This past weekend, the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program at Wheaton College hosted their annual symposium, a time of sharing and coming together for the students who spent six months interning in developing countries during summer and fall.
This year’s symposium was titled “The Hungry Shall Be Filled,” and it highlighted the relationship between conflict and hunger and how reconciliation is crucial for food security in post-conflict zones.
The event began with a Thursday evening talk from plenary speaker Dr. Emmanuel Katongole, who is the co-founder and formerly co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke University, and current Associate Professor of Theology and Peace Studies at Notre Dame University.
“We are very excited as a program being able to host Dr. Katongole,” said visiting Associate Professor Dr. James Huff, echoed by Research and Program Assistant Chris Wilson.
On Friday, the annual chapel service planned by the returning interns was followed by two panel discussions consisting of faculty who spanned many departments. Friday evening Dr. Katongole delivered a closing address along with Dr. Paul Robinson, former director of the HNGR program at Wheaton. The symposium concluded with a desert reception on Friday night and a breakfast on Saturday morning that focused on moving toward reconciliation.
Over the past weeks, the twenty-seven returning HNGR interns created posters and displays to represent the purposes of the organizations they worked with while abroad. Additionally, several creative projects detailing the impact of the trips were on display during symposium. Anna Li, who traveled to the Philippines, put together the poems of children in their various native dialects, which they are not typically aloud to use, as a way of preserving the voice of the people she encountered.
Reflecting on the weekend, Huff said that the symposium had what has historically been a good turnout numerically speaking, with over 100 attendees at each of the panels and the breakfast on Saturday. The peak of the weekend was Friday night, when roughly 250 people came for the plenary address.
“As far as the numbers go, our office was really pleased with the attendance. There was a lot of energy, and a lot of alumni,” Huff said. The alumni from previous years of HNGR, especially 2010 and 2013, added to the momentum and excitement of the current interns in showcasing their journeys. “We were also excited to have former director Paul Robinson,” Huff said.
“A highlight for me was participation of faculty from across the college. The psychology, math, economics, theology, political science, international relations and English literature departments all contributed to the symposium. It was really an example of the best of liberal arts education,” Huff said. Additionally, he emphasized the role of students in making artistic contribution.
“It was also a good example of the application of the liberal arts education,” he said. “God’s mission of reconciliation is about learning and practice.”
The importance of the work of the organizations was something stressed through symposium this week. Students and faculty reported on their research, said Huff, but it was “a lot of it reporting on the work that churches in sub-Saharan Africa are doing to make things right in the world.” He emphasized that it is these organizations and churches that are doing the real work of reconciliation, and it was the job of the interns to show this.
“It’s great because it brings together so many people on Wheaton’s campus, but also brings together people from around the world to show how partnering in God’s work is very beneficial,” Huff said. “It’s very celebratory.”
Huff said he sees importance in the symposium in that it provides. He said, “An opportunity to share (the interns’) experience with the rest of the college and to tell both the story of their internship and also the story of the work of the people and organizations that hosted them around the world. Not only (do visitors) learn about their experiences, but also the amazing organizations they worked for. Those organizations are the ones that are doing the main work of reconciliation around the world.”