By: Joe Chapman, 2002, D.C. Engineering, Structural Department Manager *
I recently heard a pastor share that God’s plan for our lives relies on passion. Because if we knew all that we would go through to get where we needed to go, we wouldn’t be willing to commit to the daily grind and challenges along the way. Life is hard, and accepting the challenge to allow Jesus to mold your heart, mind, soul and strength is a commitment—a commitment that so many people at Northwest Nazarene University held as they shared their journey with me during my time there. I am grateful for it. The older I get, the more I value community and connections created around people with similar focuses, and my time at NNU started this mindset.
Beginning the Circle
To understand NNU’s effect on my family today, I must start with my “why.” My parents attended Northwest Nazarene College from very different backgrounds. My mom’s family came from an extensive Colorado Nazarene Church history. My dad, however, came to play basketball; during his time at NNC, he gave his life to Jesus. My parents coming together at NNC is a testament to how our obedience is used to His glory. As a newly graduated high school student with newfound independence, I was looking for a place to give me the experience to understand how young adults lived out their faith in school and work. My parents influenced this choice and encouraged me to look beyond finding a career. Their faith and obedience to let God lead was my first example of stopping, waiting and letting God take control.
It was 1998, my bags were packed, and I was ready for a new adventure! My dad and I attacked this next chapter with a mega-long road trip from Juneau, Alaska, through Canada to Nampa, Idaho. I was excited to see what life as a Northwest Nazarene College student was like. I was ready to let God guide me as we stepped on campus.
As an engineering physics major balancing my studies and basketball, I was in for quite a few nights of little sleep. It was clear from the first day that this wasn’t going to be an exercise in getting a degree; it was about learning to learn. NNU provided an environment that tested my whole being: intellectually, physically and spiritually. I was challenged to see Jesus in everything I did. These challenges ranged from the 15-passenger van road trips for basketball to fascinating field physics experiments with Dr. Sharpton, touring Europe with Northwesterners, hanging in dorm lobbies at curfew and traveling throughout the Nazarene districts to junior high camps. Every ounce of me was tested and challenged by the experiences and the relationships with the people I shared them with—and I loved it.
While at NNU, I was encouraged to join a spiritual community. God used Boise First Church (now Tree City Church), where multiple generations are challenged to see the Church thrive in their community. Boise First was a phenomenal place for me to continue to grow as a young adult. The principles and the passions instilled in me in college could be lived out there within a community that challenged me to grow, be patient and willing to sacrifice for others in ministry. I was inspired to start coaching. Boise First had an Upwards basketball program that provided me the incredible opportunity to teach kids about the game and connect it with the game of life. Learning to coach in an environment that cultivates each player’s mind, body, soul and strength was uplifting. It was instrumental in how I connected with players and met them where they were. One of my most passionate hobbies is still coaching basketball. There is something special about learning how to bring out the best in an individual, seeing the uniqueness in each player and finding a place for them to excel and share their talents. It is so rewarding and such an easy way to point back to Jesus.
Many changes occurred in my time at NNU from 1998 to 2002, and even more have taken place since. Though the events and people may not be the same, NNU students now are experiencing similar struggles and joys and getting the necessary experiences to carry them throughout their lives. In my own life, I sometimes questioned what God was doing in my experience, but I now see how He leaves nothing to waste.
One of the challenges I had to overcome in my career as a structural engineer was graduating from an engineering school geared toward preparing students to enter doctoral programs instead of general undergraduate engineering— especially in the building industry. While my classes and education at NNU were beyond reproach, the school needed to be recognized for completing the appropriate accreditation process, which NNU finally achieved in 2015. The arrival of Dr. Steve Parke was a catalyst for the accreditation process and the beginning of the development of the NNU engineering department that students know today. It is incredible to see how God brought together so many talented people to open a wide door for the next generation of engineers from NNU. One thing I know is true: our world needs more engineers that are focused on using more than their minds but also their whole selves to continue refining, growing and developing different businesses worldwide.
Several years ago, I read the book Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. In the book, he uses the image of a thread that God weaves of His workmanship throughout all our lives. When I take a moment to look back at my time at NNU, it is overwhelming to see how God moved and set the stage for today.
While my studies required a significant portion of my time, enjoying college life and connecting to people challenged me to push beyond my known limits. I experienced great joy and excitement and also intense challenges and heartache. God used all those moments to grow me. The friends I shared these experiences with have lasted a lifetime. We may not see each other for a considerable time, but we can pick up right where we left off. I appreciate being in a place where individuals genuinely care about each other. NNU has a strong history centered around following Jesus. Every year life continues to change and evolve, but the one thing that stays true is Jesus. This constant provides a bond that extends through many generations that follow him.
Coming Back Around
My wife Bekah (another NNU alum!) and I decided to bring our family to my 20-year college reunion last fall. We have a son entering high school and a daughter in middle school. In a way, it was a full-circle moment. We are now praying about how God wants to lead our own kids in their pursuit of college and careers. It is easy to share many of our stories and set the stage for them because of the relationships Bekah and I have built over the years. It was fun for our kids to see us reconnecting with familiar faces. In a special moment, some current students started sharing with us what NNU was to them as we walked to different parts of the campus.
The time has come for our kids to have a chance to stand on the shoulders of generations before, going to a university that focuses on academic excellence and solidifying a relationship with Jesus within a community of believers. Our hope and prayer is that they experience the fullness of God and His people as they connect and try to find a place that fosters their passions like NNU did for us.
Joe Chapman currently works at DC Engineering in Madison, Wisconsin. He has hired many of NNU’s engineering students since it became accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) in 2015.
Header—Joe Chapman with his DC Engineering team in Washington D.C.
Article Insert—Joe Chapman, his wife and two kids