Students

Right at home in Reno

When Pastor Mike Stewart decided to spring for a Master of Divinity degree, he knew he couldn’t look far from home. The 43-year-old’s roots had burrowed into Reno, Nev. — and into the church he and his wife planted 10 years ago.

So when Stewart discovered Multnomah’s Reno-Tahoe campus, he was delighted. “I love the convenience of experiencing world-class education 15 minutes from my office,” he says. “With my family being planted in Reno, an accredited resource like Multnomah is a God-send.”

'Equipped to minister'

MU’s presence in Reno-Tahoe was a long time in the making. Conversations began more than 15 years ago when several church and business leaders from northern Nevada approached Multnomah about the possibility of creating a Bible college in Reno.

“Many of our young people were leaving Reno for their college education,” says Dean of Students Tony Slavin. “But then they would never return to Nevada. We needed a place where they could be equipped to minister in the church here.”

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Director of Reno-Tahoe John McKendricks and Dean of Students Tony Slavin.

'Filling a role no one else is filling'

In 2008, MU’s board of trustees approved a recommendation to merge with a little school in Reno called Meadows Bible Institute. After the board at Meadows accepted, both institutions negotiated an agreement that would transfer all Meadow’s assets to Multnomah. Under the direction of former president Daniel Lockwood, the agreement was signed that summer, and the first accredited biblical university in Nevada was born.

“We’re filling a role that no one else is filling,” says Director John McKendricks. “And we’re maintaining connections with the broader faith community.”

Slavin agrees. “What’s going on in the classroom is inseparable with what’s happening in local churches,” he says. “Students are gaining a hands-on approach to ministry from well-educated pastors.”

'A strong biblical foundation'

One of those students is Alina Bjerre, a 25-year-old kindergarten teacher earning her Bible and theology degree. Like Stewart, Bjerre has deep roots in Reno and wanted an education close to home.  Multnomah was the perfect fit. “I was so excited about what I would learn here,” she says. “I see value in getting this degree. We should all have a strong biblical foundation.”

Bjerre is building that foundation with the help of some talented and caring faculty. “The professors are fascinating to listen to and passionate about what they teach,” she says. “And they’re so personable — I feel like I can talk to them about anything.”

But what stands out to Bjerre the most is the unique community Multnomah attracts. “People come here with different interpretations, but we all love Jesus,” she says.

'Diversity within our unity'

Slavin feels the same way. “We have amazing students spanning across all ages and representing 17 denominations,” he explains. “MU creates an atmosphere that encourages diversity within our unity. These students have become my family and friends and co-learners. We teach them how to study and how to think, but not what to believe.”

That’s something Stewart has greatly appreciated. “There's a grounded, practical feel to the classes and intended outcomes at Multnomah,” he says. “I've been able to connect so much of what I’ve learned to the church I pastor. MU also provides a place for students to gather in a neutral environment for fellowship and discussion. My education has been valuable, but the relationships I’ve developed have been invaluable.”

Learn more about Multnomah Reno-Tahoe.

MA in TESOL graduate Bernie Bernardo: Representing the Master Teacher

No Comments » Written on February 25th, 2015 by
Categories: Students

Bernie Bernardo, an English instructor at Portland Community College and Columbia School of English, says MU’s MA in TESOL program didn't just teach him practical methodologies — it taught him to own an uncompromising faith.

“At Multnomah, you learn how to become a teacher who represents our Master Teacher,” he says. Read Bernie's story.

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Striking the right chord: Music program brings students, listeners closer to God

No Comments » Written on February 16th, 2015 by
Categories: Students

MU's music program equips students — musically and spiritually — for effective worship and ministry in any setting. By combining studies in Bible, theology and ministry with classes in musical training, knowledge and practice, the Music Department prepares graduates for leadership in churches, arts productions, parachurch organizations and community arts organizations. Graduates are teaching music, leading bands and recording albums.

Music majors are given access to private lessons, practice rooms and a fully-equipped professional recording studio. They also get plenty of one-on-one discipleship with professors. Wendy Contreras credits Music Director Stan Campbell with helping her see the point of making music: bringing people back to God. “I saw how the Lord used my music to touch people,” she says. “When I realized that he’d given me this gift, I wanted to be responsible with it. Multnomah’s music program is great for people who want to speak of the Lord in the art they create.”

 Learn more about MU's music program.

MU’s Torah unrolls new learning opportunities for students

Thursday dawned wet and dreary, but it might as well have been Christmas for MU’s Hebrew department. As soon as people filed into the JCA Student Center that morning, they saw the reason: A 16th-century Torah scroll lay partially unfurled on stage, offering the crowd an enticing glimpse into the rich history of biblical transmission work.

MU president Dr. Craig Williford commenced the Torah Dedication Chapel by introducing the donors, Ken and Barbara Larson, who had flown in from Florida that morning.

“We can feel your enthusiasm in the air,” said Barbara Larson. “We’ve been impressed by your faculty and students, and we’re excited for what this Torah will do for the school.”

The scroll, which is durable enough to be used frequently for decades to come, will provide countless learning opportunities for MU students.

“We intend to use the scroll as an object of study in and of itself,” said Biblical Languages Chair and Hebrew professor Dr. Karl Kutz. “We can learn about scribal work, the transcription process and more.”

MacKenzie Williams and Chad Woodward are two students who will benefit from using the Torah, and they expressed their gratitude to the Larsons during the dedication.

“Thank you for this opportunity to grow as a Hebrew community,” said Williams. “This means a great deal to me.”

The gift means a great deal to Kutz as well.

“You can imagine I’ve been anticipating this moment for some time,” he told the crowd. The scroll, he said, represents many things: history, centuries of faithful copying, transmission work, and the enduring faith of God’s people. But most importantly, he noted, it represents an appeal. “This Torah is an invitation to a relationship with the living God…an invitation to me and you,” he said.

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Colloquium attendants encircled the room as the scroll was fully unfurled for the first time. View the full photo album on Facebook.

After the dedication chapel, the scroll was swaddled in cloth, tucked into a padded suitcase and transported to Bradley Hall for a colloquium with Ancient Manuscripts Expert Dr. Scott Carroll.

Four long tables, each draped with a black tablecloth, lined the stage. As the Torah was carefully unrolled, it crackled and popped, creating stiff waves along the tabletops.

The 89-foot scroll, Carroll said, was composed somewhere in Eastern Europe during the Reformation. Constructing the parchment for such a Torah is no small feat — the artifact is comprised of 50 calf skins.Vegetable components were used for ink and goose feathers for writing. It took a scribe an entire year to create the manuscript. 

“If this Torah could talk to us, imagine what it could say and what it’s seen,” said Carroll. “It was preserved through the Enlightenment and the Holocaust. Through a wonderful turn of Providence, it’s in your community now.”

Listeners were invited on stage to get a firsthand look. Some gently touched the scroll's edges — smooth on top, suede on bottom. Others bent over the relic, iPhones poised. A few scanned the impeccably centered lines of text, their eyes searching for familiar passages.

Carroll then asked everyone to encircle the room so the scroll could be completely unfurled, a scene you might witness in some synagogues during the Jewish festival Simchat Torah. Young and old, seasoned Hebrew scholars and novices alike held the Torah together. It was the first time the scroll had ever been fully unraveled.

Hebrew student Thomas Belcastro was euphoric. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “When I came to Multnomah, I didn’t expect I’d ever be holding a 600-year-old scroll. I actually get to study it on Monday.” 

MU’s annual Global Ministries Conference Spotlights International Impact of Storytelling

No Comments » Written on February 5th, 2015 by
Categories: Events, Students

GMC2015_blogStories are found in all the nooks and crannies of the globe. They burst upon wrinkled faces, sparkle through aged eyes, are crusted upon worn-out sneakers, tucked into treasure-boxes, worked into the cracks in the gravestone, and are told and retold with increasing fervor. Life itself is embedded in story, and each individual bears the marks of it.

That's why we graced this year's Global Ministries Conference with the theme of storytelling. The 75th annual event, which runs from February 24–26, will emphasize the overarching narrative of God's worldwide redemption and our roles as believers within his story.We'll be exploring this theme through workshops, plenary sessions, evening activities, prayer hours and conversations. We'll also be bringing our students' stories into the event through an open mic evening with Spoken Word artist Micah Bournes, an international worship night, and a Snack Chat featuring students who have served overseas.

Dr. Greg Burch, intercultural studies department chair, hopes the GMC will encourage more students to share their stories and ultimately the greatest story of all — the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. “When you share stories, people listen,” he says. “Storytelling is a powerful means of communicating the Gospel around the world. A deep passion to see people reconciled to their Creator and profoundly restored is in Multnomah’s DNA.”

That’s why this conference has always fit well into the fabric of MU's mission. It provides an array of opportunities for volunteer work and encourages a readiness to serve. Classes are cancelled for three days while students speak with missionaries and connect with agencies that interest them. Even those who don't feel called to full-time mission work will cultivate a global focus and discover ways to enter the stories of local organizations that need their time and talents.

Stories can't be resisted, and that is why God chose to woo his world through a story which required him to enter it himself. It cost him to write his masterpiece, and yet he did it anyway. This year's GMC will simply be a celebration of the way he has worked the same theme into people of all walks of life. And we will rejoice together because he never leaves his stanzas unfinished.

About the author

Olivia Morud is a senior English major at Multnomah University who’s helping organize the annual conference. This is her second year volunteering at the GMC.

More about the GMC

MU is celebrating the donation of a rare Torah scroll — and you’re invited

Comments Off Written on January 27th, 2015 by
Categories: Chapel, Events, Students

When students arrive for chapel on February 5, they’ll know something different is about to happen. The lights in the Student Center will dim, accentuating a brightly-lit stage dominated by an 89-foot-long scroll. The crowd will be peppered with new faces: members of Portland’s Jewish community, local Hebrew professors, pastors, university presidents, board members and Multnomah alumni. Everyone will be there for one reason: celebrating the official dedication of a rare Torah.

Influencing future scholars

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Multnomah is one out of 40 seminaries nationwide receiving a Torah from Ken and Barbara Larson.

The Torah, a parchment scroll on which the first five books of the Old Testament were written, is more than four centuries old and was likely used in a synagogue in eastern Europe.

Last fall, Ken and Barbara Larson, who collect ancient manuscripts, announced their decision to gift the valuable artifact to Multnomah Biblical Seminary. The Larsons purchased several scrolls, all of which are hundreds of years old, in Israel. Multnomah is one out of 40 seminaries nationwide receiving a Torah from the couple.

Ancient Asset Investments, a brokerage firm dealing in rare biblical artifacts, has been assisting the Larsons with the donation process. Todd Hillard, the firm’s owner, said his clients had a vision for placing the Torahs in leading seminaries. “They have a deep passion for seminary education, and they want history to influence future scholars,” he said.

‘A testament to Multnomah’s commitment to the Scriptures’

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Hebrew student Daniel Somboonsiri will be reading from the Torah scroll during the dedication chapel.

Multnomah’s scholars are already bubbling with enthusiasm over the generous gift. “The students are very excited,” said Biblical Languages Chair and Hebrew professor Dr. Karl Kutz. “It feels like we’re participating in a piece of history. When you’re reading from a scroll that someone read from 400 years ago, that’s pretty cool.”

Students will begin reading the scroll at the Torah dedication. After University President Dr. Craig Williford and the Larsons share a few words, Hebrew students Becca McMartin and Daniel Somboonsiri will read from the scroll out loud. Dr. Kutz will close the ceremony by giving a message from Psalm 19, where David wrote about the central importance of God's Word in our lives.

“Receiving this scroll is a testament to Multnomah’s commitment to the Scriptures,” said Kutz. “It’s a pretty significant object.”

And although that object is more than four centuries old, it’s durable enough to be used frequently for decades to come.

“We intend to use the scroll as an object of study in and of itself,” said Kutz. The document has corrections made by scribes, which opens doors to many more unique learning opportunities. “We can learn about scribal work, the transcription process and more,” he said.

Making history tangible

Dr. Kutz and students analyze a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Dr. Kutz and students analyze a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Following the dedication chapel at 10 a.m., an expert in ancient manuscripts will lead a colloquium* at 11 a.m. in B1. Listeners will be treated to the full history of MU’s scroll and even get to handle the document themselves. The session will conclude at noon.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity for our students to interact with another historical manuscript,” said Kutz, who headed two Dead Sea Scrolls projects at MU in 2013 and 2014. While he admits students can feel disconnected when delving into the intricacies of how the Scriptures of yesterday became the Bible of today, he’s confident the scroll will help bridge the gap. “The Torah takes the history of the biblical text from an abstract expression to something tangible,” he said.

Event details

Everyone is invited to attend the special chapel at 10 a.m. in the Joseph C. Aldrich Student Center and the colloquium* at 11 a.m. in B1. If you would like to RSVP or ask questions about these events, contact Joy Kruger at 503-251-5361 or joykruger@multnomah.edu.

*A conference at which a scholar or expert presents papers on, analyzes and discusses a specific topic.

DCP student Michael Watson: ‘This program is above and beyond what I expected’

Comments Off Written on January 22nd, 2015 by
Categories: Press Releases, Students

For Michael Watson, the reason for returning to college was simple. “I want to finish my degree before I’m 30,” he says. But once he began his classes, the biblical foundations major realized he was going to learn more than he ever imagined.

“The Degree Completion Program has been above and beyond what I expected,” he says. “It’s incredible how relevant everything is.” Read Michael's story.

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Executive director and DCP alumna Gayle Fidanzo: ‘I wouldn’t be the leader I am without MU’

Comments Off Written on January 12th, 2015 by
Categories: Alumni, Students

When Gayle Fidanzo was offered a job at Christian Family Adoptions, she was reluctant to accept.

“We all want the desires of our heart — but I didn’t know my heart yet,” says the leadership and ministry major. The DCP graduate dreamed of taking risks, working overseas and rescuing women from slavery. “I thought an adoption agency would be boring,” she says.

It was quite the opposite. Read Gayle's story.

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Fall graduates look to the future with confidence

Comments Off Written on December 12th, 2014 by
Categories: Events, Students

Last week, Multnomah students walked across the stage of Central Bible Church as part of our fall graduation ceremony. Among the group of participants were Wendy Contreras, Quincy Robinson and Ruben Alvarado — three students who have grown to embody the biblical wisdom, resilient character and infectious servants’ hearts that set our alumni apart.

wendy_thumb'This is what I was created to do'

Wendy Contreras was insecure about pursuing music until she began a private class with MU’s voice instructor, who recognized her rich potential. “She made me see that I needed to pursue singing and never give up,” says the music ministry major. “I saw how the Lord used my music to touch people. When I knew he’d given me this gift, I wanted to be responsible with it.” Now Contreras is performing at events and recording an album with her worship pastor. “God has been opening doors for me everywhere,” she says. “This is what I was created to do.” Read Contreras' full story.

quincy_main'A foundation for my future'

Quincy Robinson has mastered the skills he needs to climb the academic ladder. The Hebrew major dreams of teaching Epistemology and Math at Stanford or Oxford. “What lies ahead for me is going to be easier because I’ve been doing graduate-level work at the undergrad level,” he says. Now Robinson is enrolling at Portland State University to earn his master’s in mathematics. “A degree from MU is a foundation for my future,” he says. “This school is an amazing place to push you forward.” Read Robinson's full story.

'The professors learn right alongside you'

MU’s emphasis on strong student-faculty connections made a meaningful impression on M.Div. student Ruben Alvarado. “No matter how experienced the professors are, they’re still vulnerable enough to learn right alongside you,” he says. “They give their students opportunities to write with them, serve with them, study with them and travel with them.” ruben_mainAlvarado recently began a job as executive assistant for Rick McKinley, MU professor and lead pastor at Imago Dei Community. “I'm excited to learn from and work with Rick,” Alvarado says. “The education I received — as well as the experiences I’ve had at MU as a teacher’s assistant, tutor and student leader — have prepared me to step confidently into this new stage of my life.” Read Alvarado's full story.

Walking confidently into new stages of life is exactly what all our graduates are doing, and we couldn’t be more proud of them.

Geneva Arnold: Finding a balance in Reno-Tahoe

Comments Off Written on December 1st, 2014 by
Categories: Press Releases, Seminary, Students

I’m too old. I don’t like school. It’s too much money. Geneva Arnold thought 2aup several excuses when she felt a pull toward seminary. “I’d had no vision for nine months,” she says. “But one day I was praying, and God told me to get a ministerial degree.”

Arnold was appalled. She came up with every reason not to go. Finally, thinking she’d found a way out, she decided to cut a deal. “I told God, ‘If you want me to go, then my husband has to be on board,’” she says. But when she told him, he surprised her. “Of course,” he said. “What else would you do?” And that was that. Arnold was going to seminary.

After spending the next four years earning her bachelor’s degree at local colleges, the time came to look for a seminary. Arnold was struck by the polar opposites she encountered. “There were some seminaries that made me wonder if they were Christian at all, while others were rigid and patriarchal,” she says. “When I settled in at MU, I found a balance. It has a good, scholarly environment that’s challenging. At the same time, there’s openness to innovation.”

Arnold was the first woman to attend the seminary at MU’s Reno-Tahoe campus. But rather than feel intimidated, she was empowered by the academic quality and close-knit community she found. “I felt respected in all the classes,” she says. “I’m impressed by the quality of the professors; they’re knowledgeable, and they sincerely love the Lord and the spiritual formation of their students. That is meaningful to me.”

Three years deep into the M.Div. program, Arnold is appreciating the depth of study she’s investing in the Scriptures. “I’m a better student of God’s Word,” she says. “I know how to read it better, ask questions of the text, mine out what God is saying and see it as an integrated whole. I loved the Bible before, but now I have expertise, confidence and the tools to find meaning and communicate it.”

But is biblical expertise important in a world that constantly questions the value of a seminary education? Arnold, who’s been attending churches for the past 30 years, says yes. “I do see a difference,” she says. “None of the pastors at the churches I attended had seminary degrees. I grew spiritually, but there was also damage, setbacks, mishandling and misunderstandings. None of those churches remain today. Those problems would have been settled if their leaders had a well-rounded education. They had the passion — but not the knowledge and wisdom.”

Although Arnold isn’t sure where God will lead her after graduation, she plans on diving into Christian conference and seminar work so she can travel nationally and internationally for speaking engagements. Wherever she ends up going, she’s confident that her education will have thoroughly equipped her for her calling. “You have to have something of everything,” she says. “And a seminary education gives people the broad-based education that they need for ministry today.”