Student’s Experiences in GWU School of Divinity Equip Her To Serve

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Christi Hollifield ’20 Follows God’s Call to Minister to Children And Families

Photo courtesy of Jim Burgin

After surviving a diagnosis of melanoma in 2011, Christi Hollifield, a student in the School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University, began to earnestly seek God’s plan for her life. She asked herself, “What does God want me to do?” And, “Why did he chose me to continue on?”

She found the answer while homeschooling her children and helping at church. “It was very obvious to me that God was speaking to me about serving in his ministry,” she affirmed. “I volunteered in a variety of ways in our church and was a deacon as well. Opportunities to serve the Lord fell at my feet as I began to recognize my calling and accepted it. My heart felt so fulfilled preparing, teaching, leading, supporting, and caring for those within our congregation at the time.”

At the time, her family lived in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. She looked into divinity schools, but couldn’t settle on a program. In 2015, the family moved to Marion, N.C., and she remembered a friend had graduated from the GWU School of Divinity. “I felt a sense of urgency to research the divinity school program and admission process,” Hollifield recalled. “After talking with my husband that same evening, I began the application process. I never visited the campus or talked with admission representatives prior to that moment. I felt led to be at GWU, and I have grown so much personally and spiritually.”

The Hollifields joined First Baptist Church in Marion, and she began to volunteer there. When the church decided to hire a part-time children’s minister, she applied. “To my great surprise, they offered the job to me and I have been the Minister with Children at FBC Marion for two years,” Hollifield related. “My heart is so full with love for my families and congregational members. I am able to serve the Lord in so many ways at the church, and the concepts I learn in class at GWU are reinforced.”

Photo courtesy of Jim Burgin

She is pursuing a Master of Divinity in Christian Education and Spiritual Formation with an elective focus on Pastoral Care. “The information, class discussions, and experiences shared by both professors and peers has proven to be so relevant to my job,” she assessed. “It seems the topics discussed in class align perfectly with moments in life. My classes have further developed the base knowledge that I had and have broadened my understanding and approach. I have learned more about myself, my calling, and how I can be more effectively used by Christ. I also value the supportive Christian classroom environment. I appreciate the space and freedom we have within the class setting to share experiences and gain wisdom from one another. The friendships made with fellow ministers and the experiences shared have proven invaluable to me.”

Two professors who have shaped her educational journey the most are Dr. Sophia Steibel and Dr. Hebert Palomino. “They have such passion for their fields of study and convey that passion in each class session,” she observed. “Their encouraging spirits and confidence in their students is projected both in and outside of the educational setting. Both professors are understanding of the many tasks divinity students are managing. Dr. Steibel and Dr. Palomino take these life situations into account and help their students by extending grace, mercy, and care.”