New students, fresh perspectives

Our newest students are aware of the challenges facing the church, but they’re inspired rather than discouraged by the prospect of taking them on. Here are the stories of six students who began their studies at MTSO in the fall of 2012.


Timothy Parker

Making the church relevant and real

The 2012 Harding Scholarship recipient, Timothy Parker has already been appointed to serve Waterford UMC in Fredericktown.

It was in a summer factory job that Parker found a unique opportunity to model a life of faith: “I worked with a group of people who were double political refugees, from Bhutan and then Nepal. I developed a close relationship with all of them and had a lot of great conversations with them about religion. I never forced my faith upon them; I tried to exemplify it by my work and my actions toward them.”

He aspires to a ministry that’s meaningful for those the church isn’t currently reaching: “I want to show people that there is no separation between intelligence and Christianity.”


Kenya Cummings

Drawn to ministry with the marginalized

University of Kentucky graduate Kenya Cummings had a formative experience as an intern with the Isaiah Project, which engages in ministry with inner-city children, youth and their families.

“I was allowed to preach, teach and lead in outreach ministries one summer in one of the largest churches in the Kentucky Conference,” she said. “During that time, I realized I enjoyed and excelled in working with marginalized populations. I served in ministry known as Good News Live, which served a weekly meal, had a short devotional service and ran a food pantry.”

“When I first read about the certificate in Engaging in Ministry with the Poor, I could not help but be drawn to MTSO,” she added. An English Scholar, Cummings believes MTSO provides what she seeks in a seminary: “an academic institution that is willing to challenge me, has a vibrant community and is inclusive.”


John Ma

Eager to serve a constant but evolving church

While earning his B.S. in business administration, John Ma became a leader in a community- and campus-focused church in the Ohio State University area, where he still serves. A recipient of the English Scholarship, he arrives at MTSO mindful of the many paths his ministry could take.

“I’m open and looking forward to serving full-time in a ministerial setting,” Ma said, “whether that’s becoming a counselor, an overseas missionary, an ordained minister, whatever it may be. Ultimately, I want to continue to serve the Lord, become a leader and raise leaders to serve the church and world.”

Ma is grateful for the “accommodating spirit” he has experienced at MTSO: “As I approach this new community, I hope to give back and to continue the relationships I’ll build here.”


Sasha Downey

Making the most of a gift of listening

Sasha Downey majored in psychology and religion at Otterbein University, where she minored in language and culture of the deaf community. Her college work was a natural fit for someone in whom others are comfortable confiding.

“When I first realized I had a gift and an ability to listen, I knew that I wanted to help others,” she said. “My goal in completing the Master of Arts in Counseling Ministries degree is to become a clinical counselor and, eventually, a health psychologist.”

A recipient of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation Scholarship, Downey has tutored children and worked with WARM, an organization that offers counseling, job placement and food to those in need.

“My greatest wish is to make an impact on the lives of the people I come into contact with,” she said, “and to not only help but give them the tools and ideas to make a positive difference in how they live.”


Jessica Stonecypher

Searching leads her back to her heritage

“I was raised in the United Methodist Church,” said Jessica Stonecypher. “As a teen, I felt called to service, but I never really identified it until recently.” In the intervening years, she was shaped by invigorating mission trips, involvement in a number of different denominations and the process of earning a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in human development and family science, specializing in middle childhood development.

Eventually, it all led Stonecypher back to the United Methodist Church and the ministry inquiry process. She has chosen to enter the candidacy process and pursue an M.Div. degree at MTSO, where she has been awarded an Alford Scholarship.

“I was searching in so many places,” she said, “and it led me back to my spiritual heritage.”


Mark Rupp

Exploring God’s boundlessness

At Bluffton University, Kansan Mark Rupp began preparing for a career teaching music.

“Music education was something I enjoyed, but I always had a deep sense that I was missing out on something,” he said. “During my sophomore year, I decided to switch my major to music with a concentration in ministry.”

Rupp, a member of the Disciples of Christ, has been awarded the Rice Scholarship. He enters his first semester with both general and specific goals for ministry.

“While my goal is to become a voice for reconciliation between the church and those of differing sexual orientations, I understand that to reach this goal I need a deep and broad base of knowledge in scripture, theology, ethics, ministry and many other subjects,” he said. “My hope is to fully prepare for all aspects of ministry by exploring the boundlessness of God.”