by Katie Skattebo
Three weeks ago I was sitting in a coffee shop, finishing some reading for one of my final courses at Whitworth University, when an older man, whom I had never met, approached me and spoke into my life in an amazing way.
“Look,” he said rather shyly, “I don’t know you from Adam, but I have to tell you this: there is something special about you; you’re going to make a lot of people happy and change a lot of lives. I don’t know how to explain what it is, but it’s exuding from you, and it’s in your smile. I’ve never told anyone anything like this before, but I had to tell you.”
With that, he walked away without leaving an opportunity for me to say anything or continue the conversation. I sat silently for awhile, contemplating what this man had said to me. I knew that what he had seen “exuding from me” was the joy of God that thankfully can outshine my inadequacies and imperfections. I reflected on what brought me to a place where God’s influence in my life could be evident to a stranger, and I reflected on this man’s words about my future impact on the lives of others.
This stranger’s somewhat prophetic words were quite daunting at first, but then I remembered that what he said is exactly what I have been called to do for some time now. I suddenly felt at peace as I thought about all of the ways in which I have been trained, encouraged, and prepared to enter the world as a leader and a servant for God. My future is not intimidating because I am not being sent out under-equipped. I have been trained during my time at Whitworth University to honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity — and with God’s help, I am ready.
My education here has not been only in the academic realm; I have been a student of service, leadership, faith, and compassion. My time at Whitworth has been filled with lessons inside and outside of the classroom, and all with the support and encouragement of my professors and friends. Throughout my college courses, my professors have challenged me to apply the theories and knowledge that I have gained to my own Christian worldview. The integration of my faith into my academic studies has helped to provide a strong basis and framework for me as I enter into a world that will not always share my same beliefs. Whitworth has pushed me to figure out what I believe and how my convictions interact with the world. I remember countless conversations with professors who graciously took time out of their schedules to talk with me about my future, and to speak truth and wisdom into my life. Their influence on my journey has far exceeded that of the traditional classroom; my professors are my mentors and friends. I know that as I leave the classroom and enter the work world, I will not only be a strong employee but a strong citizen.
I learned an incredible amount about service while at Whitworth as well. As students, we are all encouraged to get involved with the greater community surrounding our school through clubs and ministries that serve specific areas of Spokane.
After my first semester, I could not wait to get plugged into a ministry and begin applying what I was learning in my classes to an actual ministry. A fellow student told me about a youth group he was in charge of and invited me to come and visit. I immediately fell in love with the kids in their junior high youth ministry. I have now been involved at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church as a junior high leader for almost my entire time at Whitworth. I have been able to actively apply all that I have learned in my ministry classes in the youth group setting in order to best serve those kids. This ministry has been one of the most influential experiences during my time at Whitworth. As Millwood Presbyterian’s Junior High Youth Director last year, I learned key principles of leadership and service through the internship. The experience stretched me to new heights of responsibility and leadership; I was able to take a Theology of Ministry course with fellow students in similar positions, who provided accountability and encouragement during tough times. That class showed me the importance of having Christian community while serving in any sort of leadership role.
I am not the person I was when I entered Whitworth in 2004. I am better prepared, and have a deeper understanding of my relationship with God and with the world now than I did as an eighteen-year-old. What that man at the coffee shop saw in me was the refining process that God has been working within me through my professors, classes, experiences, and friends at college.
I feel humbled and honored to know that God is going to use me for His work in the world. I was recently accepted into Teach For America, a non-profit organization, and will be teaching in an underprivileged elementary school in Houston, Texas, next year. I am excited to take on this challenging, yet rewarding task because I know that I am prepared. God has used Whitworth to mold and shape my life, and now He’s going to use me to mold and shape the lives of those around me.
I cannot think of a better place to start than in the classroom, except now I will be the one teaching.
Katherine Joy “Katie” Skattebo is a 2008 graduate of Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., and is moving to Houston, Texas, to teach before pursuing graduate study.