May 3, 2013 — Daniel Camacho of Uniondale, N.Y., first came to Calvin College in 2009 through the Entrada Scholars program, a month-long college immersion experience for ethnic minority students.
Camacho, who grew up Methodist, was intrigued by the Reformed worldview and enrolled at Calvin, where he is now a senior. He also has joined a Christian Reformed congregation in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Junior Sarah Stripp started at Calvin College in the fall of 2010. She is a member of a CRC in her hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich.
Both Camacho and Stripp have been involved in a number of spiritual formation opportunities, including the Jubilee Fellows program (see sidebar).
This fall, Camacho plans to attend Duke Divinity School in pursuit of his Master of Divinity. He also plans to complete the Ecclesiastical Program for Ministerial Candidacy through Calvin Theological Seminary.
Stripp has one year remaining at Calvin and then plans to pursue a Master of Divinity as well.
We recently talked with Camacho and Stripp about how their experiences at Calvin helped shape their faith and influence their vocation.
What does the word vocation mean to you?
Sarah: I came into Calvin bent on a set path, a set career—that’s what I was looking for. But I started to realize vocation doesn’t have to be one specific job. There’s not one career that’s going to fulfill me. Over this past semester I changed my major from English education to just English, with a plan to go to seminary afterwards.
Vocation is looking at gifts: where God has gifted me, what I love, and how I can use what I love and the skills that I have for the kingdom of God and doing work there. My definition of vocation has expanded from the idea of one perfect career to the understanding that God’s kingdom is already alive. Finding my vocation is discovering what God has equipped me to do within it.
Daniel: Calvin has helped me realize how vocation is intimately connected to the life of the church, and so vocation, in the way that I’ve come to understand it, is kind of nested within our common call to ministry and to be Christians.
I’ve loved how Calvin emphasizes how everybody can do some type of ministry, whether it’s math or being a nurse, and I think that is something distinctive about Calvin. . . . We have been able to get this perspective of vocation in which even what we study in our careers is part of our discipleship.
How have your classes shaped faith formation?
Sarah: Every class I’ve taken and every professor I’ve had has very intentionally integrated faith into the class. . . . Every time we read a piece of literature in my English classes, we talk about the way this shapes us as human beings. How can we look at a piece from modernism, which is very dark, very, like, “Let’s get God out of here,” and how can we look at that as the state of human beings, and how can we look at that in regards to something like total depravity, and how can we talk about redemption in that?
Daniel: In philosophy, I had one class where we were reading Thomas Aquinas, and our professor had us imagine that we were all brothers and sisters in an order, like a Dominican order. She had us imagine that we are not in competition, that we are not trying to outdo each other, but instead participating in this together, something that is shared, where we all are striving to know God more and to build each other up.
That for me was an amazing experience because I do think that going through school and even taking classes can become a very selfish and competitive thing. But I’ve had many professors emphasize how to be humble, how to be loving. . . . How can we fight the toxic spirit of competition and approach this as a common project?
Is there a particular experience at Calvin that has shaped you?
Sarah: This past semester we’d go once a month on a Sunday to the Kent County Jail and lead a few services. We would usually do the singing and reading of Scripture, and there would be a sermon.
I think as Americans—but also as Christians—we set up this fake dichotomy where we are like these morally righteous people who haven’t done anything wrong, and that’s why we are not in jail, and [those in jail] are beyond hope and morally deficient. But that’s just not true. When you look at why people are in jail, a lot of the reasons are the same as what Calvin students could get convicted for, but they just don’t have the money to pay the fines.
Our country sets up these systems that make it literally impossible to move on from that—like, you can’t get a job—so it was really mind-blowing for me to be in that situation and see what’s going on. My eyes have definitely been opened to a lot of injustice there this year.
Daniel: This past summer I did the Jubilee Fellow internship in East Harlem (N.Y.) at a church plant, and that was a helpful experience for me. I didn’t know the CRC was in Harlem, so that was news to me, but it was very cool because I got to see what the church looks like in a different setting. I lived for 10 weeks in East Harlem in a traditional public housing building, with all the trappings that come with it—a legacy of socio-economic inequality.
What I found helpful about the ministry and the church there is that the pastor had me do something called asset mapping, which meant that I would go around and I would locate assets in the community, whether it was in the form of local businesses or agencies or even individuals, who provide some meaningful service or some meaningful gift to the community. So rather than see it (because it’s a place with a history of poverty and violence) as “Everything’s bad or corrupt,” or “People are nonproductive”—no, let’s see it as “God is already at work there and we have to have the eyes to see it.”
How has your faith matured over the past few years?
Sarah: I grew up with a very narrow perspective on life with the people around me, and to be able to come to Calvin—where, yeah, there’s a solid theological base, but there are a lot of different ideas from a lot of different people—coming and just being able to talk about that and being very open about talking about that has helped me to think more critically about what I believe and gain an understanding of other perspectives.
Daniel: One way my faith has matured is connecting my personal faith to the larger Christian tradition. I’ve appreciated the Reformed emphasis. And to me, coming from an evangelical background where it was just more personal and not as much historical like it is at Calvin, I think my faith matured in that way. And now I think in terms of the people who preceded me and being a part of this larger body. That’s really helped.
Calvin has [also] helped me to engage others charitably and to engage all spheres charitably. So just because, let’s say, a filmmaker or a writer or an artist or somebody is not Christian, I am not going to dismiss them because they aren’t preaching about Jesus. How is the kingdom of God and how is restoration manifested in their work, even though they may not realize it? How does it contain fallenness or the things that we have to resist?
When it comes to spiritual formation, what does Calvin do best?
Daniel: What it does best is represented by the activism and also the service. . . . Spiritual formation is tied to justice issues, and helping people around us and getting involved on multiple levels with things around us that are broken, whether it’s the education system or the prison system, and encouraging us to see how our faith is connected to what is happening in our society, what’s broken in our society.
Sarah: Calvin is really good about not isolating faith to one sphere, but saying that every single part of our lives has to do with being a Christian, and that’s our first and foremost identity. Faith is not just something that you do at Chapel or LOFT (Living Our Faith Together) or going to church on Sunday, but you will talk about faith in your classes, and you will talk about faith in your dorm and in the community, and you will talk about faith in your extracurricular activities.
For what has Calvin prepared you?
Sarah: Calvin has prepared me not to shy away from the hard situations in the world. If you would have told me my senior year of high school that between my junior and senior summer I’d be going to the inner city in Jackson, Miss., and teaching kids about God and doing a chaplaincy for a summer program, I would’ve laughed, because that would’ve scared me to no end.
But Calvin has really helped me see how much brokenness there is in the world and made it so I’m not afraid to enter into that brokenness and look at where God is already working within that and how I can use my own gifts to help out.
Daniel: Calvin has prepared me to be . . . a holistic Christian and a holistic Christian thinker. I feel that Calvin has prepared me really well to think critically about a wide array of topics and also to think Christianly and to try to think faithfully. I think it’s a huge help for the future.
Jubilee Fellows Program
Calvin offers numerous opportunities to cultivate students’ faith, from residence hall Bible studies to daily chapel services to events like the Festival of Faith and Writing, Festival of Faith and Music, and the Symposium on Worship.
The Jubilee Fellows program is one of those opportunities. Designed for 12 promising students who are strongly inclined toward Christian leadership and church ministry, it aims to foster the next generation of church leaders.
The year-long program seeks to help students explore their vocational calling through interdisciplinary learning, mentoring, and ministry experience. It includes a semester seminar, a 10-week ministry internship at a congregation in North America, and a service component.
Supporting Calvin College in Prayer
- Pray for wisdom for the leadership of Calvin College as the college continues its prioritization and strategic planning processes in the coming year, and for faculty and staff throughout this process.
- Pray that more than 900 new graduates may find meaningful work and serve God as agents of renewal wherever they are.
- Pray for the incoming class of students who will be joining us in late August to arrive safely and to grow closer to God during their journey at Calvin.
- Pray for Calvin College’s mission to remain clear, compelling, and relevant to the next generation of students. Pray that all faculty and staff will remain committed to integrating faith into every learning opportunity.