STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 11/21/2011

The Elijah Project: Helping Students Find Their Place in the World

It’s a Friday night in late August. Some students are moving clothes and books into their rooms while others are preparing dinner in the big farmhouse kitchen. Still others sit in the living room excitedly swapping stories from their summers. These 14 students are participants in The Elijah Project. They have returned early to campus to settle into Dexter House, which will be their home for the academic year. 

The Elijah Project is an innovative, multidimensional honors program at Gordon. It includes two intensive seminar courses, individualized summer internships and a year of living together in community. Classroom readings and discussions focus on the big questions of life:

  • What does it mean to be a responsible human and faithful Christian in today’s world?
  • How do I affirm the goodness of all of God’s creation despite the distortions within it?
  • How am I gifted? What are my unique interests and abilities?
  • How can I best partner with God in His creative and redemptive work in this beautiful but fallen world?

Beyond the classroom, these questions are considered experientially. The internships provide a hands-on opportunity to explore answers to pressing local and global challenges.

Locations are far-flung, and internships span a broad range of opportunities such as serving at a health clinic in Togo, Honduras, or Nepal; advocating for Dalit rights and women’s issues in India; doing Bible translation in Papua New Guinea; and working in fields like sustainable agriculture, microfinance, youth ministry, midwifery, mental health, marketing and graphic design.

After returning from their internships, the students spend the final nine months of the program living together in Dexter House just off campus. Sharing life together—over meals, times of fellowship, and the daily rhythms of schoolwork, household tasks and conversation— gives the Elijah students the opportunity to learn more about themselves and about the importance of community, and to work together at embodying what they are learning.

The following are some of the students’ internships from this past summer:

Theresa Bennett ’12, an international affairs major and peace and conflict studies minor, spent her summer interning with Sri Lanka Unites, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. SLU is a youth-led, conflict transformation organization started by Gordon alum Prashan De Visser ’08. Theresa is interested in pursuing international human rights law and hoped to explore whether peace and conflict reconciliation might become a focus. In Sri Lanka she was responsible for coordinating volunteer mentors for SLU’s Future Leaders’ Conference, which gathers student leaders from across the island to begin to reconcile ethnic and religious tensions passed on to them during Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war. Through the internship Theresa was able to grasp the importance of cross-cultural communication and was encouraged to pursue more of a grassroots approach to conflict resolution. “My experiences through Sri Lanka Unites gave me such an interesting insight into how an organization works and what it takes to sustain it while fulfilling a particular mission,” she says. “I also gained insights into how education can so influence generations and a country’s peace.”

Brandon Inkles ’13, a business administration and global Christianity double major with a nonprofit management minor, interned with Mack Avenue Community Church in inner-city Detroit. Run by three pastors, the church’s vision is to transform the community both spiritually and physically. Brandon’s internship involved helping to design a discipleship training website; researching local churches to partner in sharing the gospel; helping coordinate mission teams; and studying the Bible to understand being the light of Christ in the middle of poverty, racism and violence. He also served as a youth group leader, providing activities that kept the kids away from drug dealing or getting into trouble. “It’s no coincidence that I’ve made these connections,” he says, “and that God has continued to grow this passion to serve Detroit as a full-time career someday.”

Mary Cote ’12, an English major and biblical studies minor, first met French missionary Thierry Mirone when she went with her youth group on a missions trip to France in 2008. This past summer Mary traveled back to France to spend four weeks working with Thierry, helping him prepare for an evangelistic youth rally for French teens, and learning about his life as a missionary. She then moved to the language school in Albertville for a week to do construction work, and spent a final two weeks as a camp counselor at Champfleuri—a Christian camp in the foothills of the Alps. Mary wrote articles about her experiences each week for her hometown newspaper back in the U.S., an experience that encouraged her as she considers pursuing writing in the future. “Spending time in France has helped me see the real need for Christians to live out their faith—sharing God, His love and His Word with people throughout the world.”

Andrew Hansen ’13, a double major in youth ministry and biblical studies, loved both of his majors, and also loved music—but wasn’t sure which he should pursue for a future career. This past summer he interned with Regenerate Music Company near Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he not only worked in a music studio but slept there (on a couch) as well. “I thought my summer was about choosing a career path between music and youth ministry,” Andrew says, “but what I’ve been realizing is that I’m gifted in both areas. I’m going to trust God to lead me to the right career when the time comes. I want to continue to ask the questions I’m asking myself now: Who am I? What do I love? And how can I help?”

Nina Voli ’13, a linguistics major with an interest in sustainable community development, spent her summer at Shalom Farms, an initiative of the United Methodist Urban Ministries of Richmond, Virginia, that addresses the issue of food security in inner-city Richmond. “In the process of pulling weeds, digging potatoes and planting cucumber seeds, I’ve gained a better understanding of how food is grown,” says Nina. “But more importantly, I’ve been able to see that the ways in which we grow, distribute, and even eat food all have deeply theological implications.” In the future Nina hopes to explore how the Church can better acknowledge these kinds of connections, and actively participate in social and ecological restoration.

Dan Pfistner ’13, an economics major, worked with Partners in Development (PID) in Haiti, in their microfinance program (read more about Dan’s internship on page 7). 

Bennett Shake ’13, a kinesiology major with a prephysical therapy concentration, served at Teletón in Santa Rosa de Copan, a nonprofit rehabilitation clinic in Honduras.

Laura Carmer, M.A., and Greg Carmer, Ph.D., direct the Elijah Project. Laura is also director of missions, and Greg is dean of chapel. The Carmers have been helping students integrate faith and vocation for over 25 years, the last 20 of them at Gordon.

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