Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Guatemala City to a beautiful family of six. I moved to Abilene as a confused eighteen-year-old in 2011 and since then Abilene has become home. I actually have a really hard time envisioning ever living anywhere else! My wife Natalie and I met in a panel to discuss what it means to follow Jesus in our singleness. Ironically, about a year and a half later we got married and have been having the best time ever since. Since then we have had one baby girl that has completely stolen my heart. Her name is Annie Elisabeth. Our world has drastically changed for the good. A few weeks ago I told Nat that I don’t let one-year-olds tell me what to do… unless its two in the morning. Our lives are filled with a lot less sleep, but so much more laughter.
If this does not shed light on the stage of life I am in, I don’t know what else will, but one thing Olaf and I have in common is that we both love hugs. I would say that one of the most random things about my life is that I am the host for a trivia night in town. I have met people there I would have never met otherwise.
Some of my side interests: musicals, Vikings (both the people group and the History channel show), and skateboarding. I enjoy conversations over board games. Especially games that are strategic but don’t require you to be that invested; Skyjo, Rummikub, Blokus, and Yahtzee are all personal favorites.
Since you cannot always be a Pollyanna, here are some things I do not like. First, mayonnaise. Mayo, I have one question for you: why? The second one is probably the drive to Lubbock, Texas. You could fall asleep for thirty minutes and somehow still make it. It’s so flat.
What area of ministry do you work in and what drew you there?
I do college ministry at The Well, a church here in Abilene. I was heavily involved with a college ministry throughout my undergraduate life. To say that it changed my life would be an understatement. It has been one of the best things that ever happened to me. Eventually, the time came for me to start looking for a place I could work, Nat and I were about to get married and as an international student I could not work more than eighteen hours a week, which wasn’t substantial to support a family. For a large portion of our first year of marriage, Nat supported us as a family and I am so grateful for that. So I reached out to Austin Lawrence, the lead pastor at The Well. We had had some prior encounters and I would have considered him a friend. At the time The Well had not been around for that long. It was a church plant packed with college students and young families. The college students leading the college ministry at the time were getting ready to graduate and leave town. So the Lord provided this timely window for me to walk in and offer some help. I had the experience and couldn’t even get paid, so the guys over at The Well gave me a shot and now I am here.
How has your education affected your ministry?
Education is weird. In a sense, the more education you have the more prepared you will be, but also the bigger the world will get. The bigger the world gets, the more questions you will ask and the less answers you will get. So education made me realize that I knew nothing, but it equipped me to begin the process of synthesizing and forming convictions that would inform my life as a pastor and disciple of Jesus. Education is a blessing only when it is put in its proper place.
What was the most valuable thing you learned during your time in the program?
Perhaps that university is less about stuffing your head with knowledge and more about the person you are becoming. Whatever end we pursue for itself outside of God becomes an idol, but a proper view of education will make it another means to the ultimate end of us loving and becoming more like Jesus.
Any advice for current students or those considering the Graduate School of Theology?
First, I would say do not neglect the Church during your studies. There is great irony in being trained to love the people of God while neglecting it. The more I learn the more I realize that loving God and loving his people are two sides of the same coin.
Second, I would encourage you to organize your degree around professors. One of the best things about my GST experience was sitting under a couple of professors. The most valuable lessons from them came not from the whiteboard but by seeing how they live their lives. I cannot think of one of my professors who is not involved in serving and loving God’s people. The best thing the GST can offer to you is its people.