Where faith & learning connect: Student perspectives

What sets Goshen College apart from almost all of the other thousands of colleges and universities? One needs only to look as far as our mission statement for the answer: “Shaped by Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition, we integrate academic excellence and real-world experience with active love for God and neighbor.”

This is a place where faith and learning connect, and where each profoundly informs the other. In a broken world that longs for better questions and new answers, we believe that graduating students prepared to go out and to engage the complexity with both wisdom and wonder is just what is needed.

You might wonder: What does that look like? How does it happen? How does that impact our graduates? Hear from a few of our graduating seniors for a glimpse of their experiences.

Genevieve Cowardin ‘21
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
MAJOR: nursing

“When I think about my faith growth at GC, Study-Service Term (SST) comes to mind. In the fall of 2018, I went to Peru for my SST. It was a whirlwind of new experiences and unexpected challenges. I was surrounded by a supportive community, yet my feeling of disconnection remained. The language barrier frustrated me, and I felt overwhelmed with my incompetence. However, I unearthed new strength in my faith. I relied heavily on John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” I looked for spaces in my life where I could find Jesus’ peace. I understood that this peace would not always come in the way that I desired, but it would come in the way that I needed. I felt it in the soft, cool waters of the waterfall where I swam with fellow SSTers. I sensed it in the comfort found by trusting my host mom’s intuition and her hospitality. I heard it in the hymns that I sang with a friend by the river. For the first time in my life, I found myself fully trusting in God’s grace and promise to provide.”

Khampha Stempel ‘21
Broadway, Virginia
MAJOR: sustainability studies

“Global social and environmental justice movements have one thing in common, they fight for the basic humanity and love of people in the world. The Mennonite contexts I grew up in disagreed with the common sentiment of love for all people of the world. Faith is not about dehumanizing individuals and communities by telling them they are straying from God’s path. Faith is about humanizing diverse people and communities with love, kindness and welcome.

My faith drives my interests and abilities to solve sustainability problems and fight for social and environmental justice. Recently, I’ve applied these interests to my work in the Sunrise Movement and academic work on western collaboration with indigenous communities. Next year, I will continue to pursue my interests in sustainability and find new ways to fight for justice by enrolling in the Arizona State Master of Arts in Sustainability program.

Folks in the church not only have an obligation to be global citizens, but they must also break down harmful structures like purity culture, racism, colonization, homophobia and patriarchy embedded in the church. Let’s have a conversation about purity culture, let’s have a coffee and discuss Asian hate, let’s go to a Black Lives Matter protest, let’s fight for justice in the name of love.”

Elizabeth Reimer ‘21
Naperville, Illinois
MAJORS: Bible & religion; peace, justice & conflict studies

“When I first came to GC as a freshman, I had no intention of majoring in Bible and religion. I had spent most of high school struggling with my faith, and I was ready to be done with that. I didn’t need Bible and religion classes complicating my life.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. It only took half a semester before I’d added Bible and religion as a major (I’m still not quite sure how that happened). I started asking those big questions again, just like I had in high school. This time, though, I had courses and professors that could give me answers.

How foolish I was. They didn’t give me answers — they just left me with even more questions. Luckily, with each class, I became more and more comfortable with ambiguity. I learned to embrace the strange space of unknowing that comes with any study of religion.

I am incredibly grateful to those professors who did not have the answers. They taught me that I could have these big questions and believe the things I believed and still call myself a Christian. Realizing that has helped me to find my faith again.”

Stephen Lowe ‘21
Dayton, Virginia
MAJORS: music, secondary education

“Questioning has always been a key part of my faith life. Growing up, my parents cultivated a curiosity in me that asked questions about the world around me and the people with whom I interacted. Each question led to a new, more complicated question about existence.

The point of asking questions is not to find easy answers, but is about revealing something about the Divine or about human relationships. The point of faith is not about having everything figured out, but about believing there is something greater than just me without knowing for certain. Faith is about asking hard questions about life and existence, and finding a community that will ask and discuss questions with you.

In the darkest times of my life, it has been the questions that keep pushing me. Resilience comes from the community of friends I have built at Goshen College. It is those friends that have supported and believed in me when I haven’t been able to support or believe in myself. Resilience comes from the God who has promised to surround me in love no matter how many questions or doubts I may have. Resiliency in faith doesn’t mean never questioning what you believe. In fact, it is the questioning that leads to resilience.”

Lisa Rosado Rivera ‘21
San Juan, Puerto Rico
MAJORS: music, theater

“My faith has shaped me in a way that I saw many different ways to approach faith, whether it was by witnessing different religious practices or discovering new things about a culture or religion that my colleagues believed in. Another way that my faith shaped me into who I am today was because of my involvement with Unity, Student Ministries Team, Parables and GC choirs. Being in these groups have been a blessing and a learning curve during my college journey. I am grateful for the opportunity to allow my faith to grow by being part of these wonderful things that GC has and can help plant seeds in those who want their faith to continue growing.”