“There is nothing better than seeing someone come to Christ and knowing that you made a difference along the way,” said Erin Keyzer, a Calvin sophomore.
Giving students that “taste” of mission work is the impetus behind the Summer Service Ministries Grant Program at Calvin, which provides $1,200 grants to students like Keyzer who wish to spend their summers in service.
Keyzer spent the summer in Kazakhstan teaching English to young people. “I had no idea what I was getting into,” she wrote in a summary of her experience. “In these two months, God was so evident. So many of my prayers were answered. I learned many valuable things about myself, my faith and about the God I love and serve. I hope to do something like this again, and Lord willing, make a career out of it.”
Keyzer was one of nine Calvin students who traveled to such places as China, Mexico, Romania, Hungary and Honduras during the summer of 2004.
Like Keyzer, Emily Steenwyk, a senior, also was moved by her experience this summer. She worked in various ministries with the Christian Reformed Church in Nueva Suyapa in Honduras.
She discovered that “we need the poor to teach us. And learning from the poor, more than any of my contributions or service, is what I did this summer.”
Experiences like these are what the Summer Service Ministries Grant Program is all about, said Tom McWhertor, vice president for enrollment and external relations, who has been involved with the program since its inception seven years ago.
“We know that many students have a heart for missions, but needing to make money to pay for tuition is a barrier for them,” he said. “Through this program we hope to replace some of the earnings these students would have missed out on through summer work. Calvin trains students to live their lives as servants of Christ, and this is one way we can help students who feel a calling to explore missions.”
The program, which began in 1999, supports students who participate in summer mission work for seven weeks or longer under the sponsorship of a Christian church or agency. The emphasis of the work must be on Christian service and cross-cultural experience, either in the U.S. or abroad.
While all of the students feel uniquely changed through their experience, some confirm that their vocational calling is in long-term mission work.
Wrote Steenwyk: “This summer continued to make it clear to me that God has laid a call upon my life to do long-term foreign missions in Latin America or wherever he may call me.”
If you know Calvin students who might be interested in this summer ministry, encourage them to contact the college’s Service-Learning Center. If you or your church would like to support this program financially, contact Tom McWhertor at (616) 526-6650 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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