Over 30 people attended the weekly chapel at Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS) on April 26, 2023. Unique to this service was that every participant was a current recipient of a Multiracial Scholarship from Thrive (aka Congregational Ministries of the CRCNA).
Neulsaem Ha was the driving force behind the special chapel. He is a PhD student at CTS and a two-time recipient of the scholarship and wanted his fellow seminarian students to know about the resources available through Thrive. He took the initiative and signed up to give a sermon and presentation highlighting the problem of racism in the world as well as the workshops and tools the CRC denomination had to educate and combat it. He convinced other scholarship recipients to participate in the chapel service too.
Sena Tadesse is a Junior at Calvin University in the Nursing program and a first-time recipient of the scholarship. She came and presented the Scripture reading from Deuteronomy 10:14-19 during the chapel. Heesung Yoo opened the chapel with a word of prayer using words from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Yoo is another CTS student studying for a Master’s of Theology.
After the opening, Ha presented what he called a “part sermon, part testimony”. He spoke of how he had been proud of his unique life experiences but still felt lacking. “I have lived, studied and worked on three different continents,” he said, “but knew that I needed more… to be better equipped to serve God and His very diverse community.” He shared that a Cultural Intelligence Building workshop provided by the Race Relations consultants of Thrive helped him to feel better equipped to both serve and learn about different cultures.
Watch Ha's sermon on CRCNA YouTube channel
The sermon Ha brought focused on Deuteronomy 10:19 “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” He pointed out that the Hebrew word for love used in this verse was: ‘Ahavah’. Translated, this word means an intense and emotional kind of love; much more than a simple understanding or welcoming to the foreigner.
Ha went on to explain that as Christ followers we are all foreigners according to 1 Peter 2:11 and that the burden for this love of the foreigner does not just fall to the host culture. This work is a “mutual, joyful and glorious project God has for us” he added. It is a privilege for all given from God.
Race relations consultants from Thrive remained after the service to provide resources to students and CTS faculty alike. They fielded questions from the attendees and offered more information about the race relations scholarships that can be applied for by any ethnic minority student attending any college affiliated with the CRC. These resources can all be accessed from the CRCNA Race Relations web pages.
When asked what was next, Ha spoke of his dream of making this chapel an annual event for the scholarship recipients. “My personal hope is that we do this sort of thing at least once a year. It’s a great reminder for us to think about important racial and cultural issues. It is also crucial for the [denomination] to let students know what they are doing to improve the community.”