Summers are often spent by the lake, at a job, catching up with family and preparing for the upcoming year. However, for a select few Northwestern students, this coming summer will be spent serving others.
A Summer of Service is a time for an individual student to see how they can serve others from anywhere for four to nine weeks anytime between the end of May through August. Last summer, students traveled to Colorado, South Asia, Ireland, Peru, Ghana, Greece, Japan, Spain, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico.
NW annually sends around 20 students across the globe for a SOS. These 20 students complete an application and an interview to make sure they are flexible, culturally aware and ready to serve the Lord in a foreign place. Any student can apply, as there are no qualifications to be met. This year’s theme is “Daily Bread,” taken from Ecclesiastes 7:14.
Coordinator Kate Staab said, “He will supply what you need today. On the really hard or boring days, because you will have those. He has made those as well. He has made today, and you can serve Him today.”
A SOS looks different for every individual, as each location has a different purpose. Just a few examples are preparing meals, teaching English as a second language or serving at a refugee site or medical base.
Junior Lexi Van Surksum and senior Cassidy Bultena both went on a SOS in 2018. Van Surksum traveled to Santiago de Compostela, where she went on a 137 mile pilgrimage and served at a pilgrimage house.
“It was hard, but I don’t regret it,” Van Surksum said about her nine-day excursion, completing a portion of the Camino, a trail through Spain that has various networks of pilgrimages.
After her pilgrimage, Van Surksum began serving at the pilgrim house, which was the welcome center at the end of the trail. Here, she had the opportunity to guide group debriefing and talked to pilgrims about their journey.
“It was humbling to hear all the different reasons that people chose to take the journey. It was helpful for me wanting to be in social work in the future, to be in uncomfortable environments and God really stretched me in ways I wasn’t anticipating on,” Van Surksum said.
Bultena’s summer was a little different than Van Surksum’s. Bultena spent her summer in Pucallpa, Peru, a town located on the banks of the Amazon River.
“I wanted to work with natives, and the site through Pioneers [a mission’s agency] in Peru fit my goal. I wanted to learn what it looked like to be a long-term missionary,” Bultena said.
In Peru, Bultena’s summer was filled with manual service for the missionaries she was staying with. Digging holes for septic systems, watching missionaries’ children, harvesting coffee beans and clearing underbrush are just a few of the tasks she did.
Living in Peru, general survival is the first priority, which was a learning experience for Bultena. She received a glimpse at the tribal villages in Peru and how their day-to-day life is vastly different from the day-to-day life of an American.
“It broadens their perspective about who God is and what He is doing in this world. It has really changed my perspective on how I look at the Bible. I would encourage other people to take those steps to how does the Bible call us to live our life,” Bultena said about the lasting impact of spending her summer serving.
If selected to go on a SOS, students attend a meeting every other Monday throughout second semester to be walked through the process of what a SOS looks like. SOS applications are now open until Nov. 2.