Where'd Freshman Year Go?

The spring semester is in full swing and the end of the year is approaching. As the trees are budding, the reality that this school year is nearly over is becoming ever-the-more clear. Final exams are approaching and the Spikeball nets are coming out. It’s a joyful time of the year to cherish the last few weeks with great friends all the while knowing that the time together is finite. Considering that my freshman year at Northwestern College is coming to a close, I felt as if it would be a fun time to relay to you what God has been up to this year!

 

Transformative Friendships

As I entered into college, I only scratched the surface on just how special the community is at Northwestern. Having visited campus and staying with my what-is-now RA three times during my senior year of high school, I was stoked to experience NWC to the full. Reflecting upon this year, it is safe to say that God has put guys around me who have sharpened me tremendously. By planting the seeds for connections during my visits to Northwestern, the fruit of those interactions have been extremely evident in what this freshman year has looked like. Leaving friends and family from my hometown certainly wasn’t easy, but it is safe to say that I have been blessed with an intentional, goofy, and uplifting family of brothers and sisters here at Northwestern. So much so that I have grown tremendously this year. From late night talks in Coly to snagging coffee at the LC’s Common Grounds, this year has been composed of priceless conversations. As I experienced my mountain tops and valleys, I had a band of solid people to do it all with. I wouldn’t trade these relationships for anything!

 

Spontaneous Road Trips

There is just nothing like randomly packing up a vehicle and hitting the road with some friends. This year has consisted of a three-day road trip to Minneapolis, two out-of-the-blue trips to Omaha for concerts, and a fair amount of visits to Sioux Center for a nice little Wal-Mart run. It is within these profoundly simple times of adventure where some of my greatest memories of this year stem from. Throughout this year, I have learned just how awesome it is to say “yes” to the random things and to soak them up. A routine is nice don’t get me wrong (this is my shameless plug just in case my mom is reading this), but college is a time where you have freedom to navigate through that routine. It’s quite the time!

 

Spring Service Partnership

To place a cherry on top of this freshman year at Northwestern, I had the privilege to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a Spring Service Partnership back in March. I went with thirteen other Northwestern students and was blessed by our campus chaplain’s leadership along the way! God used that week-long service trip during spring break to swing many doors open for deep conversations, hard questions to be discussed, and true tests of selflessness. Our team became a tight-knit family as the week progressed. Residing in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, Urban Impact and Castle Rock Church took us in as if we were family. They blessed us with the honor of serving in their community underneath the shadow of the Super Dome. Hit by natural disasters, family addictions, and high numbers of unemployment, the neighborhood appears to be a breeding ground of hopelessness. However, our SSP team was able to catch a glimpse of God’s heart for the neighborhood through Urban Impact’s vision. As the ministry strives to make disciples of Christ who bring transformation to their families, their friends, their neighborhood and their city, the hearts within our team were transformed. It was a trip that catapulted my love for Gospel transformation, community development, and missions that desire to put ministries/churches in a space to perform both of those aspects with consistent support.

Spring Fever

The past two weeks I have started to notice that it finally is starting to feel like spring.  It’s getting warmer, the grass is greener, and the trees are starting to get their leaves back.

My favorite time of the year on campus is spring and it seems like everything is coming back to life, including the students.  After a long winter of being cooped up indoors, as soon as a nice day hits, everyone is out and about. 

The campus looks and feels much more active.  Even when it just comes to studying, students will bring out their blankets and camp out for the day.  If you are lucky, a professor will have class outside on the green.

The green is full of kids playing Frisbee, soccer, and spike ball.  There’s kids scootering and longboarding from class to class.  When walking through campus tennis balls whiz past as kids play Gennis (golf and tennis).  Soon the Learning Commons will have bikes out front that can be checked out for a day.  There’s nothing like grabbing a bike and riding through town with a few of your friends for a little study break. 

Walking through campus you can easily join a group of people enjoying the day.  This past week I was walking back from Praise and Worship Sunday night and there was a large group of kids enjoying a bonfire at the campus fire pit.  As I walked past, a friend of mine invited me over.  They made me a s’more and we talked and listened to music for a while, all the while inviting more people who happened to walk past. 

If you’re on campus it seems essential to have a hammock.  Every available tree seems to have a person hanging beneath it.  I definitely am not a stranger to grabbing my backpack and lying in a hammock to make doing homework a little more enjoyable. 

Spring is my favorite time of year at Northwestern.  There is no better feeling than watching campus become full of activity after a long winter. 

Post-SSP Thoughts

So, I am not a huge fan of flying in airplanes, but last spring break I applied to go on the spring service project to Bluefields, Nicaragua without really any knowledge about the country or about the struggles facing this city. I got accepted to the team and said, “What the heck!” before forcing myself on an airplane headed for Dallas, then Managua, and finally, Bluefields. Long story short, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I knew that I wanted to come back this spring break.

                Like I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I was given the opportunity to co-lead this year’s team to Bluefields for spring break. Amidst all the pre-departure meetings and fundraising, I really couldn’t believe how close spring break was getting! However, I got on the airplane this time with the idea that this was going to most-likely be my last time in Bluefields ever because I will be student-teaching next spring and won’t be able to do an SSP.

                This year’s trip was, again, one of the best weeks of my life. It was amazing to see a lot of the same kids and adults that I saw last year, and having them remember who I was really made me feel like I had definitely had a positive impact on them. However, something during this trip kept bothering me. There are two boys in Bluefields who I have particularly grown close to over my 16 total days there: Cristian (9 years old) and Isidro (7), who are brothers living in the Tabitha’s House – a house for children whose parents are not able to take care of them at the moment for one reason or another. I call these kids mis hermanitos (my little brothers) because of how much they mean to me!

                During the week I was there, I kept thinking about how many people, like me, have come into these boys’ lives for a short amount of time, become really close to them for their week or so in Bluefields, and then leave and never see them again. I do not want to be one of those people. I don’t think it can be very good for kids like Cristian and Isidro to have people do this to them multiple times throughout the year. This bothered me all week, and I really began to question the effectiveness of short-term mission trips that are based on relationship-building like this one to Bluefields.

                On one of our last nights, we were hanging out with the leaders of the ministry that we were partnering with, Pastor Adrian, and Dr. Bernadeth Kelly. One of our adult faculty leaders, John Vonder Bruegge asked them what the best thing is that a short-term mission team like ours brings to a ministry like this one. I really can’t remember all of what Pastor Adrian said in response to this question, but there was one part that really stuck out to me. He said, “You can send lots of money and toys to these kids in the mail, but you can’t send a smile, and you can’t send a hug.”

                So, with that statement in mind, I had a renewed sense of purpose in Bluefields, especially with Cristian and Isidro. I still really don’t want to be someone who comes into these boys’ lives and leaves after a while, but like Pastor Adrian said, the time I spent with these kids means so much to them anyways, because a lot of them just want to be loved by somebody, even if it can only be for a week or two. The hugs, smiles and laugher shared between groups like ours and kids like this cannot be replicated by anything material. This gave me a lot of peace as I left at the end of the week.

                Anyways, I am already planning my next trip to Bluefields, whether it’s with a mission group or not. It’s a place where I feel so much at home, and where I know God is very active in the community. I cannot wait to see mis hermanitos again soon!!

College + Job = Good Idea?

Two years ago I was a senior year in high school. (My how things have changed in two years!) As a senior looking ahead to college, there was a lot I was curious about. 

I had been told that college was a big time commitment, much bigger than that of high school. So I wondered: was it possible to go to college and work at the same time? Could I focus on my classes AND find time to work a consistent job each week?

The answer I have personally found: Yes!

As I learned to manage my time, I discovered that it is indeed very possible to be involved in multiple things outside of class. (For example: intramural sports, clubs, school activities, and . . . work!) And let's be honest with one another, it's great to have cash to spend. Even if you're not spending it.

With time management, I also discovered the benefit of working on campus opposed to finding a job off campus. I have a few reasons for this. 1) It takes time to walk to your car and drive somewhere when you could just walk across campus to work. 2) The jobs are very accommodating to the schedule of college students. If you can only work for an hour in-between class each day, those are the hours you'll get. 3) Some jobs are very flexible and allow you to drop in on your own time, whenever you're free. 

Coming into college, I had no idea just how many work-study jobs were available on campus. Trust me, there are a lot. There are so many different offices, departments, and buildings to work in, I definitely don't even know of each and every single work-study that exists. 

You could...

...lead a worship team

...clean the hallways in your dorm

...give tours around campus

...shovel snow in the winter

...work at the front desk of the student center

...coordinate devotional groups in your dorm

...work in the peer tutor center

-write articles or take photos for the student newspaper (The Beacon) 

-work in the sound booth during chapel

-make coffee at the Common Grounds coffee shop 

Really, the possibilities are endless. The beauty is that each job is unique. Does cleaning relieve your stress? Great! Get paid to vacuum the halls of your dorm. Are you interested in planning activities and events? Awesome! Join Student Activities Council. Do you love cheese balls? Maybe try out a job at the Hub! 

All this said, it is very possible to work a part-time job in college. Some semesters may have a greater work load, and you might have to cut back on your hours. Others may offer greater flexibility and you might consider working a few more. The goal is to figure out what works best for you with your schedule. 

Best of luck my friends!

Spring Break in New York

The most recent event for the students has been spring break.  We just recently got back to campus and started up classes again.  Stories of what everyone did over break are swirling around. 

There are many routes to take when it comes to how people spend their break.  Some choose to go home, others plan trips with friends.  Northwestern also offers Spring Service Projects (SSP groups).  It’s a program that sends out work groups to locations all over the US and a few places internationally.  It’s ten days of service.  I have been a part of SSP groups in the past, but this year I wasn’t able to do it because our band went on tour this year.

Band takes an extended tour over spring break every other year.  This year, the band went out east to New York.  We take our time moving from state to state, giving concerts at churches and performing at schools.   This year we stopped in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania. 

This tour had a couple special stops because we went to the hometowns of two of our own band members, one is from Pennsylvania and the other is from Illinois.  While we are on tour we stay with host families that are members of the community.  Almost everyone walks away each night with fun stories about their host families and the fun connections they made.

On our trip we had two touristy activities we took time off for.  Our first stop was at Niagara Falls.  It was one of the coldest days we had, but we all bundled up and spent a couple hours walking around and taking pictures.  The second stop was in Philadelphia.  We went to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch and then had the chance to see the Liberty Bell. 

There’s a lot of traveling in a charter bus for tour, so everyone in the band gets to know each other really well.  That’s consistently the biggest takeaway I hear from tour.  When we aren’t performing we are playing games and having conversations with one another. 

One of the best nights that we had together was when we stopped in Warwick, New York.  Instead of host families we stayed at a camp all together.  We were the only ones staying in the building so we didn’t have to worry too much about being loud.  We took up the lounge and spent the night playing games, having a dance party, and just relaxing.  Some of the students stayed up until three in the morning playing cards.  While traveling the country with the band is fun, oftentimes it’s just the times we spent together that are the most memorable. 

Winter Blast is my Jam

One of my favorite things about Orange City is the opportunity for involvement in the community outside of Northwestern College. The churches in town are a great place to begin this endeavor!

Last year, after attending New Hope E-Free Church for two years, I was invited to come to the middle school youth group to check it out and see if I wanted to help out. I agreed to stop by the youth group on a Sunday evening, but I was sure this wasn’t for me. I walked in and the kids immediately invited me to play carpet ball, ping-pong, and foursquare. I was asked endless questions about where I was from and my favorite things to do at college. The kids welcomed me with open arms and I decided to come back another week. And another week and another week and here we are two years later. Each week, I look forward to spending my Sunday evenings for an hour and a half with the middle schoolers.

Last winter, I was asked to come along with my youth group to a weekend retreat, called “Winter Blast”. I debated whether I could handle being a chaperone to 30+ middle schoolers for three days and two nights. Were these stinky kids going to shower? (That honestly was my main concern; we all know how smelly middle school boys [and girls] can get after sweating and playing games for a weekend.) I found out that showers were available and so I jumped on board!

The weekend was filled with heart-felt worship (the jumping up and down kind with fists in the air), winter games (like kickball in the snow), small group discussion groups, and so much dodgeball.

We swam, we giggled, we talked about Jesus, we played volleyball, we sang, we prayed for each other, we built life-sized Jenga, we encouraged each other, we ate yummy food, and we learned about how Jesus loved others. This time was great for my faith as well as the middle schoolers’ faith.

I have since gone on two other retreats with my middle schoolers – one this past fall and Winter Blast for a second year a few weeks ago. I have come to form great relationships with my girls and the other leaders too. I remember back when college kids helped in my middle school youth group and fondly consider the impact that they had on my faith in those influential years.

College is a great time to begin some leadership roles. I would encourage any student to get involved in a youth group or volunteer group during their college years to get some leadership experience under their belt. Not only does it look great on a resume (wink-wink), but I’m sure it will change your life. Jesus calls us to be leaders wherever we are at, and your college years should be no exception.

Bingo Night

Growing up in Orange City, with a mom who worked at Northwestern, I heard a lot about all of the events and happenings on campus. Mom would speak of pranks in the chapel, giant slip-n-slides, and student choreographed dance shows. Each sounded immensely exciting, of course, but there was one that particularly stood out in my mind: Bingo Night.  

Oh yes. Bingo Night.

But first, a backstory: Dressing up has always been something I've loved to do. When I say dressing up, I mean digging through the dress-up bin to play pretend. As you might imagine, Halloween was always a favorite of mine. One year I dressed up as Princess Jasmine, a stark contrast from my previous choice of ninja. Another year I dressed up as a soccer player, and another yet as a cadet in the army. There is one choice of character, however, that will always be a favorite. Around age 9 or 10, as I was surely maturing beyond princesses and ninjas, I found my great-grandmother's walker and decided that I was going to dress up as a grandma. And every year since that point in time, when I went out trick-or-treating, I dressed up as a grandma.

The outfit changed over the years. Sometimes I spray-painted my hair grey. Sometimes I brought a cane. One year I printed out photos of my "grandkids" to put in my wallet. On several occasions friends would join me and we'd head out onto the streets of Orange City dressed to fit our role of Grandpa or Grandma.

So you might imagine how excited I was to participate in Bingo Night, the one night a year when students from across campus are invited to dress in their best elderly attire to come and play several rounds of Bingo.  

On the night of Bingo, a group of girls on my wing gathered what they could find and we put our outfits together. We did each other's hair and offered suggestions to complete the look we were going for. Walker in hand, we headed down to the student center for a wild night of Bingo. There were several great prizes, and many different winners. It was a tough run, but by the end of the night, we were taking home the gold. Not to brag or anything, but our wing walked away with three different prizes.

One came back with a Hydro Flask water bottle, another with a new mini fridge, and my roomie with a FitBit. Overall, it was a great night. But it wasn't the prizes that made the night so memorable.

It was the dressing up, and the make pretend. It was giving each other nicknames and making up stories about our grand kids. It was singing along to the songs on the loudspeaker and intensely listening for the announcer to call out B5. 

It's nights like these that I dreamed about as a child. And I'm so blessed to finally be living them. 

Irish Reflections

We are well into the second semester. Homework and school activities are becoming more demanding. I have become pretty focused on the tasks that are ahead of me this semester. Last week, my attention was shifted when I received an email from a student that had me thinking about my summer.

I received the email from a student who is on Northwestern’s Summer of Service (SOS) team. The Summer of Service program helps students connect with and plan a trip for six to eight weeks to work with long-term missionaries in various locations. Each student can choose his or her own site to work for the summer. There are usually around 15 students on the team. Everyone prepares for SOS together, and when summer arrives, they all go to their own sites. 

The student who contacted me plans to go to the same site I was at last summer. She is hoping to go to the Dublin Christian Mission in Dublin, Ireland. The Dublin Christian Mission focuses mainly on homeless outreach in the city. As she prepares for the trip, she thought it would be a good idea to meet with me and learn a little about what to expect. As I get ready to meet with her, I have been thinking a lot about my time in Ireland and how grateful I am that Northwestern provided me with that opportunity.

Over the summer, I lived in an apartment in the middle of Dublin. The mission runs on volunteers from Ireland, but I was considered more of an intern and did some behind-the-scenes work. Four days a week I had the chance to work in the kitchen. I would help make food, mainly by peeling carrots and potatoes, and then serve it as guests came through. On Saturdays we would also open our closet, and individuals could ask for clothing or hygiene items. However, the mission goes beyond just providing for physical needs. 

I would have a chance to get a meal and sit with those who came through the building. I had multiple conversations with people every day. Some people I knew their name and would see them on almost a daily basis. Actually working in the mission allowed God to become more real to me and to work in me more than I had ever experienced before. There were days I was exhausted and grumpy and didn’t think I could have the love or patience for those that came through the building. On those days, I felt more giving and joyful to be working, and I knew it wasn’t something I had done but something that had been given to me.

Being in Ireland wasn’t all work, though. I made a lot of friends who made the experience feel more like a home than a trip. One close friend was another intern who came from California. I lived with her the entire time. It made exploring easier because I always had a buddy to go with me. 

We made a lot of friends at the church we went to. They were all from different parts of the world: France, Venezuela, England and South Africa. They took me in like I had been a part of the group for years. We would go out to eat, to the park, to the movies, and salsa dancing every Friday night. This group of people loved every person that showed up to their church and made sure they felt included the entire time. 

My time in Ireland through Summer of Service is one of my favorite memories so far. I am so thankful Northwestern has a program like Summer of Service, because without it, I don’t know if I would have ever had an experience like it. I am so excited to be able to share my experience with this student on this year’s team, and I can’t wait for her to go and experience Dublin in her own way.

Community Ties

I've been at Northwestern and lived in Orange City for a little over two years now, and my favorite thing about this town (besides the Dutch feel, of course) are the opportunities to get involved in the community. In my short time here, I've gotten so plugged in to this town and these people that it's definitely going to be hard to leave!

When I first arrived on campus in January of my freshman year, a wing-mate found out I was an elementary education major and immediately brought me to his church because they needed a Sunday school teacher for fifth and sixth graders. Around that same time, I stumbled upon a flyer from American Reformed Church here in Orange City asking for Wednesday night volunteers for their firs-t through fifth-grade youth group. Both of these volunteer opportunities have been incredible, and my Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings were quickly consumed with teaching kids about the gospel. I feel like I am a very important piece of both of these churches in town and have built some great relationships with some of the kids and adults as a result.

A great thing that the Northwestern men’s and women’s soccer teams do is help out with the Orange City Recreation Soccer program. I got involved with this because I love coaching soccer (and there was money involved for a poor college student!). I coached a couple of teams my freshman and sophomore years, and this opportunity provided me with another chance to get to know some of the kids in the community. Getting up early every Saturday is something that a lot of college kids would never choose to do, but for me and a lot of my teammates, it was well worth it because of who we were potentially impacting. It was an added bonus to be able to coach some of the kids that I already knew through youth group and Sunday school!

Being a positive impact on kids is a main reason why I want to become a teacher, and the Northwestern education department gives us many opportunities to do that as well! Every semester future teachers from Northwestern flock to the local schools for countless practicum hours. Not only do these hours prepare me to be a great teacher one day, they help me become acquainted with the local school district and the teachers and students who are in the schools every day. Again, seeing kids that I already know from youth group, Sunday school and soccer is always great during these practicums and reinforces my relationships with them.

Finally, something that came about through a practicum experience from last semester was helping out coaching a traveling seventh-grade basketball team. I got involved with this a little bit before Christmas, and it has been a ton of fun! Getting to interact with the kids at practices and tournaments on the weekends is something I look forward to every week and has really helped me focus on being a good role model as well. It is always fun to see some of the players in the Rowenhorst Student Center during the week shooting hoops and working to improve. Often times I’ll be challenged to a game of one-on-one or a three-point contest, which helps build rapport between me and the players! These kids have challenged me to be a better person and a better role model for them to look up to.

Juggling all of these opportunities can sometimes feel overwhelming, but the way they challenge me to be a good role model makes it well worth my time. In fact, the kids and adults I work with definitely have a greater impact on me than I have on them. I have become extremely attached to the Orange City community. It's a great place to live, work and study, and I am so happy I've been able to be a part of it for the past couple of years!

Life of a Religion Major

I am indeed a religion major here at Northwestern College. When you hear that, I am sure many questions go through you mind, such as; How is it? What is it like? What are the classes like? What do you want to do afterward? What are the professors like? Okay, I am sure none of those questions actually crossed your mind, but I am going to answer most of them anyway.

Last semester I only had religion classes and I have a couple this semester as well, so this year has been a religion-intensive one for sure. This has been challenging because it involves a lot of reading, writing and studying, which is different from some general education classes and business classes that I have taken before.

First off, I will say I am studying religion here with hopes to attend seminary after college and then hopefully become a chaplain in the Air Force. That has been a recent ambition, and I really would like to pursue it as a career.

I really love being a religion major for many different reasons. First of all, it is pretty fun to learn mind-blowing stuff about the Bible. I thought I had a pretty good grasp on some topics, and then I take a class and learn that I know nothing about anything.

Last semester I took a class on the Holy Spirit taught by the legend himself, Dr. Vonder Bruegge. We looked at things and topics about the Holy Spirit that have never occurred to me in the past. I was incredibly challenged by different ideas and wrote some papers on topics that really made me think. That class improved my thinking and writing immensely, and it made me a better student “scholar.”

I am also more than halfway done with a year of Greek, which has been one of the toughest experiences probably of my entire life. However, it is incredibly rewarding to learn a biblical language. It is a pretty cool feeling to pick up a Greek New Testament and somewhat understand what is there.

I owe so much credit to the religion professors here at Northwestern. They are truly the best. I learned a ton about heaven and hell from Dr. Andres last semester, and Dr. Mead continues to throw incredible knowledge at me. They are also great mentors to me. All students have to take at least two religion courses here at Northwestern. They are incredible courses and will wrinkle your brain daily.

So yes, the majority of this was me just bragging about the religion department here (and just to clarify, no religion professor paid me to do this). The cool thing about Northwestern is that I know any student could write something similar bragging about their own department. I have had such an amazing experience learning about the Bible, and I still have a year and a half left.

** The picture was me during probably the busiest week of my college career. This is me hoping that having a lot of books in front of me will just make me smarter without actually reading them.    

Back At It

            Christmas break has passed and second semester is full swing. Crazy to think that I’m already halfway done with my freshman year of college! The first three weeks back on campus have been an awesome adventure already—I’d love to tell you about it!

            The first day back consisted of multiple bro-hugs and cheerful greetings as everyone was pumped to see each other again. It felt like a massive family reunion! As classes were in full swing, some buddies and I were tackling "Syllabus Week" one day at a time. While cranking out the semester’s first assignment, one of my mentors on campus reached out to me and asked if I wanted to go to Minnesota for a mini getaway. My response? “Heck, yeah!” So, naturally, some close friends and I packed up a backpack of clothes and headed north. The weekend consisted of hanging out in a cabin all weekend and diving into the Word together. Wow, what an awesome opportunity it was to grow with my Northwestern brothers and sisters! As the weekend came to an end, we were all pumped to be back on campus together. The following week was full of late-night talks, coffee intertwined with homework, and eating meals together—serving as a college-family away from our home-families!

            As the second weekend approached, we all wanted to do something again together. After a few minutes of brainstorming, we were reminded of the joy of just hopping into a car and traveling together, so that’s what we decided we’d do again. Some buddies and I packed up one of the guys’ maroon-colored, leather-seated van and hit the road. We decided to go north again—Minneapolis it was! On the way, we snagged some tickets online to an NBA game and set aside a few hours to hit up the Mall of America. The spontaneity of the trip made it that much greater! Just a few college dudes hanging out and exploring together. From rap battles to endless laughter, the weekend was full of genuine brotherhood and joy.

            I tell the experiences of these first couple of weeks back on campus for one reason: to share about how awesome college is! Very rarely is there a time in life where you’ll have a test at 11 a.m. on Friday and be on a road trip with friends by 3 p.m. that very day. Hardly do you ever get to just go somewhere and not think twice about it. Better yet, doing it all with some of your closest friends! This is the best part about college. Simply doing life with people and soaking up each moment is so special. Along with the lessons learned within the classroom, experiencing life with people is the most formative part of these four years.

            With all of this said, the start of my second semester of college has been a blast. Good people, much learning, and unique experiences have been at the forefront of the experience thus far. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to indulge in the joy that is college. I'm pumped to see what this second semester has in store and look forward to sharing the journey with all of you!

Dorm Life 101

I've gotta say, I love life in the dorms. On a scale from one to ten, I'd give it a twelve. I love it so much that today I'm dedicating my post directly to Fern Smith Hall, my home. 

Disclaimer: I'm getting married this summer! (Ahhh! All the feels.) That means this is my last semester living on campus. Choosing to get married in college, my fiance and I knew there were a few things we'd have to give up. One of those things was dorm life. Though I am beyond excited to begin life with my soon-to-be-husband, there will be a part of me that will miss living on campus. 

In honor of my last semester in Fern Smith Hall, I'd like to share with you why I have loved living in the dorms so much: 

Your best-buds live right next door. (Give or take a few flights of stairs.) This means that you can walk over any time you want to ask for help with homework, to make plans for lunch, or to simply share about your day. And you don't even have to brave the elements to get there! (This is especially nice in the winter.) 

There's always someone to talk to. With anywhere from 18 to 28 residents living on each wing, there's a pretty good chance that you'll never be the only one in the dorm at any given time. 

Two words: game night. I grew up with one brother, meaning our game selection was often limited. College, however, is a little different. With so many willing participants living around you, the game selections are endless! A recent favorite on my wing is Ticket to Ride. 

Wing dinner. Tuesday night is technically 'wing dinner' on my wing, but realistically, any given night could turn into wing dinner. Around 5 each night, whoever's on the wing at that time will go down to the caf together to eat. Living in the dorm practically guarantees a dinner buddy. 

Naps between class. What happens when you've got an hour between classes? You go to the library to do some homework of course! OR you walk across the street and take a nap because you live so close! (There are days in which this is a huge blessing.) 

Late-night chats. Any given night, any time of the night. 

Tooth-brush brushing parties! Jammin' out with your roomie? Good times. Jammin' out with your roomie while brushing your teeth? Great times. 

D-groups. Also known as discipleship groups--a time of prayer and study of Scripture with whoever on the wing would like to join. Last week my roomie pulled out her guitar and we added a time of worship to our evening. 

If anyone were to ask me, "Should I live in the dorm?" I would respond with an resounding "YES!"

I've met some of my best friends in the dorms. I've shared many moments of both laughter and tears. It was actually my first overnight in the dorm that brought me here. Senior year of high school, after only a night on campus, I knew that I wanted to go to NWC. Flash forward to now, with three semesters on campus, I know with confidence that I made the right choice.

People / End of Semester / College

My buddy Ben and I grabbing coffee at the notorious Old Factory Coffee Shop

My buddy Ben and I grabbing coffee at the notorious Old Factory Coffee Shop

            As with any college student, the business of “doing stuff” tends to sneak into our daily lives. With this first semester of the school year coming to an end, papers and tests seem to pick up. The daunting monster of Finals is the one thing standing in between us and Christmas break. It’s almost as if the fluffy, glistening snow that is eloquently covering our surroundings is overshadowed by the infinite white sheets of notes that we’ve scribbled down. Within the journey of either trying to snag a few “A’s” or to simply survive a seemingly inescapable course, the best part about college steps into it all: the people.

            My first semester in college has served as a time to simply grow closer to people. Their stories, goofy tendencies, ingenious minds, and inspiring aspirations. Their food preferences, movie choices, activity creations, and insane ideas. These are just a few of the things that people have taught me this semester. I absolutely dig it. People are awesome.

            Here at Northwestern, dorm life is a lot like the cool kid at the party: always making people laugh, dance, share their emotions, and even do something crazy. In my biased opinion, I like to claim that I have the coolest hallway out there. The dudes around me are all awesomely different. A stellar football player, a League of Legends champion, and a natural comedian serve as the type of guys that I get to live alongside. They’re a huge blessing. As 10-page papers and intense tests fill our schedules, hangout sessions in coffee shops and late-night talks seem to be the extra lift we all need.

            Recently my hallway participated in a campus event known as “Coly Christmas.” Coly is the all-male dorm that I claim to be my “home away from home.” Each hallway decorates and prepares multiple Christmas-themed skits for the student-body to witness. Taking place on a Monday night, Coly Christmas serves as a holiday-filled study break for people on campus to take advantage of. My hallway had a 6’10” baby Jesus, a shout out to Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe,” a reenactment of “Baby, It’s Coly Outside,” and the plot-twisting victory of Grandma over the Reindeer. Taking a break from the 7-page paper that was due the next day was well worth it, to say the least!

            Last week a buddy of mine, Ben, reached out to me and we set up a little coffee shop get-together. It was extremely uplifting. Sitting underneath a mural with “Coffee. Community. Conversation” artfully painted across the top, Ben taught me more about life than he’ll ever know. In the midst of a final paper that he and I had to knock out for our Youth Ministry class, we took a break from all of the business. We laughed. We lamented. We shared. In his unique, young wisdom, my dude Ben reminded me about the truth behind God’s grace and guidance. All in all, the Cup-of-Joe time that Ben and I shared reminded me that nothing matches our time with people.

            Stemming off of the coffee shop goodness, my resident assistant, Marcus, has been one of the most influential people in my college experience thus far. Marcus is the type of dude who invites you into his room at 3 AM to talk about life. He makes the guys on our floor fresh pour-over coffee out of his homemade barista bar and provides the best chips and salsa we’ve ever had. As a freshman in college who is navigating through deep learning experiences, Marcus has served as a prime example of what it looks like to live a life devoted to God. His willingness to listen to people’s stories and to walk alongside them is a life-changer for me and all around him. He’s taught me and so many people to take heart in the uniqueness that is “college.” There will never be a time in our lives where we have deep talks with a handful of guys until 4 AM and then have a test at 8 AM. It is within these moments of “college” that the people make it so great. Embrace it. Hold onto it. Grow in it. College.

 

The Three S's

As I was reflecting on the multiple audibles that life has caused me to make, I found myself laughing at how easy it is for me to miss the awesome things that God has placed right in front of me. To paint a clearer picture for you, imagine going up for a game-winning jump shot in basketball and you sink it. However, you’re upset because in the midst of everyone celebrating the victory, you’re stuck in the mindset of the elsewhere. You’re wishing that your glamorized jumper wasn’t in the 3 on 3 pickup game that you’re currently balling out in. Rather, you wish it was in game 7 of the NBA finals—elsewhere than the now. Isn’t that a bit ridiculous? No doubt! As crazy as it may seem, this has been an easy trap for me to fall into as a freshman in college. With that, I’ve been reflecting on this reality and I’ve learned three sweet breakthroughs that I felt compelled to share with y’all. Hope it relates to your current situation and maybe even helps clear some things up!

1.     See the Simple Things

Our culture naturally teaches us to want more. To be elsewhere. We live in a constantly-moving society that is focused on what’s next. To pull from Zygmunt Bauman’s Globalization: The Human Consequences, “wherever we happen to be at the moment, we cannot help knowing that we could be elsewhere, so there is less and less reason to stay anywhere in particular.” Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s good and extremely natural to have visions. It’s also an awesome form of obedience to Christ when we follow His call for us to “go”. But, what if that “go” actually means to be present? What if we flip our culture upside down and simply be in the here and now? It’s been my experience that when I let go of the “what if’s” and begin to focus on the “here nows”, I start to see the simple things. God begins to stir my heart for what stirs His—the now. I’m learning that the college life, even in its busyness, is made up of a lot of things simple. From pouring a good cup of coffee and studying with a good buddy to taking all of the furniture out of your RA’s room to simply hearing someone’s life story, it’s the little things that are what make the nows…well now.

2.     Seek Wisdom

Yooo I get it! You’re in college and either 1) you’re too cool for advice or 2) you don’t have time for a pick-me-up. I’ve been there done that. Because of my blind desire to be elsewhere, I often think that I can get “there” based upon what I know about my life. As much as the truth that you know yourself better than anyone reigns true, so does the reality that there are potential mentors out there that know more about life than you. As it says in Job 12:12, “wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in the length of days.” This has been a game changing reminder for me. Just the other day I was getting tossed around by life’s undercuts, so after talking with the Lord, I reached out to an old youth leader of mine. He directed me to seek where Jesus has me now and to embrace the people, opportunities, and even hardships that are currently present today.

 

3.     Surrender to His Truth

This might sound ridiculously churchy and borderline unhelpful but stick with me. As a rookie in this whole college game, I’ve quickly learned that it’s a blast. Few things compare to playing a pickup game with some buddies against your professors and then being in their class an hour later. On the flip side, it’s a rocky road trying to be a “transforming you” in college. You’re trying to adjust to new friends, different food from your Mama’s, and the man/woman of God that you’re becoming. It becomes a trend for you to desire to be someone/something so in turn you low key (had to) lose sight of who you truly are. Reflecting upon the idea of my constant desire to be elsewhere, I realized I need to get back to His Truth about me. It hit me that who I am in Christ is who I am today, not who I will be tomorrow. Coming back to the basics, Paul reminds you, the child of God, that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8). This a profoundly uplifting reality. By surrendering to the truth that Jesus has your back and freely extended you grace on the Cross, you’re encouraged to know that you don’t have to be focused on the elsewhere. Rather, you’re catapulted to simply be in what is the now because He knows what He’s doing and has you where you are for a reason.

Finding the Fun

These last few weeks have been the academic lull of my semester (which doesn’t always happen as a senior or as a nursing student, so it’s been quite the special time).  Midterms were taken, papers were turned in.  But final projects and exams aren’t quite here yet!

This allows me to have some extra time away from the books and away from the library.  I’ve been able to catch up on my list of supper dates and enjoy the warm November weather.  Hammocking in the trees after a day full of classes is one of my favorite ways to relax.

Outdoor activities are at their prime in this fall season.  This last week, my friend and I grabbed our adult coloring books and found a central location on campus to spread our blanket on the green grass among the few dandelions that were confused on their season.  Choosing a commonly treaded area brought many friends walking past who stopped for a quick chat.  Orange City residents walk their dogs through campus and aren’t afraid of a few college kids who need their puppy fix.  Even after three years of being here, the cohesiveness of this community continues to impress me.

My last two Saturdays have consisted of hunkering down in the well-known Old Factory Coffee Shop two blocks off campus.  My friends and I have grabbed our favorite warm caffeinated beverages – caramel macchiato, please – and snagged a booth.  Simply being with others is something that I have learned to love and value in my last few years in this place.

The only thing to make an afternoon of coffee and conversation better is a good board game.  Some of our favorites are Settler’s of Catan, Anomia, Pandemic, or Scrabble, but the games that bring out everyone’s competitive side are my favorite.  Laughs are shared and frustration is expressed over buying sheep and rolling 7’s, or having no place for the Q without the U.

Fall is probably my favorite season on campus because of the variety of fun activities it brings with it.  I can’t forget to mention the apple orchard and corn maze trips as well as riding the tandem bikes through town or walking on the Puddle Jumper trail.  Finding fun in Northwestern’s community is not so daunting when surrounded by friends up for the same challenge!

My Visit at Western Seminary

This weekend I had the opportunity to travel with a group of students from Northwestern to visit Western Seminary in Holland, Michigan. 

At first I wasn't planning to go. I knew I would miss two days of school (including a test), I had projects to work on, and I was scheduled as one of the on-duty RAs for the weekend. But then the test was moved and a gracious soul said she'd cover the late night on-duty rounds for me. So I made the decision to tag along. And I'm so very glad that I did. 

There were only a few of us that went, so our group was pretty small. We had four students along and one professor. Why were we invited to go? Well, the five of us (yes, my professor included) are part of a slightly larger discern group on campus. What exactly are we trying to discern? The group was established for students like myself who have considered ministry and are trying to navigate what God has called them to. So naturally, we made the trip to Western Theological Seminary. 

We left campus on Saturday morning and returned Tuesday evening. During that time, we met with Western's President, Tim Brown, for pizza. We explored downtown Holland. We attended a favorite church of mine known as Pillar. We ate way too much delicious food. (Ever heard of Five Guys? Burgers and fries? I hadn't, but oh my goodness. Delish.) And we attended the Bast Preaching Festival on Monday. 

What I didn't realize going into the trip was how many people I would know at the preaching conference! Family friends, area pastors, you name it. So many connections from so many different places. At the conference I had the opportunity to listen to several pastors speak, both in main sessions and break-out seminars. It was helpful for me to hear different pastors share their process of writing a sermon, what works best for them and what challenges them. I really wish I had taken more notes, there was so much valuable information to soak in. 

One of my biggest takeaways regards the three marks of effective preaching: deeply engaging scripture, conveying the urgency of the gospel, and exhorting change and transformation. And that's really something to think about. How might a sermon bring about both individual and collective change? How might we seek to align lives with the gospel? 

It was encouraging for me to hear the passion within these pastors, a passion to share the gospel with others. I heard from both men and women. And I will say that it's always encouraging to hear of women who faithfully follow their call to ministry. The gospel is to be shared by all, for all. 

So many good things happened on this trip. Not near enough photos were taken. Not near enough description was given in my overview.

I'm thankful for my time in Holland and I'm very thankful for those who encouraged me to go along. Holland is a beautiful place full of beautiful people, and I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to visit. I certainly wouldn't complain if I were to find myself in Holland one day. We shall see where the Lord leads and what the future holds. 

Finding a Home at Northwestern

Shalom fellow and future Raiders! My name is Nick Heider, and I am a junior elementary education major from Humboldt, Iowa. This is my first blog post, so it’s fitting for me to tell you how excited I am to share with you some of my experiences here at Northwestern. This place has impacted my life in such an amazing way that can’t really be put into words, and I love being able to share with people how much Northwestern means to me. I truly believe that God put me where I am for a reason, and I would love to share with you how I ended up here!

In high school, Northwestern really wasn’t on my radar of colleges to go to, and I chose to attend a different school. After about one month, I realized that the school wasn’t for me and I needed to transfer. It seemed like every time the thought of transferring came to mind, something related to Northwestern did also. Whether it was my mom mentioning it, seeing an ad on the Internet, or finding my Northwestern shirt from basketball camp, I now understand how much of a role God played in this. Eventually I decided to make a visit to Orange City, and the minute I stepped on campus, I absolutely loved everything about it. I became a Raider in January of my freshman year and could not be happier with my decision!

Fast forward three semesters to the beginning of my junior year …

I think I blinked a few times and the calendar went from early August to the beginning of November. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and time is definitely flying right now! It seems like yesterday I was arriving on campus for RA training and soccer camp.

Being an RA and playing on the soccer team are just two of Northwestern’s many great opportunities that come with being a student here. I also play the drums on the Praise & Worship team, which puts on a student-led worship service every Sunday night in the chapel, and I'm a sportswriter for The Beacon, Northwestern’s student newspaper. In addition to these, I was also given the opportunity to lead a Spring Service Project in March to Bluefields, Nicaragua, a place that captured my heart last spring break. I feel incredibly blessed to go to a school that provides me with these opportunities!

To sum this all up, I could not be happier with Northwestern, and if you are a prospective student reading this, it is my prayer that you find yourself at a college that you can say the same about, whether that’s at Northwestern or not. I am very excited to get to share some of my experiences of everything from my home in Colenbrander Hall to the soccer field and in the classroom!

This Is It

As I sat at my desk and looked at a picture of my parents and me during senior night, I began to reflect upon that day. I thought about how my coach, Ben Karnish, said a prayer that brought me to tears. During part of his prayer he mentioned that the seniors have had a tough journey inside as well as outside of soccer. He also encouraged the underclassmen to play for the seniors because they have worked so hard. Some of his words really hit me as I realized that this road hasn't been an easy road these past 4 years.

I began to reflect and see that this is it. I am a senior and my soccer season is coming to a close. I began to think about how I've been playing this game for 15 years, since I was six years old.  I then thought about the moment I prayed during the national anthem and began to cry just thanking God for getting me this far.

As I reflected upon these moments the song "10,000 Reasons" started playing on my computer. I started to cry even more as I remembered that this very song is the same song I sang on the day of my graduation in high school. This was just 4 years ago. To think that I was a senior in high school and now a senior in college amazes me as I look back on this journey.

This journey has been rough, challenging, frustrating, overwhelming, rewarding, touching, but overall beautiful as I think of the moments where I felt like I was alone, but God showed me that I am never alone. As I think of the moments I felt like no one loved me on my birthday and was reminded through people, through Praise and Worship, through friends, through family, that Jesus loves me. It is His love that surpasses every other love in this world. As I began to reflect on the times that I struggled in my mind with internal, mental battles, and realized that God sent people in my life for such a time as this to remind me that I am an overcomer and I need to fight in the spirit.

God has showed me through His Holy Spirit that the enemy has been trying to put me down, take my joy, my confidence, my peace, myself, my voice, my mind, and my purpose, but God has continued to push me, fight for me, strengthen me, and speak to me. He has taught me that there are gifts, words, stories in me, that I need to share even though it will be uncomfortable.

It just makes me think that if this 4 years has shaped me significantly to become the woman I am today, then I believe greater is coming. God's not through with me. I know that He will use me in the classroom, in ministry, through my poems, throughout my life. I know that this time is only for a season, but I am so grateful for Northwestern and the lessons this place has taught me. I am forever thankful that God has been here through it all because I don't know what I would've done without Him by my side each of everyday. He is such a good good Father!

 

Building Community over Plastic

Over the past few months, a new hobby/sport has not only caught my eye but has been infiltrating my free time more and more. That is the sport of disc golf. Many know it by frisbee golf, or frolf. I also refer to it as "throwing some plastic."

For those unfamiliar, disc golf is pretty much the same concept as regular golf, except you throw discs at baskets instead. The sport is challenging yet rewarding, because you can see little improvements here and there that just keep you wanting to play more and more.

Since coming to campus, I have tried to go whenever I possibly can. With a few different courses not too far away, going after class started to become a habit. The more I played and talked about it, the more I realized that there were many guys who loved to chuck some plastic as well!

Slowly but surely, I was creating a little network of guys that I would go disc with. Some people only use one disc on the course, while others, like me, carry a bag full of discs. Regardless of the number of discs or skill level, we go and have a blast.

We soon discovered that there is a nice 18-hole course in Le Mars, Iowa, which is only a hop, skip and half jump away! But wait, there’s more. There is also a beloved Taco Bell in the same town. So now we do what I like to call the double trouble TBDG (Taco Bell Disc Golf) adventure.

Some guys and I load up my '99 Corolla and head down to Le Mars. We get 18, sometimes 36, holes of disc in. Then we head down to the ‘ole Taco Bell and feast. Not only is it satisfying to the max, but it builds the relationships like non other. I have always said the best friend moments come from sharing a beefy 5-layer burrito.

It is things like that that make this campus so special. I can ask someone to do something like that with me, and without hesitation people are down. But it isn’t just disc golf. It could be going to Walmart to buy a bunch of fish for my 36-gallon tank in my dorm room, or it could be playing cards or board games.

Needless to say, dull moments do not happen very often in my life in the North Suites. This year I have had the awesome opportunity to be the RA on the second floor. It has been a great opportunity to be the leader for our floor, and it has been an amazing experience so far.

Sadly, disc golf season is coming to an end as the winter is coming. Luckily that means it is the start of ping pong season. Time to round up some guys for a tournament! 

Changin' like the Fall Leaves

Captured this radically colored tree outside of Northwestern’s Christ Chapel

Captured this radically colored tree outside of Northwestern’s Christ Chapel

What’s up, everyone. My name is Justin Hullman, and I’m a freshman from Lincoln, Nebraska (“ROOTS” as my fellow soccer dudes would shout out). My time at Northwestern has been eventful, to say the least. Deep-rooted friendships, challenging classes and endless opportunities have been in full effect thus far. The tests are my favorite part, of course, but I want to share with you guys how much of an adventure it’s been exploring all three of these avenues as a freshman at Northwestern.

Like the changing leaves of fall (check out the picture attached), my transition into college has been quite similar. Graduating from a large public high school, I was aware that Northwestern was going to be a huge adjustment for me. From the familiarity of my day-to-day lifestyle back home, to sharing a community bathroom with 20 other college guys, I’ve definitely had to adjust to this unique season of life. As an autumn leaf-colored tree retains its green leaves until the final transition into the fall, I also have bits of home with me that have catapulted me to embrace the newness of college. I’ve always been a people-kind-of-guy, so I was stoked to come to NWC and do life alongside so many people. With that comes the transition—which can be somewhat tough, no lie.

Oh man, but let me tell you. The people are what make this giant switch from one season of life to the next so awesome. Living in Coly (the oldest all-male dorm on campus) has brought about spontaneous “what are the odds” situations and many late-night talks. Listening to people’s stories and how God is at work in their lives is what I’ve determined to be one of the coolest gifts God gives us. Being a Red Raider in general welcomes you into a vibrant community that’s all about facing the valleys and mountaintops that life brings. I have a family here, and I’m so humbled to be able to say that.

Growing up, I always had a passion for school. Don’t ask me how it happened because, to be honest, I couldn’t even tell you. In the tail-end of high school, God called me to pursue pastoral ministry. Having a vision to serve within an inner-city church post-college, I entered into NWC as a religion major. With hopes that God would rock my world with the stuff I’d learn from my top-notch professors, it’s safe to say that I totally underestimated His answer to those desires.

In the classroom I’ve learned about the effects that mass media has on society, and I’ve been diving deep into the Old Testament. My learning has also been able to travel. Yes, you read that right! A few weeks ago my youth ministry class and I took a trip down to Kansas City and listened to the author of one of our books speak at a conference. We couldn’t just do only that, of course, so we snagged some BBQ and jammed out to live jazz music! Experiences as such with my classmates/professors have been examples of how special studying at NWC truly is.

While looking at colleges, finances were one of my concerns, so I contacted Northwestern and began asking what I could do to make It work. The Lord continued to write His story for my life and presented many open doors to me. I made the choice to attend NWC over a handful of other schools, and it’s proven to be the right call.

The family here has welcomed me with open arms and has already brought about so many opportunities to thrive. One of the activities that I’m plugged into is that I’m on the Red Raiders men’s soccer team. Few things compare to playing the sport you love with a group of brothers you’d do anything for. I’ve learned so much, not only about soccer, but also about how to be a man of God who lives with integrity, character and devotion. Another amazing opportunity I’ve been blessed with is that I’m in a “spiritual multiplication” group with a group of fellow NWC guys. We meet once a week and discuss how we can share the love of Christ to others around us. As iron sharpens iron, we’ve been able to sharpen each other’s faith. As a freshman, I couldn’t ask for a more complete set of opportunities!

If you made it to the end, thanks for sticking around and reading my first ever blog. I’m a rookie in more ways than one, so my hope is that you at least learned one thing from this ramble of mine: God is good all the time, and all the time God is good—even as you transition from one season of life to the next.