Tags: Spiritual Life, Global and Experiential Learning, My Wheaton
At the start of this summer, I had the privilege of traveling with Wheaton in the Holy Lands for three weeks in Israel, a week in Greece, a week in Turkey, and a week in Italy (this year was the program's 42nd annual trip abroad). The classes I took were with professors in Wheaton’s bible and theology department, but I myself am not a theology major—I study history and international relations.
While I loved every minute of visiting churches and historical ruins, our visit to Jerusalem—one of the most relevant cities in the world with regard to International Relations—was my chance to engage with the sites of the modern-day State of Israel.
As a student of history, I firmly believe that to understand anything about current affairs, one must understand the history behind them—too often, onlookers try and jump in and offer a solution without actually understanding the underlying historical roots behind the conflict. Thanks to classes we took with the Shalom Hartman Institute, we got the chance to engage with the culture, history, and identity of the Jewish Israeli community. Marci Lenk, a scholar at the institute, gave us an introduction to Jewish life from the past couple of centuries.
These lectures helped pieces of the puzzle begin to come together for me. Suddenly, I understood what a Kibbutz was, why the streets were empty on Saturdays, and the explanation behind the variants of Jewish clothing. By learning about the past, we were able to better understand the present.
Not only did we engage with Judaism on a historical level, but the Institute also allowed us to engage with Judaism on a cultural level. For example, Dr. Lenk graciously hosted us for a Shabbat dinner. By participating with her, we were taking part in a tradition that has been practiced every Friday for thousands of years.
As Shabbat continued, Dr. Lenk invited us to Synagogue for a Shabbat service. We were able to see for ourselves the differences and similarities in which both Christians and Jews worship. I was able to observe and engage with a Jewish community at large. The entire experience is not really something I can even put into words.
The only thing I can say is I doubt that I will ever have the chance to witness and engage Jewish culture in that way again. The Shalom Hartman Institute gave me invaluable exposure—an integral part of my understanding of Jewish culture and identity—that will help me better understand the past, present, and future. No amount of books I have read, classes I have taken, or lectures I have heard could have taught me what I learned from the experience of engaging with the Jewish community of Jerusalem.
Elena Miles ’15 is a senior studying history and international relations. Photo credits from top: Gini Pera ’16 takes a study break in Jerusalem from the roof of the Jerusalem University College campus; Students celebrate after they conquer a hike to a ridge in the Judean Wilderness between Jerusalem and Jericho.
Tags: Global and Experiential Learning, Student Activities
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.
Tags: Global and Experiential Learning, My Wheaton, Spiritual Life
Initially, I applied to become a Youth Hostel Ministries team member at Wheaton thinking it would “complete me” by forcing me out of my comfort zone into great conversations all around Europe that would magically strengthen my faith and make me bolder. That wasn’t at all what I experienced during my summer “vacation,” however—I instead found myself working through trying circumstances and practicing spiritual disciplines that broke me to pieces, trusting they would ultimately bear fruit.
While YHM was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, it was also one of the most beautiful and rewarding of my adventures to date.
The 200-mile “spiritual pilgrimage” our team took on El Camino de Santiago was a precursor to five weeks of work at The Pilgrim House welcome center in Santiago, Spain (a hostel started by Nate '97 and Faith Wen Walter ’97, two Wheaton College alumni). Throughout our journey on El Camino, we walked as a team, but in many ways had to learn what it meant to be individual pilgrims.
I learned throughout this time how to take the loneliness I occasionally felt and turn it into a time of solitude in the presence of the Lord. I learned that the pain of walking hundreds of miles with blisters on my feet kept me conscious and aware, and in the moments I had no strength left of my own, it was only God who could get me where I was headed. He provided exactly what I needed to make it through each moment, whether it be a good conversation, kindness, or the majesty in His creation.
Working with Nate and Faith at Pilgrim House in Santiago, I learned there’s beauty in God’s timing that comes from devoting yourself to following Him. Faith told us in their kitchen one evening that if they had known 10 years ago how long it would take to finally open Pilgrim House, they might never have begun. In the same way, had I known how difficult the Camino (let alone the rest of the summer) would be, I might not have had the desire to begin the journey. But God, just as He did with Nate and Faith, provided for me, and was with me every step of the way.
Instead of YHM “completing” me, I came back in pieces. In the same way my Camino shell (a symbol worn around your backpack to signify your participation on the El Camino pilgrimage) came back broken after our two-week hike, so too was I broken and scattered. My YHM journey wasn’t easy, but it inspired me to pursue the passions God has placed on my heart more than ever. On the pilgrim road, I realized my journey is far from over, and I want nothing less than to walk it well. I desire a “Buen Camino,” and I encourage everyone to consider a program like YHM during their time at Wheaton.
Alley Kammer ’16 is a junior studying interpersonal communication with a Spanish minor. She participated in Wheaton’s Youth Hostel Ministries program this summer. Top: Alley and Nico Lasta ’15 on El Camino de Santiago; Above (l to r): Pilgrim House founder Nate Walter ’97, YHM team members Luke Rynbrandt '16, Brooke Thompson '14, Nico Lasta '15, Alley Kammer ’16, and Pilgrim House co-founder Faith Wen Walter ’97. Read more about the Pilgrim House in Wheaton Magazine.