Students spend summer using talents to serve God around the world

Students share their exciting plans for the summer.


Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Nicole Foy, Writer

Jake and Nate Ellis, House Worship Band at Thousand Pines

Nate and Jake Ellis, of Watching for Wonder, will be playing as the house worship band at Thousand Pines this summer. Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Summer vacation: two words, countless meanings.

For many students, summer vacation means a blessed, well-deserved reprieve from the monotonous grind of homework, exams and essays. Some cram their 12 weeks of relative freedom with summer school, an internship and one or two jobs, while others may plan to never leave the couch.

Nate and Jake Ellis and the other members of the band Watching for Wonder will be working for about a month as the house worship band at Thousand Pines, a Christian summer camp in Crestline, Calif. Coming up on their third summer leading worship at a summer camp and their second at Thousand Pines, the brothers explained that while they love the chance to lead junior highers and high schoolers in worship through music, they especially enjoy building relationships with the staff, pastors and campers.

“Ministry from the stage only goes so far,” said Jake, a sophomore biblical studies major. “That is what we are there for, to play music … but we find that the impact we can have is exponentially greater if we are really intentional about leading kids in worship off the stage.”

Both agreed that they enjoy the chance to simultaneously serve others and do what they love. Although walking with students through their spiritual highs and lows can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting, they believe this constant mountaintop experience teaches them to desire Jesus more than anything else.

“It’s about finding joy in what seems to be a mundane routine, even when everyone else around you is on a spiritual high,” said Nate, a junior film major.

Despite the inevitable exhaustion, the brothers return every summer for a reason.

“Every couple of days that we are up there, we will realize how lucky we are to do this, and it sort of clicks,” Jake said. “We get to live in the mountains with our best friends, play music every day, do what we love every day … serve high school students and pour into local churches, and they pay us for it. It doesn’t make any sense but that’s what it is.”

Emily Joy Johnson, PR intern for Salvation Army

Emily Johnson plans to work as a public relations intern at the Midwest headquarters of The Salvation Army this summer. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

When Emily Joy Johnson, a freshman journalism major with an emphasis in public relations, returns home this summer to Minneapolis, Minn. she will also get a chance to do something she loves as well as follow in her father’s footsteps.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be like my dad and work at the Salvation Army,” Johnson said. “When I found out there was a public relations department, I began my dream of one day interning there.”

This summer, Johnson will be working as a public relations intern at the Midwest headquarters of The Salvation Army, where she will assist in everything from blogging, writing public service announcements and preparing for The Most Amazing Race, the Salvation Army’s biggest event of the summer.

Not only is Johnson excited to get extensive hands-on experience in the field of public relations, she is thrilled to do so in a Christian environment.

“I feel really blessed to start out and learn about the industry through professionals who are faith-based and have the same heart for God that I do,” Johnson said. “I think it will be a really good chance to grow in my faith because I will be in that atmosphere.”

In addition to her internship with The Salvation Army, she will also be continuing her internship with Sonoma Christian Homes magazine, working at a summer job and learning Swedish through the American Swedish Institute in preparation for a vacation the next summer.

Zachary De Vesta, Russia with TeachOverseas

Zachary De Vesta will be teaching English in Russia with TeachOverseas. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Unlike Johnson and the Ellis brothers, whose exciting summers will come to a close with the beginning of the fall semester, graduating intercultural studies senior Zachary De Vesta’s summer will only be the beginning of a yearlong commitment in the mission field.

After four weeks of training in Pasadena, De Vesta will travel with TeachOverseas to Russia to teach English to a classroom of junior high students. As missionaries are rarely welcomed in Russia, TeachOverseas equips young Christian men and women to serve as teachers instead, thus meeting the needs of students in Russia and around the world.

“I think teaching English is a great tool for missions and evangelism in the world; there is a great need for it,” De Vesta said. “If you want to travel and you have a heart for missions, I would definitely suggest it.”

Although TeachOverseas is a Christian organization, once in Russia, De Vesta will not be able to openly share his faith in the classroom setting. Instead, he hopes to live as an example to his students in order to build relationships with them outside the classroom.

“A few teachers overseas have started Bible studies and met their students at cafes and that is where they really had the opportunity to invest and share the gospel,” De Vesta said. “I think in the classroom it will be just kind of living it out, investing in my students, and getting to know them by teaching English.”

De Vesta has long felt drawn to serve in Russia and learn the Russian language. A six-week trip with TeachOverseas to Russia last summer changed his life and he can’t wait to return to the country God has placed on his heart.

“There is so much need in Russia and so much brokenness there. It is a country that is definitely in need of a Christian presence, and I think that it has been overlooked for some time,” De Vesta said. “It’s a big country that has been orthodox for so long, but there is a need for the gospel to be expressed there. I am praying for open doors in the lives of my students … God has good things in store.”

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