Without fail, Northwestern always has some opportunity or another to serve. Prioritizing this action as the Lord has commanded us to, NW seeks to send students around and across the world to carry out good works in His name, even when school is not in session. This is exactly where NW’s Summer of Service, or “SOS”, comes into play. This summer mission trip, spanning six to ten weeks, collects students from all studies, all school years, and every corner of campus, and directing them out into the world to become the hands and feet of Jesus.
This collection of students includes seniors Avery Calsbeek and Dylan Kirkeby. After spending the majority of her summer with Urban Impact in New Orleans, Louisiana, Calsbeek was able to share her transformative experience.
Recounting her time with Urban Impact, Calsbeek shared the stories of the many misadventures her group encountered with the children of New Orleans. Hosting a summer camp, designed to pull these children away from thei ordinary lives, Calsbeek’s group played games with them, shared the gospel utilizing different teams and taught the children qualities like good sportsmanship and how to encourage one another.
Perhaps most impactful to Calsbeek, however, was the position she found herself in teaching children art. As an Elementary Education major, with the hopes of becoming an art teacher someday, Calsbeek jumped on the chance and proceeded to instruct the children in this work that she enjoys.
Additionally, Clasbeek spent time preparing spiritually to share the gospel with the children of New Orleans. When asked what her prayers before the trip sounded like, she said, “I remember sitting on the plane and just praying ‘God keep me safe and God use me.’” Being on the other side of the trip, Calsbeek would highly recommend considering a Summer of Service to anyone, even just applying. “If you get in, that’s God saying you need to go… If God opens a door for you, run through it.”
While NW offers the ability to stay “local” in missions, presenting the option of sites within the country, it is also well known for its global service locations, stretching all the way to Greece, where Kirkeby had the chance to travel to during his SOS. Kirkeby spent six weeks in Greece, spanning three weeks among four different camps and the remaining three weeks in Athens with Helping Hands, a ministry devoted to assisting refuges in their varying states of life.
Kirkeby described his experience, telling stories marked with rock climbing, lifeguarding and lots of dish washing! His role was “just being there… to be friendly,” a gift that many of these refugees had not encountered was delivered by Kirkeby and his group.
In addition to his memories of the trip, he explained the preparation process, sharing the cultural studies provided by NW, but also the refocusing of his mindset. Kirkeby said, “We wanted to go in with an open mind. Whatever happens, happens”. Being from the Midwest, Kirkeby found himself being pushed out of his comfort zone with the language barriers, different foods and the ways people interact with one another.
Additionally, there comes difficulty when the lives you are serving reflect a much different story than your own. However, Kirkeby saw a message hidden in this, “I think the biggest take away for me is that you can not judge someone on their past… Everyone’s story is different,” he said.
Mirroring Calsbeek, Kirkeby would advocate for attending an SOS, as well, saying, “It’s such a good experience… You’re going to find something that you want to do, that you’ll grow from spiritually.” With such astounding reviews and moving narratives of personal growth and spiritual development, one can’t help but consider if the Lord would call them to this as well, and how one can bring SOS to Orange City, every day. How will you serve?