This summer, Northwestern students will be traveling across the world to several locations during the annual Summer of Service Program. Since 1981, NW has sent a group of students to a variety of countries annually for a period of six to 10 weeks in the form of short-term missions, entitled the Summer of Service program. In the upcoming summer, students will be going to locations including Louisiana, Alaska, alongside locations outside of the U.S. like Northern Africa, Greece, Romania and Southeast Asia. Over the past 40 years, students have landed in over 90 countries in six continents. The program itself provides a launch point for students to take part in long-term missions or serve occassionally in short bursts periodically after the program is over.
Students do a wide variety of tasks on SOSs like teaching English, tending to animals and supporting the members of the community that they land. Students return from their journeys with a plethora of stories, including stories of God’s goodness and exploration.
This year is raring to be packed with the same kinds of breakthrough experiences that SOSs are known for as 15 students make their way out of Iowa. Several students will be traveling to Athens, Greece, to partner with Helping Hands, a refugee ministry. Helping Hands is committed to bring refugees from Athens and the greater Athens area together, planting the gospel in their hearts and lives during their stay. Greece, as a country, also holds many middle eastern refugees, and at this time, Helping Hands is preparing to receive Ukrainian refugees into their care. So, NW students may be gifted the chance to help them as well. The women will be paired with the women and children, while the men will be paired with the men of the community to help with some physical labor.
Junior Dylan Kirkeby will be traveling to Greece this summer, along with Jakob VanDerWerff, Julia Zora and Abigail Clarke.
“I love being away from home for an extended period of time and being able to focus on serving others without any distractions,” Kirkeby said.
Every summer brings a combination of students who have been out of the country and students who have never exited Iowa. VanDerWerff, a senior political science major, is part of the group who has never been part of the SOS program.
“I am looking forward to giving up control and letting God direct my life, and I am also excited to serve the Kingdom!” VanDerWerff said.
Elizabeth Olsen, a junior social work major, is in the same party of having not been part of the program before, is going to African country Zambia to serve with Poetice, a justice-fighting missions organization.
“I am looking forward to being able to serve God in a way I never have before, along with being able to get out of my comfort zone and lean on God through this experience,” Olsen said.
Students raise the money themselves to go on the summer trips. They raise the funds for room and board, transportation and other program expenses, mostly receiving this support from friends, family and their home churches. There is a way that students can support their fellow Raiders, however, and that is through the exam survival kits at the end of the semester. The money from those kits will be put towards the summer service projects, providing ways for the program to continue for the years and students to come.