SPU students of faith
Photos by Nick Onken
Beyond Belief
Stories of what happens when faith is both challenged and fostered
Whether or not they come from a Christian background, students are stretched spiritually at Seattle Pacific University. The University doesn’t do the work for them, but it does provide a rich soil that can nurture God’s work in their lives. etc asked five seniors to describe how their faith has matured at Seattle Pacific.

Stirred to Combat AIDS
Charlie Mengel

Charlie MengelWasn’t it just yesterday that I was a freshman, constantly in search of obscure campus classroom locations (the Art Center?), unable to produce respectable facial hair, panting up the hill toward Ashton, and discovering just what a black hole for time Facebook can be.

Thankfully, most of these things have changed, but, more importantly, my character and faith have been significantly impacted during my time here. This process began as I became aware of how God created me, realized that it’s OK not to have all the answers, and better understood my call to serve God regardless of circumstances.

Specifically, I have learned more about the world’s HIV/AIDS crisis. Out of this knowledge sprang a dream: to combine my passion for the world’s needs with a love of graphic design. It was here that the Immersion Clothing initiative was born, a shirt company that I now run. All proceeds go directly to World Vision’s work with victims of AIDS in Africa. It’s my way of responding to all I’ve learned at SPU.

No Longer Afraid of Doubt
Dalillah Bernal
Dalillah BernalI grew up in a Christian environment, and my faith in God has always been the center of my identity. At SPU, I have embraced the challenge of engaging the different views and perspectives of faith of those both inside and outside my community. Consequently, doubt has challenged my faith at times, but I am no longer afraid of it. Thankfully, my professors and mentors have been there for me every step of the way.

They have taught me how to use doubt in order to create a stronger faith foundation. Whether it is a class discussion, a one-on-one talk over coffee, or a walk into their office to share my personal fears and beliefs, my professors and mentors are interested in my spiritual growth and academic success. Their commitment has had the greatest impact in deepening my faith.

Worship Breakdown
Matthew Nguyen
Matthew NguyenMy friend, Laura Wright, and I had a strange idea last year –– we like to dance, and kids like to dance … so let’s do something with it! We stepped out and tested this formula to see where God would take it by starting a hip hop dance ministry. We focus on worship rather than the “promiscuous endeavors” often found in that genre.

SPU’s Urban Involvement program invited us to be a part of their ministry by connecting us with the Union Gospel Mission in White Center (an inner-city West Seattle neighborhood). A year and a half later, the major products of this “reaction” (yeah, I’m a biology major) are friendships with remarkably talented kids (ages 12–16) who share our love for hip hop dancing.

Going into college with high hopes fixed upon changing the world, I did not know how this would take shape. Today, it happens to look like a head spin and a pretty sweet pose.

A Shared Cup
Sarah Barton

Sarah BartonI used to think of faith as something that was just between me and God. My experiences at SPU — such as coordinating small groups — have made faith come alive in community. I especially see this through volunteering at SeaMar, an organization focused on health care for the underserved Hispanic populations in Seattle.

These people share my faith, but have completely different lives than I do. This simple truth has brought richness to my definition of community.

We all take communion together: the staff, the volunteers, and the residents. The elderly priest serves the 90-year-old South American man in a wheelchair, then me, then a young woman who suffered from a traumatic accident. With each other, we grow closer to God in a powerful way.

Leading Out
Nick Swenson

Nick SwensonI came to SPU as a freshman with no idea who I was, little knowledge of the God I had worshipped since childhood, and even less of an idea about what I should study or do with my life.

After a tumultuous and confused freshman year, I desperately needed a renewed purpose. As a result of the faith community at SPU –– students, faculty, and campus ministry –– I ended up choosing to leave college for a year of service abroad in Latin America.

After a year in Mexico, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, I came back to SPU knowing a lot more about God, and once again the community of SPU was there to sustain my learning. I now study biology as a premed student, hoping one day to bring healing where it is most desperately needed.

As a student leader with SPRINT (Seattle Pacific Reachout International), I am involved in planning service-learning trips abroad for students, and providing cultural and missional training so that their experiences overseas might be as much of a blessing as my trip to Latin America.

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