Written by Rebekah Badal
“As we continue to help students feel that they belong, I want them to start recognizing who they are becoming: we become more like Christ every single day,” says VP of Student Life Mark Muha.
For the past 125 years, Trinity International University has fulfilled its mission to prepare students to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, who engage in a Christian culture, lead others, learn, and work in the marketplace and ministry as Christ-followers by providing a gospel-centered education.
God’s faithfulness toward this school is shown through the energy, care, challenges, and endeavors that the staff and professors have poured out to teach students the process of becoming like Christ and the value of Christ-honoring education through a posture of worship.
MORE THAN A DEGREE
“Christian education is the process of becoming,” said David Nonnemacher, an adjunct professor at TIU who mainly teaches One Mission Many Stories (IDS 180).
When he was a Ph.D. student, Nonnemacher found himself constantly sitting at a desk. After years of repetition, he began to feel his studies draining him of the passion once felt at the start. Then, he realized his desk was his altar. At that moment in his life, it was where he was supposed to be. Academia opened the door for worship—work done for the glorification of God.
“We answer the question of what education means in light of who God is and who we are.”
At Trinity, each degree and subject helps students grow spiritually. Education can be a part of students’ sanctification. At non-Christian universities, students are taught how much income is needed or how far they should go to succeed. As a Christian institution, on the other hand, Nonnemacher says that Trinity “largely views students as stewards with which to bless others, not just a resource we store for ourselves.”
As a professor, Nonnemacher learned that students often fall into the mindset of thinking, “I just want a degree, so I don’t have to romanticize this class.” In his class, Nonnemacher emphasizes that students don’t need a degree to be valuable. Their true value can be found in Christ.
“I think this class sets the stage for all the other classes at Trinity. In the IDS 180 class, One Mission Many Stories, all knowledge is God’s knowledge. What does that mean? We answer the question of what education means in light of who God is and who we are.” Whether it’s IDS 180, a math class, or a science lab, this question applies to all Trinity students.
BECOMING BIBLICALLY GROUNDED
Adjunct Professor of Music Charles King explains that his IDS 180 course is an introduction to Christian beliefs, and makes a case for the students. “My approach challenges the experience level of the class,” he said. “It’s clear when students are telling their story where they are at with their relationship with the Lord. I respect and honor where they are.”
Professor King presents students with an introduction to the Bible and asks them where they have issues with it. He compiles all their questions and discusses them. Whether the discussion topic is if Mary was a virgin or if the Bible supports slavery, King always guides his students to think for themselves on challenging topics.
“I try to tailor it so it’s personal and helps students become more engaged, not static,” he said.
One Mission Many Stories is not solely academic; it is a personal course that helps students become biblically grounded and learn from others.The stories they hear, whether they themselves are grounded in their faith, struggling with it, or still exploring what it means, will impact them.
PRAYING FOR STUDENTS
Art Appreciation instructor Jonghoon Park echoes the sentiments of his fellow professors. He says TIU’s beautiful Christian community makes the college unique. This, in turn, develops leaders while keeping prayer in its rightful place as a major priority in Christian discipleship. Park also explains that as part of his Art Appreciation class, he emphasizes the importance of the big picture as well as the significance of the church’s influence on art.
Education as worship applies not only to courses in Trinity’s Bible and Ministry department, but to all degrees. Whether education, business, biology, or mathematics, Professors must invest time and intention in demonstrating their faith so students can witness how a Christian worldview fits into the marketplace.
“I pray the Lord would give myself and my students wisdom.”
Education Department Director Professor Corapi puts it succinctly, saying: “I am taking the everyday happenings in my classroom and I am bringing them to God. I am praying for my students. I am working off a theology that they are imago dei, so my treatment intentionally places value on them, their thoughts, and their actions.”
Professor Corapi takes time during ordinary, everyday moments to show her students how valuable they are to God’s mission. Her hope is that when they enter the educational system, they will show that same love and care to their students, carrying out an act of worship.
Professor Bialek, a mathematics professor, says, “I can explain math in class, but unless the Lord enables students to understand, my speaking is in vain. To be honest, I don’t always recognize this. As teachers, we are utterly dependent on the Lord. That’s why in my opening prayer for each class, I pray the Lord would give myself and my students’ wisdom.”
Students, too, cannot solve a math problem, finish a lab, or write the English paper that was due yesterday without depending on the Lord. They must posture themselves in worship as they continue their educational walk.
FAITH IN ATHLETICS
These are just a few of the professors who spend their time and energy implementing faith and worship into their classrooms at Trinity International University. Students spend a great deal of time sitting in the classroom listening, learning, and growing in skill and, as we saw with Nonnemacher, the journey can take its toll. Acknowledgment and reassurance from professors that students are valuable is a great comfort and a reminder that higher education glorifies God’s faithfulness.
Another area of worship is the athletic department’s work. Trinity coaches prioritize their athletes’ value and identity in Christ. Along with other TIU coaches, Coach Courtney Peay, MDiv, focuses on church development and leads weekly Bible studies and team devotionals. She has been here for three seasons and is the head coach for the TIU Women’s Basketball team.
“when we learn from a vertical, God-oriented mindset, it changes our perspective.”
“I read Scripture and the Holy Spirit leads me,” she said. She reminds the women on the team that they are valuable despite the fact that “society does a great job showing we are not. I also have a lot of women of color who are already in the minority as a woman. And as 17-20-year-olds, they don’t know who they are yet,” she said. Coach Peay pressed on showing these valuable women how to trust God and that it will be the best decision they will ever make.
“We learn from horizontal love –those around us– but when we learn from a vertical, God-oriented mindset, it changes our perspective,” she said. She teaches her athletes how to open their hearts and how, although they can be frustrated with Jesus, his love does not go anywhere. As a coach, she is laying down a faith-based foundation, offering encouragement, and being mindful of where these various women have come from.
SEEING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
Personally, I have attended Trinity International University for two semesters now, and I have continually seen God’s unrelenting faithfulness. Whether I am drinking too much caffeine as I study Spanish at my desk, writing a paper, or working on a group project, I am aspiring my education towards Christ as worship. Giving up your desk as an altar can relieve your frustrations toward both God and yourself. Education is a posture of worship as you believe God is faithful to you.
Professors here continually invest in students, hold them accountable, and treat them as more valuable than just a degree. Trinity International University helps students in their walk with the Lord and has been doing so for the past 125 years, incredibly showing that education is worship.