For our first posts, we wanted to take the opportunity to explain ourselves, who we are, and what calling we have each received.
I (Paul) will start with mine.
I grew up living on the property of a Christian camp, so my life was always filled with Christian people since I was born. Being a believer at an early age, I began to take my faith more seriously when I got into high school and took week-long mission trips.
It was on one of these that I felt a call to study Spanish in college (though I didn’t know exactly why, aside from the fact that I loved it). Mrs. Chamberlain, my high school Spanish teacher, instilled a love for language that I still have today. After choosing Mount Vernon Nazarene University, I began college.
I instantly fell in love with the environment and the culture, and academia felt and still feels like home more than anywhere else. I love the challenge to better ourselves, to learn, to grow, to become more of who we could be.
As a Spanish student, I studied in Costa Rica my first year in college and was awakened to the much wider world than that of my small 3-stoplight hometown. It was one of the hardest times in my life and I went through serious culture shock. But I turned to God, and learned a lot about him and about myself in that time.
I continued studying Spanish after coming back from that month-long stay in Costa Rica, but I also felt that I needed to add a second major, and chose Intercultural Studies. I began taking Intercultural Studies classes and loved their emphasis on cultural investigation, context-reading, and diversity. From these two fields came everything else I did.
Then followed: a summer working with a U.S.-assigned missionary and a bilingual church in Philadelphia, a second study abroad (3 months this time) in Costa Rica, and a summer working with a bilingual church in South Carolina. All of these things came about as a result of my choice to study Spanish. I’ve experienced so much as a result of knowing the language. And I love that I could do that as well as study culture as a part of being immersed in the culture of the University.
I knew I had chosen the right majors for study. But since most people use Intercultural Studies for missions work and I didn’t feel called to overseas missions work, I struggled with what I was supposed to use this field for.
At Urbana15, a 2015 worldwide missions conference, I attended a seminar that put the pieces together.
A session speaker I heard speak, Dr. Joshua Swamidass, ran a session on why going to graduate school (something I felt was right for me) could be missional. He went on to explain that time spent in graduate school is not wasted; on the contrary it can be preparation for further missional work that is not possible without grad school time.
He even suggested the possibility of being a professor, in any field, at a university as a viable option for missional life. That resonated with me in a huge way. It made why I was involved with missions but felt this call to go to graduate school make sense.
In fact, my dream is to earn a PhD and eventually return to the campus environment to do for future college students what many of the professors I had at Mount Vernon Nazarene did for me. To introduce to new things, challenge to become better, and spot sometimes-hidden potential and encourage its growth.
So when the opportunity came to do graduate-student ministry through Nazarene Theological Seminary’s 365m (spending a year in missions) program, all while being a graduate student at the seminary, I was excited to take it!
I’ll get to work with graduate students (particularly international ones) studying at Stanford University. I am excited to get back into an academic and campus environment. I hope to get to know students through having coffee together, and to become a regular in common on-campus locations. From there, I’ll allow ministry and relationships to develop in the appropriate ways for that context.