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Christian Union: The Magazine
January 14, 2022

Alumna Recalls the Discipleship, Community, and Leadership Development she Experienced at Columbia 

By Taylor Willis, Columbia ’18

As soon as I set foot on campus as a first-year at Columbia, I felt out of place. I yearned for Christian community minutes after my parents left me to fly back to Texas. Thankfully, by God’s grace, Christian Union Lumine existed. 

I quickly connected with a ministry fellow and found myself in a tiny apartment with about 50 other first-year students later that week. From there, God used Christian Union Lumine at Columbia to shape so much of who I am today. Other than giving me some of my closest friends and my now husband, Christian Union gave me the opportunity to be discipled, explore the beauty and depth of God’s Word, and delve headfirst into theological thought. 

1 Alumni LG Taylor WillisTaylor Willis, Columbia '18God led me to Columbia through the gift of being recruited to play on the softball team. I thought softball would define my time as a student, but my involvement with Christian Union quickly became just as important as academics and my involvement in athletics. I began a discipleship relationship with one of the female ministry fellows, who through conversation and giving me opportunities for leadership, encouraged me to analyze my God-given giftings and consider how I could use those for God’s glory. She pointed me in the direction of theological study and reading beyond Bible courses, and my interest was piqued almost immediately. I felt like I was at home in my heart and mind when given the opportunity to consider questions about the study of God (theology) and why that matters for life (applied theology). 

I always had an interest in the study of God, so much so that I remember sitting in Sunday school as a kid making sure I gave other kids a chance to contribute because I could tell that I was almost too enthusiastic. When I was in middle school, my dad went to seminary. As I watched him study God’s Word in-depth, God was planting seeds of interest in me. I remember looking at his Hebrew and Greek workbooks, thinking how amazing it was that he got to learn the original languages of the Old and New Testaments. As a college student, I had found a place where my love of God was met, encouraged, and deepened in the context of a robust Christian community. 

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Along with being challenged intellectually to know and understand the Lord, being in leadership roles in Christian Union gave me the opportunity to pour into my peers and spur them towards Christ. Through discipling underclassmen and co-leading a Bible course, I saw how God gave me the heart to meet people in their suffering and encourage them with the hope of the gospel. There was nothing else that gave me more joy than to see people understand the love of God in Christ and see how that mattered in their hearts and lives.

Even then, though, I was not sure what I would do after graduation. I had considered seminary but saw most of my peers doing things that seemed so prestigious and important. They were going to work in finance, law, business, government, and a host of other fields that seemed like the normal path for an Ivy League graduate. I began to think that these fields were the places of value and that I should pursue a career that betrayed the giftings and interests that God had been cultivating for so long. 

Fortunately, my mentors at Christian Union saw how much I loved to study and consider God, along with how much I enjoyed ministering to others. As I wrestled with vocation and career, I felt the freedom to pursue theological education and counseling because my mentors reminded me that serving the Lord and being a good steward of my gifts was not limited to certain prestigious lines of work.

Ultimately, I knew that I wanted to enter into the lives of others and help them work through hardship and suffering from a biblical perspective. After prayerful consideration I decided to pursue seminary to gain my Master’s in Counseling, where I could integrate both my love for knowing God and my deep desire for people to see how Christ meets them in adversity. Currently, I am a licensed Christian therapist. My hope is that as I enter into the depths of life with people, they will see Christ both implicitly through my care for them and explicitly through our conversations about the gospel. 

My time with Christian Union, along with my seminary education, have shaped my understanding of God and how He is at work in the midst of sin and suffering. So much of this who I am today began when a ministry fellow reached out to me to grab coffee, engaging my heart and mind to become a lover and student of God’s Word. Christian Union helped me discern my calling, equipped me with knowledge of and a passion for the Word of God, and prepared me to go into the world as a disciple of Jesus. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful. 

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