From day one, when you had your first experience here at San Diego Christian College, you’ve been making us proud! SDCC Hawks just like you are soaring high in their careers, ministries, communities, and families. Here are a few of your success stories.
“When I got the idea of doing a video,” says SDCC Alum Michael Alvarez, “the immediate thought to run through my head was, Are you crazy? How are you going to pull that off?”
Just two years after graduating from SDCC with a music degree, Michael began teaching music. Three years after that, he moved into the role he has today at Jurupa Valley High School where, just like everywhere else in the country, the Coronavirus is keeping students at home. “But then I thought about something I learned at SDCC: whatever seems impossible, that’s your cue to do it—because you’ll always learn something you can take with you forever.”
And so, wanting to touch people in this time of quarantines and social distancing, Michael called his music students “together” to offer them a chance to use their gifts to reach into the community and offer light in a dark time. The students jumped at the chance. The task before Michael was to produce the videotaping of a song played simultaneously by 20 of his student musicians. That’s 20 separate parts played by 20 separate musicians located in 20 different homes in Jurupa Valley that would have to be edited together harmoniously on one video screen. Could such a musical and technical feat be pulled off?
In just one week, the video, Social Distancing, was completed. Today, it’s presence on YouTube and Instagram has garnered more than 2000 views—and smiles—from around Jurupa and the world in less than a week. Not bad for a tiny farming town outside Riverside, California.
“The importance of letting music, the language of God, touch others for Him” offers Michael, “is directly linked to the values instilled in me by such wonderful SDCC professors as Fred Blackburn, Steve Whitten (Bible) and also Larry Wilson (Music), as well as so many others. To be where I am today doing what I do and touching so many people is really a reflection of my experience at SDCC. I wouldn’t be who I am.”
See “Social Distancing” here:
“When people are coming into the hospital with symptoms of coronavirus,” SDCC alum, Emmanuel Onywera says, “there are more things to tend to than just their physical health concerns. They are usually overcome with fear.” Emmanuel, who graduated with a degree in kinesiology in 2012 and is now in a psychiatry program at University of California San Francisco, knows that as he makes assessments of the patients, what he says to them can be much needed medicine.
“I realize that in the Bay Area, the chances of the person I am assessing being a Christian are not very high. But I am encouraged and guided by Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. That is why I tell every patient that I am praying for them, and that with the help of God they will overcome what they are going through. More times than not their faces light up and I can see them cling to every word.”
Emmanuel has made a direct line between his faith in Christ and his position on the front lines of the coronavirus. “I believe I’m not just here to assess them but to open them up to the possibility of placing their faith in Jesus. It’s like when a problem such as the coronavirus arises, man thinks of how they can fix it. I think our first response should be how can we pray for it. God is much bigger than we give him credit for. He should be the first one we go to. There is comfort and hope in God. I want everyone to know that.”
“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”. 1 Corinthians 10:31.
As a young child in the second grade, Hannah Mallard knew she was called to teaching. For as long as she can remember Hannah wanted to be a teacher and as she grew older her desire for a profession in education only intensified. According to Hannah, “As I grew older and began pursuing my degree, my passion for teaching continued to grow and nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goals.” Even in the face of extreme difficulty and hardship, Hannah continued the pursuit of her dreams. In 2015, as a senior in college, Hannah became very sick and was ultimately diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “I was completely shocked, and my life plans of getting married and starting my credential program at San Diego Christian College (SDCC) were put on hold. In that moment, I knew that I had to cling to Jesus to find the strength to make it through.”
Hannah’s perseverance and prayers were answered when after 9 months of chemotherapy, radiation, a wedding, and countless hours of prayer, she was healed. Hannah believes that God continued showing his goodness through her discovery of the teaching credential program at SDCC. The flexible program and schedule at SDCC allowed Hannah to substitute teach while taking classes. At SDCC Hannah gained not only an invaluable education, but networking opportunities which eventually opened a door at the Santee School District where she now calls home. “I have been so honored to be recognized by my fellow teachers as Sycamore Canyon’s Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020! Teaching is the hardest, yet most rewarding part of my life.”
Dr. Katina Evans has always been determined. At an early age she determined she could overcome the obstacles society put in front of her. Raised in the Deep South, her and her husband took their life savings and moved with their two beautiful little girls to start a business in San Diego. Unfortunately, the business failed and the family found themselves in San Ysidro, penniless and homeless. Then her husband left.
Crushed, but undeterred, Dr. Evans did not give up. In fact, she felt that God was prompting her to get a law degree. What seemed like a crazy idea, God blessed into a remarkable against-all-odds victory. She would miraculously earn her law degree in just 3.5 years, under almost unthinkable circumstances, raising her girls in shelters, borrowed apartments and ramshackle motels.
With degree in hand, her professional career took off. Dr. Evans has worked in a law office, helped a non-profit succeed, and even oversaw a grocery chain with $11 million in annual sales. When she started teaching as an adjunct Business professor at SDCC, she realized that she had a passion for helping students succeed. That’s when her incredible journey led to the role she has today as the Interim V.P. of Academic Affairs at SDCC—what she calls the greatest blessings of her life.
It all came about because God wanted her to step into the insurmountable odds of getting an education when the chips, all the chips, were down, and then witness Him bless her beyond her wildest dreams. As so many of the students she comes in contact with are facing serious obstacles to their educational goals, Dr. Evans has experienced them all, from a lack of self-belief, to having no money, to having no one to help, and on and on.
“I would never have chosen my path—to be stripped of everything,” offers Dr. Evans. “But I’m so glad to have it to offer my students and fuel my heartfelt advocacy of their ambitions. If I can do it, they can do it. Because with God all things are possible.”
She adds, “When I was going through my years as a homeless law student I used to ask, “God, why me” in a negative way. When I look back and see His love and provision today, I ask “God, why me?” knowing I was never deserving of that kind of love.
San Diego Christian College is privileged and honored to have a professor with such passion for her work and such compassion for our students. Whatever circumstances our students find themselves, they can always count on Dr. Evans, encouraging and guiding them forward.
When did you and your wife (name) graduate?
My wife, Bryanna Travis, graduated May of 2015. I graduated in May of 2016.
What were your major(s)?
She graduated with a B.S. in Aviation Technology and I graduated with a B.S. in Aviation.
When did you two get married?
We got married in San Diego on March 7, 2016.
One cute boy named Christopher. He was born June of 2019.
How did SDCC prepare you for your career(s)?
SDCC helped us by getting all our needed flight training with a strong foundation in Biblical Truths we were able to take with us. Other than our aviation classes, my wife particularly liked Scientific Models of Origin. It overviews facts & examples that demonstrate the authenticity of the Genesis story. The most valuable class I took, besides my aviation classes, was Christian Ethics. It was beneficial because it helped me understand how people think and how people are motivated outside of the Christian faith.
If your wife works, what does she do?
My wife works part time for a company called Avfuel. She helps handle the logistics of getting fuel to airports across the country.
How did you get involved in the Middle East?
My wife & I moved to Michigan for a new job that I got right after we found out we were expecting our first child. Long story short, I had failed out of training and took a local flying job. Unfortunately, it was not enough to pay our bills and student loan payments. Instead, we decided to find something else. I had previously worked for Dynamic Aviation and I knew they had ISR job opportunities. I applied and a few weeks later got a call that there was an opening for a program in the Middle East. I talked it over with my wife and we decided it was the best opportunity for our family. It would allow us to catch up on bills and pay our student loans off faster. It was a God send.
What do you do in the day to day with this job?
My job consists of flying a King Air doing surveillance for the Department of Defense. The information that we provide allows the U.S. military and our partners to operate more safely and efficiently. Daily, I split my days between flight duties and Mission Briefing Officer duties. During flying days, I prep the aircraft, prepare the safety and mission brief, and upon completion of the mission debrief the findings of the flight. On MBO days I prepare all the military forms to submit for flight approvals for the next flying day, as well as provide support for the crew that is flying that day. Both of our pilots are qualified as Captain, so we rotate each day who is Pilot in Command and who is Second in Command. On my off days I work out by jogging up and down the base or get together with the other off-crew and play Monopoly Deal card game.
Describe the business of Dynamic Aviation.
Dynamic Aviation provides innovative aviation solutions for government and commercial customers worldwide. They do this by modifying their airplanes for specific missions. They develop and deliver aviation solutions that help their customers achieve new levels of performance and productivity. Dynamic Aviation can provide Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Airborne Data Acquisition; or Public Health and Safety.
What’s the biggest challenge with this job?
The hardest part of this job is leaving my family. On average, I will be deployed half of the year. I am currently on a 2 months on, 2 months off rotation. My wife does have family near by to help when I am gone so we are thankful for that. Another hard part for me is watching Christopher grow up and not being home to see it.
How have you and your wife had to trust God over this past year?
We have had to trust God so much in the last year. We moved from California to Michigan in late 2018; away from our families while expecting our first child. Then I lost my job in December. We prayed and worked hard to find a new job. I was back to flight instruction in a Michigan winter by day and delivering pizza at night to make ends meet. Then God gave me this job overseas which has been a huge blessing. This year has proven to be the most difficult because I could not return home due to COVID 19 and was deployed 5 ½ months in a row. This was very difficult, but God has been taking care of us in these uncertain times and we continue to trust Him.
How can we pray for you?
Both Bryanna and I have decided that we want to pay off our student loans as quickly as possible. We both believe we have been called to be debt free and we are working hard to achieve that goal. We hope we can achieve that goal in the next 5 years. We ask that people pray that we can stay strong and focused on our debt free goal. (Proverbs 6:1-5) We also need prayer as I will be gone a lot for work and Bryanna is here with our baby which has been challenging. For me being gone and not being home with my family as it starts to wear on me. Pray that God gives us both the grace and perseverance to complete our goal which we both have been called to do. We are determined to live like no one else, so later we can live and give like no one else.
“The first time I stepped foot on a ship, (one of my recently assigned ships) the USS Fitzgerald, DDG-62, I was lowered by hoist from a helicopter. We could not land, as the ship was listing at 5 degrees. I was one of four people sent to the damaged vessel, along with the Deputy Commodore, Damage Control Chief, and a Medical Doctor. 300 Sailors were fighting to keep the guided missile destroyer afloat. For the 15-hour ride back, I did non-stop counseling. The first thing I did was conduct a ‘spiritual triage.’ I spoke with those in or near the damaged area, those who closed the hatch to the flooding compartment, and then those who were standing watch when it happened. Later, I asked the command, ‘Who do you want me to see?’ A bow to stern head-count revealed seven Sailors missing. “
The collision with ACX Crystal, a larger Philippine container ship, occurred on June 17th, about 56 nautical miles (64 miles) southwest of the USS Fitzgerald’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. Chaplain Stephens, continued: “When the ship finally made it back to port, the community had rallied at the pier. Families provided food for the famished crew, and additional chaplains and counsellors stood by. It was a base-wide response.” Jonathan took a long breath. “Family members of the missing crew members were frantic. Divers went down into the flooded area, and found seven Sailors drowned in the berthing area.”
The next morning, Chaplain Stephens showed up in his dress blues for casualty operations ministry duties to formally notify and console grieving family members. “The next ten days were a blur. How do you explain the unexplainable to loved ones whose whole world has changed? It’s not normal. So much damage was done; to the ship, the crew, and most significantly, to the Families of those who perished. Everyone worked together; the base chaplains, casualty teams, the command, family support; all the while we were grieving, together.” When I asked about the dignified transfer of remains back to the Sailors’ home towns, he said, “The Air Force team as Yakota Air Base handled the sendoff. Air Force chaplains conducted the Dignified Transfer of the flag-draped coffins on the ‘Angel Flight’ cargo plane. They did a great job supporting us.”
I then asked Jonathan about the local memorial service for the seven lost Sailors: “We had great command support for the base-wide service; from the Commodore and Senior Chaplain down. The Navy flew the Families out. Five of seven Sailors’ Families came, along with Admirals from one to four stars. The news media was kept out of the service, with only the Armed Forces Network allowed to cover and film the solemn event. I thought for sure the command would have the senior command chaplain officiate the service, but Commander David Cline, senior chaplain, put me up front. He and other base chaplains provided all the backup and support of this major event for over 750 people.”
His words were aired at the Washington, D.C. Memorial Service and provided healing and comfort to Sailors, Families, and the Nation. His message at the Memorial Service focused on the act of giving displayed by the seven Sailors. He said, “So much has been given…But I want to say, for those of us grieving…at the end of the day, what’s given to us is not what is going to heal us. True healing doesn’t come from what we receive; true healing comes from what we choose to give for others.”
When I asked Jonathan how he felt undertaking this difficult ceremony, he replied, “Lord! I felt so honored to play a role in the work He’s doing during this great tragedy.”
Now a few weeks after the fact, I asked Jonathan how he and his young Family were doing? “Well, we weren’t even settled in quarters when the tragedy occurred. I had to leave Melissa and six-month old Louisa to fly to the ship. Fortunately, we had just acquired a car, so I loaded as much of our baggage into it before I took off, ‘Go-bag’ in hand. That next day, Melissa had to handle the arrival of our household goods, plus care for our baby. I remember the last thing she said to me, as I left, ‘Tell me what to pray for.’ We have a saying in the Navy, ‘The whole Family serves!’ Because of her faith and commitment to my ministry, I could fully engage in my duties without worry, or concern. She is a role model for military spouses in the time of intense crisis.”
Jonathan continued, “As for me, I have no routine yet. It was truly a “baptism by fire” at this new assignment. This major tragedy has gone on for six weeks. It’s been tough; no time to establish local community connections, a real struggle.”
When I asked Jonathan how people in our churches could pray, he gave me this list:
Praise and gratitude to God. It was incredible to see what God has done in and through this tragedy. I didn’t lose sleep throughout the whole event!
Going forward: for fellowship in the local base community – that support network we all need.
I was so busy for so many weeks, I got off balance. I am working to get back into reading the Bible for myself. We all need that daily quiet time/devotions.
To quote a friend, ‘The chaplain needs to fill up always and not just pour out.’
I was glad to finally get a call from Chaplain Stephens from Japan. I took notes as fast as I could, so I could share his experience with you our faithful supporters of chaplaincy. I urge you to lift Jonathan, Melissa, and baby Louisa to God in your prayers. As you do that, remember the other 189 chaplains serving across the 54 United States, Territories, Commonwealth and the District of Columbia, AND spread around the globe in combat zones, sailing hostile waters, and often flying in dangerous skies.