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Crossing the Bridge

After his time in the United States Army, Jesus Estrada CAPS’20 wanted to further his education. Through his military benefits, he was able to attend Bethel University, grow his faith, and find his purpose.

By Anna Bernin '18, contributing writer

January 04, 2021 | 2 p.m.

Jesus Estrada, CAPS’20, and his wife.

Jesus Estrada, CAPS’20, and his wife.

College had always seemed out of reach for Jesus Estrada CAPS’20. He grew up in a low-income community in California, and his family relied on government assistance. While high school was challenging for him, he realized he might be able to excel in the military, so he joined the United States Army to escape the lack of opportunity. Upon release from active duty, Estrada felt called to do something more, and his military benefits allowed him to take his next step by earning his bachelor’s degree.

“I wanted to have the means and the intellectual capacity to pursue my dreams,” Estrada says. While researching schools, he found Bethel University. Because of its status as a “Yellow Ribbon” school for military students and its solid Christian foundation, Estrada knew he wanted to attend Bethel. Upon enrollment, Estrada crossed paths with John Morris, executive director of Military and Veteran Services.

Morris saw the potential in Estrada when they first met. They connected over their experiences in the Army. Morris asked Estrada what motivated him during his time in the military, and Estrada said that he admired medics because of their service through medicine. Morris knew that Estrada had a heart for service, so he encouraged Jesus to pursue a ministry degree. Then Estrada caught a vision. He realized that he wanted to become a physician assistant to practice ministry through medicine.

"Bethel has played a big role in my life, and I am grateful."

— Jesus Estrada, CAPS'20
Estrada decided to earn his B.A. in Christian Ministry. In the Army, he’d learned how to be a leader and how to serve, and he brought many of the skills he’d acquired into the program with him. Through critical thinking and collaborative projects, the program helped him analyze his life and what he wanted to do. “Bethel was a step from where I was to where I wanted to be,” Estrada says. During the course of the program, he gained confidence in his abilities and developed his skills for biblical and theological study. The program also cemented his faith by helping him learn how to live out his faith, rather than just say that he is a Christian.

The past year, Estrada has been witnessing the effects of COVID-19 on his own community and noting their lack of medical care. This has further solidified his desire to find ways to give back, and with his bachelor’s degree, Estrada feels he has the ability to pursue that calling. Despite facing economic and cultural barriers in his life, he’s crossed the bridge to a better life for him and his wife. Today, he is applying for physician assistant programs, including the program at Bethel. “I enjoyed Bethel more than I thought I would,” Jesus says. “Bethel has played a big role in my life, and I am grateful.”

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The Office of Military and Veteran Services and Executive Director John Morris are dedicated to supporting military-affiliated students, helping them receive military benefits, successfully transition from military services to college life, and then have a transformative education and spiritual experience at Bethel.

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