This past summer, many Wheaton students traveled around the globe with Wheaton’s summer ministry partners to share the Gospel. Last semester, we met with participating students before they left to hear about what they were planning to do. Sophomore Katelyn Bennett headed to Denver with Global Urban Perspectives where she worked with Lutheran Family Services, refugees and the homeless. Senior Marcus Craig and sophomore Wesley Braden traveled around Europe with Youth Hostel Ministries, making friends with fellow travelers and serving at Sir Toby’s hostel. Sophomore Rob Moore worked with Student Ministry Partners in Ghana, joining with missionaries to preach, teach and work with kids. Having freshly returned from their summer adventures, Features caught up with these students to learn about their experiences.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What was the most challenging part of your ministry?
WB: Engaging with travelers who fully embodied a post-modern lifestyle and having gospel conversations with jaded travelers who had seen most of the world, imbibed many cultures and been hurt by the institutional “Church.” These travelers were often convinced that, due to their intelligence and worldly experiences, they were wiser than any formal religion, and many of them had even formed their own life philosophies.
MC: Learning how to function with my three very different teammates. We laughed, cried, fought, got lost, taught each other about life and bonded.
KB: The introspection that brought up painful issues from my past and present.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your experience?
RM: The most unexpected part was how open people were to the word of God. We evangelized a lot, to Muslims, animists and Christians alike. They were all interested in what we had to say.
KB: God surprised me by revealing that I am broken and beautiful.
WB: I was surprised by how normal traveling became. Incredible life experiences in beautiful, exotic European locales with international backpackers we had met hours before seemed normal, almost mundane.
What did you learn that you will apply to your life now?
MC: God can lead you to water, but he can’t make you drink. Following God takes risks and he often leads you one step past where you want to go, even though it’s for your good.
WB: A genuine relationship with God is the only relationship that can satisfy our carnal nature: The hedonistic lifestyle, which the media promotes as success, is not satisfaction.
RM: God works in some wacky ways. I tend to not appreciate God’s works when I’m in my comfort zone, but when you go to a foreign country (God’s work) is much more obvious. I want to make sure I appreciate his works in the U.S.
How did you see God working?
KB: In his healing of me inside, relationships with my co-workers and in my fellow interns’ lives.
MC: This summer acted as a heart-check. As I interacted with my team and those we met, God exposed much of my life and challenged me to deeply evaluate what I believe about life and about Him.
Do you have any advice for those thinking about participating in summer ministries next summer?
KB: Be vulnerable, look deep into yourself, believe in God’s love for you, rest, love unconditionally, even when people continually hurt you, forgive and fight bitterness. Listen, be open to learning from every situation, rely on Jesus, stay rooted in God’s Word and do not waver from your morals or become desensitized to sin. Don’t lose your focus on him and his Gospel!
MC: I’ve learned so many valuable lessons, have seen wonderful places and have met unforgettable people thanks to YHM. Take the risk and go learn about yourself, God and the world. It’s worth it.
WB: Go. It will change your life. You will see the world. You will see God working in the world. You will have a plethora of stories that sound like the beginning of a bad joke. Freshman, this is your summer of opportunity before internships begin!
Editor’s note: Katelyn Skye Bennett is the news editor of the Record.