Ruben Alvarado remembers when he told God “no.” The native Californian had been feeling a pull toward seminary, but he couldn’t bring himself to enroll. Higher education would demand countless hours of studying and class time, and Alvarado couldn't imagine fitting the obligation into life with his wife and son.
“I told God I couldn’t do it with my family,” he said. But he still felt God calling him. Half-heartedly, he began visiting seminaries. One in particular stood out to him. “Multnomah was the friendliest and the most inviting to families,” he says.
When Alvarado sat in on a class, he was impressed by how vulnerable the professor was. “He cared about his students beyond their grades — he cared about their spiritual wellbeing,” he says. “The faculty here really stood out to me.”
Alvarado’s family decided they would go for it. They packed their things and moved from California into campus housing. They have been thriving ever since. Both Alvarado and his wife landed part-time jobs at the university. Their home is only steps from the seminary. And they’re loving the vibrant neighborhood of believers they're a part of. “I’m living next to the people I study with,” Alvarado says. “Our kids play together. We’re all making life-long friends.”
'The professors give so much of themselves'
Alvarado had always loved studying God’s Word, but MU’s Masters in Divinity program gave him a heightened appreciation for the Scriptures. “I’m growing more and more in love with the Bible,” he says. “And I get to learn from men and women who have dedicated their lives to studying the Word; they’re a model we all can strive to be like.”
Multnomah’s emphasis on strong student-faculty connections has meant a lot to Alvarado, who completes his M.Div. this December. “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, travel with them. They give so much of themselves, and there’s no competition between any of them.”
Alvarado has had to wrestle with several challenges since becoming a seminary student, and the faculty’s support has helped him tremendously. “I’ve had almost all of my beliefs shaken,” he says. “I realized that many of my assumptions were ones I got because I read something or I was told something. But now I know why I believe the things I do, and I’m prepared to answer tough questions and handle hard times.”
'What we’re learning shouldn’t puff us up'
Being a full-time student, an employee, a father and a husband are significant roles for anyone, and Alvarado is committed to balancing his life in the best way possible. “It is hard to go through seminary when you have a family,” he says. “But I don’t think I’d learn as much or grow as much without coming home to my wife and son every night. I have a place where I can live out what I’m learning.”
Many seminary students have a hard time fitting their family and academic life together. Alvarado says it’s doable, but you have to be intentional. “The key isn’t just prioritizing time with them — it’s also being 100 percent present when you’re next to them,” he says. “Don’t be with them physically, but be somewhere else in your mind.”
Alvarado used to be involved in several ministry projects outside of school, but he dropped most of them so he could be with his family more. For him, it’s just another way he’s applying his classroom lessons to real life. “I know a lot more now than I used to know, but I understand that it’s still only a fraction of what God knows,” he says. “Think about all the knowledge Jesus had and how he handled it. What we’re learning shouldn’t puff us up; it should make us want to serve more.”
And Alvarado will be serving more: He just started 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. “I believe that the education I received — as well as the experiences I’ve had as a teacher’s assistant, tutor and student leader — have prepared me to step confidently into this new stage of my life.”