By Andrea James
Taylor Pittenger is a recent PUC graduate who earned a degree in religion and returned to the college for her secondary school teaching credentials. However, she was initially drawn to PUC’s excellent journalism program. In her words, “I absolutely adored doing journalism and writing for the Campus Chronicle, and felt I was really excelling, but I had a big moment where I felt God was calling me to do something more.”
Taylor felt God wanted her to help people spiritually, but was torn between pastoral work and teaching. She thought about which path would allow her to make the greatest impact on students. “I felt if I became a teacher, I would be able to make a bigger impact on them and see their spiritual growth happen on a day-to-day basis”
Taylor interned with the youth pastor at the Loma Linda University Church in the summer of 2016. The experience helped her realize how much she loved to work with youth and talk about God with them. “It was life-changing. Before, I felt a little insecure about going into this field because I felt I was not qualified; I felt I wasn’t good enough. I would look at my peers in the department of theology and I would see them preaching, I would see them doing Bible studies, and I would see how smart they were when it came to Biblical ideas. I felt like I was inadequate. But when I was in that room with my students—actually in that space—and when I’m teaching, I felt like this is exactly where I need to be. I have an opportunity to disciple young people. I think what’s lost in our church is we keep saying the youth are the future; they’re the future of the church; but I think that’s only half true; they are the present of the church as well.”
Taylor finds comfort in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (NIV).
“That one verse is something I really believe in. It makes me think, ‘It doesn’t matter what age you are, what ethnicity, what gender you are.’ I think we are all children of God and everyone should have an opportunity to experience God’s love and God’s grace. I think it’s easy for us to shut people out because we disagree with them. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, on the religious spectrum—no matter where you are on that, it’s easy for us to say ‘Oh, you’re one of them? I’m not going to listen to you. I really want to make an effort to listen to other people because I think when we take time to actually listen to what other people have to say regardless of what their views are, you get a sense of humanizing them and you create an empathetic relationship with that person. For me, even though I might disagree with somebody else, I still want to know; I still want to learn what is on their hearts. I feel like I’ve really grown as a person because I learned and took time to listen. It’s better—I think it’s important to not just hear people, but to actually listen to people; I think there’s a big difference with that.”
Overall, Taylor has enjoyed being a part of the spiritual, diverse PUC community and is sad to be leaving once she earns her credentials. “PUC is a place where my relationship with God flourished. I had a relationship with God before I was here, but ever since I’ve been here, it’s been a journey where I felt like God always had my back through every step of the way. He called me to different places and showed me different people in my life I needed. I’m just grateful I had this opportunity to be in a place I think God wanted me to be.”