One of the four pillars of a University of Northwestern education is being engaged in the world—reaching out, serving and connecting in powerful and tangible ways. Alumni Relations Director Jim Johnson ’94 doesn’t believe this pillar should go away after graduation, and this past May the alumni relations office sponsored its first "Vacation with a Purpose" mission trip.
The team may have been smaller than Johnson originally envisioned, but the 10 men brought together for the trip were, according to Daren Swanson ’87, "the precise group God wanted to go on Northwestern’s first alumni missions trip."
Working with the Victory Christian Center in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the UNW alums and a few friends helped build a small library in a matter of days, even stocking it with 500 books the men carried in their luggage.
According to Swanson, the alumni trip provides a great way to reach out and connect. "In college you have a common background," he noted, "but to be able to share new experiences with the people you went to school with is really powerful."
Dave Bos ’86, agreed. "On top of everything else on a mission trip, it’s an added depth for a group of alumni to share the experience together." UNW Friends for Life: Serving Together in Jamaica When I heard Northwestern was sponsoring an alumni mission trip to Jamaica, I thought it would be great if I could go with my best friend and old roommate, Dave Bos ’86. I knew it would be life changing. I had already been to Jamaica twice, but the opportunity to go with alumni—as opposed to junior and senior high school students—was enticing.
During a visit with Dave and his family, my wife and I decided to try and "sell" Dave on the idea of participating in the trip, only to learn that he had been praying about it for quite some time, seeking God’s direction. I had no idea that he was considering it, let alone praying about it! Pending approval from his employer, he was "in."
Jim Johnson arranged for Dave and I to room together on the trip. We enjoyed visiting without the constant interruption of kids, talking over a cup of Jamaican coffee every morning and praying together every night. We even resumed our university habit of talking into the early hours until realizing the other person (Dave) had fallen asleep.
There were a lot of memorable moments, but the highlight for me was seeing God at work through my good friend. I knew Dave had some doubts about what he could bring to this trip, and there he was, being asked to turn an unused, messy room into a furnished library.
Our group built eight bookshelves, two tables and a computer hutch in two days—using only a circular saw, a hammer and a drill. Not only did the project get completed, we finished ahead of time! The pastor we were working with was thrilled. Dave was relieved. And we were all able to see that nothing is impossible for God.
Written by Daren Swanson ’87.