I first stepped foot on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University in the fall of 1994. If someone would have told me that twenty years later that I would be helping to start a brand new ministry serving at risk children and the medically underprivileged in Ecuador, South America, I never would have believed you. But that’s how God works!
Now, being a missionary who recently finished a long period of Home Assignment in the States, it’s easy for me to reflect on what my time at IWU meant to me since I just told many churches across the county that very thing. My story begins before IWU when I was sixteen and had accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. At that point, my life started to go in a completely different trajectory than where I had been headed, beginning with the decision to attend a Christian college where I could deepen my faith. I chose IWU partly because of the success of the soccer program (I was a member of the team from ’94 – ‘99 and captain in ’98 and ’99) but mainly for their commitment to Christian principles within the soccer team and throughout the university.
I started out studying the sciences at IWU but sensed while there that God was calling me to ministry. It was during the chapel services, which I loved and gained so much from, that I was sensing that God wanted to do more with my life than have a typical nine to five job; that he wanted to use me fully in my career. Specifically during one service led by Unfundisi Jim Lo I sensed that I needed to do something different with what I was studying. I decided to drop one of my science majors and picked up a Psychology major with a minor in Christian Ministries to go along with my Computer Science major. I was thinking that I would possibly be a Christian Counselor.
During my senior year at IWU, a good friend of mine and eventual Nursing Graduate, Jeremy Hawk, invited me to go on a mission trip to Honduras over Spring Break. I thought like it sounded like a good idea but then he told me it would cost $1,200. As you could imagine, I was a poor college kid and $1,200 was a lot more than I even had at that point and the concept of asking for money for a mission trip was completely “foreign” to me, so I told him I do it. God had other plans in store for me. Jeremy came back to me one week before he was set to leave and told me that he just found out that he had raised exactly double what he needed to go on the trip and that he wanted me to use that second half of what he had raised so that I could go. I knew God was working, and I realized that even more when I actually got my ticket and passport in less than a week so that I could go along. Once I arrived in Honduras, I knew I was where God wanted me to be, on the Mission Field, and that started a journey with no looking back.
I cherish my time at IWU for how I was formed through the classes, chapel services and community life of the university. Umfundisi Jim Lo made an impact on me that I will never forget so much so that he officiated at my wedding to Kim. Kim (Carter) Delp, originally from Upland, IN, also took classes at IWU from ’99-’01). Her time at IWU opened her eyes to a whole different part of herself as a leader. Her time confirmed her call to full time missionary service as well and opened her eyes to the needs of others at home and around the world through mission classes with Umfundisi.
Our non-profit is the Santiago Partnership. The name “Santiago” means “James” in Spanish and comes from the book of James and our desire to not have a faith that is dead but one that is alive, active and lived out through action that is real and demonstrable. Our specific actions are that we are starting homes for at risk children and medical clinics in Ecuador, South America, serving in partnership and under the guidance of the Covenant Church of Ecuador. Everything we do is in partnership and led by Ecuadorians. My wife who is a Nurse Practitioner and I (I now have a MBA and a MDIV) feel as though we are a small part of the amazing things that God is doing here in Ecuador! Please check out the video on our website to have a more complete understanding of who we are and what we are doing.
My connections with IWU continue as a good friend and college soccer teammate of mine, Jeremy Bustos, has been one of the primary players in helping us launch our non-profit and go from a fledgling start-up to a successful foundation. He and his company, We Create Media, which also employs other IWU graduates, have been amazing in what they have done in creating our videos, website and marketing materials.