By Becky St. Clair
This week we caught up with Randy Ramos, student chaplain here at PUC. Randy grew up in Southern California and chose PUC because he wanted to stay in the state, but wanted to stretch his wings a bit, too. By all accounts, it sounds like he made the right choice. We talked to Randy a bit about his spiritual journey, his experience at PUC, and the hopes he has for his future. Without further ado, we introduce to you Randy Ramos!
What led you to choose a theology major?
It’s definitely a calling. To be honest, I never wanted to be a pastor and didn’t see myself as one. I actually wanted to do physical therapy—something I’d planned on doing since fifth grade. Then I came here and I realized my calling wasn’t to the medical world, but to minister to people in a different way. To help them find spiritual healing. Just taking the basic theology classes started to build my passion for looking into scripture to see how God views us.
Growing up the focus was more on how we view God, and ultimately what I’ve come down to in the last four years here at PUC is how God views us is shaped by how we view him. If we view him with anger, we’ll see him as an angry God. Scripture says he loves and wants us. Studying theology and diving into the Bible has reshaped how I view God, and I want to share that with other people—I want to help them find their own view of God that gives them peace and joy.
Tell me about your job. What kinds of things are you responsible for as student chaplain?
Well, along with the Student Association’s religious vice president, I’m in charge of spiritual life on campus. I want to make sure people on campus are doing well and their spiritual life is going well. If they’re struggling, students can talk to the campus chaplain or myself, and since I’m closer to their age, it gives me the chance to minister in a different way. I also create and lead Bible studies. I see the importance of small groups in building relationships, because that’s how Jesus did it with his small group of disciples. Although they didn’t quite catch on during his ministry, they finally got it when He ascended. It was then they realized the importance of a closer relationship with Christ. I want to see that model grow here at PUC, too, by urging through small groups the importance of rediscovering who God is in our lives.
So, what is it you love most about your job?
First, that I don’t see it as a job. It’s a passion, and what I’ve truly been called to. When those two become one—a passion and a calling together—it just doesn’t feel like work. This is what I’m meant to do for the rest of my life: Care for people the way Jesus cared for people and the way He cares for us now. I also love the opportunity to build relationships with people, watching them grow spiritually. My first roommate didn’t want anything to do with God. He had a lot of doubt. Throughout the year I spent as his roommate, I never preached the Gospel at him, or told him what to believe. I built the friendship first and then we began opening the Bible and praying together. Eventually he opened up, asking me to pray for him and his family. Our close friendship started it all. I love creating opportunities for more relationships like that to take place here on campus.
Just because you love it doesn’t mean it’s easy, right? What do you find challenging about being a student chaplain?
Getting people to see your vision. Sometimes you can do a lot of motivating and planning, trying to inspire others to see God loves them, and He is moving in their lives. Sometimes the response is, “meh.” Sometimes they don’t want to see it. Sometimes it can be sad seeing people not tasting and seeing the glory of God, but everyone has their own spiritual walk. Being patient with others’ walks is hard, too. We can all grow and move forward, but it takes time. It took time for the disciples; for example, Peter denied Jesus but if you look at Acts you see the Peter who now gets it. What Jesus told him to do he’s out in the world doing. It just takes time.
Since you mentioned spiritual walks, can you tell us a little bit about your own?
Of course! I came here knowing what I’d been taught, and knowing how God views us. I came feeling really guilty about the things I’d messed up in the past, and believed God to be extremely angry with me. During my first year here I started really looking into the life of Jesus, and I discovered He’s the mirror reflection of the Father. It was at that point I saw the Bible in a whole new light, realizing God actually really loves me. Loves all of us. That really shaped my spiritual journey. Now I can look back at my worst days and see God there, too, just loving me.
I’ve grown a lot here at PUC. I’ve come to realize church isn’t just a service on Sabbath. There’s so much more to it than four walls and a roof. Church is a broken community coming together for healing, and to accept the love God is always there to give. That has shaped a lot of how I’m going to go into ministry, understanding how God views me.
Growing up, I was afraid to ask the hard questions. “Who is God?” “Does he even exist?” “Does He even love us?” It was so hard because I was afraid people would shut me down. It wasn’t until I was about 16-years-old when I started realizing what was happening in my life had a reason. I started trusting God and walking with Him of my own accord, and really believed He had a plan for me. When I came here to PUC, I realized the same struggle was going on with people around me, too—there were other people asking the hard stuff I had asked. When we came together we were asking these questions, even in Bible studies I attended. It was so relieving to know I wasn’t alone in my questioning and doubt.
Last year I took a class called “God and Human Suffering.” That was a tough class. For one assignment, I wrote a paper called “A Theodicy,” which was basically a defense of God’s character. In that paper, through my own testimony, experience, and scripture, I looked at people who have died in my life and asked, “Why?” Why did my 10-year-old cousin die? Why did my high school friend die? I wrestled with my faith, and ultimately, it came down to this thing called sin. And it sucks. But God sent His son to overcome it, to give us life. We’re not going to be obedient to death, but Jesus was. That’s why He says He’s the way, the truth, and the life.
PUC is a place where asking questions is okay. It’s a place where you’ll find spiritual leadership to help you find the answers and point you to the true God. I keep going back to the fact if God allowed Job to ask these questions, we can do the same. God won’t be hurt by our questions. What it really comes down to is do you trust God?
You’re graduating this year and heading out into the world with your absolute faith and trust in God, and a solid education. What will you do with it?
That’s the big question, isn’t it? My ultimate goal is to pastor, whether that’s through chaplaincy, teaching, or other ways. It doesn’t have to be at a church. I want to lead a group of people as we move together to build leadership and empower the next generation. This has been my calling and I feel it’s the calling for the rest of my life. Giving my life to ministry was a huge step in my life, and I don’t plan on ever looking back.
How do you feel your time at PUC has helped you prepare for both your career and other aspects of your future?
It’s the experience here. Through the worst days, I feel that’s where I’ve learned the most that’s helped me prepare to relate to people who are struggling. The best way to relate to people is through experience and testimony. Even my good days are a testimony, as I can share with someone who’s struggling that better days are coming. What has really prepared me is not just classes and education, but experiences I’ve had here on campus.
You were recently given an award. What was it, and how were you selected?
Oh man, I was so surprised to learn I’d been been selected for this award. According to the email I received, the Charles E. Weniger Fellows student scholarship is awarded to students who exemplify positive qualities and characteristics in campus leadership. I’m honored to be selected for this award, as it tells me I have been effectively allowing Christ’s character to shine through me. I can attribute this only to allowing Jesus to lead the way in my life.
If you could give all incoming freshmen one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just one? Haha! Seriously, though, I think I’d most want them to know it’s okay to ask the hard questions—they will allow you to grow. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to struggle. Out of that, something beautiful happens. I’m speaking to myself, here, too. I was afraid of failing and struggling, but out of that, in Ecclesiastes 3, the Bible tells us God makes everything beautiful in its time. There’s a season for everything. It’s okay to go through the hard stuff, because He’ll be with you every step of the way.