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Christian Union Hosts Alumni Panel Discussion

by tom campisi, managing editor


PanelMagWinter2019Being a leader with Christian Union at Brown helped Ayisha Jackson make a smooth transition to urban missionary when she graduated in May. Jackson, an engineering major, said the ministry’s emphasis on a seeking-God lifestyle and rigorous Bible study prepared her for her work with Renaissance Church in Providence, Rhode Island.

Jackson returned to campus in the fall as a participant in Christian Union’s Life After Graduation panel discussion, which included three other members of the class of 2018 who are active in vocational ministry at Brown: Gianna Uson, an intern with Christian Union; Isaac Whitney, an intern with Athletes in Action; and Katie Hay, an intern with InterVarsity.


Panel members talked about the benefits and challenges of life after college, the importance of being part of a church community, and the role faith plays in their lives. For Jackson and other panelists, being active in vocational ministry may not have been part of their plans when they came to Brown four years ago, but they talked about being open to God’s will and trusting in His providence.

“We discussed seeking different opportunities to grow yourself in a particular ministerial calling full-time after college,” Jackson said. “Even if it’s temporary, it will still contribute greatly to your spiritual life and walk with God for years to come, which is something a few of us attested to already experiencing.” Uson, the moderator of the panel, concurred with Jackson. The computer science major from Hayward, California, joined the Christian Union at Brown team this summer. “I told the students that it’s good to have dreams, goals, and maybe even a five-year plan, but to hold to these things loosely and be open to whatever God has for you. Know that God can change your plans and trust that He has your best interest in mind,” she said.

PanelMag2Whitney, who graduated with a degree in economics, encouraged the students to trust in the Lord, beyond their abilities and dreams.

“As Ivy League students, it’s pretty natural for us to shoot for the stars and work our butts off for certain prestigious careers,” he said. “That was certainly my mindset, and still is to an extent at times. It is a rite of passage to load up your schedule with various extracurriculars and résumé-builders. But real Christlike strength is having the ability to surrender all our plans to God’s will and understand that God’s ways are better than ours, and so are His plans.”
“Real Christlike strength is having the ability to surrender all our plans to God’s will and understand that God’s ways are better than ours…” —Isaac Whitney, Brown ’18 Click to Tweet

Whitney also stressed to the students that, although hard work is still required, “our ultimate identity and sense of worth must come from Christ.”

“We must learn to trust in Him wholly. I never planned to be doing what I am now, but I am so incredibly thankful that God brought me into this position.” Justin Doyle, a Christian Union ministry fellow at Brown, said the alumni did a great job. “I was proud as I sat and listened to the wise counsel of these recent graduates of our ministry—they are proof that God has certainly been at work here at Brown,” he said.

Whitney, Uson, and Jackson were integral members of Christian Union at Brown when the ministry was in its formative stages four years ago. Each credited Christian Union for the role it played in their spiritual formation. “My time at Brown would not have been the same without Christian Union,” said Uson. Click to Tweet

“Christian Union gave me a community of believers who loved and encouraged me to see God in everything and keep my hope in Him. Christian Union also helped shape my worldview—including life, work, and community. Through Bible courses, ministry fellows, and my peers, I learned to see the value of my studies, interactions with people, and everything big or small as intimately tied to God’s will for me to be a reflection of Him and His plans for restoring the world.”

Whitney reflected on how valuable it was to become part of a Bible course in his freshman year. He appreciated the close-knit nature of the small group and how Christian Union helped him make “huge strides” in his faith walk.

“I really learned how to read and study the Bible unlike before,” he said. “I was given opportunities to lead Bible studies and pose certain questions and challenges, which has helped prepare me for the leadership role I’m in now. More tangibly, I have found myself consulting old Christian Union resources I was exposed to as a student. Even now, I meet with CU at Brown’s ministry fellows (Matt Woodard, Justin Doyle, and Laurel Copp) and get advice and resources from them.”

For Jackson, the culture at Renaissance Church, which includes an extensive daily devotional and prayer time, is similar to that of Christian Union at Brown. She also noted how a summer trip to Israel, organized by Christian Union, and the ministry’s rigorous, academic approach to Scripture have helped the Bible come alive.

“I have been able to sustain a thirst for the Word,” she said. “[Freshman year] I was excited about how much I was learning, and how much encouragement I was getting to look at the text and concepts of the faith through historical, theological, socio-economic, and cultural lenses. Christian Union taught me how to seek after truth and revelation in God’s Word.”