Staying awake

I came to Northwestern in 2014 after graduating from a public high school. While I have nothing to really complain about, I didn’t know what I was missing spiritually until I went to my first college class. Right at the beginning of class, my professor prayed for us. I was completely shocked; I just spent years being told I couldn’t express my faith in school, and the only time you’d see students and staff praying was National Day of Prayer.

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My world continued to be rocked when I attended chapel. I had never seen so many people my age all worshiping together. I felt comfortable and confident to express my faith, and I absolutely loved singing my favorite Christian songs in a room full of people instead of jamming out by myself in the car. I had found my place and my faith never felt stronger.

Of course, life has its way of throwing up roadblocks, and I soon found myself stumbling and pulling away from my faith. If I wasn’t at a place like Northwestern, it would have become broken far more than it did.

Northwestern’s community and environment encouraged me to rebuild my faith stronger that it was before. I kept going to chapel since I needed the Christian Formation credits, but it wasn’t long before I heard sermons that spoke right to my heart. I found myself crying in the middle of a song during Praise & Worship because it was overwhelmingly healing. The girls on my wing prayed for me and walked with me. I was healing and growing stronger and stronger every day.

Northwestern is the place for you if your faith is strong. It’s the place if it’s just beginning, growing, searching; it’s the place if you don’t have faith but want to learn more. Northwestern does a phenomenal job of taking you under its wing and walking your path with you. Staying awake in our faith can be a struggle sometimes, but living and learning on a campus like Northwestern encourages spiritual growth, and I am so thankful for that.

A week in Washington, D.C.

Northwestern juniors Caley Vink and Emma VanDrie, both political science majors, were nominated by Northwestern political science professors to attend the 2018 National Association of Evangelicals Christian Student Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference brings college students together who are passionate about pressing issues to learn and consider how to engage in public policy.


Reflections from Caley Vink: 

This year, from January 22 to the 26, I embarked on a brief vacation from the day-to-day routine of college classes and track practice in order to engage in a personal encounter within our nation’s core: Washington, D.C.

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Here, I spent a week at the National Association of Evangelicals Christian Student Leadership Conference of 2018. Our theme for the week was “for the health of the nation,” and we kept this theme in mind as we heard from different leaders who deal with subjects such as creation care, immigration, criminal justice, international relations, gun violence, tax reform, capital punishment, nuclear war and more. As for the speakers, we heard from many current senators, lobbyists and other experts in these fields of national interest. Students were offered extensive opportunity in Q&A sessions to consider and communicate practical public policy related solutions to real problems.

The experience was eye-opening for more reasons than one. To bask in the wisdom and knowledge of our nation’s leaders and policymakers was wonderful, but what has truly stuck with me weeks after returning to Northwestern College are the things that were never directly spoken aloud. When a person speaks, it doesn’t take long for the listener to begin to understand the heart of the one who is speaking. I arrived in Washington, D.C. unsure of what to expect from my experience, but what I left with was a newfound hope in our nation’s leaders because of what I saw in their hearts.

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Where there was a flicker of hope in my heart that persisted through times of darkness, there is now a blazing fire determined to believe in the efforts of our leaders and the processes of our government, society and political systems. Speakers like Tom Tarrants, Senator Marco Rubio, Chaplain Barry Black, Senator Chuck Grassley, Pam Pryor and more made their commitment to their faith and the health of our nation clear. Their hearts beamed with pride in the American people and the complex society they engage in, and I was both thankful for and inspired by their courage and hope.

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Outside of our experiences in the Q&A sessions, Emma and I made lots of new friendships that have continued to this day. One such friendship includes that with a former member of the Secret Service, Rachel Klay, a 1980 Northwestern alumna. We witnessed exclusive rooftop views of the city, dined at some of the best restaurants, took the metro train with a group of friends across the city to get Krispy Kreme donuts, learned Bachata dancing in our hotel room, toured the White House, visited museums and monuments, laughed a lot, and learned much about our nation and about ourselves.

 One thing for readers to take away from this blog post is that getting in touch with your local, state or national leaders is not as far-off and intimidating as it seems. The people we heard from during our week in Washington, D.C., go to considerable lengths to make themselves available for hearing from their constituents, and they do it with intentionality. You do have the ability to advocate for yourself and others in an impactful way, and often setting up the opportunity to do so is only a phone call or email away. And of course, this experience would not have been possible for Emma and I without the nomination from our amazing professors Dan Young and Jeff VanDerWerff. Sincerely, I say: thank you!


Reflections from Emma VanDrie: 

I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend the National Association of Evangelicals Christian Student Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. It was a very fun and insightful trip. We heard from a variety of speakers on topics including the environment and caring for creation, immigration, criminal justice reform, North Korea, gun violence, the death penalty, tax reform and the national debt. We had the opportunity to ask each speaker our own questions, which led to some very interesting discussions. 

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Tom Tarrants, the vice president for ministry and director of the Washington Area Fellows Program for the C.S. Lewis Institute, spoke on the first night we arrived at the conference and shared his testimony.

Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Rand Paul spoke about criminal justice reform and the bi-partisan support for sentencing reform acts, as well as our calling as Christians to view and care for people as individuals rather than seeing them as merely criminals.

We visited the Museum of the Bible, where Tim Goeglein, the vice president of external relations for Focus on the Family spoke, as well as speakers on gun violence and the death penalty.

Chaplain Barry Black and Sen. Chuck Grassley spoke about faithfulness in public life. 

Sen. Marco Rubio and Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, focused their talk on tax reform and the national debt. 

At the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building we heard from members of the State Department, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Council.

We also had the opportunity to be on the floor of the House of Representatives, where former Rep. Frank Wolf discussed the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, as well as other organizations such as World Vision, Open Doors, and Voice of the Martyrs that Christians can partner with to make a difference in public life.

The last day we toured the White House.

I was able to meet with the staff of Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Tammy Duckworth to discuss immigration reform. This experience inspired me to get involved in lobbying for different issues in my home state and looking into partnering with different social justice organizations.

Overall, this trip was very beneficial for me. It was an amazing and enlightening experience to hear directly from political leaders, see the government in action, and advocate on behalf of issues I am passionate about. This experience has made me more certain about what I want do with my life. I am so thankful for Northwestern College for providing me with such a fantastic opportunity. 

 

Simple fellowship

If you attend Northwestern College, you will come to find that the word ‘community’ is actively used in chapel, classes and regular conversations. The word almost seems like an echo that travels through campus. It is a relevant and appropriate word to use here at Northwestern because, wherever you go or whatever you may do here on campus, I assure you that you will feel a sense of community and fellowship. I see community most evidently in the dorms and especially on my dorm wing. 

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Dorm wings often have what they call a “wing dinner.” I love going to Tuesday night wing dinner. At 5:30, Fern 3S heads over to the Hub, pushes a few tables together, and laughs with each other while eating chicken tenders and taco salads. It’s a great time, and one of my favorite parts of the week! With peoples’ busy schedules it can be difficult to see everyone often. Wing dinner is a perfect time to spend 45 minutes talking to those who live right next door to you.

This past Saturday my RA set up a waffle bar for the wing. At 10 a.m., a number of girls headed down to the second floor Fern lounge and filled our stomachs with breakfast food. Somehow we started sharing embarrassing stories and went around the circle admitting our favorites. Such simple events like a wing breakfast or dinner can bring you closer to those in your dorm. It’s an absolute blast to get to know the ladies on my wing. They fill my heart with so much joy and I am so thankful that I get to live among such an awesome group of gals.

I often see fellowship simply in the halls of Fern. People regularly come and go from the rooms on the wing. It is a very welcoming atmosphere with friendly faces. It’s difficult to go down the hall without stopping to say hello to a neighbor. I know that if I ever see my friend Sydney walking around outside her room, we will get into a 15 minute discussion about the latest episode of “Riverdale.” And I absolutely love that. You do not have to attend a wing event to experience the sense of community here at Northwestern. It is all around and in every smiling face you pass.

 

The importance of trying new things

For some people, the smaller size of Northwestern can be a deal breaker, and I totally get that. It is a pretty small campus in a pretty small town and that can be a cause of concern for people looking for something a little bigger. But because Northwestern isn’t as large as other schools, it comes with a vast array of opportunities.

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I had always wanted to write for a school paper, but my high school didn’t really have one. I was excited to pick up some journalism opportunities once I got to Northwestern, but I was worried that competition for writing and editing positions would be stiff.

I didn’t start writing for The Beacon until the second semester of my freshman year, after some helpful prodding from a few friends who were editors. The community and atmosphere at The Beacon was super open and welcoming. They loved having a new writer and were open to any and all story pitches I could bring to the table, despite the fact that I was only a freshman writer just starting. The competition that I was afraid of was nonexistent—everyone there was gracious about giving opportunities to everyone, whatever your interest may be in. There was room for everyone.

Through some persistent writing and attendance, I eventually snagged the job of writing the weekly movie reviews. Essentially, I could go see a movie—for free—once a week, and then get paid to write about what I thought of it. For someone who grew up on movie sand TV, this was a dream come true. Even though I had never written reviews before, the editors were super helpful in teaching me a few of the more specific standards, and I caught on pretty quickly.

Now, in my senior year, I am the editor of the arts and culture page, the same one that I started off writing for when I was a freshman. We meet twice a week every week, once with writers to plan an issue and pitch ideas, then another time to layout our pages. Oh, and every week at layout we get free pizza from Pizza Ranch as a trade for ad space—a pretty fair one I would say.

My time on The Beacon has taught me how to write more succinctly, how to search for stories anywhere and, most importantly, how to use InDesign, a very marketable skill. The time spent with the staff is always a highlight of my week. So if you find yourself like me, interested in an opportunity but afraid to take a chance on it, just dive in. The worst you could do is fail, and then you’ll have something to learn from. 

Enjoying God’s gifts

After finishing one semester at Northwestern, I have come to the realization that college life is not a walk in the park. College can be physically and mentally draining. For five days out of the week, students place themselves in a cycle of classes, homework, sports practices, working out in the RSC, and socializing. After weeks and weeks of this, it comes as no surprise that there would be some fatigue.

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My first semester was one of joy, fun times, and no worries. Though I did have difficult classes and had to adapt to the fast pace of school, I never hit a point in which I just needed a break. However, only three weeks into my second semester, I felt as if this breaking point was nearing. With my classes intensifying with more difficult courses, basketball being in full effect, and trying to maintain a healthy social life, I felt somewhat overwhelmed.

The people who know me best understood exactly how I felt and were reaching this point as well. We all decided that it was essential to take a step back, so we spent an entire Saturday afternoon outside in the snow, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. This day of rest was long overdue. Through this time of peacefulness, we allowed our problems to flee our minds and let our surroundings overwhelm us. Attending Northwestern has been laughs and stress, as well as challenging; however, this experience can be as great as you make it. This place offers numerous opportunities to overcome stress and other adversity. You may just have to take a step back and enjoy the roses.