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Student Spotlight

Benard Thomas

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have recently surpassed ten years since retirement from the US Army. My service days feel like a lifetime away. Though my military persona has shaped me in some ways, it does not define, in totality, who I am today. The US Army set me on a course to become the person I am today and gave me the support and courage to do things that I probably would have never believed I could do. I’ll treasure that experience forever. I am a widower. My wife passed away in 2014 due to complications from breast cancer. I have four children ( 3 girls/ 1 boy). The youngest is my daughter, and she is 27 years old. I used to be an avid weekend golfer but had to put away the clubs for a while. I hope to be soon able to resume the hobby. Other than that I enjoy, walking/jogging, all things tech, and learning new things such as Spanish and German languages. I love to travel also. In the last two years, I have visited Mexico, the UK, Paris, Prague, Munich, and Switzerland. I am currently ticketed to visit Madrid, Spain, and Lisbon Portugal in the fall. However, due to COVID-19, that trip will likely be canceled. I like helping people. Specifically, I enjoy working with organizations that help to feed and shelter the homeless.

What degree are you working on?

I am a fulltime distance learning student working toward a Masters of Divinity Degree. In May 2020, I am set to complete all degree requirements.

What brought you to theological education?

My wife had been battling breast cancer for the better part of the last seven years of her life. My wife’s condition prior to her death deteriorated to the point where I became her sole healthcare provider as she spent the last 15 months of her life on home hospice. I also have a master’s degree in information technology. Prior to my wife’s illness worsening, I had attained a Microsoft Certified Technology Professional certification in MS SharePoint 2010. I was actively searching for an information technology job in that specialization. After my wife’s passing, I decided to make a radical change in the course of my life. Already having been a devout Christian (Baptist), I wanted to do more in appreciation to the Lord for his faithful to my wife and me during an extremely difficult time in my life. The Lord’s work was very important to me; however, I did not feel that I was appropriately prepared to function in a ministerial office. At not least to the degree to which I thought I needed. I searched a number of ministry programs at the following universities, Marquette, Liberty, Houston Seminary (HBU), Baylor (Truett Seminary), Fuller Seminary (Houston), and Houston Graduate School of Theology (HGST). I finally ended up choosing ACU because its program was the most flexible at a time in my life when I needed flexibility.

What area of ministry do you work in/plan to work in?

After graduation, I plan to work in either chaplaincy, faith-based non-profit, or missions work.

How has your education at the GST formed you and the way you think and do ministry?

As a Christian, I was well aware that all creation belongs to God. However, as someone seeking a vocation in ministry, I did not feel that I knew how to fully engage believers, non-believers, and those of other religions. I knew that all belong to God, he loves all of His creation, and he wants all to benefit from the salvation he wrought through his Son. My education in the GST has dramatically enhanced my capacity to understand Christianity and other religions. The GST virtues of Love, Honesty, Openness, Humility, Courage, Wisdom, Stewardship, Hope, and Prayerfulness not only enhanced my Christian values but provided a foundation for ministerial engagement in whatever office I may choose.

What’s your favorite part about being in the GST?

I loved learning about Christianity. Being in the GST is no easy task, and while going through the courses, I did not always feel like I was loving learning. However, the successful completion of each class brings with it a gratifying experience. I felt that my professors were tough but very fair and genuinely wanted to help me succeed. The GST staff is top-notch as well. I always thought that I was getting some of the best Christian education in the country.

Do you have any advice for those considering graduate level theological education?

As explained earlier, my choice to seek a graduate theological education was very personal. I considered the weight of my choice and wanted to succeed in a manner that would bring honor to God. There are some who believe that if you are a Christian, gifted with the Holy Spirit and feel the calling of ministry upon your life, you do not need to dispense with formal ministerial education. Each person has to consider those arguments for themselves, but I would offer the analogy that not everyone gifted with life, lives it to the fullest of their ability, and they have only themselves to consider. No one is forced into ministry. If you are gifted with the Holy Spirit and feel a calling to lead the people of God through ministry, there is much more at stake than one’s personal considerations. In order to fulfill the office of ministry to the fullest, one ought to desire the best education possible.