The year 2020 is upon us. While this means unkept New Year’s resolutions for most of Northwestern, a few students are looking forward to bigger things on the horizon. On January 3, 2020, 11 students, two professors, and one additional chaperone are embarking on Northwestern’s Intercultural Internship. They will travel to Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan, finishing with a time of debriefing in Hawaii. Their travels will last about two months, through the entirety of Quad Three.
“I chose to major in Intercultural Studies because I feel called to long-term missions after graduation, specifically in Southeast Asia. This internship will give me an idea of what long-term missions will be like." —Emily Fisher '21
This internship is designed specifically for those majoring or minoring in Intercultural Studies, though it is open to any Northwestern student. It is intended to expose participants to the day-to-day realities of missionary life in the field. However, acknowledging that there is no true normative standard for “typical” missionary life, this internship allows students to experience a variety of overseas ministries. It is hoped that, by giving students the opportunity to enter and live in an established on-the-ground ministry, they will come to a fuller realization and passion for intercultural missions work.
This trip’s team is led by one of Northwestern’s most tenured professors, Dr. John Easterling, professor of Intercultural Studies. When it comes to leading student teams, Easterling is certainly qualified, simply by the quantity of his missions experiences. He served as a long-term missionary in France for over six years, and continued serving his mission organization after returning to the States for an additional two years. However, beyond his own long-term experience, Easterling has led 29 other student trips around the world, making this internship his 30th. It will also be his last. Easterling plans to retire after the 2021–22 school year.
Regarding this trip, Easterling states, “Both Cambodia and the Philippines are new to me. I will be equally excited to see them. I love Thailand and Japan equally too. [And] Hawaii, what's not to love!” When asked about his favorite part of leading student mission trips, he offered an interesting perspective: “My favorite part is post-internship when students email, phone, mail, or just walk in my office to share about their lives. It is then [that] I can see the influence of the ICS internship on the lives of each and every student.”
One of the students going on this year’s internship is Emily Fisher, a junior majoring in Intercultural Studies. She explains her thoughts about the trip this way: “I chose to major in Intercultural Studies because I feel called to long-term missions after graduation, specifically in Southeast Asia. This internship will give me an idea of what long-term missions will be like…. During our time overseas, I can explore missions in the four countries we will be visiting through the career of an English teacher and hopefully build long-term relationships with current long-term missionaries.”
“My favorite part is post-internship when students email, phone, mail, or just walk in my office to share about their lives. It is then [that] I can see the influence of the ICS internship on the lives of each and every student.” —Dr. John Easterling, Intercultural Studies professor
One of the benefits of the Intercultural Internship is that students have the chance to visit multiple locations, which can be helpful in discerning a future, more permanent ministry placement. Heather Jones, a junior who is triple majoring in Intercultural Studies, Youth Ministry, and Bible, remarked, “I’m hoping that [God will] give me more guidance on where he has called me to serve long-term.” Laura Toppin, a junior Intercultural Studies major, views the learning experiences of this trip as preparation for her future career. She comments, “I want to be a missionary, so this trip will teach me more about other cultures and how to witness to people around the world.”
Living on the mission field for two months is an exciting prospect for all of the students; each has high hopes of what God will accomplish through the team during the time spent overseas. However, Claira Bushway, a junior majoring in Intercultural Studies with a focus on Non-Profit Leadership, provides a balanced outlook: “I want God to use us wherever we go, but I… am expecting the people we meet to impact us greatly as well.” Cosette Gamache, an Intercultural Studies junior, also has adopted a moderate outlook on the trip. She acknowledges that, “God always uses these things to grow us, but the process isn't always pretty, so I can get nervous.” But she also recognizes that, “[God] is faithful, and I'll rest in that.”
The students and leaders humbly ask for prayer as they travel abroad. They specifically request prayer for boldness, good health, safety, and growth. Ultimately, this Intercultural Internship team desires to do God’s will in this New Year, both on and off the mission field.