Passing the Torch

Bushnell University students have been equipped and educated for lives of ministry in churches and church-related ministries for 128 years. This tradition lives on. University representatives are often asked, “Is Bushnell still equipping and sending people into ministry?” The answer, quite simply, is “yes.” The answer has always been “yes.”

Some students graduate and immediately serve as pastors, ministers, missionaries, worship leaders, youth and children’s workers, faith educators, and church support staff. Other students leave Bushnell for “bi-vocational” lives, integrating or balancing traditionally secular careers with part-time or volunteer roles in ministry. Still others choose careers that are often viewed as secular, and yet these graduates see their work as spiritual calling, shining for Christ in almost any imaginable field. Many take up professions that are deeply ministerial and missional in nature, even if they would not be defined by most as a “ministry.” All work, done with the intention of serving God and loving people, can be both missional and ministry.

With that in mind, Bushnell aims to equip students for “the whole of learning, for the whole of life” (Dr. Steven Garber). Bushnell creates an educational experience that urges and enables students to discover and answer God’s call into vocations and careers where they can shine like Beacons.

Along with equipping students, Bushnell is also committed to supporting the local church. While the University offers Christ-centered community to all of our students, we cannot replace the fullness and longstanding community that comes with membership in a local congregation. We help our students understand, engage, and navigate church life so that involvement can continue even after the advantages of life in the midst of Bushnell’s inspiring environment.

Aaron and Bethany Dilla

Though Aaron Dilla ’11 and Bethany (Howard) Dilla ’10 serve different organizations, both find meaning in cultivating relationships that benefit our Lane County community. Aaron is an Associate Pastor at Northwood Christian Church in Springfield, giving leadership and oversight to the church’s connections, outreach, and team ministries. Aaron says, “Working with organizations that are local and international is important to me. These ministries open a pathway for the church to see, participate in, and advance Jesus’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is one of Northwood’s core purposes.” Northwood Christian Church is the largest donor among Bushnell’s supporting congregations. Bushnell is one of Northwood’s largest mission projects.

As the Director of Annual Giving at Bushnell, Bethany has been inviting new and existing friends of the University into deeper partnership to help support the Beacon Fund for student scholarship support. Through relationships with local businesses, Bethany has been raising direct support and event sponsorships to make tuition more affordable for Bushnell students. As Bethany sees it, “We need one another to continue to grow” and Beacon Fund supports means that more students can experience a world-class liberal arts education “and be spiritually formed into people that love God and love people.”

“One of our core purposes is to see, participate, and advance Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves. Northwood’s pathway to accomplish this is by supporting local and international organizations. Church support means going beyond just financial help – it means we partner together in ministry. Many people in our church family build long-term relationships with the organizations we support by choosing to volunteer with them. If eel strongly that when the Church gets curious about what God is up to in the world, we can partner with God more readily on the journey He ahs planned for us.” – Aaron Dilla

Aaron Dilla ’11 and Bethany (Howard) Dilla ’10

Mike and Britni D’Eliso

Britni (Steiling) D’Eliso ’11, M.A. ’15 and Mike D’Eliso ’10 view each of their roles within our community as ones of facilitating change. Britni accomplishes this through her position as the Behavior Health Project Manager at Lane County Behavioral Health and Mike does so through his position as Lead Pastor of CitySalt Church in Eugene.

Mike “equips the saints to do the work of ministry, of serving, and of blessing in the name of Christ, those around them.” To this end, a key question he asks his staff is this: “If CitySalt ceased to exist, would anyone notice?” CitySalt has earned a credible reputation as a place with people who are willing to represent Christ in the heart of this urban community.

Britni facilitates systemic improvements across the behavioral health system, promoting collaboration between behavioral health providers, the criminal justice system, hospitals, health insurance companies, state government, and local community members. She leads the effort to develop a new behavioral health crisis stabilization center for the Lane County region. She sees the missional aspects of this role every day. Working in local government allows her to maintain a comprehensive pulse on what neighbors and community members are experiencing. It positions her to participate in work that has wide-sweeping impact on the local area. “Our team is comprised of people from multiple organizations who carry different perspectives but ultimately center on themes of compassion and care. This work feels so clearly aligned with the work of Jesus as it promotes unity, kindness, and an extension of hope for individuals who have been commonly marginalized.”

Both Mike and Britni work for the good of the Lane County community by facilitating systemic change and by meeting behavioral and spiritual needs.

“The missional nature of my work is what propels me to keep moving forward despite ongoing obstacles and the politics of working on the front lines. I find deep value in practicing love, peace, and grace in tangible ways, outside of the pews and Sunday morning services. There is also so much joy in finding glimpses of Jesus in the most unsuspecting places, amongst colleagues who are driven to care, within heartfelt advocacy for change, and woven throughout the stories of individuals impacted by mental health treatment.” – Britni D’Eliso

Britni (Steiling) D’Eliso ’11, M.A. ’15 and Mike D’Eliso ’10

Aaron and Heather Friesen

Aaron Friesen and Heather Friesen ’02 are committed to the well-being of students of all ages in our community. Heather currently works as a 3rd grade teacher in the Bethel School District, while Aaron is an Associate Pastor at CitySalt Church and part of the Project Faculty for the Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives program at Portland Seminary.

Together, Aaron and Heather started Storyline Kids, a non-profit that supports churches in the education and discipleship of children. They write curriculum, offer training, and provide wider resources.

Heather and Aaron also co-lead the children’s ministry at CitySalt, where they get to put into practice the curriculum they write together. For Aaron, the specifics of each learning environment look different. But in all three of these roles, he gets the privilege of coming alongside people in their discipleship journey to help them see, first, where Jesus is at work in their lives; and, second, to discover how God has created them on purpose for a purpose larger than themselves. Even more, the mission is to help students imagine how they can be agents of hope and healing in the world with the help of the Holy Spirit. Aaron celebrates his role: “You could say I see my own mission as helping, encouraging, and supporting other people to stay on mission wherever God has them.”

Heather sees her roles as missional, whether as a teacher, children’s ministry director, or Storyline Kids curriculum writer. She is sharing the love and grace of God that she has experienced and learned about with others, so that they might also know and experience that love and grace. The work looks a bit different in each context, but she’s found each to be powerful. Even in a public school setting where she can’t always explicitly talk about Jesus, she sees God helping children discover who they were created to be and gets to help them experience love, grace, and even the power of the Holy Spirit.

“From the beginning, I viewed teaching as a calling. In the early y that I was there to share the love of Jesus with the children and their families. I have come to see that God is working everywhere, including public schools, and my role is more to listen and see what God is doing and partner with it than it is to ‘take’ God to that space. I have come to learn more about who God is and what God does in the unique space of my classroom than anywhere else.” – Heather Friesen

Aaron Friesen and Heather Friesen ’02


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