Category Archives: Eastern Voice

The “How” of Learning: Laura Young

“What I loved about studying (at Eastern) was that it was very relevant but also really engaged me personally. We talked about where has God gifted you? What skills has he given you? Where can you serve him? I absolutely loved it and I loved having a smaller class because it was really personal and you got to know people really well. The lecturers were very real, and open and honest about their own faith journey as well. I just loved it because it was a very positive learning environment, it was really personal and we just had our faith incorporated into everything.

I did YITS, which was a gap year course designed for 17 – 21 year olds. There were about 40 of us and we spent a lot of time reflecting on where we’d been in our lives, what shaped us, who were the people who had influenced us and then we looked at where we want to serve God in the world.

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It was a great space after the Year 12 to process the questions: Who am I? Who is God? Where does he want me to be? It helped me discern how I wanted to live my life. It was a space where I thought about what job do I want to pursue? Where do I see myself in the world? It helped me discover my joy and passion for working with young people, so it helped to really think about wanting to be a youth worker, to walk alongside young people and help them explore life. It impacted me because it was a space to stop and think, “What do I want to do with my life? Who do I want to be?”

So after that I decided to do the BA in Youth Studies. I had been going to do Health

Sciences, which I had picked because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. We had a class in the YITS year that talked about vocation. The question became what is a passion and what is a need I see, and how can those meet? For me that was to pursue youth work as I realised how much I wanted to walk alongside young people, support them in life and provide them with options.

The reason I decided to study further at (Eastern) was because the learning was very holistic, it involved me as a person, it included my faith journey and it included who I was. What I had experienced in the one-year course made me think “Okay, this is really personal learning, really open learning, a lot of conversation, a lot of discussion.” So the reason I wanted to continue at (Eastern) rather than another tertiary institution was because it was very personal. Our classes were small and it meant I had a voice to contribute which was welcomed and encouraged, and I loved the personal aspect with the lecturer sitting there in the room with you sharing some of their story. What I loved is that they didn’t give answers but encouraged us to come up with our own answers. It was very much the “how” of learning, not just the “what”. They weren’t talking at us but inviting us into dialogue and talking about how we’re going to take what we’re learning and implement that in our lives.

That was what I loved about (Eastern). It was very challenging, very encouraging and very welcoming of my own views and contributions.

I was already doing a youth internship at my church and because I was studying youth work they asked if I wanted to become a youth worker. So I had an amazing opportunity to take what I had learnt into a career. I also worked for a period as a Schools’ Presenter doing values based workshops on topics like bullying, self-esteem, drugs and alcohol. My lecturer was the CEO of that organisation and he introduced me to the idea which was amazing because I hadn’t really considered that as an option. It all just came together because I was at Eastern studying youth work.”

Discerning My Calling: Sheron Ng

Bachelor of Theology graduate, Sheron Ng reflects on the important part Eastern College played in helping her discern her calling.

“I work at OMF International creating mobilisation materials and media resources for our ministries and missionaries both here and in Asia. Through my work, I tell stories of how God is working in the lives of unreached people groups throughout East Asia, encouraging Christians in Australia to get involved. However, this is nothing like what I planned to do. I went to (Eastern) thinking I would come out as a Christian minister, working in a church, maybe doing kid’s ministry; but halfway through, I was really challenged by God’s heart for mission. I hadn’t previously realised how clear that was in the Bible, and it made me change my degree from a ministry stream to a missions’ stream.

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It was quite an emotional time for me because of the change I was going through. My worldview was being reshaped and I couldn’t quite articulate it. I was driving home from class in tears one day, and I remember it being really dark on the freeway and thinking how dangerous it was that I couldn’t see through my tears. I remember praying, “God, I love this so much, I love what you’re speaking to me about, but it’s heartbreaking because I don’t want to leave my comfort zone, I don’t want to have to give up my career, give up my passions, give up my friends and family back home and go overseas. But I can see your heart for the lost, those who have never heard of Christ before.” In that moment I knew that I couldn’t turn back. I was being challenged at school in what I was reading and studying in the Bible, and looking at it through a different lens was very transformational.
Even though I’m not physically overseas, I would never have applied for my current role if God hadn’t led me here through applying for long-term mission work. I remember really struggling when I first felt God calling me. I said to him, “I’m not going, there’s just no way”, so I refused to seek him for clarity. Whenever I went to church, whenever I opened my Bible, or sang songs of worship, there were always tears. God even spoke through lectures on completely different subjects and topics. I had one teacher who prophesied something very specific about me, and I asked her how she knew. She looked at me and told me she prayed for her all students regularly and it was something God had impressed on her heart. After a while, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. As soon as I obeyed, turned around, and said to God, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do” and gave it all to him, I had peace in my heart and I didn’t have to struggle anymore.

I think that if I had studied at a regular University I wouldn’t have been so in tune with what God wanted me to do. I would have been chasing after my own passions, my own dreams, and for my own sake. But being in a tertiary environment with other Christians and lecturers who really cared about how we were living our lives for the kingdom really helped me to look to him and seek his help for guidance and not just do things my own way.”

It Began With A Divine Conversation: Kylie Butler

Managing Director of Christian Coaching Institute and Generations and Emerging Leaders Pastor at Baptist Union Victoria, Kylie Butler, reflects on her experience studying at Eastern College.

“I began my time at Eastern, with a divine conversation with Cheryl McCallum. I was unsure about my next steps for study, and she shared with me the outline of the Masters program. It seemed to fit my study personality so well; I loved how it was based on questions, research of both current context, historical context and theology.
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Was study easy – no way, I was juggling 2 jobs, family and study throughout my entire Masters program. However, it was some of the most practical, useful and helpful study I have ever done. I was implementing what I had learnt immediately into my work context. One of my favourite parts was the final semester completing a research project on why young people are leaving the church (in Australia) and leaving faith and what helps them to stay. This was immediately applicable to my role at the Baptist Union of Victoria, working in generational ministry. My research project was submitted to the BUV leadership team and my role adapted to reflect the recommendations made in my research project. I enjoyed my learning time at Eastern, it has helped to ask deeper, more contextual and reflective questions about life and faith, and also given me a theological depth to ministry I didn’t have previously.”

Exploring Liberation and Wellbeing: Dr Julie Morsillo

Community Counsellor and Eastern Lecturer Dr Julie Morsillo reflects on the benefits of community counselling.

I encourage students to consider doing a Masters degree, if you enjoy researching topics of interest to you. I enjoyed my Masters and PhD more than my under-grad, as you have time to do in-depth research on a topic of your choice. So you can follow your own interests with some guidance from your teachers. I personally, found it also gave me time for my own healing from
tough times in life, and so could then give others more support in their lives. I particularly find doing qualitative research very fulfilling, as you have a chance to explore the rich mosaic of the lives of others and yourself.

I believe doing a masters in community counselling, could really enrich your counselling practice and mean that you are more employable in community and counselling work. The approach we will use in this community counselling course and research, will hopefully inspire your narrative imagination and provide an enriched understanding of the community context of
your work and that of your clients and workplaces.
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The units in this masters course, start with exploring the community context of oppression, liberation and wellbeing concepts. So rather than just pathologising the individual as a victim, more seeking to see the survival of people in their often challenging community contexts.

The masters units, also cover practical learnings of counselling interventions, with practical community placements. This is followed by a major qualitative research project on a topic of your choice, to explore and document rich descriptions from emerging themes of your research.

A highlight of this course, will be to work with the wonderful lecturer, Art Wouters (and myself) with two to three day intensives each semester, at this beautiful boutique campus at Mulgrave,in the eastern subjects of Melbourne, at Eastern College.

Learning to Love the Spirit

Eastern Student Jennifer Syme talks about her experience studying Life and Ministry of the Spirit on line at Eastern College

“Wow! This unit has been an amazing journey for me personally and a reintroduction to and love for the Spirit- His life, presence, plan, purpose, longevity, history and the absolute primary role played within the Trinity, within the believers life- the now and yet to come. I am filled anew (really) with excitement and have a clearer understanding of role the Spirit played and is still playing and the response I should have and should fervently desire and corporately share with others. I agree with the authors of the set readings and the video (week 14), that Paul’s view, teaching and experience of the Spirit was fresh, new, exciting, believed, ‘hands on’, Trinitarian in nature and a ‘real’ part of the lives of the first believers. As churches have changed over the centuries, teaching on the Spirit has come and gone but has generally not been a focal point of theology in many of the traditions. This has led perhaps to the present day, where although there has been a resurgence in believing in and encouraging the Spirit’s presence and work, the Spirit has been given less attention to perhaps, for example, the work of Christ and a general longing for the gifts. Perhaps different denominations have been a bit ‘afraid’ of the Holy Spirit?
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For me, growing up in non-Charismatic/Pentecostal church, the Holy Spirit was mentioned but not ‘taught’. I was certainly not encouraged to seek and desire His presence, although I recited the Nicene Creed and knew He was part of the Trinity. A lot of what I learned growing up was modelled and experienced, rather than taught, and I really had little understanding of the magnitude of the Trinity and the role the Spirit played. The importance of and the work of God and Jesus was clear to me but little was made of the power of the Spirit. This has changed over the years, as I have become involved in further study and in church that did ‘life with the Spirit’, where individual and corporate gifting’s are encouraged and miracles and healings are sought, prayed for and desired. He is a resident in my heart, my gift giver, truth bearer, counsellor, convictor, helper, comforter and guide and He shows me Jesus.”

Insights into Ministering in the Moment

Tony Chandler is family therapist and Eastern College student who has also spent the last four years travelling to Indonesia to assist ministers who are experiencing stress and burn out. Below, he reflects on how Eastern College has helped equip him to be effective in some very real and difficult situations.

My normal work is here in Australia as a family therapist, but over the last 4 years I have also been working with the “Disciplemakers” organisation in Indonesia helping pastors and their families who are experiencing stress and burnout.

Recently I was working on the island of Ambon where fifteen 15 years ago a major jihad terrorised the island. I found that a number of pastors and leaders were still struggling from this situation.
-One of the core aspects that we focus on here is grace, how they interact with students, colleagues, parents and carrying that grace with them.”
While I was there I was invited to preach one Sunday night and gladly accepted the invitation. I prepared a sermon on ‘Mercy” and used the beatitudes from Matthew 5 and the woman caught in adultery from John 8. At the end of my sermon the pastor broke down in front of the congregation and repented of an 8 year dispute with the pastor of another church, which happened to share the same building for services. They had not spoken for years. The entire leadership of the church was called up to the front and I was asked to pray over them. They then left the church and went to the home of the other pastor who used the building on Sunday mornings. They all asked him for forgiveness. He must have been surprised to see about 10 people standing at his front door on a Sunday night!

I was able to get insights on how to minister to the pastors on Ambon because of theological studies I am currently doing at Eastern. The jihad traumatised the people and they are struggling to recover fully. I found that I was able to recall some historical periods where Christians had to deal with persecution and I could apply the theological reasoning of people like St Augustine as I ministered into these situations.

My Journey Back to Eastern

Simone Turner began studying a Bachelor of Ministry at Tabor with her husband in 1998. After some time, Simone put her studies on hold to work full time as a High School Chaplain. Simone then got married, had her first child and together with her husband planted a church. During these seasons of her life, Simone never forgot about her Bachelor course and hoped she would get back to it one day.

As I have learnt, life doesn’t necessarily always go to my plan and I found the years were ticking on and maybe that inspiration to finish my degree was just too far gone. It wasn’t until, many years later, when my husband and I felt it was time to hand the church leadership over and to move into another season of life that I began to wonder what would be next for me. My young dependent children were growing and my youngest was approaching school starting age, so this triggered a new stirring and shifting in me to explore something new. I began to wonder again what it would look like to re-engage in study and tentatively put my feelers out to see what I could find.

For a long time I had wondered what it would be like to be a school teacher and through my work as a school chaplain had discovered a strong drawing to the school community and life. My children being at primary school had meant I could get very involved in this strong connection I felt but I was feeling stirred to explore it deeper. I looked around at other courses, becoming increasingly aware that it was time to get back to my original degree and finish it off in order to move into this next season.

So in 2013, this brought me back to Eastern to start a conversation about what this would look like. I was so encouraged by the willingness and support I felt to re-engage with what I started so many years ago. There were many emails and phone calls that I made, as I navigated my pathway again. It was like going back to an old familiar track that I had walked many years before, but realising that things had changed. It would look a whole lot different now and I needed to forge ahead in a different way. Eastern had moved from Ringwood North, Oban Road to Mulgrave, and my Bachelor of Ministry course was no longer as it had existed.

I am eternally grateful for those who made it possible for me to return to study here. After much consideration, I was enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at Eastern, being recognised for my previous studies, as well as shaping into a new degree. I decided it was time to pick up the books again and began with one subject a semester just to see how it all worked in with my busy, family life. I had a very supportive family and eventually found myself fully jumping in, with a full time load.

“I decided it was time to pick up the books again and began with one subject a semester just to see how it all worked in with my busy, family life.

But this wasn’t the only purpose for being back. God had been stirring within me a desire to study to be a primary school teacher. At first it was a little scary to admit, but it became clearer the more I studied that I was not just here to finish what I had started but to set myself on a pathway that was altogether different than when I originally went to study.

So with the support from many of the staff and students here at this college, I completed my Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Youth Studies, mid 2015 and then jumped straight into the Graduate Diploma of Education (Primary), which I am due to finish mid 2016.

I feel humbled to be at this point and to be here. It has been the most rewarding experience to come back and finish what I started with my studies and I thank God for the unusual pathway He has led me on to this day. I feel excited about what is next. I am enjoying my current studies a lot and look forward to stepping into whatever God provides. God is truly remarkable and I know with all the twists and turns and deepening and richness of faith I have journeyed is in part attributed to what I have encountered through my studies at Eastern.

My experience at Eastern has given me a sharper mind, deepened my faith, given me a rich and widening community and inspired me to be courageous in doing my part to change the world I find myself in everyday.

The Responsibility of Bringing Truth, Justice, Healing and Transformation

This reflection is taken from the Graduation Speech by Jonathan VB at the Eastern College Australia’s Graduation Night in 2016.

I was drawn to Eastern College because it appeared to encourage independent learning and creative thinking, as well as an education that encouraged you to ground your learning in practice. As someone who had at the time served for some 22 years in professional ministry already, I was drawn to the shape of the study, the way I could shape the direction of my study towards what I wanted to research and the encouragement I got to ask hard questions and ground that in practice.

“We have a responsibility to take the gift that we have been

I remember fondly one of my supervisors after conversing about where my thinking was heading. He had a look of excitement and wonder in his eyes and said, “I think you have found a non-traditional answer.” Eastern has certainly delivered in being a place that stretches you and encourages you to think beyond what is traditionally understood and accepted.

Eastern College has shaped us all in ways that I think we will never fully come to appreciate. We leave different people than we were when we came.

As I was thinking about this occasion today, this moment we are all in I couldn’t escape the thought that we are the privileged few in this world that get to enjoy the opportunity to study. Across the many continents of this globe there are more faces than we can take in of people that will never have the opportunity to study and read at the level we have, people that will never be able to dress up in a Batman suit and a funny hat and receive the award that we are today. People in isolation,  people in slavery, people in remote indigenous communities, people in refugee camps, people in slums, people with crippling illness, and people who come to our country to seek this opportunity yet get sent off and locked away in places like Manus Island, Nauru.

As I reflected on what it means to stand here as a privileged minority university graduating postgraduate student, I think we need to take seriously the words of Jesus to his followers in Luke 12:48 when he says, “To whom much has been given much will be expected” or as Eugene Peterson puts it “Great gift mean great responsibilities”.

To myself and my fellow graduates, we have a responsibility to take the gift that we have been given and to whether it be in the fields of arts, aid and development, counselling, psychology, education, ministry and theology or whatever we need to take the Good news of the Kingdom of God in Jesus, to be true tellers, to rage against injustice, to bring healing, transformation into our respective locations. May we not be found sitting in our rooms staring at our certificates on our walls feeling good – may we be found in the trenches in places of darkness and evil in this world bringing light, hope, justice, truth, healing and transformation.

And for that, and in closing, on behalf of the graduating students body today, I extend our thanks to the faculty and staff, for putting into practice your learning, and that in which God has gifted you with and seeking to rise to the responsibility of bringing truth, justice, healing and transformation through the education and nurture of people such as us – may we make you proud and may God bless us all.