Archive | Classmate Update

Rev. Clarence W. (Bill) Landis, ’74

Posted on 09 August 2017 by editor

Rev. Clarence W. (Bill) Landis ’74 retired in July after more than 41 years as a pastor in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church. Over those years he served in five different locations in seven churches across Northern Illinois: Buffalo Grove and Prairie View UMCs, 1975-1980; Sheridan and Norway UMCs, 1980-1989; Savanna UMC, 1989-2002;  Sycamore UMC, 2002-2013; and his last church, Antioch UMC, 2013-2017.  Bill and his wife Jo have retired to the community of Woodstock, Ill., near Chicago.

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Amanda Benson ’09 – Serving in the Philippines

Posted on 06 July 2017 by editor

Two years ago, I left my job, family, and life in the U.S. and moved to the Philippines to teach at Faith Academy in Manila.  Though this ministry has not been without its trials, I have absolutely loved being here.  I have had a desire to be a missionary teacher since I learned that such a position existed when I was in high school.  While I was at GU, I ended up student teaching at Faith Academy, and I had the desire to return ever since.  I spent 5 1/2 years teaching on a Native American Reservation in South Dakota before God opened the door for me to return here to teach full time.
Faith Academy’s main goal is to educate the children of missionaries.  However, in recent years, the number of missionaries in the Philippines has decreased, so our missionary kid population has also decreased. At the same time, we are seeing an increase of Filipino students whose parents are in business or ministry.  Many, if not most, of these students come from Christian families.  I enjoy getting to understand more of Filipino culture with the increased Filipino population.  With the continued focus on educating missionary children, as a staff member at Faith Academy I am a part of the Great Commission work all around SE Asia through the work of my students’ parents, as well as through raising up the next generation of the Church.
My main ministry in the Philippines is to disciple students as I teach them.  I teach 6th, 7th and 8th graders in the middle school division, though what I have taught has changed each year.  This past year I taught 8th grade English, 7th grade math, and 6th grade math. I love teaching at a Christian school where I can open my class with a prayer, song or devotional. And I can relate what I am teaching to walking with God, and I can hold Bible studies with my students.  This last year I was able to have a Bible study with some of my 7th grade girls every week.  God grew them and challenged them throughout this Bible study, and I loved watching them grow as we studied Scripture and prayed for each other.
As a Christian and as a teacher, it is absolutely incredible to watch God work in the lives of my students.  My middle schoolers are at that age where they are really starting to discover what their own relationship with God looks like.  One assignment I had my 8th grade English class do was to write a narrative of at least ten ways God has worked in their lives up until this point.  I loved hearing their stories and seeing how God had formed them to be the student that sat in my class every day.  I know God has great plans for these students, and I am so thankful that He has allowed me to be a part of His work here.
Amanda Benson

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Telling Stories of Hope

Telling Stories of Hope

Posted on 05 October 2016 by editor

kburrus_fullrez-2-2 Kathy Thiessen Burrus ‘80, who majored in Bible and Church Music, has found her ministry calling in reaching out to women facing life transitions. Kathy’s work is in helping women begin again within life’s changes — to help them understand God’s plan for their lives, even in the midst of loss. Her job titles include life and marriage coach, writer, and speaker, but for Kathy her work goes beyond the temporal issues that can make day-to-day life a challenge to what is eternally important.

For the past 30 years, Kathy has been working with people to help them “intentionally design hope in life, love and loss.” She helps people to take a step back from the current situation to see what is keeping them from moving forward. Kathy considers herself a storyteller and wants to help her clients learn from their personal story, grow through their story, and then be able to share that testimony with the world.

“My greatest joy is seeing a woman embrace her whole story and see the beauty within; the power of her unique design, the lessons she has learned, and message she is meant to share.” said Kathy.

Kathy’s story telling ability has recently reached a new level. This year, she published a book “Lovely Traces of Hope” marking the 10th anniversary of the loss of her 15-year-old daughter Leisha from a pedestrian-car accident. Through the book, Kathy said family and friends chose to remember Leisha’s life and the influence Leisha had to see how God used that tragedy to teach about His providence, life and hope.

lovely-traces-of-hope-final-front-coverIn the days following Leisha’s death, Kathy found a chapter of a book her daughter had begun to write. From that initial discovery, God used Leisha’s journals and tapes to show Kathy how God was and is influencing her life and “showing up” in her story. “Lovely Traces of Hope” is a book for people seeking to discover how seemingly random and unexpected things are signs that God is in control and orchestrating life’s journey. The book is for people who need to rediscover hope within the hard times of life and need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and power.

“This book has reminded me that our loss does not need to be our defining moment in our life.  How we respond to loss is what is important.  I was prompted me to be still and pay attention to the lovely traces of hope God was planting to lead me out of the grief tunnel. It is my prayer that the book will point the way to hope for the reader as well. “ said Kathy.

To learn more about Kathy or read a chapter of the book, visit her at or get her entire book at

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Dave & Eileen Barkman

Dave and Eileen Barkman

Posted on 09 May 2016 by editor

Dave & Eileen BarkmanDave ‘80 and Eileen ‘77 Barkman have been serving with SEND International in Japan for more than 30 years. The past five years since the March 2011 tsunami have been particularly challenging, but have provided great opportunities to show the love of Christ to the unreached people of NE Japan through meeting immediate and long-term needs of people hurt by the disaster and linking them with established local churches or new church plant outreaches. Also, the Barkmans are praying for ways to bring the Good News to those in Fukushima Prefecture where the nuclear plant meltdown occurred. Many people are still displaced from their homes indefinitely. It is particularly difficult to set up a ministry in a region most people are trying to avoid. The rebuilding process is a long one and there is a need for short- and long-term mission teams to serve the people of Fukushima.

Dave is team leader for the SEND missionaries serving in the NE Japan area affected by the disaster. As part of the local church outreach, the Barkmans have held many programs in temporary housing areas and were able to introduce Jesus to many people displaced by the disaster. Now that many have been able to move to new homes on higher ground, the Barkmans are shifting their efforts to home visits and tea times in apartment building community rooms. They are also teaching English classes and Bible studies to those whose homes were flooded.

Starting this summer for 7 months, the Barkmans will be in the US to report to churches and visit supporters. To keep in touch and to hear prayer requests, contact them at

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Meet Keaton, Clinical G.A.

Meet Keaton, Clinical G.A.

Posted on 20 January 2016 by editor

Fall 2015 Newsletter2As the Clinical Graduate Assistant, Keaton helps run the Grace Counseling Center; he facilitates the assignment of clients and GCC documentation, as well as managing the snack bar and recycling program, and a number of other tasks.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A police officer.

What drew you to Grace?

The Christian integration; Grace does this on a practical level that a lot of schools don’t.

When do you plan to graduate?

May 2016!!

What do you enjoy doing when not in class or with clients?

Play racquetball, going for walks with my wife, bonfires.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

Open up a private Christian practice, and make money!

What’s been your best experience in grad school?

Just seeing one client in particular find freedom. That was amazing. At the end of our time together, he asked me if he was ready, and it was so cool to see him realize that he had come so far and conquered the things he had come to counseling to overcome.

What’s been your most challenging experience in grad school?

Probably right now. Lots and lots of clients with internship. The amount of paperwork can be overwhelming, and the scheduling is hard. I feel like I’m always playing catch up.

How has your faith influenced your counseling style? 

It’s everything. Without God, healing is superficial—surface level. I don’t see how I could be a counselor without Jesus; he’s the only one who can help people.

Advice to counseling students:

“Honestly, ‘fake it till you make it.’ It’s easy to feel like the pressure is all on you, the counselor, but in reality, it is the client who is coming in with all sorts of pressures and problems. Our job is to be there with them.”

Favorite Scripture:

For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; I am the Lord, Who says to you, Fear not; I will help you! Isaiah 41:13

Favorite Quote:

“A good leader always passes the credit down and takes the blame on himself.” -Bill Whittle

Other Favorites:

Color: Green

Food: Yes

Action Hero: The Hulk

Restaurant: Texas Roadhouse

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No Separation Between Sacred and Secular – Paul ’09 and Sarah ’10 Osborne

No Separation Between Sacred and Secular – Paul ’09 and Sarah ’10 Osborne

Posted on 11 September 2015 by editor

10943853_1380101132297245_445482845698102952_nWhen Paul Osborne and Sarah Meckle arrived on campus, little did they know that their relationship with Grace University would not end at graduation. From the classroom to the athletic field, God used Grace University to align the majors and ministries of two young people for lifelong impact.

Paul has been a part of Grace University men’s soccer program since 2002 and has transitioned from player to volunteer to assistant coach to joining the staff this year as head coach.

“Coaching soccer for college-age men at a private Christian university allows me to combine my first and third greatest passions in life,” said Paul. “I desire to establish a consistent, nationally competitive men’s soccer program founded upon genuine discipleship, structured discipline and teamwork.”

During his years at Grace, Paul earned a degree in middle school education and was a key part of the soccer team. He started every match during his freshman season and helped Grace win its first-ever NCCAA regional championship and reach its first NCCAA national tournament. Paul served as team captain and during his senior year he received NCCAA All-Region recognition as a goalkeeper, the only season he played in goal for the Royals.

But soccer is not his only memory of Grace. One memory Paul enjoys revisiting is this. Try to imagine Dr. Eckman and Dr. Dahlquist sparring each other in a world wrestling cage match for the Championship Title Belt. Picture Professor Hauge blindsiding Dr. Linder with a folding chair he snatched from the crowd. What began in a friend’s dorm room, by simply creating custom characters on a wrestling video game for fun, ballooned into a multi-hall activity that spanned a few days, complete with guest appearances from the professors themselves to watch who would win in our Grace staff and faculty simulated battle royal. As providence would have it, the ultimate winner was Dr. Eckman. This of course was announced in chapel the following day.

Sarah arrived at Grace from Rugby, North Dakota, with the same belief as Dr. Eckman that snow is a great gift from God! She majored in elementary education and now teaches math at Millard North Middle School in Omaha.

“I came to Grace because I desired a biblically grounded education. I am forever grateful for the biblical worldview that was taught throughout my classes at Grace,” said Sarah. “I grew in my faith and in the application of my faith. I was challenged to not only know what I believe, but know why I believe it—where is it found in God’s Word. I also found many life-long friends who continue to challenge/strengthen me spiritually, pray for me, and spend time with me just having fun.”

While at Grace, Sarah held class offices, played on the women’s volleyball team, and was part of the SBA intramurals committee. She also worked on campus in the cafeteria, as yearbook editor and was a team leader her sophomore year.

“Some of my favorite memories from my time at Grace were times just hanging out with others on the halls, in the cafeteria, and the lounges,” said Sarah. “One of these fun memories, during the first couple months of my freshman year, is of when a group of girls from my hall went out in the rain and jumped in the puddles!”

Outside of Grace, Paul tries to witness to others by first trying to love Sarah the way Christ loves the church. Second, he is involved in a men’s Bible study and is part of the set up crew at their church, CrossPoint Bible Church in Bennington, Neb. Sarah teaches Sunday School and leads AWANA for the 3-4 year olds.

“As Dr. Eckman taught, every part of your life can and should be a ministry—no separation of sacred and secular! With this in mind I view my role as a public school teacher as a ministry. Finding ways to point others toward Jesus through my actions,” said Sarah. “Also, I believe every spouse has an opportunity for marriage to be a ministry—learning to be submissive to my husband’s leadership and how to best encourage him spiritually.”

The Grace University family is thankful for alumni like Paul and Sarah who are living out the mission to be servant leaders in the home, church and world!

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Biblical Studies Grad

Biblical Studies Grad

Posted on 13 July 2015 by editor

Build Relationships & Build Lives

Kent Julian

The founders of Grace University had a specific mission for this school and role its graduates should play in spreading the gospel. Today, Grace University graduates continue to build relationships to spread the good news beyond the walls of the church and are reaching into diverse marketplaces to reach the lost.

Kent Julian ‘06 is one such graduate who took his Grace University master’s degree and is serving in some amazing ways.

“I love the education I received at Grace University. Grace equipped me to think deeply and communicate clearly,” said Kent. “These two skills have added huge value to my life both in vocational ministry and now as an entrepreneur, business owner, and professional speaker. If I had to do it all over again, I’d choose Grace University!”

Whether Kent defines himself as a youth speaker, businessman, family guy, author, or swim coach,
the world would label Kent a “success”, but he has persevered and grown through more than one
challenge as God took him from a boy in Atlanta, Georgia, to a sought-after youth speaker and leadership trainer based who moved back to Atlanta several years ago.

Kent grew up in a home where following Christ was authentically modeled. He accepted Christ at an early age. After graduating from college, Kent had several options to pursue. Two were in business leadership;
the other was to be a youth pastor at a small church in the north-Atlanta metro area. He chose youth ministry. Within a few years, Kent and his new bride moved to Omaha to become the youth pastor at Christ Community Church and this is how he became aware of Grace University.

Today, Kent challenges his audiences to make a choice to either “Check out and whine or … SHOW UP AND SHINE.” By speaking to students, advisors and educators, he is able to motivate them to take responsibility for their lives and their actions.

“As a motivational youth speaker and leadership trainer, I challenge students to choose which story they will live. Will they let life happen to them and live into their smaller story?” states Kent. “Or will they take 100 percent ownership and lead their life into their bigger story?”

Kent faced considerable challenges growing up that would make him seem an unlikely candidate to become a well-respected public speaker. He had a significant speech impediment and entered third grade unable to read. As a teen he had zero self-confidence and made poor life choices, but his positive response to what Kent describes as a “colossal mistake” changed the course of his life as he learned to take 100 percent responsibility for his life. His academic struggles continued through high school and his SAT score was so low he was accepted into college with probationary status.

But as he continued to grow, Kent was able to graduate with honors in undergraduate and graduate studies and has become an exceptional husband, dad, leader and entrepreneur—truly embodying the Grace University message to be a servant leader in the home and church and world.

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Touched by Grace

Posted on 13 July 2015 by editor

james-gray-e1433962150818James Gray
Maricopa, Arizona

“That in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace…” Eph. 2:7

Pastor James Gray spent more than 40 years in ministry and continues to serve in retirement from the pulpit.

“The courses I took at Grace helped me in two ways: First, to think outside the box of my own theology, to be willing to rethink views I held, and to better understand why I believe what I believe. Second, Grace University courses cultivated my respect for and desire toward exegetical and exposition of the Word, thanks to the teaching of Abe Penner and Dr. Goldberg,” stated Pastor Gray.

He served as pastor of Grace Bible Church, Evansville, Indiana; Lakeview Bible Church, Carter Lake, Iowa; and Trinity Bible Church, Glenwood Springs, Colorado; and Grace Gospel Church, Linton, Ind. After retiring, he and his wife, Karen, moved back to Arizona.

He is still very active in ministry by publishing Bible studies and ministering this blog. To find out what is on Pastor Gray’s heart, check out his thoughts at the Berean Advocate.

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