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A Soldier Taught to Think

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.

Previously published in Crossroads alumni magazine, Eastern Mennonite University, and The Mennonite. Used by permission of Ike Porter.


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