Vocation and faith


Grants help students explore links

BLUFFTON, Ohio—Rebecca Lapp returned to Guatemala to volunteer at the same orphanage she had visited following a semester-abroad program last fall.

Courtney Seffernick, meanwhile, sampled social work-related opportunities at an inpatient hospice center and a nonprofit organization in northwest Ohio.

Near or far, though, both Bluffton University students explored the link between vocation and faith as the 2015 recipients of $1,500 Summer Discovery Grants from the university.    

Lapp, a junior majoring in Spanish, was among seven Bluffton students who spent last fall semester in Guatemala, combining academic classes at SEMILLA (the Latin American Anabaptist Seminary) with field placements for service.

She became acquainted with the orphanage in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, through Pure Joy Missions, whose founder, Kathy Jacobs, is from Milton, Pa., near Lapp’s hometown of Watsontown. They had met before Lapp went to Guatemala and, when she did some additional traveling after her formal program ended, she visited Jacobs, including spending part of an afternoon with her at the orphanage.

“My semester in Guatemala is definitely a large part of the reason I decided to return,” said Lapp, who attends Community Mennonite Fellowship in Milton. “As I try to figure out what I want to do with my life, I thought seeing more of Pure Joy Missions would be a good place to start. Nonprofits have always been interesting to me, and I especially like how Pure Joy Missions reaches into different parts of the community through forming relationships.

“I have been able to learn a lot about the process of creating, organizing and running a nonprofit,” she said, noting that she helped Jacobs craft a mission statement.

“Without the grant, I highly doubt I would have been able to pursue this project,” added Lapp about her four-week return to Guatemala. “So I’m definitely grateful that Bluffton has this in place to enable students to pursue opportunities that help them think about their vocational futures.”

Seffernick, a social work major from Melrose, Ohio, spent two weeks at the Van Wert Area Inpatient Hospice Center, assisting social workers with tasks including new patient assessment and bereavement counseling. She then interned at a Findlay, Ohio, nonprofit, Christian Clearing House, which provides emergency assistance to Hancock County residents in need.

“I chose to do this for the grant because it allows me to get experience working in different settings and with different people,” said Seffernick, also a Bluffton junior. “By getting to experience these different places, I hope that I will be able to get a better idea of what I want to do with social work in the future.”

This is the 12th year that Summer Discovery Grants have been available to Bluffton students interested in designing an experience that allows them to creatively explore connections between their faith journeys and vocational discernment. Funding is through the Karl Schultz Discovery Funds, an endowment established through the gift of Bluffton alumnus Karl Schultz and his family.