Sattler Capstone: Biblical and Religious StudiesWritten by Sattler College
Many imagine that pursuing a degree in Biblical and Religious Studies (BRS) has little practical value — at least immediate value. Of course, one might imagine it having value after they go to graduate school, receive more education and then put it into practice. Even then though, the practical benefit of a BRS degree seems limited. Teaching, preaching, and Bible translation. That is what people tend to limit the possibilities to. And in some sense, they're right. However, most people don't realize how far-reaching all of those fields are. The 2022 BRS graduates' capstones display through the variety of their work that there are many unmet needs that a BRS degree can equip one to meet — especially in the church. Many of the projects were centered around somehow equipping God's people, such as for immigrant and ESL ministry or understanding of God's Word holistically. The need in the church is great. Read below to see how the five BRS graduates from 2022 were equipped to meet needs they are passionate about.
- Austin Lapp, Empowering Immagrant Ministry
- Brevon Miller, Teaching Biblical Hebrew Communicatively
- Julie Hoover, Trauma and Its Effects on Teens and Young Adults
- Kristi Mast, Kingdom of Priests: a Bible Study Practicum
- Timothy Miller, The New Creation Catechism
Austin Lapp, Empowering Immigrant Ministry
Sattler’s capstone project provides seniors with the opportunity to meaningfully engage the world with the knowledge and skills acquired throughout their time at Sattler. As someone with a long standing interest in cross-cultural ministry, I developed a capstone project seeking to empower the local church to engage local immigrant communities through sacrificial acts of service and English classes. To accomplish this vision I researched effective ESL strategies for missional classrooms, further developed an existing ESL program, facilitated efforts to resettle two Afghan families, and launched an ESL program in Minneapolis, MN. This project has increased my awareness of God’s work in His world, caused me to mourn humanity’s brokenness, and invigorated a life mission to meaningfully engage immigrants wherever the Lord may call my family.
God works among us.
Our world is on the move. Civil unrest, natural catastrophes, financial desperation, and war drive people from their homes everyday. God works in the lives of these migrant people. He is gently guiding “the boundaries of their dwellings so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him.” (Acts 17:26-27) In his mercy, the Lord uses these unfortunate events in the lives of people to gather them to himself.
Immigrants arriving in the U.S. often feel as if they have no value. Many struggle to find work and provide for their families. Many initially struggle to perform basic life functions such as shopping, setting up a bank account, securing housing, and using public transportation. They often battle long periods of loneliness while they adjust to their new environments and acquire the local language. Yet, these individuals living among us possess a deep well of life experiences that we learn from. The ESL classroom is pregnant with potential fo infuse lives with dignity.
As part of my capstone, I interviewed several individuals who moved to Boston and were converted through an English ministry operated by a local church. It was remarkable to hear how God prepared their hearts to hear the Gospel. Not only was God involved in preparing the soil of their hearts, but he also used the church to water seeds of truth and demonstrate the viability of the Christian faith. The Lord is working in cities right here in North America. The fields lie ripened, waiting for laborers to step into the hot, dusty fields, embracing the blood, sweat, and tears of the harvester’s life. My capstone encouraged me to discern what the Lord is already doing around me and join Him by finding my place in the field.
Mourning humanity’s brokenness.
Humanity is broken, yet so beautiful. Crippled, yet resilient. Interacting with Afghans who recently evacuated a crumbling homeland reminded me of the areas where the kingdom of God has not yet come as it is in heaven. Yet we still retain marks of One whose image we bear.
I am broken. I tend to rely on my own abilities rather than the Spirit’s power. The work of God goes forth by His Spirit rather than by might or by power (Zech 4:6). I am tempted to believe I have the answers, that I am able to solve all manner of problems. What folly! My capstone provided ample opportunities for divine reliance. I was constantly reminded of my need for the Lord’s grace to sustain my work. “Lord, establish the work of my hands!” was a consistent plea on my lips (Ps 90:17).
The world is broken. Government systems fail to adequately meet the needs of newly arrived immigrants. Operation Allies deposited thousands of people from Afghanistan on U.S. soil. Many fell through the cracks. As of this writing, some still languish in hotels waiting for permanent housing. Such is the case with two Afghan families I worked with as part of my capstone. I had the opportunity to facilitate a local church effort to search for housing, secure household items, and raise funds for their support. Yet, despite our best efforts, we still wait for the opportunity to help the agency settle them into their new homes.
Invigorated life vision.
These interactions fueled a life vision of faithful labor among immigrant families. One of the primary reasons I came to Sattler was to prepare for long-term ministry in a foreign context. While that door seems to be closed for now, the last four years have given way to an emerging vision to make disciples of the nations here in American cities who will in turn make disciples among their own people. My capstone provided real world experience. Not only was I able to engage in ministry first hand, I was also able to empower other believers and local churches to meaningfully engage immigrant communities in their neighborhoods. I thank God for these opportunities.
I sincerely hope that more Christians in North America begin to see the latent potential of immigrant ministry right in our backyards. ESL ministry is a powerful way to fulfill the Great Commandment (Matt 22:36-40) and the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20). We offer love and dignity to our immigrant friends when we meet tangible needs such as learning English, showing new arrivals around the community or having them sit around our tables. This provides an opportunity to build relational bridges that can bear the weight of Gospel truth. As we faithfully plant and water seeds of truth, the Lord will bring the increase. The harvest is ready. The laborers are few. Thus, I “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt 9:38).
Brevon Miller, Teaching Biblical Hebrew Communicatively
Brevon's capstone had many parts. He researched second-language acquisition (SLA) and wrote a research paper based on that. He observed biblical Hebrew professor Jesse Scheumann teach elementary Hebrew, and also co-taught with Dr. Scheumann on occasion in order to gain hands-on teaching experience. He spent a big portion of his capstone project time creating puppet videos that incorporate vocabulary into stories from the Hebrew Old Testament that the students learn. These videos are already being used by Sattler students.
He finished his capstone work by doing a weekly "mock" Hebrew class at the end of his final semester. He particularly welcomed freshmen — those who had not taken elementary Hebrew yet — to participate in his class. This gave him experience in teaching the basics to individuals who have no knowledge of Hebrew.
The goal behind this work was to enable more people — whether in-person or online — to learn biblical Hebrew. This, in turn, enables them to be able to better study the Old Testament, which is important, but increasingly ignored by many today.
Julie Hoover, Trauma and Its Effects on Teens and Young Adults
My senior capstone project consisted of three components: research, internship, and presentation. For the research component of my project, I spent time exploring how trauma affects teens and young adults in the Anabaptist community. My research consisted of conducting interviews with those who have experienced trauma or have worked with survivors of trauma, reading books and articles, and attending a seminar. For the internship component of my project, I spent time working with the staff of Ephrata Mennonite School in Pennsylvania to improve their support for students experiencing trauma. Finally, for the presentation component of my project, I was blessed with the opportunity to compose a thesis paper of my findings and present it to the local community of Ephrata, Pennsylvania. A major product of my project is a recording of the presentation I gave to local community leaders in Ephrata.
Some people may wonder what leads a young individual to research how the brokenness of the world affects those around them. I have always held a burden for those who have experienced deep pain and loss without the resources to support them. Proverbs 31:8-9 proclaims: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” I believe wholeheartedly that we as followers of Christ have a responsibility to provide the resources and support needed to overcome the difficulties of trauma’s effects. I decided on my project to further understand the intricacies of trauma and the resources needed to heal from trauma.
One of the most interesting components of my project was my survey’s results. I received 373 responses from all over the United States and Canada, ranging across all ages. Out of the 373 responses, half of the respondents have experienced some kind of traumatic event in their lives that caused serious emotional distress. I hope and pray that the importance of holistically supporting those who have experienced all forms of trauma will be laid on the hearts of those within the Anabaptist community so that those who have experienced trauma will not have to walk the journey toward healing alone.
Kristi Mast, Kingdom of Priests: a Bible Study Practicum
My capstone consisted of researching and writing a 10-week women’s Bible study. The purpose of the study is two-fold. First, the study focuses as much on cultivating Bible study skills as it does on the overall theme. Each lesson begins with a section outlining a Bible study skill before giving students the opportunity to apply that skill in their studies. These skills range from as concrete as how to make good observations to as abstract as the importance of curiosity. Secondly, the Bible study traces the theme of priesthood and, more broadly, the temple from Genesis to Revelation. This Biblical theological approach guides students in thinking about their own identity as the new covenant priesthood.
Early on in my walk with God, Scripture study was something that intimidated me. I didn’t feel like I knew how to study, and I was often afraid that I was misinterpreting or misapplying Scripture to my life. Gaining a few tools to study Scripture was revolutionary in my relationship with the Word. A few basic skills gave me the confidence to study Scripture, and the Bible opened up to me. As a result, I learned to enjoy and love the Word more than I knew was possible. Furthermore, I began to realize that the Scriptures were one of the greatest resources we have to know God. Because of all this, I knew I wanted my capstone to be a useable resource for women to learn to study the Word. This Bible study accomplishes both the goal of equipping women to study while also giving them an overview of an exciting Biblical theological theme that will help them understand a little more about what God is doing in the world.
Producing this Bible study consisted of a lot of research and writing and a lot of time in Logos Bible software studying the ways that the priesthood theme develops throughout Scripture. It also meant sorting through and synthesizing the most important and accessible Bible study skills that I’ve learned over the course of my studies. Furthermore, I wasn’t able to find any Bible studies out there that were similar to what I was trying to do. This meant that a significant time was spent in matching the skills with the passages and also testing a few of the lessons out with local women. The process would have been impossible without my two primary advisors, Dr. Jesse Scheumann and Dr. Paul Lamicela, who pointed me in the direction of solid resources and gave me invaluable feedback on my outline and content. One of my favorite parts of the process was interviewing a few different women about their experience with Scripture and their specific needs and areas of lack.
Daughters of Promise published Kristi's study in January 2023. The Bible study workbook, Kingdom of Priests, and an accompanying teacher's guide can be purchased on the Daughters of Promise website.
Timothy Miller, The New Creation Catechism
I wrote a catechism for children called the New Creation Catechism and an essay exploring catechesis in the ancient church (2–5th century) and Anabaptist movement.
There are two primary reasons I pursued this capstone. First, as a father I am always looking for discipleship tools for my family. Catechesis is a holistic discipleship method that has a proven track record in church history. So I was excited about a project that could benefit my family in a very tangible way and draw attention to a discipleship method that has largely been lost. Second, one scholar laments that none of the Reformation-era catechisms "really gives us Christian doctrine in its inseparable relation to the whole history of redemption in Israel, to the whole life of the historical Jesus Christ, and to the Baptism of the Spirit at Pentecost and the founding of the Christian church.”* This assertion arrested me. So I set out to craft a catechism that is driven by the biblical storyline but also grounded in orthodox doctrine. One of the greatest challenges for Christians in the modern world is preserving the union of history and ideas.
*Thomas F. Torrance, "Introduction," in The School of Faith: Catechisms of the Reformed Church, ed. and trans. Thomas F. Torrance (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1959), xx.
The single most important component of the whole project was prayer. The work was overwhelming on most days. Yet, my strength was often renewed by praying the Shema, Lord's Prayer, Psalms, and a prayer Thomas Aquinas wrote to prepare himself for study. I would not have completed the capstone without prayer.