A Hot Meal & A Prayer: Students Serve the Homeless

Homeless Ministries at People’s Park in Berkeley.

By Becky St. Clair

One Friday night business administration major George Grigsby was serving food for AfterLite, a post-vespers event designed to encourage student fellowship, he was approached by fellow student John Roberts, asking for any leftovers.

“I asked him what he needed them for, and that’s when I learned about the Clearlake Ministry,” Grigsby says.

Roberts was the leader of the ministry at that time, and he encouraged Grigsby to accompany them. The ministry, run by PUC students, provides both hot and nonperishable food, hygiene items, clothing, and prayer to persons experiencing homelessness on the streets of Clearlake, California. This year, Grigsby is the ministry leader, taking around five fellow students with him every other week to connect with anyone they can find.

“It’s getting harder to reach them because the local law enforcement is stepping up their efforts to disperse the city’s homeless,” Grigsby explains. “So instead of the 75-100 we used to serve there, we now see only 15-30 each time, and we have to drive around to various locations to find them.”

When they do connect with someone, Grigsby and his team make sure to inquire about needs they might be able to fill the next time they come. The top three requested items, especially this time of year when it’s chilly, are sweaters, sleeping bags, and socks.

Howell Mountain Market contributes groceries for the Clearlake Ministry team, and Grigsby spends a bit of time each day putting the bags together so it doesn’t add up to one long night of doing it all. Then he and his student team get together and cook hot food, as well.

“This ministry gives me a chance to put myself in a situation where I can make things better,” Grigsby explains. Growing up in West Africa, he felt very deeply the tragedy that occurred when Ebola broke out there in 2014.

“The people I grew up with were suffering, and I couldn’t do anything about it,” he recalls. “If I can’t make a difference there, I will help the people around me. Clearlake gives me a chance to do that.”

As a sophomore, Kevin Martins, junior biology and pre-med major, had seen Homeless Ministries listed in the “This Week at PUC” emails many times, and when he happened to meet the student director of the Berkeley Ministry to the homeless, he decided to give it a try.

“I really enjoyed the experience of preparing and serving food for others,” he says. “They’re usually just there alone and really enjoy having someone notice them and listen to what they have to say.”

When the ministry leader graduated, Martins stepped up and took over. Every other Sabbath the team of around 15 pile into a large van and attend church and eat potluck with the Adventist church in Berkeley. After potluck, they prepare food in the church’s kitchen to serve the homeless in a place called People’s Park. They serve food, talk with the people, find out their needs and make lists for next time they come, and pray with those who are willing.

“When we’re at the church I organize the group to make sure everyone has a role,” Martins explains. “Everyone has their skills and strengths, and we work together well, making sure everything happens that needs to.”

The group typically serves around 50 homeless, but recently new tents appeared at the park, and Martins made notes to prepare food for 70 the next time they came. Once they serve within the main part of the park, they carry plates around to other areas of the park to serve those who didn’t make it to the table.

Martins has participated in an Amen Clinic previously, and it sparked his interest in serving others. He intends to continue doing so even once he starts his career.

“I want to be a doctor because I want to help people in their healing,” he says. “This ministry has helped me see this is, in fact, what I want to do with my life.”

It’s the stories that affect Martins most. One week he met a woman in a wheelchair who had spent many years living in Brazil, Martins’ home. They began speaking in Portuguese, and she shared her struggles with him.

“She explained to me how being disabled makes being homeless even harder,” he says. “Sometimes she is harassed by other homeless people, and once she and her wheelchair were even set on fire. The things she tells me inspire me to keep going back.”

Martins, like Grigsby, says a majority of the requests they receive from those they serve are for basic hygiene items such as toothbrushes and shaving cream, as well as warm clothing such as socks and jackets.

Both ministries accept donations toward supplies as well as donations of time to prepare and/or serve. Since not everyone has cooking skills, they invite those who do to contribute their skills to serve others. Whether it’s helping prepare the food or delivering pre-cooked meals, both ministries welcome contributions.

“These ministries give us a chance to see beyond ourselves,” he says. “The present need of others isn’t someone else’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem. And if we don’t know what’s going on around us, we can’t help.”

Hygiene kits or supplies for them, clothes—especially socks, gloves, hats, and coats—and money toward gas and food are always appreciated. Anyone who wishes to accompany the groups to Berkeley or Clearlake can reach out to Grigsby and Martins for a schedule and instructions. Drivers are also needed, as two current drivers are graduating this spring. Although worship credit is available for this ministry, both Grigsby and Martins encourage student participants to focus on the serving rather than the credit.

“The purpose is to take a look at your life and realize all you have and how you can give from that to those who don’t have,” Grigsby says. “If you can help make a difference for someone not doing as well, you should. It’s the selflessness of giving and what you learn from the experience that is most important.”

A new part of this ministry that Martins would like to start is bringing musicians to provide live music for the people as they eat. If you play an instrument and are interested in being part of ministry in this way, let Martins know. If you are interested in contributing to either of these ministries in any way, contact Grigsby at gggrigsby@puc.edu or Martins at knmartins@puc.edu.

“We’re so fortunate, and we need to give whenever we get the chance,” Martins comments. “This is that chance.”

Editor’s note: The following is a list of items needed the most by Homeless Ministries. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream, shaving razors, sanitary pads, soap bars, deodorant, tissues, wet wipes, towels, and other personal hygiene items. Food, clothes, and cash donations are always greatly needed and appreciated. 

Get to Know Pastor Rufo, PUC’s New Chaplain

Joining Pastor Rufo in ministry to the PUC community is wife Anna, daughter Madison, and son Jadon.

By Becky St. Clair

Pastor Kent Rufo has accepted the call to be PUC’s new chaplain. He will be moving his family from Illinois over Christmas break and will begin serving the campus in January. During his 13 years of experience as a pastor, Rufo has served as lead, youth, and associate pastor, chaplain, Bible teacher, collegiate ministries director, and missionary. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Southern Adventist University in 2000 and then completed his MDiv at Andrews University in 2004. Rufo has experience leading prayer and Bible study groups, visitation, counseling, and outreach, among other ministry activities. He is currently serving as lead pastor at Downers Grove Adventist Church in Illinois, where he has been since January 2017.

We caught up with him as he begins figuring out the logistics of their cross-country move and says goodbye to his current church family, and now introduce to you: PUC chaplain Kent Rufo!

Tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up, and what was life like there?

I grew up in northwest Ohio, in suburbs south of Toledo. My father is from the Philippines, yet the town we moved to was predominantly white. Originally the neighbors weren’t so sure about having an Asian next door, but as the years went by we made some really good friends in that neighborhood. So I’m excited to be moving to a place known for its friendly community and look forward to getting to know our new neighbors.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be an NBA player. Being that my father is 5’6” and my mother is 5’4” my odds of becoming a professional basketball player were small. Growing up it was assumed I would go into the medical field, preferably a doctor of medicine. I had thoughts of medicine until college.

When did you first feel the call to become a pastor?

I don’t know if I really “felt” the call to ministry at first. I knew I wasn’t going to medical school but wasn’t sure what was next. I prayed for a “fleece” and 3 people said I should go to the Seminary … all in the same day. I went. I never interviewed with a conference yet one person from Mountain View Conference called me to ask if I’d like to teach and preach. They were looking for a bi-vocational pastor who could teach full time and minister part-time in a college town. Until this day, I have no clue how he got my name. Since I accepted that call, the Lord has clearly opened up ministries for me and my family.

You served as a missionary in Korea for two years; what was something significant you learned during that experience?

Easy question: The importance of studying the Word! My Korean counterpart had just graduated from the Seminary and shared Bible study tools. I will forever be grateful. I also had the chance to read the Great Controversy and the Desire of Ages (twice). It transformed my life. I also learned about the power of prayer.

So how much Korean did you learn?

“Chogum.” That means ‘a little.’ Every day I remember less. I was never fluent but I could get around.

Your passion in ministry seems to be young people. What inspired that?

Actually, I feel the way God created me was with “strengths” in relationships. I’m not a big-show personality and I believe in authentic relationships. I think I’ve just felt I can be honest with young people and that seems to connect. This drives me. I also believe we have not challenged our young people enough. When I was growing up it was enough to just “keep our kids Adventist.” Obviously, that wasn’t enough. I have a passion to see a group of young people study the Word, pray with huge results, and change their worlds.

Speaking of keeping young people in the church, tell us how you plan to be a part of that effort by working with the young people at PUC.

Jesus was not about keeping people in the church. In John 6 he actually says something he knew would make many leave his side: He wants to challenge people, young and old, to commit to his cause. It means sacrifice, but it also means to expect God to do powerful things through them. I’d really love to see how students take hold of a vision and run with it. If the Spirit is leading, it CANNOT fail.

What made you decide to accept this position and come out here to California?

My wife is still asking me this question. She said she would NEVER move to California. Seriously, though, it is the calling to minister to collegiate-age students. Empowering students to start impacting their community now, rather than after graduation, is one of my main passions.

What are some methods you use to stay in tune with what young people need and want in their spiritual lives, even as times change?

Listening. That’s really it. I can’t keep up with everything new: methods, pop culture, media. The principles of scripture transcend time and changes. Most of what I can do is listen. Oh, I do like to read about ministry models, too, but they are not my “gospel.”

What is one of your favorite spiritual quotes and why is it meaningful to you?

One of my favorite Bible verses is John 16:33 which states, “I have told you these things so that in me you might have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I love this verse because it reminds me that no matter what my world looks like he’s already won!

Outside of scripture, one of my favorite authors is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He states, “God is either of no importance, or of supreme importance.” I think the world is looking for authentic Christians. The reason people are turned off by Christianity is that there is a lot of hypocrisy and mediocrity.

What are some books you recommend to young people?

Outside of the Bible, I’m a believer in “The Desire of Ages.” I love that view of Jesus. As for the power of prayer, I recommend “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson.

Tell us about an important spiritual mentor you had as a young person, and how their mentorship has influenced your own.

To be honest, when I first became a Christian, my biggest spiritual mentors were other college students: Chris Bullock and Teofilo Matos. They prayed for me. They showed me how to walk with Jesus. This all stemmed from our friendship and desire to change the world around us. I think that is why my heart is in Christian community and challenging the status quo.

How can the community you serve (that’s us!) support you and your family as you strive to support our students?

Gift certificates for a local massage therapist. Ha! Just kidding.

I think my family is just looking to be part of the community. Oh, both my wife and I worked as baristas at a coffee shop so we do like some good coffee every once in a while. (Hint, hint!)

Tell us more about your family!

My wife, Anna, is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She graduated with an elementary education degree but doesn’t feel full-time teaching as her calling. She’s been a teacher, teacher’s aide, administrative assistant, assistant community service coordinator, and a rockin’ wife. It’s important to her to be involved, but only behind the scenes.

My daughter, Madison, is 10; she loves people and wants to be around them at all time. My son, Jadon, is seven; his shell is a little harder to crack, but once he opens up—especially about superheroes—he slowly warms up to people. My wife is like my son.

What are some of your hobbies and interests? What will we find on the walls of your new office on campus?

I’m not really the biggest decorator, but I love being Filipino so you might find a Filipino flag. I do like sports and to work out. I am a Cleveland Browns fan, too. Go Cleveland! (Hey, a Cleveland fan is a loyal one, though we don’t win too often.)

The Twelve: PUC’s Student-Run Church Service

By Sarah Tanner

For over a year, PUC students have spearheaded a personalized, student-focused Sabbath worship service called The Twelve. Their mission is simple. Summarized by lead coordinator and junior English major, Leah Dopp, “Our goal is to develop an open spirit driven community that reflects the life and teaching of Jesus through discipleship.”

And, after five quarters of student-led worship services, it is clear their mission is a huge success.

Dopp, along with two of The Twelve’s veterans, heads a team of student leaders that meet weekly to create Saturday services for PUC’s student population. In a conversation with Leah over pad thai, she explained what makes The Twelve so special.

To tackle a project of this size, Dopp found it useful to delegate tasks, breaking down The Twelve into nine departments. Her team of student leaders includes coordinators for the various aspects of the service. Welcome and greetings are headed by Valerie Barraza and Hazel Labaco, respectively. Music is organized by Lydia Zebedeus. Nephta Marin heads PowerPoint slides during the service, and sound is coordinated by Nick Borchik. PR and treasury are organized by Stefaan Dick. Emily Castellanos is in charge of prayer, while Jayla Cruse directs stage management. And last, but definitely not least is the ever popular coffee ministry run by Audrey Uyemura, Kelly Kimura, and Jamie Nelson.

“Table meetings are held twice during the quarter to discuss big picture things, like speakers and any changes we want to make to the program,” Leah says. “We organize a list of students, faculty, alumni, and others who we feel would convey interesting messages during the service. Then, each student leader organizes contacts for their corresponding department and teams are formed. For example, music teams choose their songs based on the speaker’s topics so we can create continuity for the whole service.”

A typical Twelve service is fairly simple. Held at noon in Winning Hall’s Dauphinee Chapel every Saturday during the school year, visitors are greeted with coffee at the door and are then welcome to make their way to a seat. The service opens with a song followed by a brief welcome message. The worship team then performs two more songs which lead into a prayer or prayer activity that relates to the sermon. Following the message, welcome coordinators give announcements and the service is concluded.

“Our schedule is always open to changes; we want to keep things moving so we don’t get too sedentary,” says Dopp. “Right now we are playing with the idea of including a discussion time so people can reflect on the message of the service together.”

The Twelve’s name is meant to evoke a spirit of discipleship, as it calls forth the image of Jesus’ original followers. And this spirit of mentorship is present in virtually all facets of the service.

“In addition to the idea of student leaders acting as disciples through their running of the program, we also want to make sure that it is a lasting part of PUC’s legacy,” Dopp explained. “All leaders are constantly mentoring people to fill their position so that there is always someone able to step in and fill that role if needed.” She continues, “We are trying to get lots of people involved to carry on that spirit of mentorship. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have any experience; we’re here to teach.”

As The Twelve is student-run, it is also dependent on student feedback for the program’s growth and development. On this topic, Dopp made it clear, “We are always open to feedback. The Twelve is here to give the students what they want in a worship service, and to do that we need input; we strive to be an event that PUC wants to attend.”

Students looking to share ideas are encouraged to speak to any of the leaders mentioned above and can reach out via email to Leah directly at lmdopp@puc.edu or thetwelvepuc@gmail.com. The Twelve’s team is constantly looking for new speakers, contributors, and students to be involved in all aspects of the service.

“We’re really excited to see where this program will go. Our team’s dedication to creating a meaningful service is incredible.”

Dopp is right; The Twelve is something to be proud of, and it stands as a testament to the ability of students to make a meaningful impact on campus life.

Service: A Lifestyle

By Megan Weems

Editor’s note: In July, over 200 college students and recent graduates, including many from Pacific Union College, traveled to Brazil to participate in a new volunteer program from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency to help build the Adventist Technical School of Massauari (ETAM). Below, recent PUC graduate Megan Weems shares her experience on the life-changing trip.

This summer, I was fortunate to embark on a journey along the Amazon River to a small village called Nova Jerusalem. On this boat, in the midst of nowhere, I was reminded of the attributes of service. This was not a solo mission but one that included 200 plus other college students or recent graduates, like myself, who decided to use two weeks of their summer to do something out of the norm. We were on our way to help finish building a K-9 technical school that needed a little extra tender loving care. The work included: cutting and putting up siding, laying and grouting tiles, painting, varnishing, and cleaning up the classrooms, library, and student dormitories.

I have served as a long-term missionary as a fifth and sixth-grade teacher in Fiji and also volunteered on other mission trips. On this particular excursion, I came with a sense of urgency and persistence to get the building project done. Having witnessed on countless occasions that if the project was left incomplete, it may never get done, and the children would be the ones who suffered. It was quite reassuring knowing that ADRA Brazil and ADRA Connections, a new volunteer program operated by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, had produced a flawless plan keeping everyone involved and working through the entire trip. The huge group of North Americans and Brazilians worked effectively and cohesively to do exactly what we came to do in the Amazon: provide an infrastructure for education that would offer technical skills, and most importantly educating children with eternity in mind.

Every morning, volunteers greeted each other with the phrase, “bom dia,” or good morning in Portuguese, and yelled from boat to boat that worship was starting. We’d awake from our rested slumber in our hammocks, which swung in unison on the boat’s top deck during the cool, breezy nights. Our workdays began when the sun rose and set, and later that evening, we’d end the day with worship. The work was hard, sweat was plenty, there were a few complaints about the heat, but regardless, there was nothing but smiles, singing, and laughter.

What makes me nervous with mission trips is that people are coming from many different backgrounds, which sometimes means learning to adjust to a new work ethic and understanding of the work we are required to do. However, my worries were put at ease as each boat was assigned boat leaders and interpreters who stayed with their boats from start to finish of the mission. On our boat, we were blessed to be led by an amazing couple, Julianna and Diego, who had finished their missionary work from another village in the Amazon as a nurse and boat technician. Both spoke very little English yet the interpreters from the University of Sao Paulo were so helpful to explain what they said. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, Julianna and Diego set a clear example for our group that whatever the task is, whether big or small, we do it with the love of God.

What I saw in Julianna and Diego’s leadership is the type of leadership I pray that God instills within me. They were great at recognizing the strengths of the group, while they delegated, set expectations, and exemplified hard work. I didn’t need to speak the same language to recognize a person who gives 100 percent to every task, but I was very humbled and inspired by Julianna and Diego, and the service they showed.

Another couple left an indelible impression on my heart that I will remember forever, Don and Elaine Halenz. Don and Elaine actually accompanied my group from Pacific Union College, but it would be my first time meeting them. This couple, both age 83, and married for 60 years, decided to come on this trip, very aware of the trip’s extreme destination. They have been intermittent missionaries throughout their lives and here they were with all of us 20-somethings in the field again, working hard and never asking for any modifications. Never once did I hear them utter a complaint! I was incredibly humbled and inspired by Don and Elaine because they stand for everything I hope to be and live for when I am their age. Both of these couples, however, embodied what I believe true service is.

In essence, service to me is not a single action, but a lifestyle. It is a daily choice that leads up to multiple times making an intentional decision to be the best version of yourself in order to improve someone else’s existence. It is in everything we do, whether we are in the comforts of our homes or in a land far away from anything familiar. It is intentional modeling of Christ-like love continuously and consistently from moment to moment. I was incredibly blessed by my short-term experience on the ADRA Connections trip, and was reminded of the service I hope to exemplify all the days of my life.

Read more about the Amazon trip on Adventist Today.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?”

Photo Credit: Karina Oliani

By Yuliya Belikova

Going on a mission trip was one of my New Year’s Resolutions. It was something I wanted to do just to say I have done and maybe receive a different view of the world that everyone who has been on a mission trip keeps talking about. I was dreading the day of departure and wanted to get it over with. This was something out of my comfort zone, but that is why I needed to do it.

This journey was only 10 days long but it taught me so much more than I could have learned in years. It expanded my heart to love the way I didn’t think I could. Building those relationships with the kids and the locals, hearing their stories, their everyday lives, and having real conversations. One of the things that I admired about the kids is when they asked you about your life they actually cared and wanted to know more about you, with no hint of jealousy. They genuinely wanted to get to know you, respect you, and love you. These are the people that our society talks about as if they lack the “important” things in life, but in my eyes, they have it all and even more than we do.  They may not have the materialistic things of this world, but they have the most important thing in life, a developing relationship with God that is not forced, and the relationships within the community and each other. It made me realize how shut out we are to making new relationships with others, but in reality that is what keeps us alive.

Going on this trip has taught me the simplicity of life and the importance of relationships. Putting away your phone and getting up early, actually listening to another person’s answer when you ask the generic question “how are you?” These may seem like small and little things that others take for granted, but for me, it changed my perspective. It would have taken me years to develop this mentality, but here I am after 10 days. You may not believe me or won’t be able to fully understand the emotion until you go through it too. This is why I 100% suggest doing this at least once in your life. The relationships that were made on that small island of Mana were made for a lifetime. Now I can point to that small island on the map and say, “I have a family who lives here and I can’t wait to go back and visit them soon.”

PUC: A Place I Found My Spiritual Talents

By Jamal Armstrong

My name is Jamal Armstrong and I am a super senior social work major. Yes, I have been in college for five years. As I come to the end of my undergraduate career, I have become retrospective about how much I have grown at PUC and how I have been able to leave an impact. PUC has taught me many things. From learning to truly have my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ to how to manage my time better, I learned it all at PUC.

Coming here in September of 2013 after living on the East Coast for the previous four years was exciting for me. I came to college as a wide-eyed 18-year-old freshman who was simply excited to come back and live in the state where I was born. I like to consider myself an outgoing person so it didn’t take a long time for me to begin making friends and coming out of my shell. One thing I quickly became involved in was praise music. I absolutely love singing and I consider it a huge honor to be a vessel for Christ as I let Him use me to help lead out in praising His name. In a sense, I went through the ranks. I started out being on praise teams meant for smaller worship services and made my way through to leading out vespers and church. I recognized God gave me talents to lead in praise and I dove headfirst into that. Understanding I have talents the Lord gave me and having older worship leaders such as George Tuyu and Jason Decena to help mold me as a worship leader are things I am grateful for.

From a young freshman to a seasoned super senior, I have learned the best thing I can do as a follower of Christ is to be absolutely honest and open with how I praise Him on stage. People can see right through someone who is just going through the motions just as well as they can tell when someone is being genuine. For me personally, it is easy to be genuine because I consider myself a very introspective person. I like to know where I’m at mentally, physically, and emotionally and I like to know where I can improve. As I have grown up the past five years, I can honestly say I have learned to let others help me rather than rely on myself, and more importantly, I have learned how to rely on God. There will always be ups and downs in life but with God leading my life I know I will go far. As I get ready to set sail from PUC, I leave knowing my purpose in life and to always rely on God.

Randy Ramos, Your Student Chaplain!

By Becky St. Clair

This week we caught up with Randy Ramos, student chaplain here at PUC. Randy grew up in Southern California and chose PUC because he wanted to stay in the state, but wanted to stretch his wings a bit, too. By all accounts, it sounds like he made the right choice. We talked to Randy a bit about his spiritual journey, his experience at PUC, and the hopes he has for his future. Without further ado, we introduce to you Randy Ramos!

What led you to choose a theology major?

It’s definitely a calling. To be honest, I never wanted to be a pastor and didn’t see myself as one. I actually wanted to do physical therapy—something I’d planned on doing since fifth grade. Then I came here and I realized my calling wasn’t to the medical world, but to minister to people in a different way. To help them find spiritual healing. Just taking the basic theology classes started to build my passion for looking into scripture to see how God views us.

Growing up the focus was more on how we view God, and ultimately what I’ve come down to in the last four years here at PUC is how God views us is shaped by how we view him. If we view him with anger, we’ll see him as an angry God. Scripture says he loves and wants us. Studying theology and diving into the Bible has reshaped how I view God, and I want to share that with other people—I want to help them find their own view of God that gives them peace and joy.

Tell me about your job. What kinds of things are you responsible for as student chaplain?

Well, along with the Student Association’s religious vice president, I’m in charge of spiritual life on campus. I want to make sure people on campus are doing well and their spiritual life is going well. If they’re struggling, students can talk to the campus chaplain or myself, and since I’m closer to their age, it gives me the chance to minister in a different way. I also create and lead Bible studies. I see the importance of small groups in building relationships, because that’s how Jesus did it with his small group of disciples. Although they didn’t quite catch on during his ministry, they finally got it when He ascended. It was then they realized the importance of a closer relationship with Christ. I want to see that model grow here at PUC, too, by urging through small groups the importance of rediscovering who God is in our lives.

So, what is it you love most about your job?

First, that I don’t see it as a job. It’s a passion, and what I’ve truly been called to. When those two become one—a passion and a calling together—it just doesn’t feel like work. This is what I’m meant to do for the rest of my life: Care for people the way Jesus cared for people and the way He cares for us now. I also love the opportunity to build relationships with people, watching them grow spiritually. My first roommate didn’t want anything to do with God. He had a lot of doubt. Throughout the year I spent as his roommate, I never preached the Gospel at him, or told him what to believe. I built the friendship first and then we began opening the Bible and praying together. Eventually he opened up, asking me to pray for him and his family. Our close friendship started it all. I love creating opportunities for more relationships like that to take place here on campus.

Just because you love it doesn’t mean it’s easy, right? What do you find challenging about being a student chaplain?

Getting people to see your vision. Sometimes you can do a lot of motivating and planning, trying to inspire others to see God loves them, and He is moving in their lives. Sometimes the response is, “meh.” Sometimes they don’t want to see it. Sometimes it can be sad seeing people not tasting and seeing the glory of God, but everyone has their own spiritual walk. Being patient with others’ walks is hard, too. We can all grow and move forward, but it takes time. It took time for the disciples; for example, Peter denied Jesus but if you look at Acts you see the Peter who now gets it. What Jesus told him to do he’s out in the world doing. It just takes time.

Since you mentioned spiritual walks, can you tell us a little bit about your own?

Of course! I came here knowing what I’d been taught, and knowing how God views us. I came feeling really guilty about the things I’d messed up in the past, and believed God to be extremely angry with me. During my first year here I started really looking into the life of Jesus, and I discovered He’s the mirror reflection of the Father. It was at that point I saw the Bible in a whole new light, realizing God actually really loves me. Loves all of us. That really shaped my spiritual journey. Now I can look back at my worst days and see God there, too, just loving me.

I’ve grown a lot here at PUC. I’ve come to realize church isn’t just a service on Sabbath. There’s so much more to it than four walls and a roof. Church is a broken community coming together for healing, and to accept the love God is always there to give. That has shaped a lot of how I’m going to go into ministry, understanding how God views me.

Growing up, I was afraid to ask the hard questions. “Who is God?” “Does he even exist?” “Does He even love us?” It was so hard because I was afraid people would shut me down. It wasn’t until I was about 16-years-old when I started realizing what was happening in my life had a reason. I started trusting God and walking with Him of my own accord, and really believed He had a plan for me. When I came here to PUC, I realized the same struggle was going on with people around me, too—there were other people asking the hard stuff I had asked. When we came together we were asking these questions, even in Bible studies I attended. It was so relieving to know I wasn’t alone in my questioning and doubt.

Last year I took a class called “God and Human Suffering.” That was a tough class. For one assignment, I wrote a paper called “A Theodicy,” which was basically a defense of God’s character. In that paper, through my own testimony, experience, and scripture, I looked at people who have died in my life and asked, “Why?” Why did my 10-year-old cousin die? Why did my high school friend die? I wrestled with my faith, and ultimately, it came down to this thing called sin. And it sucks. But God sent His son to overcome it, to give us life. We’re not going to be obedient to death, but Jesus was. That’s why He says He’s the way, the truth, and the life.

PUC is a place where asking questions is okay. It’s a place where you’ll find spiritual leadership to help you find the answers and point you to the true God. I keep going back to the fact if God allowed Job to ask these questions, we can do the same. God won’t be hurt by our questions. What it really comes down to is do you trust God?

You’re graduating this year and heading out into the world with your absolute faith and trust in God, and a solid education. What will you do with it?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? My ultimate goal is to pastor, whether that’s through chaplaincy, teaching, or other ways. It doesn’t have to be at a church. I want to lead a group of people as we move together to build leadership and empower the next generation. This has been my calling and I feel it’s the calling for the rest of my life. Giving my life to ministry was a huge step in my life, and I don’t plan on ever looking back.

How do you feel your time at PUC has helped you prepare for both your career and other aspects of your future?

It’s the experience here. Through the worst days, I feel that’s where I’ve learned the most that’s helped me prepare to relate to people who are struggling. The best way to relate to people is through experience and testimony. Even my good days are a testimony, as I can share with someone who’s struggling that better days are coming. What has really prepared me is not just classes and education, but experiences I’ve had here on campus.

You were recently given an award. What was it, and how were you selected?

Oh man, I was so surprised to learn I’d been been selected for this award. According to the email I received, the Charles E. Weniger Fellows student scholarship is awarded to students who exemplify positive qualities and characteristics in campus leadership. I’m honored to be selected for this award, as it tells me I have been effectively allowing Christ’s character to shine through me. I can attribute this only to allowing Jesus to lead the way in my life.

If you could give all incoming freshmen one piece of advice, what would it be?

Just one? Haha! Seriously, though, I think I’d most want them to know it’s okay to ask the hard questions—they will allow you to grow. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to struggle. Out of that, something beautiful happens. I’m speaking to myself, here, too. I was afraid of failing and struggling, but out of that, in Ecclesiastes 3, the Bible tells us God makes everything beautiful in its time. There’s a season for everything. It’s okay to go through the hard stuff, because He’ll be with you every step of the way.