Face-to-Face With Poverty

Dan’s life took a new direction after Summer in the City

By Dan Bjorkegren   |  5.June.2013
Dan Bjorkegren
Photo courtesy Dan Bjorkegren

I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, and throughout high school I was sure that I would become a software developer. During my freshman year of college in 2002, I followed some friends on a Spring Break volunteering trip in Los Angeles (Urban Immersion™ with Here’s Life Inner City).

For the first time, I came face-to-face with poverty, injustice, and hopelessness. L.A.’s problems were real. Once I had seen them, I could not stop thinking about them.

A few months later I returned for Summer in the City to work with youth, families and the homeless. Among the homeless I met broken people—some spiraling down a path of self-destruction, others struggling against all odds to repair themselves.

One such glimmer of hope was a business professional I met who had recovered from a life of drugs and homelessness. I listened to his story and heard how difficult it was for him to escape his past life. I began to wonder what society could do to not just recover people, but to prevent people from becoming broken in the first place.

When I returned to campus, it was difficult to focus, difficult to connect what I was learning to what I had seen. I switched majors but was unsettled. There were many opportunities to help within social professions, but that's not where my skills were. I wasn't sure how I could apply my skills to these problems.

I lived with this tension for a few years. Then in 2007, I came upon the field of development economics, which applies technical analysis to problems facing the poor. I was inspired by the community of people in the field who apply both their minds and hearts to improve our understanding of the poor and to craft better policies.

Summer in the City changed my career plans and focused my work on poverty. I latched on.

After graduating, I taught high school in a poor county in Texas for a couple of years. Then I started graduate school in Boston. Now, by God's grace, I am doing a PhD focused on development economics at Harvard University, studying the causes of poverty in the developing world and what can be done to help.

I am excited about my work and plan on becoming a professor when I finish, helping improve our understanding of poverty and what can be done. I feel blessed to be in this field, with many smart people who are devoting their work to the vulnerable.

I am really grateful for the opportunity I had to work in the inner city. Summer in the City had a huge impact on me.


Right now, 99 students are attending Summer in the City projects in Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Seattle. Join the inner city ministry in praying for their experiences over the coming weeks, and also how they respond to the opportunities the Lord will put before them in the years to come. Here are some of their prayer requests:

• That God will guide them to those ready to hear the life-changing message of the gospel,
• That He will protect them and keep them healthy during the summer,
• That they will be open to learning more about God’s heart for the poor and His call on believers to show compassion and concern,
• That our partner ministries will be encouraged by the extra manpower these students provide,
• That the students will commit their future plans to wherever the Lord directs them.

Follow them on Twitter to find out more.