Not My Plans: Student Spotlight – Sade’ Wilson

Not My Plans: Student Spotlight – Sade’ Wilson

by Frank Brazell

Sade’ Wilson, the child of Army parents, didn’t grow up in any one city, but she did grow up in one place— the Church. She started to take her relationship with God seriously at the age of 15, and after a conversation with a woman while at church, life began to change:

“I just started to have these God moments, day in and day out… I discovered God was real and I could have a vibrant relationship with him.”

Everything Sade’ had built during that honeymoon stage with God was put the test during her college years at a large state university. She was able to use that challenge to go deeper in her relationship with God, receiving life and strength at a time when so many buckle under challenges to faith. After college, Sade’ knew that she was called to serve the Lord in whatever it was that He called her to do. At the time, it looked like a career in the Air Force was where God had called her. Sade’ has a profound gifting for journalism, and with a family tradition of military service, joining the Air Force and working in Public Affairs seemed like the next logical step. That step was interrupted.

“I always thought, and I still think that [my calling] will be in the marketplace or out in the world. I never expected to be back in Fayetteville, working in ministry. All that was completely God.”

Despite having all the pieces in place to launch a successful career with the Air Force, God redirected Sade’ to theExperience College Internship, a one-to-two year internship in association with Grace College of Divinity. Even though she already had a Bachelor’s Degree from a prestigious university, Sade’ felt God calling her to more training for ministry.

After one year of being equipped to lead through GCD and theExperience College Internship, Sade’ planned to resume her journey with the Air Force. Again, God had other plans.

While preparing to pursue her dream of being a Public Affairs Officer, Sade’ received offers to work in her local church, but knew that God was calling her to the Air Force. She signed up for the ASVAB. On test day, she walked into the testing site only to have the testing network shut down. She went back a second time, but her name was mysteriously absent from the roll call, and she again was unable to take the test. Several weeks later, rescheduled for a third attempt, but once again, her name wasn’t on the roll call. A call to her recruiter proved that her name had been submitted and she had been scheduled to take the test at that time, but she still was missing from the roll. Her recruiter had no idea why she wasn’t on the list, but she did.

God was calling Sade’ to something other than her planned career as a Public Affairs Officer— to lead people in the local church.

“I love the Church, but I didn’t envision myself working full-time, vocationally, in a church.”

After the third attempt to take the ASVAB, Sade’ was offered one final position in her local church. To her, God’s plan for her was clear, and she accepted a position as the Marketing Coordinator for a large local church. Now, there is no uncertainty, Sade’ is exactly where God called her doing exactly what He called her to do.

“God isn’t interested in what I can bring to the table. He is interested in who I am becoming.”

God already had a plan for Sade’. He gave her a set of gifts and a calling to lead people, but it was going to be on His terms, not hers. After everything, Sade’ is still a student with Grace College of Divinity, taking classes as a Non-Degree Seeking student in areas where she thinks she could use additional training as a leader, a Marketing Coordinator, and a daughter of God.

Equipped to Lead: Alumni Spotlight- Mackenzie Gear

Equipped to Lead: Alumni Spotlight – Mackenzie Gear

by Frank Brazell

Recently, we sat down with alumna Mackenzie Gear (Christian Leadership, ’18) to discuss her experiences as a student, and how it has prepared her to be the Director of Student Ministries for one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States.

Mackenzie Gear (’18) and husband Brady

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Mackenzie first felt God calling her to full time vocational ministry as a teenager, specifically the call to work with students. Mackenzie first found out about Grace College of Divinity from her fiancé, now husband, Brady. The military brought Brady to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he began attending a local church affiliated with GCD; he told Mackenzie about Grace College of Divinity soon afterward. When they were married and settled in their new city, Mackenzie began taking classes at GCD, earning her Associate of Arts in Christian Leadership in 2018.

“I really enjoyed the fact that I could get my whole degree online… You can get your whole degree either all in class or all online.”

Mackenzie started by taking on-campus classes but had to switch to all-online courses when she was hired for a staff position at her local church. Getting hired was a direct result of being a student at GCD. A faculty member, who also happened to be an Associate Pastor at Mackenzie’s local church, noticed her work ethic and commitment to God’s call on her life, and connected her to an administrative position where she could still fulfill God’s calling for her: working with middle and high-school students.

Since then, Mackenzie has completed her Associate’s degree, worked with students while serving in an administrative capacity, and has recently been promoted to Director of Student Ministries. We asked her what that role entailed, and how her time as a student at GCD prepared her to step into that role.

“Now I get the opportunity to work with leaders at other sites [church campuses] in helping them and guiding them into leading them and growing their students at their sites, get to work with RUSH [Campus Ministries] in the local schools, and all things students at my local church.”

While still working weekly with students at her local church campus, Mackenzie now has the opportunity to mentor six adult leaders at that campus and five other site directors at various locations across the Fayetteville, North Carolina region. She works in conjunction with local pastoral staff to create a space for students that is a part of the local church.

“One of the biggest things I learned in class was through the Servant Leadership class with [Professor] Stefanie Ertel. In order to lead like Jesus you need to serve like Jesus. That’s something that I’ve been able to apply from my time at GCD to the role I’m in now.”

While a student, Mackenzie enjoyed not having to learn things on her own, but being surrounded by a group of like-minded people who want to grow and develop in their relationship with God.

“To be a pastor doesn’t mean that you need the title Pastor. You can do pastoral work in your everyday life, and I think that all of us are called to be somewhat pastoral in our interactions with people.”

Looking forward, Mackenzie is confident that God’s call on her life when she was 15 has brought her to where she is today. Now, she has the opportunity not only to lead students but to lead leaders, multiplying herself not for her own sake, but to advance the Kingdom of God faster and more effectively. While she may not know what the future holds, she never could have imagined where God would bring her and how He would bring her here.

We also asked Mackenzie what advice she would give to people who think God might be calling them to be a student at GCD. The calling that started when she was a teenager wasn’t put in place overnight, and her journey still isn’t finished; but the journey has been incredible, and God has been faithful through the whole process.

“It’s a big decision committing to school. If you’re on the edge of it, and feel like God is pushing you, it doesn’t hurt to try. Your efforts aren’t going to go to waste, and you’re going to learn something. The Lord can open up a lot of things, but we have to be willing to take the step forward. As long as you’re pursuing Him and seeking Him, He’s not going to lead you down a path that isn’t the right one for you.”

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Back to College

Bible college student

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Back to College

by Frank Brazell

In a previous post, I wrote about the Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College. In this follow-up article I want to share what I wish I knew before I went back to college for Graduate School, this time married with a toddler and another baby on the way.

1) Family comes first.

My second time starting college was quite different from the first: Instead of being 18 and on my own, I was 25, married with kids, and expected to provided for my family at the same time as completing my degree. With all these differences, I had to learn quickly that my family had to be my first priority, they had to receive my best. It’s totally doable to be a college student while taking care of your family, but you have to support them in order for them to support you. Be available for your family, give them the best of you, not the leftovers, and set your priorities early.

2) GPA isn’t everything.

This should probably point 1.2, but it’s been an important enough lesson to necessitate its own section. When you are in college with a family, and often with a job on top of that, something is going to have to give. The safest thing to let go of will be that over-the-top bit of effort in your assignments that separates a 93 from a 100. I’m not saying don’t do your work (excuses are lame), I’m just saying there is about a seven-point gap between excellent and perfect, and striving for perfection is just going to burn you out. I know this from experience, and have had to learn the hard way. So if you are done with the assignment, and its on-time, just turn it in. Don’t waste that extra energy trying to perfect at the cost of your family life and your sanity.

3) Work hard, rest hard.

Oh my goodness if I could only turn back the clock two years, I would have saved myself a lot of headache on this one. You’re not Superwoman/Superman, stop trying to be. Seven days straight of work, school, and taking care of family, week in and week out for sixteen straight weeks— that’s CRAZY! If you aren’t taking one day, or even a half day, to reset yourself and spend time with family (again, point 1), then you will burn out by the midpoint of the semester.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

As a student in the “nontraditional” (i.e., not 18-24) category, I knew that things would be different from the last time I was in school. For students who have been out of school for ten or twenty years, it can be an even bigger adjustment. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your classmates and instructors for clarification on how to do things, particularly as they pertain to technology, but even for simple things like what professors are looking for in an assignment. In my experience, people don’t get offended when you ask for clarification.

5) Don’t think you know it all.

I’m not talking about course content. Obviously you don’t think you have all that down, otherwise you wouldn’t be taking the class! During my first semester back in school I found myself constantly playing-up the fact that I’d been around the block before, and I’m sure it got pretty annoying to my younger peers. What I found was that while I had gained some life experience over my classmates, by no means did I have it all together. In some areas, my younger peers were leaps and bounds beyond me developmentally. It pays to acknowledge you don’t know everything about life, and to take time to learn from your peers, even as you seek to help them through areas you’ve already mastered.

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started College

by Frank Brazell

When I look back on my four-year, undergraduate education, I am left with many fond memories: meeting my wife, forming lifelong friendships, and the spontaneous road trips associated with being young and free. At the same time, there are just a few things I wish someone had told me on the front-end of things. Here is a brief rundown of my thoughts, in the hope that it will help the college graduates of tomorrow.

1) Pick a degree or major that appeals to you.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re like me as in impressionable 18-year old, you’re being pressed to choose a major that will lead to a JOB, which in the end is one of the major reasons for going to college in the first place. My mistake, however, was to choose a major in which I had absolutely no interest or passion, in the hopes that it would land me a job after four years. I slogged through two years in that major, hating every minute of it. And then came Intro to Philosophy… Instantly, I knew I had to change majors, and immediately jumped ship to something I was more passionate about— Humanities. In the end, by switching to something I was more passionate about, I was actually able to find a job, moreover a job that I love, and one that uses the skills and knowledge learned in my major!

There’s nothing wrong with choosing a major more likely to convert to employment after four years, but make sure you don’t select something solely for the economic benefits. Do something you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life.

2) Don’t be afraid to go in Undeclared.

Along the same lines, there is a ton of pressure on incoming college students to choose a major early, to lock in. But many new college students haven’t experienced enough to even know what they want to do; it isn’t fair to expect them to have their whole life planned out. So, if your college has the option to enroll without declaring a major, and you’re still unsure what you want to do, why not go in Undeclared? Alternatively, if you don’t know what you want to do, start with General Education classes that apply to a variety of programs, so that when something does peak your interest, you don’t end up having to take an extra semester’s worth of loans to finish your degree.

3) Think carefully about Student Loans.

Speaking of Student Loans, I really wish someone had sat down with me to discuss how long they might take to pay off. This isn’t the case for everyone, and I know my own debt is tiny compared to some of the people I went to school with. Even still, our education system makes it way too easy for an 18-year old to lock in to 30 years’ worth of student loans with nothing more than a digital signature (I know that’s an extreme case, but extremes do happen).

4) It’s okay to take your time.

College is just as much about the experience as it is what you learn in the classroom. You spend a lot of time growing during your years as a student. Rushing that process, or even finishing in the standard four years for a Bachelor’s Degree, could result in you missing out on certain stages of personal development. You should never feel shamed about taking more than four years to finish a Bachelor’s Degree, especially if you are allowing your classroom experiences to form who you are as a person.

5) You’ll miss it when its done.

I know not everybody feels this way. Some people are so ready to be done with school. After all, you’ve probably already been in school for thirteen years, and you’re ready to get on with life. But in my case, I realized midway through my Junior year that I really enjoyed the freedom of being a student working only a part time job and having my weekends free. So I squeezed the life out of college, and experienced a lot (see point number 4) as a result. So build those friendships, take extra time to build relationships with your professors, and enjoy your experience!

Student Reflection: Dog Days of the School Year

by Sam Fletcher

My struggle throughout each and every semester has always been the mundane and the consistency of sixteen weeks out of the year. It can be slow and frustrating, and sometimes I would just like to be done. If every student who is in school is being honest, then they would agree that school is not the highlight of their day or week or month.  It is not for me. It can really be taxing! School is about character and building on the knowledge that you have as a student.  Every great leader is a good student. The character aspect of school is about doing what you do not want to do.  

If I’m being honest, school has never been a particularly favorite hobby but it has taught me so much about discipline, diligence, and excellence. As a millennial, I tend to focus on my feelings. I do not want to do what makes me feel bad. School is that thing! School has provided me an opportunity to grow in discipline.  The hardest thing about school is that it never goes away when you are in it! When one week is done, here comes another the next. School has provided an opportunity for me to grow in diligence, in that, when I get to it early, the easier it is!

School can be frustrating, but I guess, it is on purpose!

Sam is a 3rd-year Bachelor of Arts in Christian Leadership student, and a graduate of theExperience internship. He currently serves as the Student Ministries Assistant for Manna Church, Fayetteville/Fort Bragg.

Student Spotlight: Vonnie Bellamy

Q&A with a Bachelor of Arts in Divinity student

Vonnie faithfully attended church most of her life, but was unsure about going back to college after a long break from school. GCD’s helpful staff and student body encouraged her to take the next step.

Bible college studentWhat made you decide to take classes at GCD?

One day as I was driving on Cliffdale Road, I saw GCD and call to inquire about the curriculum being offered. After speaking with one of the academic advisors, I decide to attend an accredited Bible college. I am currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Divinity program.

What do you like best about your experience with GCD so far?

The three things I like best about my experience with GCD are the helpful/friendly staff, the help of tutors, and at my age how to navigate online.

Where/when do you do your best studying?

I do my best studying in the school’s learning lab and at home in my quiet place, my Lazy Boy. I do my best studying anytime when I’m alone.

Bible college students

What tips could you offer a new student at GCD?

Come with an open mind to learn and grow, and to be willing to do the homework assignments in a timely manner.

How has your learning at GCD helped you grow personally?

Learning at GCD has helped me to grow in the areas of self-discipline. That is, being consistent with early morning devotions and managing finances more effectively. Also, It helped me to learn how to search out the truth of God’s word, and to grow in the area of marriage and family.

How has your experience at GCD benefited your ministry to others?

I am more able to minister to others with confidence and assurance in a better understanding of what the Bible truly means.

Student Spotlight: Rachel Choi

Q&A with a Master of Arts in Christian Leadership student

What is your name, and what are you currently doing (occupation/career-wise)?

My name is Rachel Choi, and I am both a GCD alum and grad student! I currently stay busy with two jobs. For my main career, I have the privilege of being the owner (plus artistic director and one of the teachers) of Alpha & Omega Dance Academy, LLC. On the side I work with Manna Church Fay/Ft. Bragg as a copy/editor and site administrator!

Why did you decide to become a student with GCD?

I decided to pursue my bachelor’s at GCD about a semester after graduating from theExperience College Internship with my Certificate in Christian Leadership and Certificate in Missions Leadership in 2011. I had the unique opportunity to be one of the first interns; it’s no joke that the directors called my class “guinea pigs” because we helped worked out all the kinks! After theExperience, I had a different plan for my collegiate journey, but that next semester I found myself at a fork in the road. I saw how much I had already changed spiritually and emotionally, as well as all the ways I practically grew in leadership through theExperience. And through God’s leading and the advice of trusted authorities and mentors in my life, I decided to redirect course and stay at GCD.

How has your time with GCD helped you with where you are at right now?

Two of the best ways GCD personally helped me was in public communication and specific, practical leadership skills, such as vision-casting, leading a meeting, planning/executing an event, team delegation/accountability/conflict resolution, and much more. With a team of over 20 at AODA, everything I learned about leading a team helped me get started on the right foot!

Would you recommend GCD to other aspiring business owners?

I would definitely recommend GCD’s leadership degree and/or certificate to aspiring or current business owners, especially if they are followers of Christ and wish to learn leadership through the model Jesus provides! Granted, if you need to learn how to balance books, fill out tax forms, set up HR, and start a website, etc, these courses probably won’t provide all the ins-and-outs you’re looking for. But honestly, I never took a class for any of that; I did my own research, talked to a lot of people who knew what they were doing, and worked hard — I mean HARD. But you know what I couldn’t have gleaned from just doing my own research that GCD provided? How to be a Christ-like leader. How to be servant-hearted, authentic, and transformational. How to communicate better. How to cast a vision and give direction, discipline, encouragement, and counsel. And I know for sure I would not have been able to bear the weight of the responsibility that comes with leading, had I not received the spiritual, emotional, practical, and knowledgeable training from GCD.

Alumni Highlight: Adriane Harrington

What brought you to Fayetteville?  

My husband, Clayton, is a retired service member and we’ve lived in Fayetteville for more than 20 years. We’ve been members of Manna for about 12 years.  

What made you decide to take classes at GCD?  

Off and on, I’d hear about the college, but at that time, the college was not accredited. As I raised our four sons, I had taken courses – a class here and there. Once GCD became accredited, I felt the leading of the Lord that this was where He wanted me to be. I enrolled in the Bachelor of Divinity program in the fall of 2012. Five years later, I joyously walked across the stage at Manna EP – tears running down my face! I began working toward my Master of Arts in Christian Leadership degree the following semester and I am loving it!  

Can you give some examples of ways your experience with GCD has prepared you to fulfill your calling?  

My classes at GCD, especially those in Christian Leadership, have provided me with skills to more effectively lead at Manna Church’s EP Site. I’ve been in leadership for more than ten years on the SERVE team there and I consider it an honor to minister alongside my extended family at Manna EP and to be involved in training emerging leaders.  

Recently my master’s curriculum has afforded me the opportunity to serve as a Teaching Assistant in the classroom. Once I have completed this degree, the dream would be to fulfill the calling on my life to instruct at the undergrad level.  

What tips could you offer a new student at GCD?  

A life statement of mine is: “All that I Do is Ministry.” All that we do throughout our lives should be ministry as unto the Lord. With this in mind, we should definitely guard our lives, guard our mouths – I especially have to remind myself of this – and present our whole being as a living sacrifice unto the Lord, daily.  

What have you enjoyed most about your experience with GCD?  

I consider it a great honor to be a student here at Grace College of Divinity. I love being in the classroom. As I interact with ‘young minds,’ it keeps my ‘older mind’ sharp – at least I would like to think so!  

What would you say to a person who is thinking about attending GCD?  

Do it! It doesn’t matter how old you are. You’re never too young; you’re never too old! I’m so thankful that the Lord has allowed me to be a student throughout my lifetime. He encourages me to always remain a lifelong learner, to constantly enrich my life on the foundation of His Word, and to continue to serve His body with all the skills that He has entrusted to me.  

GCD Student Spotlight – Christina Reed

Mom, Hair Designer, Student

 

What do you do all day? This is a question that makes many people cringe when they hear,  because we all feel busy in our everyday lives, but can’t always recall exactly what they did all day. I know that I felt absolutely overwhelmed with the things going on in my life and wondered how people could ever add the task of school to their lives when they already worked numerous hours a week and were raising two kids, like in my case. Yet the tug at my heart would not cease the gentle but constant tug to enroll at GCD. “Me, God? Are you sure you weren’t talking to the person next to me and I just overheard?” This was a question I kicked around for a while before enrolling here at GCD. I am a hair designer and have been for 19 years. This job suits my ADD quite well and my need for instant gratification from something that doesn’t lose my attention easily. I was sure I couldn’t focus long enough to make it through a class and actually pass it. I talked myself out of enrolling for some time. I had all kinds of excuses but the biggest one was that I did not have enough time. Time is something we all get the same amount of and choose to use in the way we decide is most important.

 

I finally quit ignoring the gentle, consistent tug at my heart to enroll at GCD and took the plunge. Thank God there was an amazing person that answered the other end of the phone and literally walked me through every aspect of the process; I’m sure she was tired of seeing my number pop up on the caller ID but she always answered the phone with grace and guidance. I was ready to quit the first week of school and another student there talked me out of it, how grateful I am now for these two people that helped usher me into a new era. I now have a much more positive outlook on my journey and have earned high marks so far in all my courses here at GCD. Every single day I am proving myself wrong; there is no place for the previous negativity that once controlled my thoughts.
I am still a hair designer and raising two beautiful kiddos and have somehow found time to add in school and still go the park with my sweet babies and not miss out on the life God had planned for me. God has a plan that involves me trusting Him and letting Him manage my time. So, what do I do all day? I am walking out God’s plan for me, one step at a time.