Alumni Reflections: Nathanael Miller

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Nathanael Miller.

Nathanael Miller – Autumn 2013
Then: Student at Geneva College
Now: Youth Pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship Church

Nate at Commando memorial

Nathanael in 2013

Nate now

Nathanael and Shelby Miller in February 2018

Not too long ago I was speaking with one of the youth in our church about their desire to attend college after high school. One of the questions they asked me was, “What was one of the most impactful moments about your college experience?” It has almost become second nature for me to respond with, “my time in Scotland.” And I would say that my Semester in Scotland was not just one of the most impactful times in my college experience; it was the most impactful.

For a student attending a 4-year Christian college; amid all the activities, academics, relationships, and responsibilities, I do not think there can be a semester better spent than in a country as beautiful as Scotland studying theology and ministry. There was not a time in my college experience where I was more theologically equipped, or more academically enriched than my 4 months in Scotland. Though it was no small number of materials to be read and studied, I often reference those works to this day, and have greatly benefited from their content. And it was not simply the reading and studying of various works that bore a great memory, but also the engagement of the culture, and the history of our faith. Scotland is a country with an incredible history, especially for those of the Christian faith. In my time there in 2013, I was blessed, along with my 3 classmates, to study the significance of the first and second Scottish Reformations. For a portion of the program, students take part in a class that covers the history of the Scottish Reformation and many of the brave individuals that risked their lives for the sake of Christ. Some to note are: John Knox, George Wishart, and Patrick Hamilton. Following the in-class time, we were blessed to engage in a 2-week tour where we visited much of the gravesites and locations of monumental moments of these famous Covenanters.

It truly is difficult for me to put into words the sort of impact this program had on my life. I was challenged spiritually, blessed relationally, and had the unique privilege to see some of the most beautiful sites in the world. In addition to the academics, history, and culture, I was also blessed to be engaged in the life of the local Reformed Presbyterian Church for 4 months which was a blessing in itself. To be able to study theology, visit famous Christian landmarks, and be involved in the local church all at the same time is a rare gift, and I am grateful for that to this day. If there are ever any students on the fence about participating in this program, I would simply encourage them to consider the incredible impact this trip could have on their lives both academically and spiritually.

Advertisements

Alumni Reflections – Kelly Favand

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Kelly Favand.

Kelly Favand – Autumn 2013
Then: Student at Geneva College
Now: Seamstress

Kelly at Tantallon

Kelly in 2013

Kelly now

Kelly in December 2017

The Semester in Scotland programme left a mark on my mind and heart that I do not believe will ever fade. I believe this is because of what the programme offers students in the form of time and relationships. Being so closely tied with the church family in Airdrie we students were able to build relationships that had lasting value.

The opportunities offered during the SIS programme were unlike any others I had during my time in college. The small class size allowed for engaging discussion times with teachers, that were almost entirely unparalleled in my other semesters. I also had some one on one lessons which gave an opportunity to be mentored, not just taught. The most important aspect to me though was the way we were given time. The structure of the day, beginning with intentional devotional and worship time was something that I did not experience in other college classes, but found to be refreshing in SIS. Because we were not moving between buildings to get to classes or trying to stick to rigid time schedules, we had time to focus on our readings and to carry on discussions about the most important topics, without running into another class’s time (at least most of the time). Because of the ways SIS used time and small class size I realized over the following years that I was being nonstop discipled for nearly five months. The spiritual liveliness that grew in me during that time developed in me the importance of being deep in Christ and the desire to help others grow deep into him as well.

The week that we went on the Reformation Tour was wonderful, though it took me through an emotional journey as the stories of faith and endurance came to life when we visited the places where faithful believers had worshiped or been martyred. Reading and hearing their stories hardly compared with walking their footsteps, except that knowing the stories ahead of time prepared us to understand what we were seeing, so that I was able to understand the sacrifices the Covenanters made, and why they were so important.

The field trips were another excellent benefit. When visiting a new place I never know where to go, but the weekly trips with church members prevented that, as they generously took us to their favorite sites, where we were able to learn about the history of Scotland, as well as their personal lives as we conversed during the journeys.

Over all, my semester in Scotland is the semester that I still talk about the most often, and I am thankful that Geneva College and the Airdrie RP church were able to partner to provide such an excellent opportunity to grow.

 

Alumni Reflections: Tim Wolff

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Tim Wolff.

Tim Wolff – Autumn 2013
Then: Student at Geneva College
Now: Director of Youth Discipleship at Visalia Christian Reformed Church

Tim at Craigmillar Castle

Tim in 2013

Tim slider

Tim and Shelly Wolff in September 2017

The Semester in Scotland program was a lot more stretching than I was expecting it to be. Beyond having the chance to explore the most beautiful country in the world each day, it was a chance to grow in my understanding of God with the help of some of the smartest, most thoughtful pastors/professors I’ve interacted with. It was evident when they taught, they weren’t just sharing information, they were sharing their passion with us. They were always willing to go the extra mile to help us understand the more complex topics we faced. Of any semester of my college career, it was hands down the most growth I experienced. And did I mention it takes place in the most beautiful country in the world?

Alumni Reflections: Graci Arias

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Graci Arias.

Graci Arias – Autumn 2011
Then: Student at Geneva College
Now: Speech Pathologist/Therapist

Graci in London2

Graci in 2011

Graci now

Graci in February 2017

I participated in the the Semester in Scotland program in the fall of 2011; it seems odd that it was so long ago because I think about it so frequently. The Semester in Scotland program was unlike any experience in education I have ever had and has formed my thinking and my theology deeply. The design of the program including reading and discussion allowed me to really soak in the topics without the pressure of having to regurgitate for exams or papers. It allowed me to wrestle through some of the harder topics gently and thoroughly where I probably would have become embittered had I not had the time or the support to go through them in any other way. While I loved our classes and our discussions, what has impacted me the most was seeing and participating in the church life. The church participated in the program as much as we did by taking us on excursions, providing us with meals during hospitality, inviting us into their homes, and loving us even though we were only there for a few months. The life and love of the church set the example for me of unity, hospitality, and service, which I hope to imitate continuously in my church now.

Alumni Reflections – Jonathan Key

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Jonathan Key.

Jonathan Key – Spring 2009
Then: Student at Geneva College
Now: Student at Mid-America Reformed Seminary

Sir Jon

Jon in 2009

Jon now

Jon in July 2017

Because of the Semester in Scotland program, I gained my first real exposure to Protestant theology. It helped set my course as I pursue seminary and theological training in a way I never could have anticipated. God used those four months and the people I met to shape the rest of my life.

 

Alumni Reflections – Ryan Dewey

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Ryan Dewey.

Ryan Dewey – Autumn 2008
Then: Student at Geneva College
Now: Student Ministry Director at Cornerstone Church

Ryanold

Ryan in 2008

Ryan now

Ryan in February 2018

When I think of my time in Scotland back in 2008 there is nothing but great memories. It was awesome to be apart of a church in Scotland where the Gospel is preached and having a relationship with Jesus is lived out. I was trained and taught by great leaders who relied on God. I was blessed by many new friends I made while I was there, and still have stayed connected with some since. Scotland gave me an opportunity to learn more about church history and new cultural experiences too. I’m so thankful God opened the door to go on this trip and will never forget my time there. I encourage anyone who is thinking about going to Scotland to go. My life was changed by it and I know yours will be too.

Alumni Reflections – Jasmine Martin Thompson

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Jasmine Thompson.

Jasmine Thompson – Autumn 2007
Then: Student at Allan Hancock College
Now: Studying Graphic Arts, Design, Printing, Photography at the Art Institute of Tennessee and Nashville

Jasmine

Jasmine in 2007

Jasmine2

Jasmine and Travis Thompson and their son in 2015.

My time with Semester in Scotland was a wonderful growing experience, emotionally, and spiritually. I think it’s very important for us to learn about the roots of the reformed faith and remember those that laid down their lives for Christ’s Crown and Covenant.

Alumni Reflections – Brenda Gladfelter McCollum

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Brenda McCollum.

Brenda McCollum – Autumn 2007
Then: Geneva College student
Now: Homemaker

Brendathen

Brenda in 2007

McCollums now

Stephen and Brenda McCollum and their daughter in September 2017

My time in Airdrie doing the Semester in Scotland programme was such a benefit to me. Even though I grew up in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and had some knowledge of the things we studied, such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and theology in general, studying it all in the setting of the church and being able to take so much time to read through and discuss the material helped the knowledge to really seep into my head and also into my heart. Semester in Scotland gave me a new sense of appreciation for the beliefs of the denomination I grew up in and helped me to see how those beliefs should be carried out, both personally and by the church. It was so beneficial to be able to study in the setting of the Airdrie RP Church because I could so easily see the things I was learning being applied by that congregation and apply them myself in the different church activities in which I was involved. I am so thankful to God for the opportunity I had to participate in the Semester in Scotland programme!

Alumni Reflections – Ben Gordon

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Ben Gordon.

Ben Gordon – Autumn 2006
Then: Geneva College student
Now: Graduate Student, studying data analytics at The George Washington University

2006_0831Image0002

Ben in 2006

Gordons

Ben and Emily Jo Gordon and their two sons in December 2017

The SIS program was a unique opportunity for me as a ministry student to get a glimpse of what ministry and church life looks like in a different context. While Scotland is a country in many ways similar to my own, it is also different particularly in that it is a “post-Christian” nation that has fundamentally rejected its Christian heritage. I got to learn about my own Scotch-Presbyterian heritage and I felt a sense of connection to my forefathers in a way I would have never experienced had I not gone to Scotland.

I also had the chance to evangelize and be challenged to step outside my comfort zone. I can without hesitation say that this program was the highlight of my college career and a lot of growth in my walk with the Lord occurred during my short time abroad.

In fact, it was there I was challenged to really think about how brief life is and to commit myself to seek the Lord first and His kingdom because it is in serving God that one builds up a treasure which cannot be marred by the sands of time.

Alumni Reflections – Sharon Stockdale

Continuing in our series of past students reflecting on how the programme has impacted them, this week we are hearing from Sharon Stockdale.

Sharon Stockdale – Spring 2006
Then: Geneva College student
Now: Works for Johnson and Johnson in post market quality for a diabetic insulin pump.

Sharon

Sharon in 2006.

Sharon3

Sharon in 2017

I am the person I am today because of the way in which the Lord used my time in Scotland. The Lord taught me so much during my time in Scotland. I am still coming to see and understand some of the seeds that were planted there. I consider my time in Scotland to be the pinnacle of my college education. Tens years later after the classes, textbooks, and information has faded, it is the life lessons that make the investment into a college education worth it. The Lord taught me so much about worldviews and service in His kingdom during that time.

Experiencing and beginning to understand another culture, through immersion, teaches you so much about your own worldview—a worldview that continually needs to be conformed to a biblical worldview. Having seen and experienced another way of thinking and relating I find that it has revealed many blind spots and cultural ‘truths’ that are accepted without question, but in reality are not biblical. It is hard to capture in words the extent that it changes the way you think and the transformational work the Lord brought about. One of the elements that makes this experience unique is you are not in a school building surrounded by other students that buffer you from the culture around you. I lived in a house with one other student and was immersed in a local body. I greatly treasure that blessing from the Lord. We did life together with a local body of believers in the kingdom of God.

Many of my current habits including independent study, resting on the Sabbath, and a love for singing the Psalms were developed during my time abroad. The local body in Airdrie modeled well, what living together as a body of believers, under the Lordship of Christ, looks like. Their model, while not perfect because we live in a fallen world, has greatly influenced my service in His kingdom. It enhanced my desire and sensitivity towards proclaiming the gospel, service towards other, biblical love of fellow believers, and doctrinal principles related to church planting. All of those things are valuable transformational pieces but more importantly I came to see the Lord more clearly and love the Lord all the more because of many of those perspectives.

The Lord immensely blessed and transformed me through my time spend in Scotland. I am eternally thankful and grateful for the opportunity. I consider it such a privilege to have known, loved, and been known by that body. I carry many of the lessons learned there with me today. I only pray that I would faithfully be able to further His kingdom here better because of the growth and transformation bestowed upon me there. It is His kingdom, for His glory, and only by His grace!