When did you attend Montreat College and what did you study?
I came into Montreat in 2008 and graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. During my time there I was also in the outdoor education and outdoor ministry programs but finished with a degree in psychology.
What extracurricular activities or sports were you involved in?
I played volleyball my freshman year but because of being an outdoor education major I did not continue playing because of all the trips that we went on. Being an OE major, there were lots of hiking trips and outings that we did with classes and with student activities. I was an R.A. for two years of my time there and was involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)—I attended that quite regularly.
What was your favorite or most impactful extracurricular activity?
Probably the most impactful was being an RA—growing as a leader, being intentionally mentored by my Resident Director, Michelle Weeks, and just growing spiritually, growing in leadership, and growing in relationships with people. I’m a relational person, and being intentional in those relationships was huge in growing me as a person and in my confidence as a leader.
What is your favorite memory of Montreat College?
That’s a hard one. I was there for three years, and it was just such a memorable time. Probably the first thing that comes to mind is when Brad Daniel took us out on a field study in Linville Gorge in the fall, and it was unusually cold for that time of year. We were up at Wiseman’s Peak and then we went to Hawksbill and it started to snow while we were up on the top. We were prepared to hike and some of us had base layers and stuff, but we weren’t suited up for snow. We were freezing and we were just pushing along and hiking. But after that he took us to dinner at Famous Louise’s, which is in the Linville area, and we ended up in the top of the restaurant—it was almost like an attic space. They had no more space and we had this long table full of students. Dr. Daniel bought us all dinner because none of us came prepared. We were so cold and we all got coffee and hot chocolate. But what was memorable in that is that they had space heaters up there because there was no heat, but when we ran both heaters on either end of the table it would flip the breaker. So, we took turns of which end of the table had heat and we would do 15 minutes on one end and then 15 minutes on the other. It was just a memorable time of Dr. Daniel caring for us as his own. He was a father figure to many of us. That was just an experience where we were miserable, we were cold, but we were still loving what we were learning and we were still loving the people that we were with.
That was my favorite thing about being in the Outdoor Education department. We went through these hard experiences together but we came out as a family; we came out stronger. We just really learned from it, and not just learned the things that we were studying. We were learning the different plant species and their habitats, but we were also learning how to care for one another. We were learning how to be leaders, we were learning with whoever was struggling on the trail by helping them and making sure everyone had enough water and divvying up food and that kind of thing. It was a huge learning experience for me but also just a fun memory looking back on it as well.
How has attending Montreat as a student most impacted you now?
I think it’s probably come across in my answers already, but developing me as a leader and as a person who cares about people. It wasn’t just my academic degree, it wasn’t just the studies—that was a huge part of it—but just who you are as a person. I tell a lot of college students now, being in student ministry, that college is what you put into it. If you will try to make relationships with your faculty, with your professors, they’ll invest back. That was the biggest thing at Montreat: the adults, the faculty, the professors who stepped into my life, who saw a young adult wanting to know more but struggling at times, and pushing me to grow as a leader, to grow as a believer, and as a follower of Jesus.
And how does that interact with what you’re learning? How does that interact with who you are as a business person or just as an employee? I learned to show up every time and be faithful no matter where I was, no matter whether it was doing homework assignment or a volunteer opportunity or a major internship or applying and interviewing for a job that I really wanted. And so, I learned from Montreat how to be a person, how to be a leader, how to be an upstanding citizen—not in the sense of just not getting in trouble, but in the sense of how do we represent Christ in the world as people, as the church?
Now this is kind of going off topic a little bit but it sounds like Montreat had instilled a lot of just good life skills, good leadership skills. Did you know what it was specifically that you wanted to pursue when you were at Montreat as a student? Or did that happen after you left?
Some of that happened there and some of that happened after. I think sometimes as a college student you have your five-year plan and you come out and you hit life and you realize that your plans don’t always happen. And so, what I found out at Montreat was that I wanted to love God and love people, whatever that looked like. I was a psychology major and so counseling was a big part of it, but I also fell in love with the Word of God through the Bible classes that I was taking there. So, no, I didn’t know exactly. I came out saying, “I want to invest in people and God, wherever you put me I will invest in people whether that is on the mission field (which is what I left Montreat planning on pursuing), whether that is in a counseling office, whether that’s in a ministry.” And so vocationally, with a specific job, I left being open-handed and saying, “God whatever you have for me I’ll do it.” And I think that was huge in my time at Montreat. As far as a specific job when I came out, I learned what I was good at and what I was not good at and maybe the things I would want to pursue, but I didn’t have a specific path when I came out.
Okay, so tell us a little bit about that path. What has it looked like since you graduated from Montreat?
I graduated in 2011, and at that point, I felt like God was calling me to be a missionary. My first priority was to pay off student loans. I don’t have a ton for Montreat. I was actually able to attend Montreat cheaper than I could a state school because of the scholarships that I got; God just provided for me to be there. But I still wanted to pay that off. I didn’t want to go on the mission field with debt. In 2011, I began working at a coffee shop here in Black Mountain and just working and paying off loans and getting cross-cultural training, continuing to be mentored by professors and faculty at Montreat. I stayed in close connection with people on campus here and the professors. Dr. Brad Daniel, Melissa Wilson, Lauren Rayment, Michelle Weeks, who was the R.D., and Annie Carlson, who also worked at the college, were the major influences in my time there. Those were the ones that I stayed in touch with. They continued to invest in me. We would meet for coffee. I was just pursuing paying off loans and going on the mission field. In 2015, I went to China to work with university students who are Muslim, a minority group in China.
I went there and was there for six months working with students. I really loved the culture, loved the people, had a fantastic time, but ended up on an unhealthy team while there. I came back home off the mission field—I had planned to be there long term and just stayed for six months. When I came back I started working at Dynamite Roasting here in Black Mountain and quickly became the manager and stayed there for four years, which is what led me up to 2019. This year I was with Dynamite, managing employees, developing training curricula, working with the roasting facility, working to get our product out there, doing social media marketing with Dynamite. I was really all over the place. But in that time from my senior year at Montreat until now I was also working with the student ministry at Grace Community Church in Marion. And when I came back from China it was the same thing—I jumped right in. I knew that God was calling me to serve students. So, all along when I graduated from Montreat I stayed in the area because I needed to invest in the students.
I didn’t have a specific job but I knew God was telling me what church to be a part of and where to invest. I stayed with Grace throughout that time, which is why I got into the coffee industry. It paid the bills to do the ministry that I felt called to do, almost being a tentmaker like we see Paul do in Scripture. I continued working with student ministry. In 2017, I got involved in college ministry at Grace, which has now developed in the young adult ministry, and I lead in that. Just in March of 2019, I became the executive assistant at Grace Community Church, working with Pastor Jerry Lewis, who also has taught at Montreat and was continuing to work with students and young adults. We’ve developed a young adult worship night. We’ve also developed different things for the student ministry and continue to do social media and marketing for those ministries. It’s just been a joy to be involved in that church ever since my senior year at Montreat.
Do you know what your long term goal is? You talked about student ministry, you talked about student mission work. So do you know kind of what you want to continue to work towards?
In 2017 I started attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte. I am pursuing a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and my long term vision is that I am passionate about students, young adults, and particularly women knowing the Word of God. I feel like it is my path in life to get people past surface level and to really dig in and see what is God’s Word is saying and help them understand it. One potential area I’m looking at is maybe one day being a college professor. My college professors made a huge impact on me in that stage of life. So, if the door ever opened to teach at a university level or at a college level I would pursue that. But I ultimately want to pursue writing curricula for believers, for students, for women, to take them further into God’s Word. Right now at Gordon-Conwell I’m studying Greek. Hebrew will be up next so I’m really diving into Scripture and saying, “Okay, what does the original text look like? What does it say? Let’s get past the surface feelings of what do we feel, but what do we think, what do we know? How can we know more about God?”
Well that is exciting. So what pearls of wisdom would you offer other alumni of Montreat College?
Oh, I feel like I’m not adequate to give any pearls of wisdom. But one thing I have been blessed with is staying involved in and connected with Montreat College, with students. There is such a legacy there. There are such good things happening, but growth and students need more than just faculty, more than just professors. As the campus continues to grow, professors can only do but so much. They’re teaching, and so there’s a need for alumni to be involved and connected. At Grace, being close, I have the joy of being able to minister to the Montreat students who come to our church, who come to our young adult ministries. So especially if you’re in the area, I encourage alumni to be plugged in, to be connected. If you’re not in the area, support where you can, be connected where you can, whatever that looks like.
Really, I challenge and encourage alumni to remember what their college years were like and to come alongside college students whether they are coming to Montreat or they’re going somewhere else. If you’re in a church you most likely know college students. This is such a critical time in their lives. They’re asking “Who am I? What do I believe? Where am I going in life?” For mature believers to come alongside them is so critical. You don’t have to be called to college ministry to do that. You can just be anyone in the church to invite a college student into your home for lunch or for dinner or to come do laundry—wherever you’re at. So, for alumni to be connected to college students wherever you are is my challenge or encouragement.