by Marissa Foxwell '13
In a fierce battle with culture shock, jetlag, and wind chill, I stepped shakily out of my cabin on the first morning of HoneyRock Passage. Memories from the night before, of a tiki-torch path and campfire in these northwoods of Wisconsin, came to mind as I hopped into a canoe with the rest of my group. The women I joined seemed perplexed by my snow hat and my mute, wideeyed wonder; but I was enjoying every second, soaking up my time with passionate, funny people, although still unsure of what to do or say, having just arrived in the U.S. from my home in Japan.
After a rather precarious, daylong canoe trip, we returned to HoneyRock for an evening of chatting, pyrotechnics, and s’mores around a campfire. As I transitioned into this friendly, adventurous community, my uncertainty subsided.
Through the course of my Passage experience, which included readings, discussions, activities, and interactions with students and professors, I learned about the importance of vulnerability and service in community. This camp-track program was a steppingstone from childhood to the educational styles, living situations, and cultural interactions of college. Passage urged me to begin my collegiate experience with courage and humility.
Countless circumstances and activities pushed me to ask for help. Whether I was stumbling blindfolded through a maze, tasting strange foods, receiving insight from professors, or sharing from my own life, I was learning to be vulnerable. The women in my group reciprocated this vulnerability as we shared our own life stories, risking utter humiliation, yet often finding healing together.
The high-ropes course offered sheer excitement until the split second of horror near the end. To do the zip-line, I had to let go of every support rope and swing with empty hands over a 15-meter-deep abyss to a pole on the opposite side. The instructor had explained that my harness rope was designed to carry airplanes and freight trains— surely it could support me. Even so, I stalled on the platform and joked around for a long time, secretly hoping to gain courage. The moment I stepped out into the free fall, my stomach gave a lurch, and I thought I had made a terrible mistake. Then I looked up and saw the rope harnessing me to the safety cable. This sight filled me with a strange new sense of security, and I was able to make the leap without hesitation.
The lesson for Christians became obvious to me. When everything is going well, we’re the people on the platform. We can joke around, watching others clamber, but when something happens that turns our world upside down—shaking our inner being or stripping us of the normalcy and comfort that insulate us—we are most likely to fear and despair. And it is often in such desperation that we pursue help, finally discovering that the safety cable has been tied to us all along.
An orientation program, Wheaton Passage serves a diverse population of students—all in transition. For me, shifting from a lifetime in a missionary community in Japan to the American collegiate scene felt like a large leap. Wheaton Passage, just a sliver of time between two life phases, allowed me to take a breath and recognize the rope clamped so tightly to me, the rope that had been tested to lift freight trains. This gave me courage.
As my years at Wheaton have unfolded beyond Passage, the lessons linger, reminding me to step off the platform with my eyes on the one supporting rope. I have learned to be open and to accept help from others. Even things that might seem small and insignificant have had an impact on me. Strangers became friends. Roommates patiently explained American foods, customs, sayings, and, of course, football. I have also begun to see how God might use me to serve my classmates, coworkers, club members, friends, and total strangers. Like nothing before, HoneyRock brought me to my knees before God—teaching me to lean heavily on Him as I begin each of life’s passages.