Rob Nelsen is a twenty-one- year-old undergraduate student at Chapman University, who has made Albert Schweitzer’s commitment to a life of service the motto of his own life. Raised in Irvine, his achievements and accolades to date are so numerous that reading through his resume takes stamina. He is an athlete, an academic, a leader, as well as a humanitarian.
Characteristically, in July of this year, when Rob was on his first flight out of the U.S., he was not going on vacation; he was on a Christian mission to Rwanda, Africa. I met with Rob recently to learn more about his solo ten-day mission, organized by Saddleback Church’s PEACEwater: No Thirsty Child! program. The program partners with other Christian churches in Rwanda (but not the small number of mosques) to provide local, potable water.
In Rwanda, Rob helped to construct rainwater collection barrels at the churches, and simple soil-based water filtration systems in individual homes. In one particular family, headed by a widow with HIV, the five children were now spared the arduous task of hiking up a mountainside several times each day, only to bring back water that was often contaminated. (The youngest of these children is only five years old.) He said the people he met there were very positive, although they have very little; he was struck by the deep sense of community he witnessed, and the absence of homelessness.
He explained his volunteerism with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Orange County Special Olympics in this way: “It’s important that we all make a difference in some way or another; that’s how we improve society and the world we live in.”
He is an extraordinary young man, and I have no doubt that he will achieve his near-term goals of working first in the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and then at the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser.