Bae and Payne among Ministry’s First Graduating Class
by rachel mari, contributing writer
Though commencement plans for Stanford’s Class of 2020 have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caritas, Christian Union’s ministry at Stanford, will celebrate its first graduating class since its inception four years ago.
Garrett Brown, Christian Union’s ministry director at Stanford, said it was “bittersweet” that those students could not finish the year on campus, but rejoiced at what this class had accomplished.
“God has moved in the lives of so many of them, and changed some hearts in a way only the Gospel can,” he said. “I am confident that this graduating class will take what they have learned, as well as the community they have formed, into far-reaching places as they go from here.”
Two members of that class are Jennifer Bae and Josh Payne. Both will pursue graduate degrees at Stanford in the fall. Bae, who originates from La Habra, California, joined Caritas in her senior year after being invited by a friend. She said the ministry was “absolutely pivotal” in shaping her relationship with the Lord. Before Caritas, “I fell easily into the trap of prioritizing my studies and social life over God.”
Brown talked about how Bae thrived in a Bible course during her senior year.
“Jennifer has been extremely enthusiastic about sharing with her Bible course how she has grown in her relationship with Christ,” he said. “My wife Susan is Jennifer’s Bible course leader, and talks about how she regularly integrated her experiences as a person rediscovering her faith into the discussions the women were having. This helped the others find a context for Scripture into their world.”
Bae describes how, prior to Caritas, her life had come crashing down. She completed a grueling Wall Street finance internship and hung her hopes on receiving an offer from the investment firm. However, once she received it, she was overwhelmed by a sense of purposelessness.
“For three years, I ran the race with no vision other than to ultimately secure a ‘successful’ future and glorify my name,” said Bae. “But it was through the love of my closest friends and the guidance of my amazing spiritual guardian, Susan Brown, that I was able slowly to embrace this season as one in which God was lovingly pruning me and relieving me of the unnecessary demons of comparison and self-loathing.”
“Being a part of a community so strongly rooted in Christ helped point me to put my entire trust in Him, instead of in my achievements.” Furthermore, the training that she has received through Christian Union has helped her to become a better leader, in her role as the head of the Society of Women Engineers and with group projects in her management science and engineering classes.
“My biggest takeaway, having reconnected with my faith through Caritas, is being able to love those around me, unconditionally,” said Bae. “I have developed deeper patience and respect for the people that I work with, celebrating their strengths as individuals, instead of dwelling on their weaknesses.”
Regarding her next steps, Bae will seek to finish a Coterm Program in Sustainability Science and Practice at Stanford next year. “After learning the hard way through my pursuit of such a myopic vision of ‘success’ during my first three years of Stanford, [my goal] is to be a faithful servant with whatever God has entrusted to me.”
Payne, from San Antonio, Texas, was one of the ministry’s core group of freshmen and has been a part of Justin Woyak’s Bible course for the past four years.
“Our Bible course was a place where guys could take off their masks and be real,” said Woyak. “Josh leaned into his questions and leaned into prayer and community. He’s grown significantly during his time at Stanford—in his faith, and many other areas.”
Payne credits his involvement with Caritas for giving him a sense of community on campus. “Being part of the founding group was a special experience. . . We were all figuring out the community and its role in our spiritual lives together, and it has been an exciting journey,” he said.
Payne also noted that Woyak and Brown have modeled “truly selfless mentorship” and that he will take that example forward with him.
In addition to being an active member of the Bible courses, Payne contributed his musical gifts to the worship team. He also was greatly impacted by Christian Union’s Nexus Conference.
“Christian Union changed the direction of my life in a pretty profound, yet unexpected, way,” said Payne.
While attending Nexus during his freshman year, Payne met with Jon Hart and other members of Praxis Labs, a startup incubator program for redemptive entrepreneurship. He was offered the opportunity to become an Emerging Founder.
“In this program, I learned so much about building redemptive entrepreneurial ventures and connected with a community of like-minded visionaries with whom I keep in contact to this day!” he said. “Christian Union and Praxis played such a crucial role in my development, both spiritually and professionally.”
After graduation, Payne plans to continue his education as part of the MBA program through the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He also intends to remain a part of the Caritas community.
“My path seems to be moving in the direction of the intersection of technology and business. . . Whatever path He’s chosen for me, my aspiration is to walk it in precisely the way He wants me to,” Payne said.