What Happens When You Have the Courage to Take a Step of Faith
Life plans are rather laughable things, really. They assume that one’s life can be written out as some sort of choose-your-own adventure, or minimized to a simple equation. Everything fits neatly in order, until the unexpected happens — throwing your carefully strategized plans to the wayside.
& then what?
From personal life plans to career changes, a new direction can be the chance of a lifetime. In fact, career changes are becoming a new normal.
While 40 percent of baby boomers worked for the same employer for at least 20 years, changes in the workforce environment are changing this status quo, according to a 2016 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research study. Career changes will exponentially increase as new positions and industries emerge. In turn, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that 65 percent of today’s schoolchildren will eventually be employed in jobs that have yet to be created.
With the World Series, election and the return of Gilmore Girls, 2016’s legacy may be to expect the unexpected in life.
In these cases, higher education is paramount.
Higher education is a cornerstone for students’ success in these emerging industries.
At its core, the MBU’s mission is to provide a steadfast liberal arts education that allows students to shine brightly in a tumultuous world. Students expand their minds, learn to discover and live as an example of God’s true love.
With these values, students and alumni are empowered to trust God and journey down a twisty road, following whatever adventures it may bring.
Director of Strategy and Business Development for SSM Health’s Behavioral Health Services // M.A. in Counseling 2012
& then I stopped playing it safe.
Scott Snodgrass is among the countless number of adults who pursued the American dream, complete with a white picket fence, two and a half kids and a life that mirrored “Leave it to Beaver.”
Four kids and two career changes later, Snodgrass’s life resembles something far better than a ’60s television show — his life resembles a plan God had for Snodgrass all along.
When Snodgrass began his career, he started at a non-profit organization determined to better the world. A few years later, he switched to a career in the insurance industry in order to pay off his student loans. But when his job needed him to relocate, Snodgrass realized he needed to return to a non-profit mission.
He landed a job in healthcare — behavioral health — but needed a graduate degree for his career. He pursued a master’s degree in counseling at MBU while working for Crider Health.
Following the birth of their daughter, his wife felt led to adopt. However, after working with adopted children and seeing how much struggle could be involved, Snodgrass didn’t feel the same calling as his wife. But later, he realized the “no” really was, “not yet.”
After graduating from MBU, Snodgrass landed a new position as the director of adolescent services with Bridgeway Health. Shortly after, he and his wife welcomed a smiling baby boy, Graham. His son’s diagnosis of Down syndrome influenced Snodgrass to reconsider his white picket fence plans. When Snodgrass planned out his life, he never planned for a child with a developmental disability. Turns out, the birth of Graham marked a pivotal moment in the Snodgrass family.
“After Graham’s birth, God began to work on my heart with adoption,” said Snodgrass. “If I would have had a healthy boy and a healthy girl, I would have said no. I have a good thing going, this is easy, I don’t want to mess this up. But then I decided I didn’t want to play it safe.”
It was then James 1:27 came to mind as reassurance, and Snodgrass felt a need to fulfill the command.
Snodgrass and his wife pursued the adoption process. After a year and a half, they were matched with their two Ghanaian sons: Francis and JoJo. Francis previously lived on the streets of Accra with his mother, and JoJo lived in Cape Coast with his uncle. JoJo's family worked for just scraps of food, and the young boy was near death from malnourishment when the orphanage took him into their care.
Snodgrass knew that someone would have to stay home with his sons as they transitioned into the family and life in the United States. At the time, the Snodgrasses could not financially afford to have a stay-at-home parent, but they continued with the adoption journey, trusting God to provide.
“Not knowing how that was going to all work out—we had to trust God’s timing,” said Snodgrass. “It required a lot of faith.”
Last year, God once again provided as Snodgrass began his new position as the director of strategy and business development. This role combines the skills built with his time in nonprofits, for-profits and counseling.
“The job at SSM met our needs and I believe rewarded our obedience,” said Snodgrass. “It’s a beautiful picture of following God’s timing and promises if you are obedient.”
The Snodgrasses visited their two sons several times before they came home, and moved the boys to the same Ghanaian orphanage to bond.
This August, his sons finally came home.
Having his sons in his home is a relief, but the trials of adoption are not over. However, any hardship is far worth the cost, he insists.
“Adoption is tough,” said Snodgrass. "It’s hard, but beautifully hard. Their needs are so much, you constantly pour out. It can be a very lonely but fulfilling journey, but at the same time you know it’s for God’s glory.”
Owner of Ezekiel and Stearns // Ed.S. in 2009, Ed.D in 2011
& then I stopped climbing the career ladder, and built it instead.
There is a furniture shop in Pacific, Missouri, that at first glance appears to belong in another era. The warehouse has what it needs — no frills — just sawdust and work tables. Mid-afternoon, talk show radio is playing in background and “Made in America” stickers adorn the wall. The high-quality furniture is made with craftsmanship techniques passed down through generations.
Except it’s not.
Andrew Black is a first-generation craftsman taught by YouTube videos alongside trial and error. When he was an undergraduate student in Tennessee, Black and a friend decided to build and sell sailboats — something that was new to both of them — to pay for tuition. They taught themselves, and after sinking their first boat, they built one that could float.
“To be honest, we sunk the first boat on purpose because we knew there were too many errors to sell it — but we learned, and our next boat floated and sold,” he explained.
When Black lost the space to build boats, he moved on to furniture. As he moved back to St. Louis to attend MBU’s education specialist program, he began to teach at the Special School District and continue crafting furniture. After Black earned his doctorate at MBU, his business picked up and he realized the side business could become his sole job.
“Elements of my studies in education definitely come in play,” said Black.
“While I may not be managing a classroom, I manage a growing team. A person is a person, and leading a classroom translates to leading employees.”
Five years later, Black’s business — Ezekiel and Stearns — is situated in its own warehouse, with seven employees under Black and lumber everywhere. The classic techniques and styling of Black’s rustic furniture is timeless, and orders regularly come in from across the United States.
“Our furniture is identical to the furniture an old carpenter would make,” said Black. “But instead of learning as an apprentice, we learned through videos.”
Tradition continues to take a backseat during the actual manufacturing process as well. Sturdy craftsmanship pieces are large and heavy, making shipping cumbersome and costly. But through a highly engineered process, Black is able to sell furniture pieces up to $1,000 less than comparable companies. Through competitive prices, classic quality and a fast turnaround on orders, Black’s business continues to grow.
In fact, Amazon approached Black several years ago with an offer to start selling his tables through its e-commerce business, and Wayfair.
Black may not have a MBA, but his ability to manage and innovate offer a solid foundation for a thriving business. Perhaps just as importantly, Black’s knack at taking on new situations and finding innovative solutions suggest that he is well-primed for whatever nontraditional path may come next.
Chicago City Director for the Center for Student Missions // B.S. in Education 2013
& then I put teaching on pause to pursue another calling
When die-hard Cardinals fan Lauren Maniaci began MBU’s education program years ago, she never thought she would live in Cubs territory. She never thought the Cubs would win a World Series in our lifetime, but that happened too. As the Chicago river turned Cubs blue, the devoted Cardinals fan couldn’t help but smile and feel joy. The win brought a city in turmoil together — something Maniaci works toward every day.
Maniaci works as the Chicago city director for the Center for Student Missions (CSM), an organization that hosts mission trips and teaches young people how to minister in the city in a combined effort to share Christ and meet the needs of cities throughout the United States, including Chicago.
“There are 77 different neighborhoods of Chicago, and each is very different with a strong neighborhood pride. There is also the biggest difference in lifestyles. Impoverished children are going to the same school as children with triple-figure-salary parents. To see these groups come together is rewarding. There is so much brokenness in Chicago, but so much beauty.”
Maniaci is from a large Italian family full of children. Her time with nieces and nephews — along with the influence of her mentor, MBU math professor Kim Cochran — led her to study education at MBU with plans of becoming a teacher. However, in 2009 Cochran recruited Maniaci to serve in Chicago as a student through CSM. She returned in 2010, 2011 and 2012. During her junior and senior years, she was invited to be a host and guide for the mission trips. Maniaci’s summer work had meaning, and gave her the ability to reach out to the people in a hurting city.
“I fell in love with urban ministry,” she said. “I would spend time with kids in the inner city and use my gifts in that way, help out in soup kitchens and other avenues.”
In 2014, Maniaci was student teaching at a public elementary school in East St. Louis for her last semester at MBU. Her years of college classes were put to use, and Maniaci felt that her work had purpose. As she strategized her career in St. Louis’ education system, she received an unexpected phone call. It was the CSM Chicago city director, asking her to put her dream of becoming a teacher on hold. The proposal was that she would head up to Chicago mere days after graduation and begin full-time work on Chicago missions. After struggling with her choice of a career as a teacher or following a not-so-straightforward path, she realized her calling. With the encouragement of Cochran, Maniaci decided to trust Christ and move to Chicago for one year, then begin working as a teacher. The one year has now extended to at least four years.
As the city director for Chicago, Maniaci builds relationships with mission-minded organizations throughout Chicago, and then finds ways to support them financially, prayerfully and through volunteer staffing. Maniaci has built relationships with tutoring programs, homeless shelters and beautification projects that are now supported fiscally and by volunteers through CSM.
Maniaci’s mission for Chicago continues outside of her job. Since moving to the Windy City, she’s worked with her church on after-school tutoring programs for at-risk youth. These programs are crucial in the neighborhood where the church is located, which is home to a concentrated population of Costa Rican immigrants.
It’s a path that Maniaci was prepared to live. With MBU’s Campus Ministries, Maniaci planned service days for the MBU community to serve in urban St. Louis at local churches, refugee centers and other organizations. She attended MBU’s Haiti mission trip twice, serving children and people with little support.
“Lauren Maniaci was passionate for ministry,” said Campus Minister Jonathan White. “She also put much care in organizing ministry opportunities and encouraging people to come along. Her love for others was contagious, and a true example of servant leadership.”
For Maniaci, looking back to how God prepared her to work in Chicago is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and divine plan.
“I have no doubt that working in Chicago was a part of God’s plan for me,” said Maniaci.
“But it is a testament to the fact that God knows what He is doing, and His plans are superior to ours—a lesson I am still learning.”
This story was originally featured in MBU Magazine | Winter 2016.
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