-A Personal Essay by Eric Hoke
In 2012, I sensed that God was calling me to continue my education. I was a youth pastor in New Jersey, married for a few years and ready for the next challenge. There were undoubtedly multiple seminaries to choose from and it took a considerable amount of time, prayer and effort to find the place where I fit. After attending an Open House at the Alliance Theological Seminary, learning about the seminary’s mission to educate not just the mind, but to transform the heart and not just for academia but for the church and the nations, I knew this was the place for me.
In my last year of my time at ATS, my life circumstances seemed to be stacking up perfectly. I was weeks from my graduation as well as ordination in my denomination—two landmarks I had been working tirelessly to for years. I had landed my dream job as a youth pastor at a large church in New York City. I was ecstatic, all my hard work was paying off and I was so excited for this next season of my life. It seemed like nothing could have gone wrong.
My wife and I said goodbye to a great church and community where we had spent the last four years and began our trek from suburbia to the big city. After unpacking our UHAUL and settling into our new apartment, we began our new jobs and lives with minimal stress all things considered.
Unfortunately everything came to a screeching halt within our first week there.
My supervisor and I had a miscommunication in regards to expectations and my employment was terminated immediately!
I was crushed, heartbroken and in despair. Everything was stacking up perfectly… how could this have happened?
My mind fell into a panic; we were in the most expensive city in the country, and given 3 weeks to find a new place to live with only my wife’s salary and hardly any money put away. It was an incredible amount of trial and pressure, like nothing I had ever experienced in my lifetime.
But in the midst of it all, God provided encouragement, grace and support through the community at ATS.
My professors and classmates were all aware of my transition and I cannot count the number of times I had to explain how my position abruptly fell through. Each time I explained my circumstance to someone in the ATS community, they were empathetic, offering prayer and encouragement. Some bought me food as we took evening classes together. Others would call me outside of class to pray for me. One even offered for let my wife and I live in their apartment until we found a new place!
It was both humbling and overwhelming to see the way in which my seminary family gathered around me in the hardest trial I ever endured, I don’t know if I would have made it without them. It reminded me why I chose to earn a seminary degree from Alliance Theological Seminary—not just for the academic excellence or the heart for mission, but because the community also cares for my soul. As I walked across the stage on Saturday, I felt honored to be a part of such a special place and thank God for each person that I’ve come across in my journey here. I expected to receive an education, but what I found was a family.