While students who attend Christian colleges and universities are studying subjects that will help develop their careers, they are also defining who they are and their place in the world. By the time they graduate, they are armed with a strong foundation in both knowledge and values. From pastor to poet to attorney, they contribute in a changing world.
Sam Bretzmann, Concordia University Irvine
Committed to a life of service since college, Sam has traveled the world not only spreading the word of God, but also following in Christ’s footsteps.
Growing up in Lisbon, Wisconsin, Sam says he never got in much trouble in Lake County Lutheran High School, “other than a few speeding tickets,” he says impishly. He played football, basketball, and ran track. Outside of school, he was mostly into video games and hanging out with girls. He can’t help but smile when he thinks about how his life has changed. At home his parents were supportive, but always left decisions up to him.
Sam says his dream was to play football for the Green Bay Packers, and if that didn’t work out (which it didn’t), he wanted to go to college and start a career in business. He began college at Marquette University but transferred to Concordia University Irvine (CUI), in Irvine, California his junior year.
He chose CUI because he was looking to change majors. “I wanted to be a youth pastor,” he says. After visiting CUI, he knew the Lutheran university was the place for him to be.
At CUI, Sam was active in a number of service projects, at home and abroad. “I first started traveling when I was at Concordia, and in the past three years I have been to 17 different countries,” he says. The most memorable of these service activities was leading a homeless outreach twice a week and developing friendships with the clients.
He says his most meaningful experience at Concordia was starting a charity. “It more or less fell into our laps, which sounds odd, but it’s true,” Sam says. “I was in East Africa with Professor Adams Lee and some friends from Concordia, and I think we were all tired of hearing people talk about Jesus but not do anything about Him. It doesn’t really do anybody any good if you can only recite, ‘feed those who are hungry,’ but don’t actually go and feed any hungry people.
“So, we found ourselves in a slum in Kenya hanging out with a bunch of homeless kids. We liked one of them a lot and decided that we would each put in a little bit of money so that he could go back to school.”
When they returned to CUI, other students joined and soon the charity Fikisha—Swahili for “to enable to reach”—was born. (The kids they met in Kenya chose the name!)
Following graduation in 2010, Sam became Executive Director of Fikisha, with the charity working to move kids from the street back to school and encourage them to participate in community projects.
In the future Sam, plans to move to Singapore with his wife and join Young Life, helping students at international schools train local people in youth ministry.
Hosanna Wong, Hope International University
A word poet and a devout Christian, Wong (who is commonly called Wong rather than Hosanna), has committed her life to spreading the Gospel through her poetry.
Wong says life was hard growing up, but she wouldn’t have had it any other way. “We had shootings, fights, kidnappings, and terrible assaults [happening] around us on the streets. On top of that, my dad was very ill my whole life, and that never got easier. But I can’t say I’d rather have grown up any other way. The importance of the Gospel above all else, and the perseverance to keep reaching lost souls no matter what, was instilled in me from the day I
Wong grew up in San Francisco, California. She says the various cultures and art forms shaped her world-view, and the city’s hippies and beatniks who were part of her roots were “quite a blessing.”
In high school Wong played basketball, wrote for the school newspaper, and because of her interest in spoken word, or “slam,” poetry, often performed at “open mics” in the Bay Area.
Religion also played a huge role in her choice of Hope International University in Fullerton, California. “I come from a very liberal city where many views are stated and respected. In the same vein, I wanted a college that would not just shove one way of thinking down my throat, but—like my city—would provide an array of intelligent schools of thought. I wanted to attend a college that would teach me how to think, not what to think.”
Soon after arriving at HIU as an undeclared student, Wong met with her academic advisor, who was a bit dismayed by the disparity in her test scores: while she scored 100 on her English compass score, she only got an eight on the math compass score. “He said he had never seen anything so ridiculous before and that maybe I should consider a degree [using] words since that was clearly my strength.” She took his advice and chose English literature as her major.
Wong says the best quality of HIU is that it wasn’t big enough to get lost in nor was it small enough to feel trapped. HIU, she says, is the perfect place to form a family, to be “somebody,” to lead or be part of a movement.
She loved being in classes with word-lovers, thinkers, and dreamers. And she found performing outside of class with other word poets and artists during her junior and senior years especially exciting.
When she went to China to teach English through poetry the summer of her junior year, her friends threw her a huge going-away party. “That party just sort of symbolizes all the many times the community at HIU went above and beyond to support me. Also, it was a ton of fun.”
Since graduation in 2011, Wong has been performing at churches across the country and also at a summer camp in Arizona, spreading the word of the Gospel in poetry.
Inti (Chori) Martinez Alemán, Houghton College
A native of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Chori believes his faith led him to Houghton College in Houghton, New York.
In high school, Chori was involved in all sorts of activities, including being student council president, yearbook editor-in-chief, and a national science fair winner. He adds that while he was very busy in high school, he never missed a family event. “My mother wouldn’t have been too happy,” he says.
After graduating, Chori explored his dream of attending college in the United States. Since he came from a large city with a tropical climate, he found the prospect of going to a college in a small town “in the middle of nowhere” where he would experience the opposite surroundings quite appealing. Houghton College fit the bill perfectly, and it became his home away from home.
Although religion didn’t initially play a major role in his decision, he now thinks that “God brought him to Houghton for a reason. It was while I was at Houghton that I found out God really wanted me to be there; this strengthened both my faith and my commitment to help make the world a better place.”
Being part of Homeless Awareness Week at Houghton also strengthened his faith. He and his fellow participants slept on steps and sidewalks, eating only what classmates and faculty gave them. The entire week was rough, he says, and the cold weather was a particular problem, but the experience gave him a new appreciation for all the material
and non-material things.
Since Chori came from a very traditional culture, he feels Houghton broadened his view of what it means to be a Christian. He came to realize “it did not matter if you were a punk or a head-banger, a Mennonite or a non-denominational, as long as you loved and served Christ.”
During his years at Houghton, Chori was also busy with numerous activities outside the classroom. “I was involved in half a dozen committees, ranging from the judiciary committee to the diversity committee. I was also a firefighter at the local Houghton Volunteer Fire Department,” he says. “But I kept a proper balance with my academic work.”
Chori says Houghton is for those who want to be challenged. “You don’t learn to think outside the box; you remove the box altogether!” When he returned to Honduras in 2007, the rigor of his education at Houghton prepared him well for law school at Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana.
On a sad note, his mother, a prominent attorney with a special interest in minority rights, was assassinated two years ago. The case remains unresolved.
Currently, Chori is a legal assistant to President Porfirio Lobo Sosa’s chief of staff, principally involved with investment projects through the Public-Private Partnership Commission. He also does private litigation and pro bono work.