Boot camp could not prepare Tim Khan for what he would experience on a daily basis in the Marine Corps, which he joined as an 18-year-old greenhorn from rural Wisconsin. During his five years on active duty, Tim, an air support operator, was responsible for coordinating between different combat arms of the military in order to keep a battle space safe for troops and effective against the enemy. Serving as a kind of emergency dispatcher, Tim worked extensively with airstrikes, medical evacuations, artillery strikes, and other air-ground events.
Without hesitation, Tim acknowledges the beneficial skills he learned while in the Marine Corps. And without provocation, Tim expresses his appreciation for the core values of honor, courage, and commitment that were ingrained in him as a serviceman. But Tim is equally forthright about what had the most lasting impact on him: death.
While in Afghanistan in 2012, he commonly sat in front of video feeds watching drone strikes. And although he clearly voices his support of drones, he also admits that the regular viewing of insurgents burning to death changed him.
And there was no respite. After spending entire shifts watching enemy lives expire, Tim would often attend funerals for coalition personnel during his off hours. Everywhere he turned, it seemed, he was surrounded by death — the death of enemies, the death of friends.
This constant exposure to evil on the battlefield and negativity in the ranks fed a growing disillusionment that turned Tim’s head upward, away from the horrors of war and toward the door of heaven.
But at the time of his release from the Marines, Tim thought of heaven simply as an escape. For Tim, heaven had nothing to do with earth, and earth had nothing to do with heaven.
When he left active duty, Tim’s cousin began encouraging him to attend a Summit conference in Colorado. After continual pestering, Tim finally relented, but not because of an undying interest in the Christian worldview. Remarking on what attracted him to Summit, Tim smiles and says, “Really, just the fact that it was in Colorado.”
Soon after he arrived on the Summit campus and listened to lecturers expound on the biblical worldview, however, Tim discovered that where Marines Corps boot camp failed, Summit boot camp — the boot camp for the heart and mind — succeeded.
“Pre-Summit, I had a very nihilistic outlook on things,” Tim says. “After Summit, though, I have a better understanding of why engaging and caring for culture is a personal responsibility, for God and His creation, our neighbors, and ourselves.”
Having awakened to the breadth of the Christian worldview, Tim was infused with a desire to learn God’s purposes, to accomplish God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. So, last fall, Tim attended Summit Semester, and under the tutelage of Dr. Michael Bauman and other Summit faculty, he learned how to ask the right questions about life, about death, and about what it means to be a human being. “Being a student at Summit Semester helped me immensely with better understanding what had happened in Afghanistan and how to live in light of it,” Tim asserts.
For Tim Khan, Summit has supplanted a culture of death with a culture of life and given him renewed hope in the goodness of God, which is present even in a fallen world.
Rejuvenated and intent on pouring the ointment of God’s goodness on a wounded culture, Tim served as a Summit staff member this summer, leading small groups, cooking, and helping the maintenance team. Mentoring students and building friendships with other faithful Christians on staff has further nurtured his spiritual walk. But Tim quickly dispels the belief that working as a Summit staffer is a cake walk. “It was definitely the most exhausting thing I’ve done since the Marines, but also the most rewarding. If I had to get burned out from working a job, I can’t picture a better job to get burned out doing.”
After completing two semesters at the University of Iowa, where he put his Summit training to good use by countering the secular worldview assumed by so many of his professors and classmates, Tim is going to spend the fall soaking in as much C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton as possible. As a philosophy major, Tim will enter a new battlefield — the battlefield of the mind. This time, thanks to Summit, he will be better equipped for what lies ahead.