Seminary Story: Jessica Portwood
I grew up in a Christian home in Knoxville, Tennessee. In college, I found out about Word Made Flesh; they're in several countries working with the poor. After I graduated I did an internship in Romania with them, working with kids living on the streets or otherwise at risk. While there, I started having feelings about seminary. It was where I felt God was leading me.
I met with Rick Steele at SPS, and he cast the vision for what seminary was like. I felt drawn to this vision of something academic but also communal. So I packed up my car and drove out. In June I'll be part of the first group of MDiv graduates.
Working With Youth
I've been interning at New Horizons Ministries for the past year and a half. This year I'm the chaplain. The youth are homeless or street-involved in some form. Some of them are addicted to substances or dealing with other issues.
I did a series there for Advent. We watched a video of a man who was struggling with a disease, yet found hope in the midst of his circumstances.
I asked if they had hope. The answers varied from "Of course I have hope," to, "I have no hope in my life." Getting to share about what hope looks like — coupled with the gospel story and Advent — was wonderful. I was able to pray with them about what they had shared.
I had no formal theological training for seminary, so the first quarter I felt like I was going to drown in Rob Wall's language. But there have been times when I've been assigned a paper I had fun writing.
The one-week intensive Dean Strong teaches sets the tone for our program, building a community, learning spiritual practices, and knowing this isn't purely academic, but something where we're invited to enter into relationship with God more deeply.
The Wesleyan class meeting was like a built-in community, as I had just moved to Seattle, where I knew no one. I was put into a group of people who understood me. We continued on a second year even when it wasn't required.
The small groups included a professor who was not the leader, but a participating member, speaking volumes about our professors; their willingness to engage, and their humility in asking for accountability from students.
Plans for the Future
I teach English as a second language part time right now at Kaplan International, so my plan is to continue with that through the summer while I look for a ministry position, working with marginalized youth. I'm going to stay in Seattle though. I love it here.
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