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summer of service Northwestern College - 2021

Let the redeemed of the lord tell their story. (Psalm 107:2)

EVERY SUMMER SINCE 1981, around 20 Northwestern College students have spent 6 to 10 weeks serving as short-term missionaries through Summer of Service (SOS). They have served on six continents and in around 90 countries. Students raise the money themselves to cover transportation, room and board, and program expenses, mostly from family, friends, their home churches and on-campus service projects.

They have traveled to countries like Albania, Bolivia, Fiji, Ghana, Haiti, India, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Peru, Romania and Uganda to serve with mission partners including the Luke Society, Pioneers, Wycliffe and the Reformed Church in America. They have worked in churches, hospitals, orphanages, schools and refugee centers; taught vacation Bible school and English as a second language; and served in sports and hospitality ministries. They have milked yak, helped deliver babies and supported victims of sex trafficking. Summer of Service alumni often serve as missionaries after graduation: some for a week or a month, others for a lifetime.

Christians from around the world welcome Northwestern students into the action of their ongoing ministries. The students return home with questions about God and the world and stories of the surprising ways the Holy Spirit has transformed their hearts and minds. They say confidently that Christ is, indeed, at work in the world, and they're eager to discover what God wants them to do next.

Alayna Bakke

Many Hands for Haiti

Alayna partnered with Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H), an organization that provides community resources for physical and spiritual growth. In addition to supporting MH4H staff and coordinating their summer vacation Bible school program, Alayna and her teammates worked alongside Haitian workers to pour a concrete floor, paint a house and plant corn.

Going the extra mile

The Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H) team have a saying, “We go an inch wide, mile deep.” As the organization grows and begins to shift its focus from short-term relief to long-term sustainability, all their programs seek to support each other in viable ways. MH4H hopes to educate their partners to recognize the tension between short-term relief and long-term development, especially when they come serve alongside this community. The organization needs continuous financial and prayerful support from the church, not just during a short-term mission experience.

Power of surrender

The daily challenges lived out by the beautiful people of Haiti are beyond my level of understanding. Even as I sat on the dirt floor of their tin-roofed homes, my mind couldn’t begin to comprehend the fear, uncertainty and suffering they face. Yet day after day, they say things like “God bless you” and “Lord willing …” They know who is in control of their lives. They can’t put their trust in money, success, family or anything else. All they have is God. Living in the U.S., we have so many other things competing for what only God can fill.

Cultivating gratitude

Toward the end of our trip, Christi Gabhart, the director of ministry, encouraged us by saying that whenever she goes back to the U.S. to visit family, she’s never bitter. “Bitterness will get you nowhere, but thankfulness will.” This was very encouraging to us as we prepared our hearts and minds to return home. While we were heartbroken over the hurt we experienced in Haiti, Christi reminded us that dwelling on guilt will get us nowhere. It’s what we do with our heartbreak that matters.

PRAY FOR UNITY within MH4H during this divisive time in the country of Haiti and in the world. Pray for job growth in the Pignon area. Many Haitians need to relocate to the Dominican Republic to find work. Pray also that MH4H will know how to provide continued assistance for earthquake relief. The organization gives thanks that they had the resources to deliver 50,000 pounds of rice to people living in the earthquake zone.

Audrey leYen

Mile High Ministries, Denver Red Shield Salvation Army / Colorado

Audrey served with Denver Red Shield Salvation Army through Mile High Ministries. As a volunteer in the ministries’ day camp program, she planned and participated in children’s recreational activities. Audrey and her fellow volunteers also took the day camp kids on field trips to the aquarium and trampoline park.

A place for everyone

During my time in Denver, I saw a lot of ways the Salvation Army helps provide for the community. I love how they strive to help a wide range of people with a wide range of needs, from children seeking loving mentors to adults facing food insecurity. Even the staff employed for the day camp seemed provided by God. Many of my coworkers had found a refuge at the Red Shield, and it was exciting to see how God worked through each of them. None of us worked with all the children, but through our combined efforts, I hope each kid felt seen and known during our time with them.

Spiritual lessons

Throughout the summer, God reminded me how he is the provider of all we need. At times I struggled with contentment, but again and again, I was challenged to know that God alone is enough. I saw how God met my every need and even exceeded my expectations in some cases. As I witnessed God at work in the lives of my coworkers and the kids, I recognized how he provided for them too.

My experience also challenged me to live missionally and be a spiritual advocate for the people God places in my life. People need someone who is willing to fight for and with them, and I believe my spiritual gifts will help me do just that. In the future, I hope to work with kids and be a fierce advocate for them, pursuing love and justice.

Cherished connections

God had many surprises for me this summer, but one of the biggest ones was the team I got to work with. We all had very diverse backgrounds and were at different points in our faith journeys. However, God still brought us together for the common good of the children. I was surprised how well our staff meshed despite our differences. I felt seen and known during my time there, and I built connections I deeply cherish.

PRAY FOR MENTORSHIP for the children in the program. Pray that volunteers and staff would guide them to the light around them. Pray also that the children might experience healing from the trauma in their lives. Ask God to bless the staff at Red Shield with perseverance and fortitude, that they might serve their community well and envision a future for Red Shield that meets people’s needs. Pray for financial security and loving homes in the Denver area, that God would heal the brokenness within the city.

Breanna Oolman

Many Hands for Haiti

Breanna volunteered with Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H), a mission organization that seeks to empower community members living in the rural Pignon area. During her three-week trip, Breanna and her teammates worked alongside long-term missionaries to provide food, education, medical supplies and recreation opportunities.

Moving with joy

One day we had the opportunity to help distribute mobility carts that people with disabilities can peddle with their hands. I will never forget the joy these people had when they first sat on their carts. Many of them, both children and adults, had been unable to leave their house or get around easily without help. In the past, they had been looked down upon by society, but in that moment, they were the center of attention, which was amazing to witness. Mobility cart distribution is just one of the many programs Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H) uses to make a lasting impact.

Friendship: no translation necessary

Throughout our time in Haiti, we got to know four culture guides who served as our translators and soon became close friends. They showed my teammates and I so much patience and grace as we tried to learn as much Creole as we could during our short time in Haiti. I will never forget the final evening we spent with them. There were games, laughter, singing and a time of prayer and goodbyes. I look forward to the day when we can be reunited with these sweet friends of ours.

At the center of God’s will

God had many surprises for our team in Haiti, and many of our plans were changed. Although there were times of uncertainty and confusion, God continued to provide for us by giving us the opportunity to serve and learn from the Haitians, as well as granting us safety. As Corrie ten Boom stated, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” This rang true throughout our SOS journey, and I would not trade my experiences there for anything.

PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE OF HAITI as they navigate political unrest, material poverty and the effects of natural disasters. Pray that they would never lose hope and that they continue to place their trust in God. Pray also for MH4H and the missionaries who serve there. Pray that teams would be able to come so they can continue to serve and provide jobs for the Haitians in the community.

Anna Boyles

Echo Ranch Bible Camp / Alaska

Anna worked as a camp counselor for students ages 5-18 at Echo Ranch Bible Camp in Auke Bay, Alaska. By coordinating chapels, campfires, field games and outdoor activities, Anna was able to walk alongside students as they learned about God and grew in relationship with him.

Teacher and student

There were many moments this summer when I felt like I was learning more than the campers were. Some students needed help realizing God’s love for them, but others joined me in having deep theological conversations. As I helped these campers grow in their relationship with Christ, I also learned and grew in my own relationship with him.

Change of plans

Alaska was not my original service site. Initially, I planned on spending my summer in Chad, Africa. After many obstacles and cancellations, however, Chad was no longer an option. I am grateful because there were countless moments that I thought “this is exactly why I am here.” When campers experienced things I was struggling with, I was able to talk with them, offer advice and remind them that everything would be OK. I was able to use my story to make a difference.

Serving through heartbreak

This summer I learned that no matter how hard you try, you can’t fix everything. My heart broke when I heard campers’ stories of suffering, and then it broke again when I realized that I could not “fix” their pain. Even so, I learned I should still do what I can to bring healing. God uses ordinary people to do his work in the world.

PRAY THE FULL-TIME CAMP STAFF would realize how appreciated and valued they are. Pray for the youth of Southeast Alaska, that they would know they are loved, known and never forgotten by their Heavenly Father.

Elyssa tang

Pioneers / Illinois

Elyssa served with Pioneers at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Through prayer meetings, Bible studies and meet-ups with non-native English speakers, Elyssa built relationships with students on the university’s campus and sought to share the gospel with them.

Defining faith

During one of our evangelism sessions, my team leader and I talked to a woman from Pakistan. After listening to her spiritual journey, we asked if we could share our beliefs with her, but she wanted to hear our testimonies first. As I shared my testimony, she asked, “What does sin mean to you?” On one hand, I truly appreciated her question and engagement. On the other hand, I was intimidated. What does sin look like in my life? What does the gospel mean in my life? Do I know how much I need God every moment? That conversation taught me I need to see how the gospel is connected to my everyday life before sharing it with others.

Human and humble

My work with Pioneers also changed my perceptions of missionaries and church planting. Previously, I thought missionaries were superior people and church planting was an impossible task. However, the humility of the missionaries I met during this SOS reminded me missionaries are humans who need God, just like me. Because they are part of the body of Christ, each missionary has their gifts, so there is no single kind of missionary. Also, if church planting is impossible, nobody would be able to do it! Churches do not need to have complicated structures and systems to be impactful communities.

God on the move

At one of our training sessions, my teammates and I learned how to share Bible passages in the form of stories. Our friends from Saudi Arabia, who were our English conversation partners, came to my mind. Would they be willing to hear a story? My teammates and I prayed, and we decided that Anna would initiate the topic, I would tell the story and then Bethany would ask questions. When we met up with our friends, the conversation went in a direction I didn’t think would lead to an opportunity for storytelling. Helpless, I prayed that God would give Anna wisdom to transition into the topic. After about an hour, one of our friends asked what we did the previous week. That was our chance! We asked if we could share a story with them, and they were very willing to listen. Then they shared the stories from the Quran that they grew up with! Through this experience, I realized how I doubted God’s power to move in people’s hearts.

PRAY THAT GOD WOULD PROVIDE additional student leaders to replace those who have graduated, and that God would continue to develop the faith of those moving elsewhere. Pray also that more non-believers would join the ministry, that seeds would be planted in them, and that God would grow those seeds. Pray for unity and reconciliation in area churches and pray for Pioneers’ leaders. May God guard their faith and may they continue to rely on him for wisdom and strength.

Emma de groot

Many Hands for Haiti

Emma’s Summer of Service experience was her fourth visit to the country of Haiti, where she and her teammates volunteered with Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H). As part of MH4H’s agronomy initiative, Emma worked with farmers to plant papaya trees, fruits, vegetables and over 20 varieties of field corn. She also taught a vacation Bible school lesson on the story of Noah’s ark and helped organize a movie night for community members.

Greater plan

After my initial service site was changed due to COVID-19 restrictions, I thought my teammates and I would be serving at United Christian International in Haiti. Five days before our plane took off, we received the devastating email that our trip was canceled. Thanks to the efforts of Kaytlyn, a team member, and Patrick, our SOS leader, a new trip was planned and the Lord provided an additional organization seeking volunteers: Many Hands for Haiti. We received the green light from NWC on a Tuesday, and the next morning, we were on a flight to Haiti. It was a whirlwind of emotions, but God had all of this in his greater plan from the very beginning.

Sharing God’s story

For vacation Bible school, we organized a skit, crafts, songs and games around the theme of Noah’s ark. We colored a rainbow/ark scene on paper plates for the kids to take home to their families and to share the story with their neighbors. The kids had a blast! We also hosted a movie night where we showed The Lion King (in French with English subtitles) and handed out water and cookies. The event was a huge success with over 175 people present!

A place of beauty

Whenever our group traveled to another location, we rode in the back of a tap tap truck. This allowed us to fully take in our surroundings and greet those we passed by. From the top of the truck, I could see the farmers working diligently in their fields, and their hard work was evident in the lush countryside that surrounded us. Children ran to greet us with a wave and the occasional “How are you?” in English. The smiles we exchanged as we passed by melted my heart and made me aware of the things we shared, rather than our differences. There is certainly suffering and pain, but the Haitian people find joy even in the midst of their suffering. We only got a glimpse into their lives as we drove by, but the resilience, hope and determination they possessed was clear.

jadeyn schutt

Many Hands for Haiti

Jadeyn’s work with Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H) involved cleaning and preparing campus for summer school, buying food for community food distributions, Haitian woodworking and painting. She and her teammates also assisted with MH4H’s mobility cart distribution program, providing disabled individuals with carts that could be peddled with their hands.

Lessons from a goat

One of the ways Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H) invests in the community is by gifting two goats to each family in their school system. This teaches responsibility, proper techniques for animal care and the option of a savings plan. Families are allowed to sell up to nine baby goats back to MH4H for cash, or the proceeds can be put into a savings account (which MH4H will match) for the student’s tuition. This is a very exciting program that can help families responsibly plan for the future and be able to care for the goats and their children.

Dependence on God

During my time in Haiti, God revealed just how much I should be dependent on him. Two common sayings at the end of most Haitian sentences are “if God wills” and “thanks to God.” This threw me off at first because it felt like God was attached to every sentence and thought. As I reflected on this more, it made me realize how much I compartmentalize God into certain areas of my life. I have some parts under control and am not willing to let him into them. The Haitians’ way of living and speaking helped me discover how much God should be and needs to be part of every aspect of my life.

Blessed are the poor

Another way I started to think differently in Haiti was realizing there are different kinds of poverty. Most people, including myself, think of material or physical poverty. Although most of Haiti is experiencing material poverty (at least in the eyes of Americans), many people are incredibly rich in faith. Because they must fully trust God’s provision in many cases, they have experienced the fruitfulness and joy that comes from having that deeply rooted faith and trust. It was very humbling to see that everyone is rich and poor in different areas.

PRAY THAT THE NAME OF JESUS would be spread, and that the Haitian people would personally feel his love and mercy. May they also be engulfed in a peace that surpasses understanding. Pray also Haitians can come together and have compassion on one another as they move forward from this season of political unrest and natural disaster.

Kaytlyn keeler

Many Hands for Haiti

Kaytlyn partnered with Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H). She and her teammates supported the long-term missionaries by planting corn, painting a house, cleaning, distributing food and hosting a vacation Bible school. Because of Kaytlyn’s CNA experience, she was also able to assist in treating patients.

Effective reach

Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H) is a mission with a business model, allowing them to effectively reach many different people in the Pignon area. They have an elementary school and programs for food distribution, agricultural development, and mobility cart distribution for disabled community members. What’s awesome is that all of this is accomplished with the goal of balancing long-term development and short-term relief. It is difficult to find this balance, however, because many of the problems MH4H seeks to address are extremely circumstantial.

When God heals

As a premedical student, I was excited when God gave me several opportunities to practice basic medicine in Haiti. While doing some food distributions, my team and I met a man disabled from the waist down. I noticed Silfran had wounds between his knees and was complaining about sores developing on his back. My CNA training helped me identify these as pressure sores, which had likely arisen from lying down in the same position.

Every other day for the remainder of my time in Haiti, the ministry director and I visited Silfran. I cleaned and bandaged the existing sores and also applied preventative cream to the unopened ones. We gave instructions for how to change positions frequently and how to position a towel to keep his knees from touching. After several visits, I began to see the individual wounds improving, but Silfran’s overall condition was declining rapidly. And yet, he firmly believed God would heal him. I was amazed at the strength of his faith. Even as his health was fading, his trust in God was not.

An affirmed calling

I learned so much from my experiences in Haiti, and that much learning cannot help but change a person. This summer helped me refocus my life on God. I had been drifting away from him and his calling on my life, but Haiti pushed God back into the center and reaffirmed my desire to live for him.

PRAY THE PEOPLE OF HAITI would turn to God for help and be reminded that the only thing we can securely hope in is Christ. Pray for the long-term missionaries, as it is hard to witness the poverty in Haiti without becoming discouraged, frustrated or angry. Pray also that MH4H would be unified in their vision and purpose.

Megan nichols

Many Hands for Haiti

Megan partnered with Many Hands for Haiti (MH4H) to minister to Haitians living in the rural Pignon area. She and her teammates prayed with locals, shared the gospel with children during vacation Bible school, worked with farmers in the fields and helped with maintenance tasks around the MH4H campus.

A picture of love

My teammates and I were intentional about creating a pathway to Jesus for local Haitians and painting a picture of all he exemplifies. We prayed with and for the people, holding them and telling them Jesus loves them. We also organized a vacation Bible school, painted houses and poured a concrete floor. But perhaps the most important part of our work was simply showing the people how much they are valued and loved.

Heart for missions

God taught me countless lessons about the world and myself through my time in Haiti. He has opened more doors in my heart for missions than I ever thought possible. The truth behind Christian mission both past and present was a big part of our team’s discussions with the long-term missionaries. I learned and grew so much from those conversations. The Haitian people also ministered to me far more than I did to them. They taught me how to truly live, love and have faith.

Life changing

After returning to the States, I had a conversation with one of my Northwestern professors. I told him this trip had changed every part of me, altering the way I view other people, the American church and God. When I interviewed for this SOS experience, I expressed that I didn’t know why I was applying but I knew I needed to. Now I can see that mission work is part of God’s plan for me, and he needed me to go to Haiti to receive that clarity. Today, my personal faith is stronger than ever before. While I was in Haiti, I prayed every night that God would not let me forget. Now I pray that God keeps fueling my fire.

PRAY FOR A PEACEFUL RESOLUTION to the political unrest in the country of Haiti. Even as leaders stir people’s hearts and minds, may God unite those affiliated with MH4H and keep the organization’s mission strong. Pray also that Haitians can look to their futures rather than just trying to survive until tomorrow.