My journey to seminary began in high school when I attended the Facing Your Future program. Every summer, Calvin Theological Seminary offers this program to high school students who are trying to discern God’s call in their lives. Most often, these students are considering ministry of some sort. During the first week and a half of the program, students attend classes taught by Calvin Seminary professors, go on excursions together, and do fun relationship building activities together. The second week and a half, the students leave the seminary in groups to go to service sites.
I participated in this program because I had two passions: engineering and missions. As a kid, I loved taking things apart to see how they worked and what was inside them, and then putting them back together again. I also loved construction sets. I oftentimes completely ignored the instruction book and make my own contraptions and machines instead. My parents could see early on that engineering would be a perfect match for me, and as I grew, I knew more and more that they were right.
However, I also had a strong desire to do work for the Kingdom in some tangible capacity. I wanted to work for a Christian organization. Being the extreme introvert that I was in those days, preaching was out of the question for me. I couldn’t picture myself standing up in front of a congregation and preaching, when I could barely even gather the courage to pray in front of my home church. Being a missionary seemed a much better fit for me. I would be working alongside other missionaries in a team, and therefore I wouldn’t be singled out into any sort of spotlight.
Between engineering and missions, I had two completely opposite areas of interest. I did not know which of these to choose as a career path. I did not know what God wanted me to do. Then God surprises me with my pastor encouraging me to check out the Facing Your Future program. This was exactly the sort of experience that I was looking for to help me listen for God’s voice in my life.
FYF was a truly life-changing experience for me. Through the activities of that program, the conversations I had, and the times of prayer and meditation, God showed me that I didn’t have to choose between engineering and missions, but I could use engineering for missions. How this was going to look, I had no idea, but I knew without a doubt that that was what God was calling me to do.
After FYF, it was clear that Calvin College was the perfect place for me to attend college. I was already familiar with the campus from FYF, so I felt comfortable there. Calvin also has a great engineering program, and because it is a Christian college, their program looks at engineering through a Christian mindset, interweaving faith and engineering. I wanted this perspective to help me see how engineering and faith, and specifically missions, could be used in conjunction. Another great thing about Calvin College was the fact that the Seminary was right next door, just in case I ended up going there later on.
During my second year at Calvin College, I was chosen to be a Barnabas leader. Each dorm floor at the college has a Barnabas leader who leads the floor in Bible Studies and is available for spiritual leadership and advice to the other members of the floor. Additionally, the six Barnabas leaders of the dorm work together to plan dorm worship each week, and arrange activities for the dorm, such as lectures from guest speakers on Christian topics. This experience gave me valuable insight into evangelism, as well as a look at myself. I was able to invite students into spiritual dialogue and provide ways for students to strengthen their faith and understanding of God. I also learned my communication limits, and I was able to climb out of my shell of introversion in some respects. My desire to enter into ministry was confirmed through my experiences as a Barnabas.
Being a Barnabas leader also helped me grow spiritually. Each dorm is assigned a mentor from the Seminary, and our dorm was assigned Matt Burns, who recently graduated from Calvin Seminary. I had some fantastic conversations with him, and he helped me through some times of questioning my choice of engineering as a vocation. I grew even closer in my relationship to God during that time, and really learned to trust God and put aside my own plans to follow His will. I was also introduced to the practice of lectio divina during the Barnabas retreat our dorm’s Barnabas team went on. I took a liking to this spiritual discipline and I have practiced it many times after.
The Barnabas retreat also helped our team to form strong relationships and be open with each other. It was a wonderful time to get to know each other on a deeply personal level, and to form goals and ideas about what should happen throughout the year. We also had a lot of fun together playing games and fishing.
After my sophomore year was finished, I had an internship in the summer at the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and then another internship the summer after that with HCJB Global. You can read about each of these experiences in their respective pages (see links below).
It has been amazing to see God leading me to seminary through so many different experiences in my life. While I’m not sure what the next steps will be I believe that God will continue to guide my journey as he has in the past.
By Bob Van Lonkhuyzen