Grace Harmon has been involved with mission work since she was 15. When she decided to transfer to Biola and major in Intercultural Studies, people didn’t understand. Why would she spend money on education when she already knew plenty about missions work?

Grace didn’t know the answer either but knew she felt a pulled towards it.

Shortly, she discovered international development. International development, in Grace’s words, is “restoring communities through education, spiritual needs, or physical needs.” Basically, Grace wants to develop strategies that meet others’ needs efficiently and effectively.

She experienced this process first-hand last summer on a major-required service trip. Though it was an unexpected and non-glamorous experience, it was well worth it.

The trip began with a crazy sequence of events. Grace was originally supposed to go to the Congo, but her Visa was denied.

She emailed an organization called World Relief and asked if they needed a summer intern. World Relief works with local churches to help refugees, the poor, and other vulnerable groups. They said yes.

The day after she contacted World Relief, she got on a plane to Chicago uncertain of where she would be living.

World Relief assigned Grace as an administrative intern each morning and a youth leader in the afternoons. Though, her work was more challenging than she anticipated. She was in charge of refugee’s finances among other things. It was an uncomfortable situation because math isn’t her strong suit.

Connecting with families also proved difficult. Grace wanted to share the gospel, but World Relief employees can’t explicitly do that because they are government funded.

So, here was Grace. Actively participating in international development and finding it was not so glamorous.

Still, she calls international development her niche and desires to use her strategic mind for missions.

Most majors require some kind of graduation requirement. Grace’s required trip had unexpected and uncomfortable elements, but it was also a rewarding experience.

A big part of knowledge and readiness for the future is hearing from professors who have put what they teach to the test.

Grace learned her classes could only prepare her so much for unexpected realities of her trip. When asked what she would do differently in retrospect, Grace says she would have sought more wisdom from her professors’ experiences.

She thinks her professors would have provided real-life advice about being physically and emotionally present during her trip.

Through this experience, Grace found a new passion for international development at Biola. Her major required trip was not only fulfilling, both personally and academically, but helped her realize the need for external input.

The question people asked her before she came to Biola has been answered. “Why study missions when you’re already doing it?” Because Grace wanted to find her true strengths in missions, and International development ended up being the strength she found.