Posted July 8, 2015 by
Tags: Spiritual Life My Wheaton Global and Experiential Learning
Youth Hostel Ministry: My Passion for Global Cities
Choosing to participate in Youth Hostel Ministry, or "YHM," has proven to be a wise decision for many more reasons than I expected. YHM appeared to be a program that would allow me to travel, practice my Spanish, and get outside of my comfort zone with my fellow travelers in Europe. Though those things have all proven to be true, the crux of my learning has been within my heart: toward how I view the world and what God wants to do with me for His Kingdom.
Traveling through Paris was a time of frustration for me, as my team struggled to meet other travelers in our hostel. This resulted in discouragement for our team. I was joyful to be in a large city, but there was something about Paris that shook me the wrong way: The city lacked spirituality. I saw a dark place, bustling with Parisians and tourists interacting in a mundane, empty way. Seeing Notre Dame felt like a tourist destination rather than a beautiful cathedral sharing the beauty and love of our God. Parisians of all classes riding the metro with distressed, sad looks on their faces allowed me to see the desperate need for the Gospel in this city.
This darkness is not unique to Paris, though—many cities around Europe, and the world, are craving hope and truth in their lives. My journey, I've learned, begins with studying the development and problems of cities. I hope this equips me with a deeper understanding of such cities, transforming my discouragement into deliverance of His love.
In Barcelona, our team saw an example of a lack of respect for human dignity. My team and I were in a restaurant in Barcelona when I witnessed deep, cruel racism involving Spaniard patrons and some Asian employees. After our team chatted with the employees, we learned they chose not to kick the unruly men out because then they would not earn enough money for the day. This is what they deal with on a daily basis in order to make a living in a place they should be able to call home, a place that should be a comfortable work environment. These issues are magnified in cities as a result of the racial diversity cities typically retain.
As a result of my experiences in these European cities, my passion for urban environments has grown. It is clear that this is an area of study I wish to pursue further during my time at Wheaton. As I prepare to end my time with YHM and begin my program with Wheaton in Chicago this fall, God gives me both personal and global perspectives: He continues to ignite my fascination and passion for urban studies, while unveiling to me the united and broken urban communities throughout the world.
Szeliga ’17 is a junior studying international relations and urban studies who took part in Wheaton’s Youth Hostel Ministries program in Europe this summer. Photos (from top): Ann's YHM team in Amsterdam (left to right): Ann Szeliga '17, Emily Trowbridge '16, Ari Kim '16, Sara King '18, Lexi Carlson '17; A stone fountain in Notre Dame, Paris reads in Spanish, "I am the way that seeks travelers." Photo credits: Learn more about YHM on their website, and tell us about your summer experiences abroad using the hashtag #MyWheaton.