Nurtured Roots Grow Strong

Jul. 22, 2016 - by Shari Flanagan

Pioneering freshmen come to MNU to pursue an education, anxious, brave and hopeful. Four particular students, never dreaming their paths would cross, came from near and far. Some paths seemed clear for these young hopefuls while others were uncertain. But as their paths crossed, they came together to be part of what God was doing in their community.

Olathe native John Marra (’80) was drawn to MNU with a basketball scholarship. Growing up in a devout Italian-Catholic family, the choice to attend a protestant evangelical college seemed unlikely. But God had other plans. Little did John know his college experience would culminate in a unique partnership with MNU that would last far beyond graduation.

Beginning to see his future in a new light at MNU, John found a deeper, more intimate relationship with God that looked different from the faith of his childhood. Sensing a call to share this faith with others he prepared for ministry.  

IMG 8874Josh Heer, Jorge San Jose, John Marra, Sarah Fredricks at Living Hope Church.

After graduation and marrying his college sweetheart, Pam (Taylor ’80), John served as a youth pastor and then a senior pastor in Texas, before being called back to Olathe to plant a church.

Holding services in an Olathe school building for many years, John experienced a season of preparing the soil. The ground began to yield new life as he expectantly listened to ideas of promising young MNU students in the courses he now taught at his alma mater. Enlisting them to serve along with him, Living Hope Church opened its own building in May 2013.

Just south of the university, Living Hope Church tends to the needs of both the churched and unchurched community. It’s not a traditional building. Unassumingly, it spreads out in a contemporary style, a place of worship accompanied by cornfields and pastures. A small pond with a bench for reflection and relaxation sits nearby. Large glass windows invite spectators and participants alike among its growing community.

Here is where the MNU partnership bloomed. John’s capable, compassionate staff is comprised of MNU alumni.

Sarah Fredricks (’14) is the children’s pastor and heads up the coffee shop ministry. When Sarah received a calling to minister, serving children was the last thing she expected.  “Within the church are opportunities for organic growth, so I’ve had the chance to speak and lead worship”, she says. “Yet my role as a children’s pastor feels like home.”  

Serving as the worship and discipleship pastor is Jorge San Jose (’15). Originally from Guatemala, Jorge felt kindness and encouragement from his MNU admissions counselor over the phone long before he visited the university. Matching the compassion embodied at MNU, San Jose feels he has a heart for the whole community, not just the churched. In a new country, his connections with MNU and Living Hope have given him “room to dream.”

The latest addition to the Living Hope staff is Josh Heer (’14). As the BRIDGES director and youth pastor, Heer came from Alaska to attend MNU and has found his place directing a program that builds relationships through sports. His steady demeanor keeps him productive even as a newer member of the staff.

The church also develops several interns each semester with the help of Dr. Randy Cloud, the chair of Bible, Theology and Mission at MNU. Junior Ashton Mason recently completed her internship there. Growing up in a military family, Ashton came to MNU for its ROTC program. As she continues her education, now in a ministry path, her connections with Living Hope and MNU have been a source of strength and support.

While each minister came to MNU for different reasons; a basketball scholarship, hope in a new country, the programs and the caring connections, they stayed for much more. Like a vine with many branches, the pastors of Living Hope are growing together from the nurtured roots of a special place called MNU. 

 

 

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