Summer of Service partnerships are a big part of the missionary work at Northwestern. Each year, several students travel to other states and countries to partner with service programs and spread the love of Christ.
“SOSs provide students with opportunities to sacrificially serve, respectfully participate and humbly learn in communities, which more often than not, are culturally different from their own,” Patrick Hummel, NW director of missions, said.
Unfortunately, last year the Summer of Service trips were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year, the program is back up and running. Eleven students will be spending their summers on in countries like Nicaragua, Chad, Haiti and Sri Lanka, as well as states like Colorado and Illinois.
Half of these students will be traveling to Haiti for two weeks and partnering with United Christians International. Founded in 2005 by Jean Jean and Kristie Mompremier, UCI resides in northern Haiti by the town of Caiman and houses nine nutrition centers, a health clinic, an elementary and secondary school and a university which includes programs in: theology, agriculture science, nursing, medical doctors and elementary education. Here, NW students will interact with local children, volunteer at the hospital and in the nutrition centers and assist with short term missions.
On the domestic side of SOSs, freshman Elyssa Tang is one of two students staying in the United States. She hopes to travel to Urbana, Illinois and partner with Pioneers where she will build relationships with students at the University of Illinois or potentially help with local immigrants.
Many of the SOS teams have felt called toward missions for a long time. Sophomore Breanna Oolman, a member of the Haiti team, grew up in Orange City and has looked forward to going on an SOS even before she enrolled at NW.
“Medical missions are something I have felt led to do since my senior year of high school,” sophomore Kaytlyn Keeler said, who is also traveling to Haiti. “I think Christians have a responsibility to spread God’s love everywhere they go. I feel I can do this as a doctor serving in places around the world that have very limited access to medical care.”
There is uncertainty and nerves surrounding this summer’s SOS trips. COVID-19 has drastically altered the operation and planning of the program. Finding sites and partners was difficult to begin with, and unfortunately in March multiple partners canceled trips affecting ten students. Students whose partnerships have remained intact and those who have been relocated will likely have to become accustomed to wearing masks, testing and immunization requirements for travel, and potential quarantining protocols.
Also, is the fact that some of the countries the students will be visiting have ongoing political unrest that can sometimes conflict with missions.
“Nothing is ever certain,” Jayden Schutt, a Haiti team member, said.
Despite these uncertainties, the SOS teams still hold great hopes and passion for their upcoming trips.
“My prayer for this summer is that all of the SOS members will be molded to reflect Christ more, so that we may be a blessing to others, both during the SOS and beyond,” Tang said.
Schutt emphasizes the importance of missions and why she feels called to pursue them as a Christian.
“Jesus tells us to feed the hungry and give the thirsty something to drink,” she said. “I believe a lot of people are physically hungry and thirsty but also spiritually deprived. We have the opportunity to address both aspects—physically and spiritually—through loving our neighbors and empowering them to do the same.”