Northwestern offers many opportunities for students to serve across the nation and around the world. Many students, however, have chosen to serve through organizations not associated with NW.
Two of these students are senior Bryan Langfitt and junior Matt Dowie.
Langfitt worked with a program called Master’s Commission (now called The Movement) in the streets of Los Angeles.
Langfitt was motivated to go on a full-time mission trip during his sophomore year of high school when he went to the Dream Center for a short-term mission trip.
During that trip, Langfitt found out about the program they were offering for high school graduates that involved hands-on ministry training.
After graduating from high school, Langfitt went directly back to Los Angeles, where he stayed for the next two years. Langfitt remembers having doubts going into it.
“I was a six-foot-seven- inch white guy from the small town of Sheldon, Iowa, living in the middle of Los Angeles where I stuck out like a sore thumb,” Langfitt said.
Even though he was worried at first, Langfitt believed that God was sovereign over his experience and watched over him while he was there.
Master’s Commission is a discipleship-training program that’s part of a larger ministry organization called the Dream Center. Langfitt described the program as an alternative to Bible college, where students from all over the world dedicate a year of their lives solely to God.
Langfitt took Bible courses, memorized Scripture passages and went out in the “trenches” to do hands-on ministry work. For the first year, Langfitt served in Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.
“In Skid Row, there is an estimated 1,000 homeless people within a mile radius,” Langfitt said. “A lot of what I did there was come three times a week consistently and build relationships with the homeless. We also brought food and clothes with us, as well as gave them an opportunity to join a program to get their lives back on track.”
After working in Skid Row, Langfitt returned for a second year and served at a different site called Nickerson Gardens, located in the Watts district of Los Angeles.
Two years after the experience began, Langfitt came to the conclusion that he could serve Christ wholeheartedly no matter what path in life he chose. He now believes everyone has a role in ministry.
“You don’t have to work for the church to be a servant of the Lord,” Langfitt said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re working at a church or a CEO of a business. God calls us to use our gifts and talents to further His kingdom. Service missions start in your backyard, and it doesn’t take an elaborate plan.”
Unlike many students who do their service missions in affiliation with the college, Langfitt did not have any affiliation with the college for his service.
He encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities the college offers them.
“Try to do some type of mission work during your time at NW, whether it is an SSP, SOS or internship with a church or organization,” Langfitt said. “The chances of this happening after college are less likely, so get involved now.”
Dowie will be going on a service mission of his own this spring in Baja, Mexico.
Dowie will work in an orphanage called Door of Faith for six months.
Dowie has gone to Haiti for the past two summers for about a week and a half each. After the second trip, he thought that a week and a half was a waste of time.
“I didn’t truly help anyone there,” Dowie said. “I was just really unsatisfied, and I wanted to go somewhere longer where I could truly help the people.”
Dowie then began the process of finding a place where he could serve for a longer amount of time. When he found the Door of Faith orphanage, Dowie knew that’s where he needed to be.
“This orphanage was just placed on my heart,” Dowie said. “While I’m there, I’ll be a helper at the orphanage doing whatever is needed. I will mostly be doing things like getting the place ready for new groups coming and helping those groups throughout the week.”
Like Langfitt, Dowie is doing this project on his own. His service will have no affiliation with the college.
“I truly didn’t even think about going somewhere through NW,” Dowie said. “An SSP or SOS wasn’t going to be long enough for me.”
After returning to the United States, Dowie plans on coming back to NW to finish school. One thing he said he feels called to do after college is full-time mission work, but he hopes that this trip will help him decide on what mission work to do.
“I don’t know if I should start my own orphanage or do something different,” Dowie said. “So hopefully this trip will answer some questions on that. I also hope to grow spiritually closer to God and touch the life of at least one person. If I touch one person’s life, then I will be happy.”
Dowie thought that there are no excuses to not go on a service mission. He also thinks it would be best for students to go while they are still in college and have the time to do it.
“If you are even thinking about going, there should be no question about it,” Dowie said. “Just go. Even if it is just a short term mission trip, you will gain so much knowledge on life, and you wouldn’t regret it. Money isn’t an excuse not to go. If you are supposed to go, God will always provide you with it.”