A group from First Christian Church in Florissant, Missouri, visited my hometown of Marlow, England, while I was in high school. Chris VandeLinde led the group, and the visit changed my life. Not only did I make friends with the students who visited–the first Christian friends I’d ever had who were my own age–but I kept in touch with them, visited St. Louis, and attended a Christ in Youth conference with their youth group. When it was time to apply to university and I felt God calling me to ministry, Chris recommended Johnson.
I showed up for soccer conditioning a few weeks before my freshman year, never having been in Knoxville before. I think it was 100% humidity. But I had a great experience. People supported me and encouraged me, and professors invested in me in and out of the classroom.
While a student at Johnson, I did an internship at Compass Christian Church in Colleyville, Texas, and through that experience I met leaders who then invited me to be the student pastor at Manchester Christian Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. I graduated in May 2011, and a week later I flew east.
Now I am planting Beacon Church in Derry, New Hampshire. We started an online worship service in March and will launch with in-person services this fall. We have a core team of more than 100 people, and we’re excited to see what God will do through us working together.
I am so grateful for the people I met at Johnson. I still stay in touch with David Legg and some of my professors, and it’s through the network of churches and alumni at Johnson that I am where I am today. It’s not just a job for many people who serve at JU; it’s a ministry.