My Wheaton

My Internship With Young Life Africa

Posted August 11, 2016 by Madison Touloukian '17

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madison-young-life-ethiopia-studentsThis past summer I’ve had the incredible privilege of interning with Young Life Africa/Middle East. For those that don’t know, Young Life is an international ministry that works to introduce adolescents to Jesus and help them grow in their faith. 

Going into college, I was confident that I wanted to be a part of high school ministry because it was in high school that I came to know Christ. One night as I walked through the Beamer Student Center on Wheaton's campus, I noticed a sign for a Young Life leader info meeting. All I knew about Young Life was that it went into high schools to share the gospel, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Since that initial Young Life leader info meeting during my freshman year at Wheaton College, I’ve been involved with Young Life as a volunteer leader and also as part-time staff in the Naperville/Aurora area. 

My summer internship was in the Communications Department of Young Life Africa, and was made possible by an endowment from a Wheaton alumni family who are supporters of Young Life Africa. In my role, I consider myself a “professional storyteller,” as the main components of my internship involve writing, researching, and publishing all of the incredible stories that the Lord is writing in Africa. 

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This past month I was able to experience firsthand just a taste of all that He is doing abroad as I traveled to Africa and worked with Young Life in Kenya and Ethiopia. In both countries, I served at Young Life camps, participated in small-group Bible studies, and connected with local staff. One of my favorite things about Young Life in Africa is that it is totally led and run by members of the African communities there. It was a remarkable honor to come alongside them and participate in their ministries. While language was a significant barrier, this created new opportunities to connect and grow in ways I wouldn’t normally. 

Because of this internship, I’m so aware that the Kingdom of God is growing globally. I was continuously inspired and encouraged by the faith of my new friends in Kenya and Ethiopia; they trust the Lord deeply, and know Him in real and personal ways. I pray that one day I can live as faithfully as they do. Now that I am home, I have had the chance to share their stories to an American audience, continuing to raise support for Young Life in Africa and the Middle East. 

This internship and especially my time in Africa has forever changed my heart, and I cannot wait to return again to this amazing place.

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Madison Touloukian '17 is a senior studying sociology and biblical and theological studies with a Gender Studies Certificate. Photo captions (from top): Madison with students from an elementary school in Agatulu, Kenya where Young Life is held; Madison washes Young Life leader Sara's feet in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia; Madison with Young Life Ethiopia staff members Teddi, Fereselam, and Hanna.

Youth Hostel Ministry in Amsterdam

Posted August 3, 2016 by Melissa Ator '18

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amsterdam-swedish-celebrationSpending the summer in Amsterdam with Youth Hostel Ministry has been such an enriching experience. When I first heard the word “Europe” during my introduction to the program last year, my interest was immediately peaked. Not only did the YHM program allow us to live in Amsterdam for 10 weeks, it invited us to be thrown into an international community of volunteers who all share the same passion for meeting and evangelizing to backpackers from all across the world. 

As I prepared to apply for the program, I couldn’t help but wonder: what’s the catch? So far, I haven’t found one. 

Before being flown across the Atlantic as a team of five Wheaties, Wheaton’s Office of Christian Outreach (OCO) ensured that we were well prepared for the program with weekly lectures given by professors and staff members. Each lecture was interesting and well-tailored to our ministry. Weekend retreats that we took with our team during the spring semester allowed us to get to know who we would be working alongside for ten weeks. 

One of the (many) highlights of my YHM experience has been the ability to be a part of a ministry that is so clearly passionate about the Lord and communicating that passion to travelers. I had plenty of expectations coming into this summer, all of them high. But they were all exceeded. I have been able to learn so much from the people who run the program and the others who volunteered alongside of me. I was challenged, too, and looking back, I am very thankful for those times as well. 

One of the most memorable moments from this summer was when two of the cleaners at our shelter were baptized. I got to know both of them pretty well. One of them had been a Muslim before he came to the shelter, and had a background of drug dealing and use. While he was working at the shelter, he was exposed to Christianity more and more, and at one point saw a vision of Jesus. This was the turning point for him, and he has been on fire for God ever since. 

Whenever I saw him he would tell me about how much he loved everyone because of Jesus. This did come at a price though. He would tell us about how most of his family and friends don't talk to him anymore since leaving the Muslim faith. But he takes his faith seriously, and recently decided to outwardly show that by getting baptized. It was so cool to see the whole shelter community come and celebrate this important decision with him. 

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Melissa Ator ’18 is a junior studying applied health science. She participated in Wheaton’s Youth Hostel Ministry program in Amsterdam this summer. Photo captions (from top): YHM students and shelter staff prepare to enjoy a Midsummer Celebration “as the Swedes do,” thanks to one of the shelter staff members who desired to give students an authentic experience of Swedish culture; A baptism service for two shelter staff members who came to Christ through the shelter ministry--they are the two on the far right, participating in a selfie.

Global Urban Perspectives: Denver

Posted July 20, 2016 by Iliana Rivera '17

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global-urban-perspectives-denverThis summer, I am taking part in Wheaton’s Global Urban Perspectives program in Denver. In this program, students take on an internship and class for two months. My internship assignment is with the Restoration Outreach Program in Aurora, Colorado. Their mission statement is to meet needs, build relationships, and restore lives through Christ on East Colfax (street). Those who live in the area are usually refugees, single mothers, or the homeless. They are all from different religions, races, and ethnicities. 

At Restoration, I do a bit of everything. I help pack lunches for day camp, I tutor those striving to earn their GED degree, I help to prepare and count food in our food bank, and I provide times of prayer with visitors. On top of that, my main supervisor gives us lectures here and there about the missions field in Aurora. She has given us a first-hand account of how God has formed their ministry and provided for each member. In the future, I want to do something in the cross-cultural research field, so being able to be part of the East Colfax community is amazing! 

It took about a year’s worth of preparation before our group of GUP participants left campus to serve in Denver for the summer. Our preparation consisted of weekly meetings that ranged from professors speaking about mass incarceration to guest speakers who have experience in missions work to an awesome weekend retreat in Chicago. We also did lots of fundraising, community service, and group dynamic work. Most of us participating in GUP - Denver have different internship sites and have been expected to be as independent as possible, be it seeking transportation or buying groceries. Some people even pay for rent. It’s a great way to prepare for life after college! 

I chose to participate in the GUP program primarily because I wanted to physically serve somewhere outside of Illinois. I have a health condition that prevents me from doing a lot of physical tasks, but lately I have been doing better than usual. So, I wanted to give that strength back to God! GUP was the best way for me to do that. 

It is week eight in Denver for me now, and we have already gotten lost on the bus system, explored the mountains, met goats, and learned a ton! A highlight of my experience has been when my mom flew in as a surprise and I got to show her my internship site and my amazing friends. As part of GUP - Denver, I have been most excited to meet new people and just listen to their stories. You gain so much from that. 

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Iliana Rivera ’17 is a senior studying psychology. She is currently participating in Wheaton’s Global Urban Perspectives program in Denver. Photo captions (from top): GUP students at class in Denver, CO (Iliana in row 1, far left); on a hike at the top of Mt. Evans in Idaho Springs, CO.

Student Ministry Partners: Bethlehem

Posted July 12, 2016 by Jackie Westeren '19

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wheaton-college-palestinian-dinner-student-ministry-partnersWhen I heard Wheaton wanted to send a group of Student Ministry Partner (SMP) students to Bethlehem for the first time this summer, I immediately was interested because of the rich history, complicated and ongoing conflict, and a desire to better understand life in Arab culture. 

Now that our team of six students is here partnering with the Palestine Summer Encounter program at Holy Land Trust, an interfaith NGO that seeks peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land, we have experienced more learning and meaningful conversations than we ever could have imagined. 

On a typical day, after enjoying Arab breakfasts with our host families, we set off to service projects. They vary each week -- we have painted a YMCA building, taught English, worked with disabled youth, and farmed. We then spend the remainder of the day taking Arabic lessons, hearing lectures about the history of Israel/Palestine, doing cultural activities, or touring historical sites. 

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While all of these activities have taught us a lot, the most impactful part of our trip has been the relationships we have formed. The staff and participants at Holy Land Trust, our host families, and other people we have met living here have taught us more than a classroom ever could have. 

One such example was during our first week here when we were invited to a new friend’s grandmother's house for the afternoon. After a warm greeting from people we had never met, we were overwhelmed with hospitality, being offered cucumbers, tea, coffee, pita, and cookies. We felt incredibly welcomed into their home, and had hours worth of meaningful conversations about family life in Bethlehem and how the occupation and intifadas have personally affected their lives. They allowed us to enter into immensely emotional stories while also showering us with love and comfort—something that has sparked further conversation amongst our group that couldn't have happened in a classroom. 

It's also the simple encounters we have daily with shopkeepers inviting us to coffee, people buying us medical supplies and water when we fall in the street, and friendly faces who are genuine when they say they want to get to know us that make us realize that Bethlehem, and all of Palestine, is a place of incredibly kind people who teach us what hospitality and loving people well looks like. 

While many things we have seen and heard here have challenged us, we continue to seek truth and pray for peace. We are leaving in less than a month, and until then, we look forward to continuing to learn, serve, and see God at work by living side-by-side with our friends in Bethlehem who yearn for peace.

“Peace is not contemplation, but active hunger and thirst after righteousness.” -Abuna Elias Chacour 

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Jackie Westeren ’19 is an international relations major participating in Wheaton’s Student Ministry Partners project in Bethlehem this summer. Learn more about Student Ministry Partners on their website. Photo captions (from top): SMP participants cook a traditional Palestinian dish together; a view of Bethlehem; SMP students listen to Sami Adwan, co-director of the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME) and professor at Bethlehem University, deliver a lecture.

Beauty, Brokenness, and Hope in Cape Town

Posted June 29, 2016 by Latreece Mitchel M.A. '17

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Lukahya Education Center

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” -- Psalm 119:105 

As an intercultural studies student at Wheaton College Graduate School, my Wheaton education has taught me the importance of being prepared, getting myself outside of my comfort zone, and stretching myself. What I love about the intercultural studies program is that it gives me practical tools to use while doing cross-cultural ministry. 

This May, I was able to apply these skills while traveling to Cape Town, South Africa to take part in a short-term internship with a team of Angelos Biblical Institute missionaries from Fresno, California. Excited and eager to begin our journey partnering with local churches and day camps, we were warmly greeted by 20 of our brothers and sisters in Christ upon our arrival. Experiencing such a warm welcome from people who rarely knew us and had only heard about us immediately enhanced my expectations for our trip.

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In Cape Town we taught at several conferences held by local churches. We also led workshops about church ministries, volunteered at educational centers, planned for future conferences, and much more. Every day we would pack up in small cars and head to churches in South African townships where many people publicly admitted their fear of violence and corruption within their communities and ran away from us.

Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, and Samaro are townships where there is much poverty, crime, and brokenness. But when we entered the churches of these townships the people had so much faith and hope--hope in the promises of God. They praised and worship God even in extreme conditions. The pastors in the churches of the townships occupied small spaces and had no instruments or any of the things we sometimes think we “need” for church. Instead, they had Bibles and each other, and did not let their situation stop them from worshiping God.

This showed me the beauty of Cape Town displayed in brokenness. 

The beauty of Cape Town was displayed through the people and their generous hospitality. All of the churches and day-care centers we partnered with gave us a clear and sincere picture of what it means to have a “servant mentality.” 

While I experienced an abundance of cultural differences in Cape Town, one thing that remained the same across all cultures represented was the brokenness we all share as sinners. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” During my time in South Africa I saw the brokenness that exists in another country, but I was also able to see the hope that exists through faith in Jesus Christ. Being in Cape Town was not just about nurturing future Christian leaders. Instead, going to South Africa was about experiencing the love of God in a way that we never have before through beauty, brokenness, and hope.

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Latreece Michel M.A. ’17 is a participant in Wheaton’s Intercultural Studies Graduate School program and recipient of the William Hiram Bentley Award for Ministry to the African-American Community. To learn more about Intercultural Studies program, visit their website.

Photo Captions (from top): Pastor Roman gave his all for kids who did not have much by building them a school with his retirement savings called the Lukahya Education Center; Latreece served women who desire to learn, grow, and be encouraged in the word of God at a women's workshop in Khayelitsha; The A.B.I. team's first day of service in Cape Town. Below: Surprise! Latreece's boyfriend proposed at the airport when she returned home. She said yes!

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