshmen around a giant bonfire. Its sparks leaped upward to the vast Wisconsin night sky, beckoning my eyes to follow. The stars were magnificent. We proceeded to lift our voices up to the Creator of those very stars, and then participated in a revitalizing word of prayer.
This was the beginning of our Passage into the Wheaton community.
The Camp Track of Wheaton’s Northwoods Passage Program enhanced my transition into college in many ways. I will focus on one: Friendship.
After that large group gathering on ski hill, we split into our cabins. Initially, I viewed my cabin as a motley group. We were introverted and extroverted individuals, morning people and not-exactly-morning people, athletic and artsy people from Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Illinois, and New Jersey.
We were “Cabin 12.”
To my surprise and pleasure, we overcame our differences quite naturally and started building deep relationships with each other. We became very much like a family. We ate meals together, overcame challenge course activities together, camped together, served together, shared our life stories together, and grew in Christ together.
These friendships did not end at HoneyRock. We still hang out together, eat meals together, and encourage each other together on Wheaton’s campus. I am truly blessed.
In retrospect, I really admire the way Camp Track emphasizes quality of relationships within cabins rather than quantity of relationships within the track. I know Cabin 12 will have each other’s backs during our entire time at Wheaton and beyond. Despite this, many of the people I met during Passage are some of my close friends now. I met Lincoln, who I now serve with on Student Government, during Passage. I met Charissa, a wonderful floormate, during Passage.
Even though I did not become close friends with everyone I met at Camp Track, it is such a blessing to recognize so many familiar faces and know so many names of my fellow classmates around campus. What really amazes me is that even though there are no tiki torches here on campus, their faces still seem illuminated to me. I believe at least part of that is because of our shared Passage experience, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Read more about HoneyRock’s Passage program and new, year-long Vanguard program. Photos (above): Brielle Lisa ’18 with members of Cabin 12 at HoneyRock Passage, August 2014.
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.