Spiritual Life

The Shalom Community: Gospel and Praxis

Posted February 24, 2017 by Caleb Luk '17

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How is the Gospel lived out in all areas of life? This has been the core question I have had throughout my time in the Shalom Community. A hope I had entering this community was to learn the narratives of others in the body of Christ and the forces that have shaped our journeys thus far. The Shalom Community is a group of juniors and seniors who have committed to a year of living and learning together about cross-cultural narratives and the history of race relations, both as individuals and a society as a whole. 

In addition to weekly meetings and a semester-long class in the fall, discussions on campus events and meals have provided the community with avenues to learn the diverse interests of each other through a common vocabulary.

Is that Parks and Rec. I hear?

Hey, I’m making crêpes, you want some? 

The answer to the last question is yes, always yes.  

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At our retreat in the fall, we were huddling around a campfire with the starry sky above when it was mentioned that Doritos served as great tinder for a fire. 

Doritos?! That junk food? A few pieces were tossed into the flame and a great blaze erupted above the place where the chips had landed.

Is that us? We are labeled as lesser by society and ourselves, yet in passing through the fire, we realize the truth placed in us all. 

The more narratives I hear of great sorrow and injustice, the more I realize the great need for the Gospel. From a deep acknowledgement of being the Beloved rather than gaining acceptance through works, we are free to learn from others and are given the strength to be partakers in the Kingdom. 

The truth of the Gospel is satisfying, yet it leads to more questions:How do the cultures of theologians and scholars contribute to the expression of the Gospel? Is our faith in Christ guiding our ways of pursuing justice, or are we having our ideas of justice guide our faith? Are we merely drawing on Bible verses that support our viewpoints, or are we living in the greater narrative? 

My thoughts are but one of many perspectives in this year’s Shalom Community. Through our common faith in Christ, each of us has the ability to honor other bearers of the Imago Dei and share each other’s narratives in our spheres of influence.

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Caleb Luk ’17 is a senior majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Biblical and Theological Studies. Visit this link to learn more about the Shalom Community at Wheaton. Photo captions (top to bottom): Caleb (second from right) and fellow Shalom Community members; dinner preparations for a weekly dinner meeting; Shalom Community members enjoying a weekly dinner together.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

My First Semester With Christ At The Core

Posted February 3, 2017 by Octavia Powell '20

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powell-1After my first few months at college, I can safely say that no amount of anticipation about Wheaton could ever compare to me actually being here. And here is such a lovely place to be. I use the word lovely not out of habit or in an attempt to adhere to clichés, but because when I think of my first semester on campus the word "lovely"—defined by Webster’s dictionary as “attractive or beautiful especially in a graceful way—immediately comes to mind. 

What attracted me to Wheaton, and what continues to help me fall in love with this school more and more, is just how much people care about something—or more specifically, someone—other than themselves. "For Christ and His Kingdom" isn’t just the mantra here, I see it applied everywhere. The students’ and faculty’s love for Christ is what shapes them into the caring and mindful people that they are. The friendships I’ve made here aren't just friendships based on proximity. My friends are people that I care about deeply and I know that they feel the same way. The relationships I’ve established with people here have been priceless and it’s only been about 6 months.

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It’s beautiful to me how Wheaton’s academics transcend the typical secular scope of education and integrate faith with learning so effortlessly. My professors never fail to truly astound me with with their passion for their field and how they help me to see that my faith isn’t something to just be applied in a Bible and theology class. My CORE class—Relationship to Creation—was something I really valued because it directly related to a passion of mine. In high school I volunteered at my local zoo and raised awareness for environmental issues but I’d never looked at how we should be caring for the world around us from a Christian perspective. This class, along with others, have truly helped me to gain a respect for the Christian liberal arts. The Christ at the Core curriculum may be new but it’s goal of keeping Christ at the center of every academic pursuit is something I admire, especially when the rest of the world tells me that my faith has to be separate from the rest of my life.

The leadership staff here lead through constant acts of service and grace. Other than the friends I’ve made and the classes I attend, my Wheaton experience so far has been primarily defined by my time serving on Student Government as freshman class vice president. Through being appointed to this position I have met so many wonderful student leaders and faculty members that serve with the perfect combination of strength and dignity. The Christian leaders here daily inspire me and I strive to gain knowledge from them to better learn how to serve my class and later, the world.

I don’t know what I thought college would be like, but the experiences I’ve had here are insurmountably better than I ever could have imagined.

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Octavia Powell ’20 is the freshman class vice president at Wheaton and is considering a major in international relations. The Class of 2020 is the first to study under the new general education curriculum, Christ at the Core. Photo captions (top to bottom): Octavia (right) and friends at a Christmas banquet hosted by the Office of Multicultural Development; 2016-17 Student Government leaders; Octavia (right) and friends enjoying one of the first snowfalls of the season.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Skis, Frozen Lakes, and Jesus

Posted January 25, 2017 by Silas Wade '18

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honeyrockI couldn’t describe it adequately to anybody for days.

At least, not until I sat next to Dr. Rob Ribbe, director of HoneyRock and assistant professor of Christian formation and ministry, at lunch yesterday. I regaled him about the ski trip the retreat group and I went on, and when it came time to offer a description of the experience, I grasped for words.

 “Rob, it was…”

 Nothing came. Rob looked at me patiently as I went to try again.

 “It was..”

 Nothing. I had no words. Then Rob spoke:

 “Perfect.”

And that was it. I was finally able to describe the clear night when the Wheaton Undergraduate Admissions group of Diakonoi—“Dekes”—and I went skiing on a frozen lake under the light of the moon and a billion stars. The awe that I felt when I saw the moonlight being refracted off a plethora of tiny water crystals, or when the tree line couldn’t have been more clear against the sky, was perfect—just like my Creator. Is that what the ski trip was about? Not to downplay my duties as a retreat host, which I loved (shout out to the Dekes!), but out there on my flimsy skis, I was reduced to awe and wonder before the one who loves me. Some of us can go our whole lives studying scripture and going to church without meeting God in a way that leaves us speechless.

But God wants to meet of us where we are, even if that is on an unscheduled ski trip, during a retreat, having consumed far too much coffee. The place where all of the devices that we use to prop ourselves up fall apart, that's where Jesus is. That’s where we see His perfection and are made perfect ourselves. It’s really something.

I didn’t have the words to describe a ski trip, but I wonder if, in my attempts to do so, I was trying to describe something else—if I was trying to describe someone else.

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Silas Wade M.A. '18 is a graduate student seeking a master's degree in Christian Formation and Ministry with an emphasis in Outdoor Adventure Leadership at HoneyRock, Wheaton’s Outdoor Center for Leadership Development. Photo captions (top to bottom): the Wisconsin night sky over Long Lake; students prepare to snowshoe through the miles of wooded trails at HoneyRock, Wheaton's Outdoor Center for Leadership Development.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

The Fellowship of the Rope

Posted December 2, 2016 by Juan-Fernando León M.A. '17

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A historiography class reminded me why I fell in love with history. Though I’ve always liked it, I never knew history would hold my hand as I rediscovered myself. We often have well-rehearsed speeches about our dreams and decisions, but rarely do we pause to reevaluate the journey or reflect on progress. In our fast-paced society, it seems that we pause only to catch our breath.

Well, I am pausing; not only to catch my breath, but to remember. I am pausing by looking back at the memories made at Wheaton College alongside fellow students, faculty and staff in this intellectual adventure. One of my fondest memories occurred in a historiography class where the fellowship of the rope story appeared in an article we read. Bluntly put, the author declared that in order for the teacher to survive in us, the professor in us needed to die. The author expressed the difference between teachers and professors as an analogy of those between climbers and mountaineers. 

Climbers are driven by the thrill of summiting; they are constantly looking for the next peak to climb and the fastest way to do it. They take unnecessary risks and shortcuts to reach the top. On the academic mountain, a similar dynamic happens. Many of us climb the academic mountain for the sake of reaching the top and will do anything, risk everything, to achieve our goal. The zenith of our efforts is to be a tenured professor at the cost of fellowship, which results in isolation. 

Mountaineers, however, are driven by the fellowship that forms in climbing a mountain. They are not only looking to summit a peak but rather they are looking with whom to do it. Similarly, there are those of us, who in pursuing our academic careers, look for the fellowship that comes from listening and learning from each other’s stories, experiences and strengths. The zenith of our efforts is to be a teacher at the cost of our own self-aggrandized ambitions, which results in fellowship.

The challenge for me was rediscovering who I wanted to be—a climber or a mountaineer; a professor or a teacher. I knew I was interested in history but was uncertain as to what exactly I wanted to do. However one thing became clear: history is best studied in fellowship. Poor history happens in isolation.

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Let me explain this in mountaineer parlance. For mountaineers, the fellowship of the rope embodies an ideal—a nostalgic image—of a time during which mountain climbers relied on one another more than on gear. Despite ever-improving gear, the rope has remained central. Because the rope can pull, hold, and link together climbers of any experience as they journey up a mountain, it can also be lethal. When inexperienced climbers slip, the rope harnesses the experience of expert climbers in order to avert the fall. At the times when mountaineers slip, the same rope has the ability to take the whole group down. 

This is an important reminder not only as I continue to ponder on the type of teacher I want to be, but more so, as I witness the fellowship of the rope as an intrinsic method to study history in graduate school. The words we use to write history are the ropes that pull, hold, and link us together as students of history. Ropes are to mountaineers what words are to historians. When we give voice to the voiceless and the marginalized, we are binding ourselves together with their struggles as we communicate their stories. History is about learning in fellowship with those around us and with those who came before us. When we study history, we are not only entering a foreign land—we are entering a fellowship that exceeds time and space; a fellowship that prevents us from being chronological snobs. In fellowship, we learn about ourselves and others. In fellowship, isolation disintegrates.  

The historiography class, and those in it, taught me that the climber in me needed to die if I ever wanted to see the mountaineer in me become part of the larger fellowship of learners. Here at Wheaton College I am learning alongside peers, faculty, and staff how to be an intellectual mountaineer. So friends, if you are climber, consider the mountaineer. If you’re already a mountaineer, rejoice in the fellowship of the rope. 

Juan-Fernando León M.A. ’17 is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in history of Christianity. Photo captions (top to bottom): Juan-Fernando hiking; Juan-Fernando with Dr. Jennifer McNutt and fellow graduate students and friends at the movies together.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect w/ Wheaton College Graduate School Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Confronting Identity Through Traditional Dance

Posted November 18, 2016 by Serena Suh '18

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serena-suhIt is the night of the talent show. Over the past three months, I had probably practiced every second of my dance more times than the hours I’d slept this semester. The emcees call my name. I walk out and take my place on stage. With the audience, I watch a short clip of a young girl and her father in traditional Korean dress prancing merrily down a dirt path. It is a scene from Spirit’s Homecoming (귀향), a film dedicated to comfort women during the Japanese occupation in Korea. Although I am two generations removed from the colonial experience, the memory of terror and injustice still remains in painfully striking ways. I am a 1.5 generation Korean American (meaning I was born in Korea but moved to the states at a very young age), and therefore face the dilemma of belonging to Korea or the United States, yet I still feel a strange sense of familiarity to this history. 

This—Korea’s story of pain and resilience, my story as a Korean American—is the story that I wanted to convey at the talent show. 

However, it was not always so rosy for the few months preceding the show. There were multiple times when I doubted my performance. You see, Asian Americans have a history of being seen as an “other” in the United States. It has been manifested in so many ways throughout history. Especially as a person who has called the States my home, this is hurtful. The question arose: am I just perpetuating the othering experienced by so many Asian immigrants? Will my dance be received well by the audience? While talent show was a very fun experience, it also forced me to confront the questions of identity that I never really had before. In the end, I was able to perform that night with a calm heart. However, it was only through the conversations with different students, staff, and faculty that I confidently walked onto stage. Fellow students encouraged me to be confident and cheered me on as I spent hours in the dance studio; faculty and staff were affirming and comforting, reminding me that what I believe and who I am should be embraced. 

Although sometimes stressful, this experience has reminded me why I am still excited to be at Wheaton College. There are so many people here that encourage, stretch, and grow me in ways that I cannot imagine happening anywhere else. And so, inspired not only by the video of the Korean father and daughter, but also by the amazing support of my friends at Wheaton, I danced. 

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Serena Suh ’18 is a philosophy (integrated anthropology) and international relations double major at Wheaton. Photo captions (top to bottom): Serena performing a traditional fan dance at the 2016 Wheaton Talent Show; Serena and fellow Mac 4 floormates at the 2016 President's Ball.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

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