April 19, 2013
Gospel Grace Porquez, M.A.U.M., '13
Many students come to Westminster Theological Seminary from Reformed traditions and churches. However, occasionally a student comes to Westminster with little to no knowledge of Reformed teaching, or even with a negative view of Reformed Theology. Gospel Grace Porquez (MAUM, ’13) is one such student who came to Westminster with little knowledge of the particulars of the Reformed faith and only a negative experience with one of its adherents.
Before coming to Westminster, Gospel had been doing campus ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ in the Philippines, where she grew up. She felt the need to gain more theological training to help her students, so she decided to look into attending seminary. As she was considering this, she visited her parents in the Philadelphia area, who attend Cresheim Valley Church where Rev. Dr. John Leonard preaches. “I met John Leonard, and started going to their church. We invited him over for dinner, and he and I chatted. He found out that I wanted to go to seminary, so he said, ‘Why don’t you check out Westminster? I’ll give you a tour.’ So, I came and sat in two classes, talked to admissions and they gave me a folder of applications if I wanted to apply.”
“I didn’t come from a Reformed background, and my only experience with Reformed theology was a negative experience. One of our students became involved in a Reformed church, and then he became against everything [about] Campus Crusade for Christ, and he left the fellowship. It was a hard time for some of our staff on campus because he would go and tell other students that what Crusade is teaching is wrong.”
With that negative experience, Gospel might have shied away from Reformed theology altogether. However, her experience at Cresheim Valley and visiting Westminster made an impression on her. “I liked John and his preaching, and there were other interns from Westminster at the time. It really impressed me, the way they talked about Scripture and emphasized God’s grace in it. I was really at the point where I was asking a lot of questions about my theology, and I felt like there was something deeper to Scripture than what I’d been taught, or how I had been reading it. Hearing them really made a difference and made an impact.”
She applied to Westminster and was accepted, but it still wasn’t her first choice of seminary at the time. However, through a number of circumstances, she decided it would be the best place for her.
While she didn’t quite know what Westminster was like at first, she quickly learned in her first two classes. “My first two classes, because I was only doing it part-time, were Greek and Apologetics (AP101) under Dr. Oliphint. I walked into that class, and I’ve never studied for any of my classes, even in college, as hard as I studied for AP101.”
After taking AP101, Gospel came away with a better grasp of her standing before God, the creator-creature distinction, total depravity, and common grace. “It really gave me a solid foundation. As I went through Westminster these past 4-5 years, I’ve slowly understood, ‘Oh, this is what we’ve talked about in AP101.’ A lot of [Westminster’s] courses interact with each other, so it illumines the stuff that you’ve studied in the past semesters. AP101 was transformational for me, in terms of ‘Oh, ok, so this is what Reformed theology is about!’”
Through her classes, she has learned more and more about how the whole of Scripture applies to her life. “In my Old Testament classes and even New Testament classes, where biblical theology is being done, I really see that it is a story of God’s covenant-keeping ways and God’s drama of salvation. The way I read my Bible now is very different because I see it and look at it as the story of God’s working through the life of the nation of Israel; it’s the covenant being fulfilled in Jesus Christ and how my story is being incorporated into that story, being recapitulated into that.”
She continues, “At Westminster, even in Gospel Communication, the emphasis is that Christ is the center of our faith. Even in our Christian walk, he is the one who enables us, we identify with him, we are united with him, and by his grace we are able to follow and live the life that he lived. It’s not because of me, but it’s because of him, because I’ve identified with him.”
Gospel started in the M.A.R. program, but switched to the Master of the Arts in Urban Ministry (MAUM) after accepting an offer for a full-time position as a Coordinator-Administrative at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. At times she wished that she could study full-time, but she also has seen the value of working while studying. “It was great to be working in a secular field. When I go into classes I know what they are talking about, I see it every day in my workplace. I rub elbows with people who are atheist, who question Christianity, who are nominal in their faith, who haven’t gone to church in 20 years. So I come into my classes with experience, and I come out and say, ‘How does this translate to the world outside Westminster?’”
At Jefferson, she sees first-hand how her studies at Westminster can be applied to the struggles of daily life. She has been able to share the hope of Christ with many of her unbelieving co-workers, some of whom even came to her for spiritual guidance. “Of course, my name is ‘Gospel’, so people expected me to be spiritual! When I started working at Jefferson one of my colleagues and I became friends. She started asking questions about God, about faith, and one day over lunch she asked me about my faith. I was able to share the gospel with her, and she accepted Christ.” Not every one of her co-workers that has come with spiritual questions has accepted the saving truth of Christ. However, Gospel has taken the knowledge she has gained at Westminster and translated it to the context of her workplace.
The Urban Missions program at Westminster has also changed her view of what missions looks like: “When I look at when I was in college, my understanding of missions was going to the mountains or the bush and translating the Bible and stuff like that. But I’ve also seen that, for the city, you go where people spend seven hours every day. Working at Jefferson has given me that platform, or that leverage to understand what it means to work seven hours, five days a week. If ever I’m going to be doing ministry, I want to be doing ministry in that field, too, and I’d like to encourage other Christians who are in those fields. It’s like Abraham Kuyper—all of knowledge is God’s knowledge, so I don’t see the divide between secular or sacred, but everything is used to further God’s kingdom, whether I’m a doctor, nurse, teacher, administrative assistant, or anything else.”
Gospel will graduate, Lord-willing, this Spring, and she doesn’t yet know where the Lord is leading her. Please pray for God’s direction in Gospel’s life, and for the rest of the student body graduating this May.
If you would like to support the work of Westminster to train students like Gospel, please visit our online donations page here.