By Ike Porter
When I first arrived at Eastern Mennonite College (now EMU), Harrisonburg, Va., I felt like a fish out of water. I had been discharged from the military at the conclusion of an unpopular war. I was a warrior entering a faith community that did not believe in war. I genuinely wanted peace and wholeness for my soul but was unable to articulate such a profound concept. I had not been raised in a Christian tradition but had a conversion while in the military.
This Mennonite college taught me how to think. This is a simple yet profound statement. Many religious-based educational institutions do not teach students how to think; instead they teach them what to think. I remember many times being confused about an issue I was studying only to have the professor encourage me to work through it. I wanted answers; my professors wanted me to think.
Today, I serve as the chief chaplain at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Battle Creek, Mich. My work in anger management and as a federal mediator grows out of the theology of peace and reconciliation I learned and embraced at EMU. My work in ethics is enhanced by my formal education, but it is driven mostly by living with, taking communion with and becoming one with a people who are willing to pay a price for standing up for what is right.
God has taken what I learned and experienced in the military and combined it with what I learned at EMU, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Ashland Theological Seminary, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Western Theological Seminary. This has enabled me to be a minister of hope and reconciliation in a realm where many are devastated and wounded physically, emotionally and spiritually by the worst that humanity can do to humanity.
Ike Porter, a 1979 graduate of Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University) in Harrisonburg, Va., lives in Kalamazoo, Mich.