A Heart for Vulnerable Populations

When Jaelyn Dragt was 8 years old, she started writing to a young Ethiopian girl named Tigist. Even at a young age, Dragt was struck by the injustices her friend experienced; she was also amazed by Tigist’s drive and determination, as well as God’s faithfulness in her life.

“Those experiences of writing to Tigist led me to want to study social work, community development, and theology,” she says.

Ten years after she first wrote a letter to her Ethiopian friend, Dragt had the opportunity to travel more than 8,000 miles to Ethiopia, where she was finally able to give Tigist a hug.

“There were so many tears of joy. I was thankful that the Lord brought us together,” recalls Dragt. “It’s still amazing to see how, through 12 years of letters and prayers, God shaped her life and my life.”

Dragt’s experiences in Ethiopia and friendship with Tigist further solidified her interest in social work and community development, as well as her decision to study at Dordt.

“God has given me compassion for vulnerable populations, and I want to learn the skills and perspective to come alongside people well. I knew that social work would be a great option. When I took an introductory class for Dordt’s community development major, I loved it. I began to consider what communities around the world need to thrive.”

Dragt is especially thankful for her Dordt professors. “The professors I’ve had across all my majors at Dordt care deeply and are willing to offer their time and wisdom to students,” she says. “They care not only about my academic success, but also about me spiritually. It’s been great to receive their support and encouragement, so that I could grow into the person that God has created me to be.”

While studying at Dordt, Dragt has been able to return to Ethiopia two times. First, she visited briefly during the summer after her freshman year. Second, after receiving a Verberg Prize scholarship and a Dordt Mission Assistance Fund grant, she was able to complete her community development internship with Hope for Korah, a non-profit organization in Ethiopia.

Dragt has enjoyed living in community with a body of believers at Dordt; her experiences at Dordt have helped her to grow in her faith. “I’ve seen how God cares for us through the church and through relationships with other believers. At Dordt, I’ve been able to grow in his Word and to, with the people around me, seek his goodness and beauty.”

She chose to study theology in part because she wanted “to learn theological truths but also wrestle with how these truths matter for everyday life and within different contexts.” Dragt has appreciated studying theology so much that she plans to pursue a Master of Divinity degree at Western Theological Seminary this fall.

Looking back at her Dordt experience, Dragt sees the ups and the downs. But she also sees God’s faithfulness every step of the way.

“I have learned to be present with the people I’ve met at Dordt, during this season of my life,” she says. “I’m grateful for the community I’ve been able to find here and the encouragement that others have given me to seek God in this place.”