It’s kind of a long story…but basically, I chose Milligan for the beauty and greenery of East TN and for softball (Milligan has a great team!), but God had other reasons for bringing me here. But here’s the kicker: I don’t play softball here. I was signed on with a scholarship, but then I got reinjured on graduation night from high school. Over the summer it became evident that my knee would never heal enough for me to play softball competitively again. So then I decided I wouldn’t be coming to Milligan in the fall, that I would take time off and do a missions internship. Really, I just wanted to get away from having to go to school and not be an athlete. The internship opportunity fell through just two days before freshmen were supposed to report to Milligan, so I called and got back into school and packed all of my things and came because it seemed like my only option at that point. So I was reluctant…but then I met lots of new people and began classes and slowly was able to find a new identity of which sports wasn’t the most important part. I can’t change the fact that sports were the point of my life pretty much from childhood through high school, but Milligan has helped me find identity in Christ and his Kingdom and in contributing to that kingdom using gifts I have discovered and refined during my time here.
It has been an experience of change and of shaping, of discovering God, myself, and others. Milligan has been a guide to me academically but also spiritually. I came to Milligan with the conviction that I was called into missions, and my belief in my calling hasn’t changed, but my path to fulfilling it has. I was originally an English education major but then fell in love with sociology. So now I study sociology mostly, and some Bible, and I have no idea what I will do with it on the missions field, but one lesson I’ve gained at Milligan is that calling doesn’t have to mean you know exactly where you’re going—it’s more important to lead a Christ-like life of service in the present then to be caught up in the questions of the future. So I’m content with life as a senior at Milligan, excited for all of the possibilities of my future, and confident that whatever may come, God is in control and Milligan has prepared me to face any challenges life may throw my way.
I did not initially consider Milligan as a college option. I applied to four different schools, then picked one, then visited it and hated it. So then I had a problem: it was getting late in my senior year of high school and I had just decided that I didn’t want to go to my number one school. So I had a meeting with the pastor of my home church in Kentucky, and he directed me to Milligan. He had been a student at Emmanuel and was familiar with the area and the schools and thought it would be a good fit for me. He was right, and I am glad I trusted his advice!
It is hard financially for me to be here. If I didn’t have the scholarships I have, it would be impossible I’m sure. I am blessed to have an academic scholarship, Institute for Servant Leadership money, and my church in Kentucky also supports me. Besides that, I received a memorial scholarship my junior year for Ziggy Howey. Each year I have about 10-11,000 dollars in scholarship money, most of it coming from Milligan alumni and friends. God bless them, because Milligan has certainly blessed me! And I hope with my experiences here I can go out into the world and be a blessing to others, so money and support given to Milligan, and thus to me, really reaches far beyond the campus and my four years here.
Since my junior year of high school I have felt called into missions. As I have grown and matured in my faith (largely because of Milligan and some travel experiences I have had) I have come to see missions as basically loving God’s people and introducing them to the love of Christ. I think all Christians have this mission in common. I feel called to do this in a cross-cultural setting, so I will likely work in another country. I don’t have all of the specifics worked out. I feel like God points us in a general direction and opens doors for us along the way. Right now, I’m not sure which doors he will choose to open for me in the future, but I am excited about the possibilities!
Because of my involvement at Milligan I have had the opportunity to do some amazing things: I have studied abroad in France and Uganda and found places to be active in the Johnson City community as well. One thing in particular I have done is to work with the Carver Recreation Center in downtown JC. This is a center that is right near the housing projects and serves the lower-income residents of the area. Specifically, it runs an after-school program to get kids off of the streets and encourage them to succeed in life. I have been tutoring in the after-school program since my freshman year at Milligan. I happened upon it accidentally through the required three hour service projects of the College and Calling Class—I put in my three hours and then just kept going.
I have built friendships with the faculty and staff and had the opportunity to help many kids with their homework. My junior year at Milligan I led an ISL/Goah service project where we worked on improving the library at Carver (by holding a book drive and organizing the books) and bringing Milligan students into Carver to help kids learn to read. Through my tutoring experience at Carver I realized many of the kids cannot read at the standard level for their age—because of their economic, family, and sometimes racial status, they are often left behind in school. This broke my heart. I did not want to see these kids stuck in the cycle of poverty that society thrusts them into—I wanted to see them break out of it and succeed in transforming their lives and the lives of people around them. Education is the way these kids can succeed in life, and reading is the first step of education. All other subjects are founded on a child’s ability to read: to read text books, to read directions, to read questions on a test, and from this reading ability, to begin to write answers and ideas. The service project did not accomplish a perfectly organized library or a flawless reading program—but what it did accomplish is the establishment of what I hope will be a permanent relationship between Carver and Milligan students and a group of Milligan students that shares my passions for these kids and their community. I think as a Christian institution Milligan is obligated by the love and ministry of Christ to reach out to its neighbors, and Carver is literally right down the road.
I plan to use my Milligan education to live a better life—a life that is meaningful to God’s kingdom, that shows a commitment to Christian values and loving God’s people. I know it sounds cheesy, but I really want to help make the world a better place, to spread love and peace wherever I am, and Milligan has helped give me the spiritual and academic education I need to do this in an impacting way.