MTSO’s students, in their own words

Here are the profiles of six promising new MTSO students, featuring quotes from their admissions essays.

Choosing ministry over engineering

Born in Veracruz, Mexico, Miguel Rodríguez Cornejo served regularly at his church throughout his youth. “But I needed more,” he said. “I also wanted to go out there and give food to the homeless, hug the children with no parents, help the immigrants. I wanted to show everyone God’s love.”

At 19, he was studying engineering at a university “but wasn´t sure if that was the will of God. Then I got sure it was not.”

A good friend invited Rodríguez Cornejo to an event at the seminary the friend was attending. “I do not have the right words to express how those two days were, but they felt like it was just a moment between God and me,” he said. He was soon pursuing an undergraduate degree at the Seminario Metodista Juan Wesley in the city of Monterrey.

Now Rodríguez Cornejo has brought a deep love of learning to MTSO’s Master of Divinity program, and he looks forward to the ways it will enhance his ministry.

“In Monterrey where I live, there is much need,” he said. “There are many immigrants and homeless that need a hand, a hug, a plate of food, a cup of water. Having this master’s degree will help me to make better decisions and make a team of people with the passion for loving God and people that can create better strategies to help those in need.”

Advancing from Course of Study to M.Div.

In 2015, Kayla Grehl participated in the Young Generational Preachers Festival at the Indiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. While at the conference, she attended the commissioning and ordination service, where Bishop Michael Coyner invited the congregation to consider ministry.

Grehl accepted. By 2016, she was serving as a licensed local pastor and looking into seminary, though the schools she initially considered “did not seem to be the right fit for me.” A mentor shared advice that stuck with her: “You have time, Kayla. Do not go where you are comfortable. Go where you will be stretched. It will make all the difference.”

Grehl began a full-time church appointment in 2018 and enrolled in the Course of Study School of Ohio, a United Methodist program for licensed local pastors hosted by MTSO. “The first weekend on campus, I expected to be nervous, but I was not! The seminary felt right, and I felt at peace. Since that first class in the fall of 2018, I have continued to fall in love with MTSO, the school and the faculty.” She realized she had found the place to pursue a Master of Divinity degree.

MTSO, she said, “has indeed been the place where I have been stretched, and it has been the place where I have been able to discern that my calling is to continue beyond my initial path of licensed local pastor. I am called to work toward ordination.”

Advocating for the women of Kenya

Maureen Mulievi holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology. She has a clear goal in pursuing additional degrees – the Master of Divinity and the MA in Social Justice – at MTSO: “It is my desire to acquire knowledge in social justice which can be applied in church ministry and empowering the society at large.”

Mulievi is especially driven to advocate for women, who often suffer under patriarchal laws in her native Kenya.

“In African society, women are discriminated against in matters of decision making and property ownership,” she said. “Simple household decisions like the number of children to be sired and matters to do with conjugal rights are deemed to be the preserve of men.”

While her country’s constitution forbids sex discrimination, “those who are tasked with the responsibility of enforcing the law are not following through.”

“It is against this background that I have a burning desire to pursue a course that can make me empowered in matters to do with social justice,” Mulievi said. “This will enable me to come up with programs tailored towards empowering the needy.”

“I will be happy to graduate and return to my motherland, where I will enthusiastically apply this knowledge. The African adage goes, ‘When you educate a girl, you have educated an entire nation; when you empower a woman, you have empowered an entire household.’”

Seeking a D.Min. after an academic reawakening

After an often difficult college experience, Damon Nabrit rediscovered his love for learning in earning a Master of Divinity Degree from MTSO. Now he returns to seek a Doctor of Ministry degree with a specialization in Ecology and Justice Ministry.

“My reintroduction to academia has been a wondrous reawakening that has rekindled my joy in research and profound theological dialogue, especially between those who have very different lived experiences than me,” he said. “This type of dialogue requires humility and respect for the other that has been at odds with more fundamentalist views within many faith traditions, particularly Christianity.”

“I believe that Christians should seek opportunities to reach out and embrace those who are different from us to show them that the love of Christ is not reserved for Christians but is a love of and for all humanity.”

Nabrit has worked to spread love and knowledge within and beyond church walls.

“Since 2014, I have been deeply involved in a justice and ecology ministry setting at my church and the Columbus community,” he said. “We work with young people, particularly youth of color, and help reconnect them with the natural environment around them through science and agriculture work in garden and farm settings.”

“I want to continue exploring ways of restoring the cultural and ancestral relationship between the land we occupy, the food we eat and our faith.”

Aspiring to be a better preacher and mentor

Derrick Jackson begins seminary after decades of service to his church and community. Raised by parents who grew up in Baptist and Methodist churches, he was active in the church early, though his faith declined during his high school years. In 1991, at the age of 23, he made a “recommitment to an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ” and became involved in various ministries within his local Baptist church.

Jackson spent two years working in the juvenile justice field – an experience that “provided an opportunity to model Christianity to youth that had been rejected by family and society” – before accepting a paid position in his church.

As church administrator and first assistant pastor, his duties included human resources administration, facilities management, teaching and preaching. In 2008, Jackson became the founding lead pastor of a newly planted church.

“My experiences as a lead pastor exposed the need and deepened my desire to complete a seminary education,” he said. “Although I have experienced significant spiritual growth and development personally and ministerially, I believe greater growth can occur through seminary.”

Jackson is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree with a specialization in Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

“I aim to become a better Christian, a better servant leader, a better theologian, a better preacher and a better mentor,” he said. “I expect my faith and worldviews to be challenged and further biblically shaped by my experiences at MTSO.”

Fighting social injustice in India

When Veni Panneerselvam was 14 years old, she faced a family situation in her native India that led her to consider quitting school: “I sought the help of the Lord and prayed over this.”

She received “an answer from God” in the words of her pastor, Jebason John Paul – who is now a third-year Master of Divinity student at MTSO. He convinced her of the importance of education, and she has since earned a Bachelor of Theology degree from Antioch Biblical Seminary & College in the city of Pondicherry.

Veni comes to MTSO from the city of Tiruvannamalai, where she aspires to work with those who suffer from poverty, drug abuse, casteism and other social ills, and hopes to eventually establish a seminary.

“The social justice aspect of an MTSO education would enable me to serve better among the oppressed people in my city,” Veni said. “This seminary could greatly empower me and help me to be a channel of blessing to many young and impoverished people in my native community in India.”

“Moreover, it could also strengthen me to fight social injustice, which is a crucial aspect in ministering among unfortunate and abused young girls. Following completion of my Master of Divinity degree, I hope to return to my ministerial position in Tiruvannamalai with a renewed strength and empowerment to handle the difficulties that ministering at this location includes.”