Jubilee Fellows Explore Call to Ministry

Josh Kuipers, a junior majoring in religion, anthropology, and Kiswahili at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., had not considered a calling into ministry.

“For the longest time I wanted to be a lawyer and politician,” Kuipers says. But that started to change when he spent some time in Mexico and a year in Kibera, a huge slum outside Nairobi, Kenya. In those places Josh found himself “searching for God and his calling on my life.” What he found was a new direction.

“There was no moment where formal ministry became a focus. It was a slow shift, moving away from a focus on anything else.”

Kuipers will explore his calling further as one of the 2009 Jubilee Fellows at Calvin.

Every year, the Lilly Vocation Project gives students the opportunity to discern their vocation for Christian ministry. This year, together with Kuipers, the project named the following students as fellows: Nick Baas, Rachel Bergman, Jonathan De Ruiter, Brandon Haan, Blake Jurgens, Kate Oswald, Katie Pruss, Charlotte Sandy, Tracy VerMerris, and Philip Vestal (see sidebar for more on each 2009 fellow).

The students chosen as Jubilee Fellows spent the spring semester being mentored for ministry by Calvin’s chaplain emeritus Dale Cooper and his wife, Marsha, and by co-leaders Ren and Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen.

“We study God’s longing for the church,” Cooper said. “We study the role that people play in the church [by using their] gifts and position. We talk about the church in whatever age we find ourselves. We talk about history. And then we talk about the discernment process.”

When summer arrives, the fellows apply what they have learned through internships in congregations throughout the United States and Canada, where they experience ministry “up close and hands on.”

Cooper says the internship experience “takes a look at church ministry in all its joys but also its sadness and disappointments and occupational hazards. It’s fraught with blessings and difficulties, like all vocations.”

Most important, the internships allow students to discern whether formal ministry is right for them. “It helps students to discern what is best,” said Cooper, referring to Philippians 1:10: “So that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”

In the seven-year history of the program, about two-thirds of the Jubilee Fellows have gone on to seminary; others have pursued Bible translation and other ministry options. Still others have chosen to be more committed and active members of their respective congregations. All of those are successful outcomes, Cooper said.

The Jubilee Fellows program was founded in the 2002-2003 academic year with a five-year grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. When the grant ran out this spring, the program came under the auspices of the new department of Congregational and Ministry Studies.

Cooper is grateful for the college’s continued support. “We are partners together in this [program],” he said. “The people who raise the money and the people who use the money are all putting their gifts together to say, ‘What are we doing for the next generation?’”

At least one member of that generation is enthusiastic—and flexible—about finding out where his calling might take him. “In the future I could see myself involved in anything from pastoral training in Africa to working at a soup kitchen to preaching on Sunday mornings,” Kuipers said.

Calvin Gets Four-star Rating

Charity Navigator, named one of the “50 coolest websites” by Time magazine, is the largest independent evaluator of charities in the United States.

The website evaluates the efficacy and responsiveness of nonprofit organizations by analyzing raw financial data about their fundraising, programming, and administration.

Calvin College recently received Charity Navigator’s top rating of four stars.

“Receiving four out of a possible four stars indicates that an organization excels, as compared to other charities in America, in successfully managing its finances in an efficient and effective manner,” says Kaitlin Woolf, a program analyst for Charity Navigator.

“[Calvin’s] rating is an exceptional feat, especially given the economic challenges many charities have had to face in the past year.”

Doing More with Less

Calvin garnered this top rating in large part due to its lean administrative and fund-raising operations. At Calvin, only 1.9 percent of the total operating budget is spent on administrative expenses, and Calvin spends a mere 8 cents to raise one dollar in charitable contributions.

To compare nonprofit organizations, including colleges and universities, see www.charitynavigator.org.

“Calvin has very lean and efficient faculty and staff configurations. Our faculty and staff are well qualified, and they work hard and effectively, and our staff-to-faculty ratio is very low compared to other colleges and universities,” says Calvin College president Gaylen Byker.

“These features combine to give the college low administrative costs and low fund-raising overhead.”

Educating the Giver

Many causes are worthy of philanthropic support. But which organizations are most effective at translating financial gifts into action? Which nonprofits are the best stewards of your financial resources? Charity Navigator’s mission is to help prospective philanthropists make informed decisions about their charitable gifts.

Last year more than 12,000 donors gave to the Calvin Annual Fund, a vital source of year-to-year support for the college’s operating budget. Thanks to additional sources of revenue, like the Calvin Annual Fund, each student’s tuition is on average 25 percent less than the actual cost of a Calvin education.

“We are very grateful for these gifts,” says Jan Druyvesteyn, Calvin’s director of development. “Donors can feel confident about their decision to support Calvin because as a college we strive to be good stewards of all our resources. Most important, each gift to the college directly strengthens our ability to serve our students.”

Meet the 2009 Jubilee Fellows

Nick Baas

A junior from Grand Rapids, Mich., majoring in religion, philosophy, and Greek, Nick has been interested in ministry since his participation in the “Facing Your Future” program at Calvin Seminary. He is grateful for this chance to use his gifts in a community and is thankful for those who have supported him as he finds his place in the kingdom of God.

Rachel Bergman

A junior from Orono, Maine, majoring in psychology, Rachel plans to pursue both a master’s degree in social work and a seminary degree following graduation. She is particularly interested in working with families.

Jonathan De Ruiter

A junior Greek major from Alger, Wash., Jonathan spent the early years of his childhood on the mission field in the Dominican Republic. He is eager to use his gifts to serve God and God’s people during this coming summer and plans to attend seminary following graduation.

Brandon Haan

Brandon Haan is a pre-seminary student from Lansing, Ill., majoring in both English and religion. Although Brandon is unclear on exactly how he will serve God in the future, he is confident that the Jubilee Fellows program will help him to discern God’s calling. Brandon, who serves as a resident assistant in the Beets-Veenstra residence hall, is excited for the many opportunities to be like Christ to others.

Blake Jurgens

A junior from Byron Center, Mich. majoring in philosophy and Greek, Blake sees ministry as not just a “hobby” but a passion. His plans after college include attending seminary and earning his master’s of divinity. He hopes that the Jubilee Fellows opportunity will allow him to gain hands-on experience in the field of pastoral ministry while gaining a better perception of the body of Christ here in North America.

Josh Kuipers

Josh is a junior from Abbotsford, British Columbia, and is an interdisciplinary major in religion, anthropology, and Kiswahili. He feels a specific calling to serve the hurting and marginalized people of this world. Josh is excited for the adventure that following Christ brings.

Kate Oswald

Kate is a junior psychology major from New Providence, N.J., whose future plans include grad school, seminary, or foreign missions. Her hope for life is that she would always be growing in her faith, fully used by Christ, and purposeful in her actions. Kate is grateful for the opportunity Jubilee Fellows provides her and is eager to experience serving in a U.S. church setting.

Katie Pruss

A senior nursing major, Katie came to Calvin College from Saline, Mich., near Ann Arbor. She has joined the Jubilee Fellows program to grow as someone who can minister to the soul as well as the body. Katie dreams of starting a ministry in rural Africa and providing excellent healthcare along with the Good News of the gospel. She feels strongly that there are no “ordinary” people and hopes to know the heart of God and others more deeply through Jubilee Fellows.

Charlotte Sandy

Charlotte is a junior psychology and religion major from Birmingham, Mich. A transfer student from the University of Michigan, Charlotte came to Calvin in order to study religion and have opportunities that would help her discern her call to ministry. Charlotte is passionate about teaching people the Word of God, and she is excited to explore that in the Jubilee Fellows program. Her specific ministry interests are youth and family ministry, pastoral care, counseling, and community.

Tracie VerMerris

Tracie, a junior from Dorr, Mich., majoring in music in worship and vocal performance, has a passion for both music and worship. Tracie is excited to be part of the Jubilee Fellows program to explore her gifts and interests, and she hopes this will be a valuable learning experience in worshiping God and serving a Christian community.

Phil Vestal

Phil, a junior from Manhattan, Ill., first came to Calvin to study physics, but after feeling God’s call to ministry is now majoring in religion. After Calvin, he plans to attend seminary to work toward a master’s of divinity. He is excited to preach and bring the Good News to people all over the world. God has also given him a heart for the poor and a passion to spend some time serving the least of these, whether it is at home or abroad.

—Myrna Anderson

Calvin College at a Glance

Calvin College was founded in 1876 in Grand Rapids, Mich., as a school to train Christian Reformed Church ministers. The college’s first class consisted of seven students and one professor who met in a one-room schoolhouse.

Calvin has grown significantly since those early days. Today the college offers 100 majors, minors, and programs to a student body of 4,100 undergraduates who come to Calvin’s 400-acre campus from across North America and around the world (almost 10 percent of the student body comes from outside the United States).

But the essential mission of Calvin and its foundational principles have not changed. Now, as was true a century ago, Calvin College works to train young women and men to make a difference in God’s world.

In the words of the college’s mission statement, “Calvin College is a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity. Through our learning, we seek to be agents of renewal in the academy, church, and society. We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God’s work in God’s world.”


About the Author

Myrna Anderson is a senior writer in Calvin College’s communications and marketing department.
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