“I started seminary with no kids and graduated with seven.”
Michael and his wife are biological parents to three, adoptive parents to two and foster parents to twins. Their household is abuzz with kids ages 15 to 10 months.
“That’s why it took me a while,” he says about earning his M.Div. in Biblical studies and languages from SES.
He graduated this past spring, seven years after starting the program. Over Zoom, he quickly credits SES professors for their grace as his family expanded and his job required long hours during hurricanes. (More on that later.)
Michael grew up in South Florida, earning his undergraduate degree in religious studies in his home state.
“I chose religious studies because I wanted to intelligently converse with people of other faiths and to understand, in natural conversation, what point of view they’re coming from and how to steer that conversation toward the Gospel.”
It wasn’t until later that he realized what they taught in his Christianity classes was absurd. Most of his professors were ex-evangelicals or extremely liberal.
“It was more sociology to them,” he said.
Michael remembers sitting in class, “knowing that there was something wrong with what they were arguing, but not being able to formulate counter-arguments to them and raise objections to what they were saying. SES has given me the skills to do that, to understand those arguments.”
Once Michael finished undergrad, he looked around for seminaries, ultimately landing at SES.
“When I went to tour SES, we walked away knowing that’s where I would go,” he said. It was the professors’ commitment to teach students well and the school’s commitment to “always stand for truth, not wavering in the face of cultural differences.”
“My undergraduate degree was the backdrop for understanding others’ points of view, and then seminary was for me to have training in the Christian perspective,” he said.
During the day, Michael worked as a citrus farmer, and at night, tackled course work. He later took a job in public works, and when a couple of hurricanes blew through, that meant working long hours on location.
His professors were always understanding. Michael plugged away, soaking up an education he wishes he’d had earlier.
“A lot of the arguments that we learned to deal with at SES would have been very applicable for me to use in the classroom at university,” he said.
While he feels called to pastoral ministry down the road, in the meantime he works for a Christian foster parent licensing organization in Florida. He recruits and trains churches to meet tangible needs in broken homes, in hopes of preventing the traumatic entry into foster care in the first place.
The organization works with families of any religious background, and—although it’s a Christian group—some employees are newer to the faith. Some raise questions about inclusiveness and diversity as the national dialogue heads in that direction.
It’s through conversations like that, plus his interaction with local ministry students, that Michael is already putting his apologetic training to the test.
And fielding questions from all his children.