Sarah Herning '19

Sarah Herning '19

Interdisciplinary Studies Program Graduate 

Integrated Disciplinary Areas: Anthropology + Biblical & Theological Studies + Human Needs & Global Resources

What is your current role?

I am an Associate Director at Juvenile Justice Ministry in the Chicago Area.

What was the topic of your final project?

I was focusing on the problem of child soldier use, and wound up focusing on truth-telling and peace-building practices as a way to prevent child soldier use and bring restoration in the lives of former child soldiers.

Why did you choose the IDS major at Wheaton?

I chose IDS because I felt that no one major could encompass the things that I felt God was calling me to pursue, and the individuality and freedom that IDS offers compelled me to pursue this degree.

What benefits resulted from your participation in the IDS program?

The IDS program deeply strengthened my thought processes, and gave me freedom to explore what it means to live as ambassadors of Christ in a violent world in a way that has served me well in the years after graduation and will serve me well for the rest of my life.

How did Wheaton's IDS program prepare you for your current work?

My life has taken an unexpected turn in the past year. For the past 10 years of my life, I thought that I would be working overseas. Yet, in the past year, I've sensed God calling me to stay in Chicago to pursue work with Juvenile Justice Ministry (part of Youth for Christ), making lifelong followers of Jesus among incarcerated teens and (hopefully, Godwilling and government permitting) helping them to transition back to their communities. It's amazing how much God can prepare us for something that we don't even know about.

My entire IDS project focused on truth-telling and peace-building with former child soldiers. When I chose this theme, I did not know that I would be working with child soldiers of a different sort in my own city of Chicago. Yet God knew what I would be doing, and as I looked for His direction for my major, He led me to EXACTLY the disciplines I would need to prepare me for this work. America desperately needs leaders who are willing to engage in truth-telling and peace-building.

I pulled out my final project last week reflecting on these things, and found something interesting at the end. I struggled to know how to end such an ambitious project; how do you find "closure" for a piece of writing on a topic so profound, messy, and sacred? I chose to write about truth-telling and peace-building at home, in our own communities, and told stories about things I had witnessed while volunteering with incarcerated youth. It took a year, but it looks like I'm taking my own advice, and beginning these practices in my own community first.

Honestly, after I graduated from the IDS program, for a year I felt lost and confused. I was substitute teaching in a high school. I was wondering if my major was completely useless. I was seeking God's direction and trusting that in the Kingdom nothing is wasted. Now, I can see EXACTLY why He led me to choose IDS and how He used my program of study to prepare me for the work I'm undertaking now in the juvenile justice system. If I had the chance to go back and do it again, I would ABSOLUTELY choose IDS! It was the best possible choice I could have made academically while at Wheaton.

What would you say to someone who is considering the IDS major?

Pray about it and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you. God knows what we don't know, so follow His promptings whether or not they make sense in the moment. Listen to people in your life who know you, know God, and have more experience. Follow your questions. What compels your heart and mind? What are you curious about? Follow those leads. I think that, like Job, like Jacob, we often meet God in our wrestling and our questions. That wrestling is hard work, but God also blesses those who struggle. If you're going to do IDS, get ready to struggle—but it's going to be well worth your effort. You won't come out the same.