STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 04/16/2008

In Focus: Students

Journey to India
Jennifer Sabin '09

This past summer I spent nearly two months in southern India fulfilling an internship with The Elijah Project. I worked for a nongovernmental organization called Bharati Integrated Rural Development Society (BIRDS) based in Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh. BIRDS provides skills training, microfinanced loans, and education and care to orphans and destitute children. During my time with BIRDS I organized the administration of the children's home, coordinated sponsorship for the children living there, and also taught English. I worked alongside the founder and executive director of BIRDS, V. Paul Raja Rao. He taught me about his organization, India and development; but more importantly, he taught me about love and truth. I was challenged and grew in ways I never anticipated.

Verbal communication, I learned, can only go so far. The boys in this picture speak Telugu, the native language of Andhra Pradesh. Although they knew some English from school, it was basic at best. I was trying to do my part, studying Telugu and learning specific things I wanted to say to them. I wanted to know what was on their minds, why they were sometimes upset, what they were studying in school and who they wanted to be like when they got older. But the times I felt closest to these boys was in the brief silence before they began to laugh; it was in the corners of their mouths when they were about to smile; it was in their touch when they sat beside me; and it was in their eyes when they found out I had to go home. We were often able to understand each other and to share our lives without saying a word.

I decided my relationship with BIRDS would not end when I got back on an airplane. I have recently registered BIRDS International Inc., a nonprofit stateside base seeking support and awareness for BIRDS. My experience traveling to India and learning from Paul and his family has been life changing.

Jennifer is a social work major and an Elijah Project student. She is from Barrington, New Hampshire.

Read More... Bharati Integrated Rural Development Society

The Elijah Project

What does Scripture say about work? How has God uniquely made each one of us to serve in His Kingdom? How do we make decisions about choosing a career and answering a call? Co-led by Dean of Chapel Greg Carmer and his wife, Laura, this program offers a unique opportunity to tackle these questions. Students admitted into The Elijah Project spend 12 months together in classroom seminars and an intentional living community exploring the theological foundations of meaningful human work. Students in the 2007 cohort participated in summer internships in India; United Arab Emirates; Kenya; Malawi; Zaire; Nepal; Ukraine; Jackson, Mississippi; Dorchester; Los Angeles and other locations. They gained experience in community development, photojournalism, medicine, rural education, fashion design, business administration, public psychological services, and management.

Summer 2007: Opole, Poland

This past summer I taught English in Opole, Poland, through the Summer Missions Program. Teaching and living in Poland was a blend of experiences: I was the guest of honor at a sixth-grade prom; I learned what sound "szcz" indicates; I watched The Incredibles in Polish. I danced in the streets to an opera celebrating the 750th anniversary of the founding of Krakow; I struggled at Auschwitz with some of the deepest questions about humanity and horror. I learned that the Polish people are strong, hospitable and polite. I found I was capable of teaching a class of Polish elementary school children--even though in the beginning I only knew a few words of Polish. An incredible risk--but God's provision and trustworthiness became starkly apparent when I found myself an ocean away from home.

Traveling the Pro Circuit
Ryan Sawyer '08

I knew after the first time I stepped into water skis that this sport would be a relentless love in my life--but I never thought I would make it as far in the water-ski industry as I did this past summer.

Last year a Gordon professor encouraged me to find my passion and figure out a way to make a living doing it. Inspired, I spent the next seven months banging down the door of WaterSki magazine until the editor finally caved and offered me an internship at their headquarters in Orlando, Florida. While I was based in Orlando, I spent much of the summer traveling on the pro circuit for tournaments, skiing, and video and photo shoots. I filmed, edited and produced the 2007 videos for WaterSki magazine's website.
It was surreal to go from following the best skiers in the world from a distance-on TV and in magazines-to suddenly skiing with them in their backyards, hanging out with them on the weekends or traveling with them on the road. Every day brought a new ski venue, another tournament boat and something else to learn. Whether it was 5 a.m. ski sessions, enjoying a Florida sunset from the dock with fellow skiers, or dodging the local alligators in the water, there was never a dull moment. I am still working with the editor on the mainstream water ski video that will be released in stores next spring-it was shot on location in France, Italy, St. Martin, northern California and all over Florida.

It was a thrilling experience, and I was excited that God took one of my greatest passions and used it for His glory. While I learned a lot and had a blast both on and off the water, it is my prayer that God used me in some way to further His kingdom. If he did, that's all I need to consider it a successful summer. I am blessed to be given this opportunity and look forward to what the future brings for me in this sport.

Ryan is a senior communications major from Menlo Park, California.

Read More... WaterSki Magazine

MataHari: Eye of the Day
Tania Green '08

When I first researched the issue of human trafficking, I associated it with developing countries; little did I know this grotesque human rights abuse is happening in my own backyard.

Last summer I interned for MataHari: Eye of the Day, a Boston-based, nonprofit organization that combats targeted violence against women through counseling and legal services. Although I did not work directly with the abused women or prostituted children (some as young as 11 years old), I became deeply invested in their stories--like how they were coerced to leave their countries and their children to live as sexual slaves for men in Massachusetts.

I struggled to see how my public relations work for this small nonprofit could matter. How could one Gordon College student fight the billion-dollar sex-trade industry? Through writing and praying I realized that my anger, passion for justice, and ability to communicate these stories to the world mattered deeply to those forgotten women and children. With each press release and feature article I wrote, I used skills I learned in my PR classes to give voice to those who cannot represent themselves.


Journey to India
Opole, Poland
Mata hari