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Spiritual transformation within the classroom

July 28, 2014

Organic chemistry class. It’s not a scene that evokes thoughts of spiritual transformation or religious encounters. But amidst lab coats, goggles and beakers full of chemicals, NNU Nursing student Brandi Johnson has discovered what it means to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

Brandi was baptized and raised in the Catholic Church and grew up going to church every Sunday. In her third year at a state college, she describes having an abrupt halt in her life that sent her straight to her knees in search of help. That moment lead to a string of decisions ultimately resulting in her transfer to NNU’s Nursing program.  

In a personal letter to her professor of organic chemistry, Dr. Tim Anstine, Brandi reveals her life-changing moments at NNU.

“I began school at NNU, and boy, what a different, positive environment. I had a complete breakdown at my second chapel; I was completely hysterical. Tears were just rolling down my face and I could not explain why. The only thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t feel sad. Shortly after chapel ended that day, I went for a drive and figured out I was crying out of happiness. God had been showing me in those past few weeks that I was not where I was supposed to be, and He was going to take me where I needed to go. I had struggled and struggled in the past three years, and it never occurred to me that God was trying to find his way back into my life and lead me in the right way.”

Organic chemistry ended up being Brandi’s most difficult class. Yet God had bigger plans for her than simply learning about compounds. In her letter to Dr. Anstine Brandi tells about the role of his teaching in her transformation journey.

“I absolutely loathed the thought of how difficult organic chemistry would be for me, until you started lecturing about the “how” and “why” of the things you teach in class. Each lecture became more and more interesting because I was learning about your faith. I know that when I was young I was only learning how not to sin—‘sin management,’ as you call it. I was being taught more about the rules, memorizing certain prayers for communion and that going to church on Sundays was vital. I was never taught “how” and “why” everyone was doing these things. I was getting wrapped up in the practices, and not necessarily the relationship I should be working on with Jesus.”

Brandi says she’s thankful for the role Dr. Anstine has played in causing her to grow and change. In fact, she finds she relates to him even more because of his openness in the classroom.

“Listening to you tell about your journey with Christ is inspirational. To see that someone else has been utterly stripped down to the bone and built back up again really opened my eyes to the kinds of work Jesus does in other peoples’ lives daily, including my own.”

Reflecting on where her transformation journey has lead, Brandi says, “If there is one thing about this university that I enjoy, it is the value of transformation. I find it funny that out of all the classes God could have chosen for me to take with a spiritual leader, He chose organic chemistry. I know I am just beginning my faith again and that it takes work, but I am in it for the long haul; and I am glad to say my chemistry professor in college was a part of it.” 

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Highlight: Dr. Dale S. Kuehne

Dr. Dale S. Kuehne is a professor of politics and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College and also serves as interim pastor of Christ's Church of Amherst, N.H. He guest lectured on campus in February on the topic of restoring relational hope in an age of individualism.

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