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03/24/14 7:55 am Age: 1 year

Graduate Writes Book for Students Planning Mission Service


By: Jaci Shankel

Book Inspired by Personal Experience

Jason Birkenstock's book drew from his experiences serving as an English teacher in Ecuador.

With 96 student missionaries serving this year, Walla Walla University has a large body of students dedicating their time and effort to helping around the globe. However, as student missionary Jason Birkenstock discovered, making such a big decision and following through with it is harder than a first glance may tell. To help students make the decision, and ease their way into a new culture, Birkenstock used his experience as an English teacher in Ecuador to write a comprehensive guide for students looking to volunteer.

In this guide, titled “A Gap Year Volunteering: The College Student's Guide,” Jason Birkenstock, a 2013 business graduate, outlines the process he went through in preparing for a year of service, including making the actual decision, getting a visa, deferring student loans, learning teaching strategies, and also gives a few anecdotal stories. Birkenstock says, “With this book, it was and is my intention for people to see exactly what they are in for as a student missionary or volunteer and what preparation it entails without feeling pressured or obligated to commit.”

The inspiration to provide this guide was reflective, yet simple. “It was after about two months of serving as a missionary in Ecuador when I realized what an immensely rewarding experience serving as a missionary is. Even within just those first two months I saw myself improving in so many ways-- spiritually, mentally, socially, etc.”

Despite the many difficulties student missionaries face, such as coping with language barriers and cultural differences, Birkenstock describes the joys as well. As he watched his senior class graduate, he “was so incredibly happy and so incredibly sad at the same time. They have such bright futures ahead of them, and I really cannot wait to see what they accomplish.”

More information is available at

Birkenstock's book is also available on

Published March 24, 2014.



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