Two Trinity College alumni, overlapping in their involvement with missions agency GoCorps, spoke on campus together during Global Christian Week 2013.
Arielle (BA ’13; last name omitted for security reasons) and Jenny Rasmussen (BA ’11) became friends at Trinity and are both involved with GoCorps, an agency that partners college students with international missions organizations for two-year commitments. Arielle is entering the final stages of fundraising to go to Turkey, and Jenny recently returned to the States after spending two years in Cambodia. Trinity hosted them for an evening during Global Christian Week so that they could share their stories and receive prayer as they each transition into new phases of life.
We sat down with them at a local coffee shop to talk with them about their ministries and see what advice they might have for college students wrestling with where God’s leading them. (The following has been edited for space.)
Let’s start with you, Jenny, since you’re coming back. Tell me what you’ve been doing in Cambodia.
Jenny: I worked for an organization called Daughters of Cambodia. They help women and transgender males come out of sex trade and sex trafficking.
Culturally, it’s the responsibility of the children, especially the girls, to take care of the parents. The daughters are their retirement fund and life insurance. So if Mom’s sick, Dad’s sick, and the rent’s due, the girls need to figure out how to help pay for that. I heard many girls say, “Well, my parents were sick and I needed the money, so I sold my virginity.”
Daughters of Cambodia seeks to provide a way out through fair trade employment. We provide 8-5 jobs in a production center located in the main red light district within walking distance of where most of them live.
What were your specific responsibilities?
Jenny: I worked in the social work side of things. First, we have staff care—we have about fifty staff members, and about half are local Cambodian paid staff like accountants, counselors, and so on, and then the other half are foreign volunteers like myself. I’d meet with them, pray with them, make sure they had a gift on their birthday, that sort of thing.
My second role was working with the trainee-level girls. When a girl applies, she has an interview to make sure she’s actually an ex sex worker. She starts her job and the first training is just learning how to hold down a job. That’s when they’re the most vulnerable to go back, so my job was to try and help that transition. By the end, what that looked like is I would meet with them, do some check-ins, pray with them. I found that it was a great opportunity to share the Gospel.
My third role was with a newer program called the Sons program, which helps transgender boys come out of sex work. I worked a lot with the lady boys; me and Neth, a Cambodian social worker, were a team, and he and I basically did the pastoral counseling with the boys.
How did Trinity help prepare you for the past two years of ministry in Cambodia?
Jenny: My major was Christian Ministries with an emphasis in Counseling and Social Services, and that’s literally what I was doing. I think Trinity has some incredible people. I had some incredible friends, but I feel like the professors and the staff are just an incredible team. Some names that were significant in my formation and training: Katherine Jeffrey, Graham Aitken, Jana Sundene, Dr. Carlson, Bill Moulder, Cliff Williams—I’m sure there were so many more, but they in particular were very formative for me. I think especially of Dr. Carlson and Dr. Sundene’s classes; they were really great—looking at real problems with a very practical, biblical approach.
Ok Arielle, your turn. You’re preparing to go overseas after having just graduated this spring. Talk about what you did at Trinity and what you’re getting ready to do.
Arielle: I studied music at Trinity with an emphasis in church music, but music isn’t one of those majors with a distinct career path; I knew I wanted to do something different, and Jenny’s work with GoCorps sounded really interesting. They have lots of different tracks, but none of them said anything about music. They called me back after I applied to tell me about a new placement opportunity with a creative arts team in Turkey, working primarily with Muslims, that they haven’t sent anyone to yet.
I trained in Minneapolis after I graduated, and then spent about ten weeks fundraising over the summer months after graduation. It’s really intense, meeting with people, lots of calls and telling people what you’re doing. Right now I’m at 70% support; last week it was 50%, so that’s pretty awesome. I’m hoping to leave by the end of October. So right now I’m just fundraising and I’ve also been to some training with Operation Mobilization, my sending organization. The team I’ll work with creates shows that share the Gospel or Gospel stories, something to start conversations with people to share the good news. They work in Istanbul but they schedule shows all over; they also do day-to-day evangelism.
What will some of your regular responsibilities be?
Arielle: During the winter months I have more down time, but I’ll definitely be in language school to learn Turkish. They encourage you to spend time making friends and immersing yourself in the culture as much as possible. We will also have rehearsals and practices. I play piano and sing, and I’ve done some dance and theater, but it will look different for every show.
Turkey is predominately Muslim. How restrictive does it feel on the ground for a western Christian?
Arielle: Turkey is 99.9% Muslim and there are less than 5,000 Christians. They’re trying to be more welcoming to westerners and western culture because they’re trying to get into the European Union, so it’s actually illegal to stop people from sharing their faith.
What are some things about Trinity that you feel have prepared you for an opportunity like this?
Well, I think that college just makes you a more well-rounded person. Trinity does a really good job of providing opportunities to stretch yourself and try new things. So I was involved with music, but I also did Habitat for Humanity and student government. They provide opportunities for you to get outside your cultural comfort zone and to adapt to new cultures and respect other people’s cultures. They want you to look outside what you’re used to and just be willing to branch out and try new things.
Ok, now a question for both of you. What advice would you give to somebody who’s wrestling with the question of what the Lord is calling them to do with their life?
Jenny: I think there are a lot of great opportunities you can be involved with, and it can be tempting to think that you need to find “the best one for me.” I didn’t have an experience where God wrote “Go Corps Cambodia” in the stars; there was a stirring in my heart when I heard about Go Corps, so I got more information. I remember talking to my dad, and he said, “Well, Jenny, I don’t have any initial red flags, so why don’t you just move forward and let God close doors or keep them open?”
So I would say, don’t just sit in a corner waiting for the answer to drop into your lap. I would encourage you to keep moving and be willing to think outside the cultural-normative box.
Arielle: I have some of the same thoughts. Very few people in the world have a distinct sense of direction from God; and that’s great, but most of us are just taking steps and following God’s leading [one step at a time], and I think that’s more exciting. I went to Trinity because I wanted a Christian school and wanted to go close to home; that was a simple step, but God kept opening doors.
If you’re not sure what to do next, just try things. Don’t sit around waiting for God to put the next thing into your lap—I think He wants us to be decisive and be a part of the decision-making process.
Curious to learn what impact Trinity students are having around the world? Read more about our local and global community partnerships.
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