I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I heard my parents talking about it. I had lived in the same house, had the same friends and gone to the same church my whole life. And now we were moving. My dad was the pastor of a small church in Alaska and my brother and I had been homeschooled since kindergarten. My parents had raised us to love Jesus with all our heart, mind and soul. Now at 13 my whole life was flipping upside down. I would learn to trust Jesus in a deeper way than ever before as he changed my heart and became my rock in this uncertain time of life.
God had been drawing me steadily closer to Himself. Throughout our family’s numerous moves He had been teaching me to trust Him. As a pastor’s daughter I rose to the challenge of being a leader at the different churches my dad pastored. My parents told me that I was a leader, even if I didn’t want to be the younger girls at church would watch me and learn from me. I felt the responsibility of living my life as an example of Christ, knowing that I could affect others for good.
When I was 15, my family and I moved to Maryland. As I got closer to finishing high school I began looking at my college options. I wanted to attend a Bible College to continue growing in my faith. I applied to my dad’s alma mater. I had visited the college a few times and liked it a lot, plus it was only a few hours from home. But the door seemed to close when I was put on the waiting list for the College. God knew what He was doing because a few months later my family and I were moving across the country to California!
“Hey Alise, so what do you want to do after you graduate from high school?” This question seemed to be on everyone’s lips before I even had a chance to come up with an intelligent sounding answer. Soon I would graduate and need to choose a college and a major, but the only thing I really ever wanted to do or be was a pastor’s wife. I wanted to live a life of ministry; I knew that wherever I was would be my mission field whether it was my school, work place, family or some tribe in Africa. So while I was trying to figure out life-after-high-school, I went to community college to work on my general education.
I still wanted to attend a Bible college, so I began looking at the ones in Southern California. I figured I could grow in my relationship with Jesus and find a guy who wanted to be a pastor and marry him; perfect plan right!? I thought so. I looked into a local Christian College and Eternity Bible College. The more I found out about EBC the more it sounded perfect for what I wanted. The school’s core values matched up exactly with the values I had been raised with. They believed in the authority of scripture and offered courses that rigorously studied the Bible. They encouraged service in the local church yet had a vision for the global church. They pushed students to love each other as the body of Christ. They pushed students to reach out and engage the secular culture around them including their neighbors, because there were no dorms at this college. In order to graduate students were required to go cross cultural on either a study abroad trip or mission trip. And despite all the rigorous study, Bible knowledge was not the main point of this college. Students would graduate with changed hearts that longed to humbly serve Jesus wherever He would lead. EBC keeps their costs as low as possible so that their students can graduate debt free and jump right into whatever ministry God would lead them into. I was sold.
My family and I drove an hour north from our home in southern California to visit the EBC campus. We pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall where a few of the buildings were labeled “Cornerstone” and “Eternity Bible College” right next to a dentist office and contracting company. There was no way I could know it at the time, but God would use this school in this strip mall to draw me closer to Him in deeper ways than I could have ever imagined.
Before the fall of 2008 I had never shared a room with anyone, I had never shared my clothes with anyone or had to buy my own groceries. I had never actually lived on my own before, but that was all about to change. I moved into a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with three other girls who I had never met in my life. They were new students at EBC too and that’s just about all we knew of each other. At student orientation we were all told that our first year at EBC would tear us down, things we believed before would be challenged and we would be stretched to the max. I wasn’t too scared because I figured I was pretty solid in my faith and knew exactly what I believed. As I plunged into my first semester I found out that though I was solid in my faith, it was being stretched and reshaped from hours of study in God’s Word every day. My professors were causing me to think through things from a biblical perspective and wrestle with scripture in ways I never had before. God was tearing me down in His own way so that I could be built back up into an even stronger Christian. I was taking 14 units at EBC and 2 units at Moorpark Community College; I was working 20 hours a week in retail and fitting in church ministry and long hours of homework. I was being emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally stretched.
Semesters multiplied and turned into years. I learned how to use a lexicon and commentaries. I learned that context is king and grammar rules. I learned about community and loving my brothers and sisters in Christ. I learned the importance of unity in the Spirit. My theology was fine-tuned based on what God says through His Word. I learned to bear other’s burdens and to cry with those who cry. And to laugh with those who laugh.
As I finish up my junior year and look forward to my senior year at EBC, it amazes me how much I have grown in just the past three years. God has blessed me with so much: amazing Bible teaching, incredible professors, close friends, a loving church family, exciting ministry opportunities, studying abroad, a comfortable home to live in, and jobs that provide income. However, I have recently come to truly know that none of these things satisfy. None of them are guaranteed, deserved or promised. Time changes things. Friendships change, people move away, friends hurt us, knowledge makes us proud, ministry burns us out, and money disappears, yet life moves on. If there is one thing I have learned from my experiences at EBC, it is that my Heavenly Father is the only sure and unchanging thing, the only thing worth giving everything for and the only thing that truly satisfies. This world is so messed up and entangled in sin and suffering. The more I see this the more beautiful Jesus becomes and the more I look forward to Him returning and making everything perfect again! I think, after loving Jesus for 23 years, I am finally figuring out what it really feels like to love the Creator of the universe, and to be loved back.
So, after EBC courses on biblical theology, hermeneutics, the Greek language, the history of civilization, discipleship counseling and advanced issues, and survey courses on almost every book in the Bible… I have come to the conclusion that the main purpose of my life is this: to love God with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. This is what God has taught me. This is what EBC has equipped me to be: a child in love with her Heavenly Father.
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