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SEM: Stacy’s Story

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Our School of Everyday Mission (SEM) brings together students of all ages and all backgrounds from around the world to equip students as ministers and missionaries for the Kingdom of Jesus.

Stacy Krainz is a current SEM student and shared her experience with us:

“For years I’ve been asking myself: “How do we mature in our faith in Jesus and the Bible?” and “How do we reconcile the church of the 21st century, particularly in America, with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount?” SEM has provided the nourishment I seemed to lack for decades.

My journey with Christ started at Sunday School during first grade. I loved the classic Bible stories, especially about Jesus, the parables and the Sermon on the Mount. However, my family treated Sunday School as a middle-income American ritual with no connection to our home life, and by the end of high school, Jesus was merely a cultural figure. During my senior year at a secular university, a friend invited me to an interdenominational prayer meeting, and I realized that I wanted to follow the Christ I had learned of as a child.

This was followed by years of moving, changing jobs, finishing three graduate degrees, and teaching college-level courses in three U.S. states and three foreign countries, including the Holy Land. In each locale, I found a church to attend, but I also found a disconnect between what Jesus taught and what the congregations were willing to accept in terms of beliefs and practice. When I returned to my Michigan hometown and retired, I knew I needed to understand this disconnect.

My goal was to gain insight into what Jesus really said and what it meant in both New Testament times and in our current circumstances. For more than five years, I searched for a program that would provide in-depth knowledge of the Bible, its history, its cultural context and its implications for the lives of believers throughout the centuries. I looked for certificate and even master’s level programs in theology or Bible studies in a variety of places, but I could not find a program with the courses that I sought.

Then in 2022, I visited a church called Woodland Hills.

I have personally not found another church like Woodland Hills—a church with such solid teaching, broad and deep knowledge of the Bible and lack of performative artifice. After my first visit, I started to watch Woodland Hills online and saw the announcement for the SEM program. It was a Goldilocks moment for me—a program with just the right venue (a fall retreat followed by online Zoom courses), just the right time commitment (four hours online per week), just the right course of study (personal insights informed by history, culture and the Bible narrative), and challenging but realistic objectives.

I worried at first about my age difference, given that I am now 69 and decades older than most students, but the diverse generations and national backgrounds in SEM have been a blessing, with ages ranging from the twenties up to post retirement and online participation from at least six countries on four continents. This challenges me to listen carefully and not make slothful assumptions about “the” interpretation of the Bible.

I have also learned so much from the complementing backgrounds of the instructors, which include expertise and advanced degrees in counseling, psychology, theology, philosophy, history and more. Dr. Paul Eddy’s course on The Life and Teachings of Jesus is especially helpful to me as I process my memories of almost four years of teaching in northern Samaria and a nearby country. Being in SEM is the first time since I returned to the United States that I remember feeling unguarded discussing the countries where I’ve resided and experiences which I’ve had in the Holy Land and beyond.

For anyone considering SEM, I would ask the following: Are you interested in knowing Jesus and the Bible more deeply? Are you interested in learning how to make the Bible more personal, both in terms of how it informs your life story and in terms of applying it to your vocation? Are you interested in being with believers who have very different backgrounds but who are committed to loving God and appreciating your background and your perspective? If so, then I encourage you to read more about SEM and decide if the time is right for you to apply.”

Stacy, we love having you in class!

Applications for Fall 2023 are open—find out more here.

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