A Day In The Life of an Alum Meet James O’Brien, now serving as Youth Pastor at Ridgecrest Church of Nazarene in Ridgecrest, California. “Grace Christian University made a tremendous impact on my life in so many ways, both personally and professionally. Personally, some of my closest, lifelong friendships, were ones that began while attending Grace. We have so many shared experiences together, from retreats up to Grace Adventures, playing soccer, working in the kitchen, and serving together on mission trips to Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. These are friends that I still make a point to stay connected with over the time and distance that separates us, because they are of great value to me. Considering I attended for 5+ years over a 10 year period…that’s a lot of friendships! The friendships weren’t confined to just my peers either, but connecting with so many of the amazing staff and professors whom I now consider among my friends. Grace fostered a community in which people showed up in each other’s lives with God’s love and grace and passion for others. One example that meant the world to me was when President Bruce and Judi Kemper invited me over to their house for the holidays and made me feel like a part of their family, when I couldn’t go home to be with mine. Another great memory was being able to drive to Lansing with Phil Long simply to get to a Starbucks and go to a bookstore. The little things added up and forever placed my time at Grace as some of my most treasured memories.
Professionally, I had amazing professors that made me work and stretch my abilities and thinking both academically and practically. The small classrooms were ideal for someone like me that values being able to interact with the teachers and peers in an academic setting. I especially valued the youth ministry classes that I took there with Randy Smith, Jeff Eckart, and Mark Carroll. I was able to regularly engage the classroom learning with practical application experiences. SO many of the things that I still practice in ministry were learned during that time. Most importantly, my ability to correctly handle scripture was developed there and those tools prepared me well for my Master’s degree and teaching students on how to understand and apply God’s word in their lives. ”
Youth Pastor at Ridgecrest Church of Nazarene