After three hours of discussion, we had gotten nowhere picking a name for our group. We argued through dinner, fought through dessert, and ended up in a dejected silence in the living room of Aunt Sharon’s Wheaton home. We had rejected puns, cheesy tag lines and anything having to do with Thor the mastodon. Our creative resources seemed to be exhausted. If we couldn’t find the perfect name, how would we create the co-ed, contemporary a cappella group that Wheaton so desperately needed?
Like many things, finding the name turned out to be a collaborative effort. As the fire dwindled, our minds rushed toward the same idea simultaneously: We needed a verb, meaning sound and power, calling to mind microphones, speakers, and opportunities to give the unheard a chance to speak and to sing.
We wanted to send a message to an audience: Amplify.
For the past three years, amplifying the voices of the voiceless is the mission we’ve stuck to. While we rehearse and aim for musical excellence, Amplify means more to its founders and members than a place to get the right notes or present the “right” appearance. Too often at Wheaton, and in Christian society in general, we manage our images, individualize our achievements, and place our value in perfection while performing. Amplify seeks to change that by giving people who might not otherwise sing the chance to love and be loved through music.
And because of that type of performance community, we have become more than a musical ensemble. We have become a family, the kind you both like and love.
The way we do this is summed up in Amplify’s most important rule: Don’t be afraid to sing loud enough for others to hear your mistakes. If you sing the wrong note, sing in the freedom of acceptance and with the humility to take constructive criticism. Being free to make a mistake changes what love means; because this love is unconditional, it’s safe.
So when you come to an Amplify concert, don’t expect perfection. Expect to see broken people expressing their brokenness, and finding hope in the truth of that performance.
Sarah Macolino '15 and Corinne Elliot '15 are seniors studying French and vocal performance, respectively. Photo credits: Whitney Bauck '15.
Leading worship at Wheaton has been by far my most challenging and most rewarding experience during all of college. Challenging, because there is nothing that forces you to grow more than being in leadership of other leaders. And rewarding, because I have the privilege of seeing lives radically transformed—though, most often, it tends to be my own.
Since my high school days in Tokyo, Japan, my identity had always been wrapped up in being “the worship leader guy.” My reputation more or less consisted of being an “extra-spiritual,” serious, rule-following musician, and I tried to live up to those expectations for quite some time. Coming off of that intense period of ministry, I did everything in my ability to flee from this unhealthy identity. I entered Wheaton determined to avoid that label. The strategy of escape from leadership worked—well, for a total of three days!
Upon arriving at HoneyRock for the Wheaton Passage program, I was asked to sing for the retreat’s multi-lingual, international worship service that occurred one of the first days, and since that day God has persistently reeled me in to be a part of his work on Wheaton’s campus.
Our Freshman Class Council selected Whitney Hall '15 and I to co-lead the freshman class worship team in September 2011. Since then, our heart for authentic worship on our campus has exponentially grown with each passing year. Freshman class leader turned to sophomore class leader, and sophomore class leader turned to junior class leader. Much of our original band stuck together through the years, developing a fun and loving camaraderie that now gets me up in the mornings.
Last spring, Whitney and I were selected by the Chaplain’s Office to be the Chapel Band Leaders for the whole student body, responsible for working with Student Chaplains in planning All-School Communion and the musical program to many Chapel worship services throughout the year.
You are likely to find worship at Wheaton to be profoundly different than most other Christian environments you might find yourself. This school is a hub and launching pad for young believers across a wide array of denominations, theological backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures populated predominantly by 18 – 23 year olds.
Wheaton, like any real community of people, is messy. We make mistakes, we compete, we argue, and we drift from God’s call to be the Church. The main thing that changes from season to season in our community is not how impressed we are by our accomplishments, but how aware we are of our messiness. This conviction, brought about by the good news of Jesus Christ, propels us to worship God with a sincerity that shatters strongholds and heals diseases. That brokenness is made beautiful.
Leading worship at Wheaton has taught me how essential it is for any leader to become profoundly aware of their own brokenness and need for grace; and from there we invite our community into that messy place to experience the wonders of God’s love and power poured out for His desperate yet hopeful people.
Andrew Sedlacek '15 is a senior studying interpersonal communication. Photos (above): Andrew and the 2014-15 chapel band leading worship at All-School Communion in Edman Chapel, October 2014. Photo credits: Whitney Bauck '15.
For Kendall Eitreim ’15, it’s hard to imagine what her undergrad life would have looked like without the Wheaton women varsity soccer team. “Being on the team has 100 percent completely shaped my Wheaton experience,” Eitreim says.
While she has been playing soccer since she was two, she senses a real difference playing on a team made up of Christian peers.
“God has been so faithful in using people on the team, using the coaches… to be instrumental and encouraging. And it’s fun to do life alongside the girls.”
Eitreim believes that living together and offering friendship and support off the field allows the team to work better together once their cleats hit the turf.
Though she knew from day one that she wanted to be a communication major, Eitreim enjoys taking classes from both inside and outside the department that she believes will prepare her for life beyond Wheaton.
“I just take those classes because I enjoy them and because the professors are wonderful.”
The unifying thread that connects Eitreim’s life as a student and an athlete is the way people at Wheaton—whether in classes or in the locker room—seek to emulate Christ in their daily lives.
“There are people I’ve been surprised by again and again who have really shown the love of Christ ... There’s something about that that I think is very unique to Wheaton.”
Kendall Eitreim ’16 is a communication major. Learn more about Wheaton soccer on the Wheaton Thunder website, Twitter @Wheaton_Thunder, and Instagram @Wheaton_Thunder.
In September 2012, a group of Wheaton professors, administrators, and students began thinking about ways to conjoin a number of seemingly disparate topics: history, leadership, ethics, and Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, to name a few.
What resulted was “Authority, Action, Ethics: Ethiopia,” (A.A.E), an annual program for 20 students, featuring: (1) a semester-long, interdisciplinary course consisting of a whirlwind tour of Ethiopian history, with sizeable chunks of ethics and theology thrown in, and (2) an intensive seventeen-day visit to four Ethiopian cities, where we engaged everyone and everything from African Union delegates to orphaned street children; from underground monolithic Orthodox churches to chic Ethiopian jazz clubs. They let me join the team last year, and this is what I learned:
- Wheaton is a moldable institution. Our team underwent a complex 12-month process of convincing the College to insure student travel to Ethiopia, a country regarded by certain U.S. State Department officials as a “risky” place to be. After thoroughly researching the situation and lobbying for permission, Wheaton’s GEL department removed Ethiopia from the “no-travel” list. This process showed me that determination over an extended period of time can lead to minor (but important) institutional changes.
- Wheaton professors are extremely devoted people. Many of my papers written for the A.A.E course were met with handwritten comments that exceeded the length of my paper itself. I would respond to these comments via email, and my professor would reply at length before the next class period even began. In other words, my once-a-week class quickly morphed into a nonstop educational dialogue between teacher and student, and I had to push myself just to keep up. These conversations were usually perplexing and always involved a moral dimension, just as a liberal arts class should.
- People are multilayered and cannot be fully understood apart from their society’s history. Take Tsedale Lemma, for example. Tsedale is the editor-in-chief of Addis Standard magazine, a respected political publication based in Ethiopia’s capital. In a Q&A with our group, she explained two discouraging events of politicized violence and the wrongful imprisonment of journalists, the former following the 2005 national elections and the latter just days before we arrived in Ethiopia. Having previously studied examples of the aversion to political dissent found among Ethiopian leaders from Zara Yaqob to Haile Selassie, our class had a solid historical framework in which to situate Tsedale’s stories. “Nothing gives you security here,” she confessed, “but there are things that give you hope.”
Analogically, one might say the same of A.A.E itself.
David Robinson ’15 is a senior studying philosophy and French. Pictured at top: Wheaton’s A.A.E class traveling abroad, summer 2014; Middle: A.A.E’s CE 330 Intercultural Seminar class meets, spring 2014; Above (l to r): A.A.E’s leadership team on a scouting trip, summer 2013: Professor Andrew DeCort, course instructor and Ph.D. candidate at University of Chicago; Dr. Steve Ivester, program director and dean for student engagement; David Robinson ’15; Dan Haase, chief curriculum coordinator who designed the course syllabus and led the 3-day debrief at the end of our trip; Hailu, Ethiopian taxi driver; and Roger Sandberg, logistics coordinator, former Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) professor, expert in international disaster response.
When I accepted a summer internship at Project World Impact (PWI), I was grossly unaware of what working for a start-up company entailed. Although I had networked with alumni for connections, applied for internships online, and loitered around Wheaton's career development center for months, the opportunity to work at PWI actually came from a friend—PWI’s Vice President Grant Hensel, a senior at Wheaton.
Alongside founder Chris Lesner (a Taylor University graduate of 2013), we are building Project World Impact. PWI is a marketing company and social search engine run by 20-somethings. No, you didn’t read that wrong—my bosses are 21.
Our site is like a Facebook made exclusively for nonprofits, except instead of searching for a long-lost-friend’s name, you search for nonprofits by cause and by location. You can see profiles of these organizations complete with photos, videos, and written information about the work they do, as well as donor, staff, and volunteer testimonials.
Although our work seldom looks the same day-to-day, we begin each morning with a devotional at our office. After a team meeting and huddle (yes, it is as fun as it sounds to collaborate with people your age), it’s time to work. From calling nonprofits to writing content for the website, working on social media posts to building websites and apps, our team is often engaged in more than one project.
PWI employed 19 Wheaton students this summer, so I get to work alongside many of my peers. They also have several full-time staff members who are Wheaton grads. It’s not a myth that a liberal arts education is a valuable and versatile tool—PWI is a testament to its success in preparing students for meaningful, varied careers.
Because our work is multi-faceted and often changing, I am grateful for the diverse coursework and varied extracurricular activities I’ve pursued at Wheaton. While I have relied heavily on my International Relations work (my international politics and economic growth and development classes have given me a unique lens for my research for the educational portion of our website), I have also used my journalism experience with the Wheaton Record, and my work in calling alumni with Wheaton Phonathon. These activities have given me a valuable skill set to use to build PWI.
Although I didn’t know what working for a start-up company would entail, I have loved my experience at PWI and will cling to the knowledge that, as is true for most things, you will get as much out of an internship as you are willing to put in it. Stay tuned for the rest of Project World Impact’s story to be written—we currently have over 3,000 nonprofits signed up to build profiles, and will be launching our website soon.
Anna Morris is Project World Impact’s director of content development, and is a junior at Wheaton studying international relations and French. Middle photo: A morning devotional, led by Bill Lesner, in Adams Hall; Above: PWI’s sales team celebrates after hitting their mid-summer sales goal of 2,000 confirmed nonprofits.