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Honoring Grand Rapids Theological Seminary's Class of 2018

News May 3, 2018

Grand Rapids Theological Seminary will celebrate the accomplishments of its 65 graduates on Friday, May 4, 2018. During the evening ceremony, Dr. David Turner is scheduled to deliver the commencement address.

Elbin Castillo (M.A. ’18), an alum of the Urban Cohort program with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, and Joy Lyle (M.A. ’18), an alumna of the counseling program, reflected on how GRTS’ diverse learning community uniquely prepared them for a lifetime of learning, serving and leading in their vocations.

Elbin Castillo

Why did you choose to study at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary?

Castillo: “I planted the church that I pastor in the Dominican Republic back in 2002. A couple of years later, I talked to the leaders and told them that I wanted to take a sabbatical so that I could study and learn at a seminary in the United States.

“Since then I started praying for that purpose. Many years went by and for many reasons I was not able to take the sabbatical. I wanted to find a good seminary but, at the same time, I needed a scholarship. A friend of mine told me about GRTS and the Urban Cohort program. I contacted Rev. Dr. Royce Evans and Dr. Graham McKeague, and God opened the door through them.”

How has your experience as a seminarian shaped your vision of ministry?

Castillo: “This time at GRTS is a milestone in my life and ministry. I have been impacted by the lives and the love of the professors as well as their wisdom. The fellowship and the relationships with the students have been amazing…very meaningful. I can say that all the personnel at GRTS are very compassionate and have a Christ-like character.

“Because of my time and training at the seminary, I feel more committed to my call as a pastor and better equipped for the ministry. I’m more motivated to keep learning and putting into practice what I know. I have a clearer and a fresher vision about my calling and God’s plan for me.”

What is one of the most impactful lessons you learned as a GRTS student?

Castillo: “Humbleness. I can say that humbleness is a common denominator for the GRTS community.”

What are your vocational plans after graduation?

Castillo: “I’m heading back to the Dominican Republic with my wife and four kids to keep pastoring my church. Besides working holistically in our impoverished community of Villa Duarte in Santo Domingo East, I’m planning to start training pastors and leaders of rural areas who have a genuine call for the ministry but lack the necessary tools. I will also start radio broadcasting once a week.”

Joy Lyle

Why did you choose to study at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary?

Lyle: “I chose GRTS because it was the only program that I could find that had a trauma concentration, put me on the path toward getting a license and integrated my faith into counseling. I had been looking all across the nation for a program like this! My friend had been finishing his master’s at GRTS and highly recommended it to me.”

How has your experience as a seminarian influenced your vision of ministry as a counseling professional?

Lyle: “I feel as if GRTS has not only invested in me vocationally but spiritually as well. It is clear that the professors not only care about developing me as a counselor, they care about my spiritual life as well, and that has been impactful.

“GRTS has greatly shaped the way that I approach not only counseling but my youth ministry work in the local church. I am able to better see each student through the lens of who God made them to be and love them where they are at. I am better able to live out God’s calling on my life because of what I have learned at GRTS.”

What is one of the most impactful lessons you’ve learned as a GRTS student?

Lyle: “One of the most impactful lessons that I have learned at GRTS is how to take better mental care of myself. Some of the techniques that I was learning with clients, I practiced on myself first.

“GRTS has helped me learn that I need to practice good self-care or else I will not be able to take care of anyone else, whether that be in a counseling setting or a church setting. This by itself has single-handedly saved my career!”

What are your vocational plans after graduation?

Lyle: “I am still waiting for God to reveal to me what comes next after I finish my degree. I fully feel like God called me to GRTS and made a way for me to be there.

“I currently work as a youth and children’s director at Evanston Avenue Baptist Church and for Love INC of Muskegon, and I love what I do. But I also love counseling so very much! I trust in God to make my future path clear, and I know that His plans are good!”

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