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Servant Leadership Award Winners Honored in Chapel

Seven students were honored April 24 with the 2017 Servant Leadership and Reconciliation Awards.

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” This familiar passage from Mark 9 includes a visualization of humility—Christ’s personal and tangible service of others despite His standing. It’s the type of service that was celebrated April 24 when seven undergraduate students were awarded the 17th Annual Servant Leadership and Reconciliation Awards.

Campus Pastor Laurel Bunker began Chapel by noting that the day was “an opportunity to celebrate our students at their finest.” Each student was recognized by their nominating staff or faculty member and given a cash reward, including funds to be given to the students’ organizations of choice; a framed certificate; and a sculpture by artist Max Greiner.

President Jay Barnes lauded the students’ contributions to Bethel and the wider community, saying that these students—who follow in the footsteps of 73 other recipients to date—are models of what it means to be “adventurous Christ-followers.” That phrase has a prominent place on the wall in Bethel’s Community Life Center, alongside photos and stories of other Royals who, impacted by their time at Bethel, have made significant contributions to society.

These students—and the Royals who fill that wall—are examples of what it means to follow God in good circumstances and also in the tough places, Barnes said.

This year’s Servant Leadership and Reconciliation Award winners are:

Kiersti Phenow '17 is a reconciliation studies and social work major who demonstrates “a commitment to the integration of her faith and the application of social justice.” A team player, she’s played a key role in formulating many Cultural Connections Center activities. She is passionate about how the stewardship of the environment and the development of urban agricultural community initiatives interface with reconciliation. She considers it a privilege to serve alongside and learn from elders and residents from Frogtown, Rondo, and other local communities. Phenow plans to continue her servant leadership and reconciliatory passions in the context in which she feels led to live and serve.

Jackson Canfield '17 is a biokinetics major with an emphasis in human bioenergetics. He’s been an outstanding leader on Bethel’s football field and basketball court, and helped create the Mighty Men small group ministry at Bethel. This group has impacted the spiritual lives of dozens of men at Bethel, and Canfield has invested countless hours meeting with, praying for, and serving other students. Described as a devout man of prayer, Canfield believes that “every interaction or conversation with anyone is an opportunity to serve.” He hopes to use his service experiences, leadership skills, and academic knowledge to pursue a career in the medical device industry.

Taji Onesirosan '17 is a business and political science major who has served as student body vice president for the last two years. Fellow students have noted that his influence has helped cultivate a Christ-like culture at Bethel. He was instrumental in providing leadership for Bethel’s Mighty Men ministry, and he recognizes and relies on the knowledge that transformational leadership and service to others can really only happen when one continually and constantly abides in Jesus Christ. He says, “Jesus is truly my living water, my daily bread.” Onesirosan looks forward to serving in his church community, at his place of employment, and with the Bethel Young Alumni Association after graduation.

Emily Leyh '17 is a psychology major who is described as an exemplary hard worker, joyful, attentive, a great role model, and a true servant to her community. She works as a lead public services assistant in Bethel’s library and serves on the Friends of the Library Board. Leyh previously served as a resident assistant, is a founding member and leader of the upperclass women’s ministry Rooted, and co-founded the Library Student Council, which helps students use and navigate the library. In her own words, Leyh says that “to be a servant leader means to go unnoticed, cheerfully completing tasks and serving others for the sake of serving and loving the other,” which is a truth she embodies well. She plans to be a site director for YouthWorks this summer, followed by joining YWAM in the fall.

Gabriella Carroll '17 is a psychology major whose understanding and practice of servant leadership began at an early age and was an integral part of her upbringing. She has been actively involved in Pray First throughout her Bethel years, and she was also the director of First Nations for United Cultures of Bethel last year. She is described as exemplifying the “humble, gracious spirit that makes the greatest of leaders.” Carroll has a particularly fond heart for the poor, the widows, the domestically abused, and those that are marginalized in society, and she hopes to dedicate her future work to these communities.

Emai Dunbar '17 is a social work and reconciliation studies double-major who has been involved in extensive servant leadership activities in her church and community since she was a young child. At Bethel, Dunbar has been a leader in the Pray First and Peer Mentorship programs through Campus Ministries and Navigators. She has tutored students in Frogtown, led students in the Cultural Connections Center, mentored BUILD students, led SHIFT, and volunteered during Welcome Week. She holds dearly to the words of her late grandmother: “If you want to lead people, don’t expect to be praised or accepted…rather, serve everyone you encounter with humility.” After completing her degree, Dunbar hopes to return to Liberia to help her community recover from years of unrest.

Andrew Rahme '17 is a reconciliation studies and sociocultural studies double-major who has co-created social justice and faith initiatives through the Cultural Connections Center and served the wider community through the Frogtown Summit and Bethel University Partnership Office. Rahme’s uncle Coye, a pastor, has showed him “that men can lead in softness and vulnerability, in kindness and tenderness, and that [we] can never be so important that [we] cannot be humbled.” Rahme testifies, “I find God in him and have witnessed firsthand how his love has allowed him to reach those who are most broken and hurt.” In kind, Rahme learns from, journeys alongside, and cherishes the despised and brokenhearted among us.

Students were nominated for the award by their peers, staff, and faculty based on:

  • Their level of spiritual maturity and commitment to ministry and community service
  • Their ability to integrate ministry and community service with other aspects of life and work, including academic work, faith perspectives, and sense of vocation
  • The impact of their ministry and community service on the community in which the student served and the student’s ability to effectively work with and respect persons with whom she or he worked

The selection committee included Dean of Campus Ministries and Campus Pastor Laurel Bunker, Resident Director Katie Delgado, Executive Minister for Church and Seminary Alumni Relations Ralph Gustafson, Associate Professor of Economics Jeffry Jacob, Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies and Specialist in Reconciliation Studies Claudia May, Assistant Professor of Sociology Andrew Odubote, Administrative Assistant to Dean of Campus Ministries and Campus Pastor Judy Ryan, and Assistant Director of Alumni and Family Relations Jennifer Scott.

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