Meet John David

A Passion for the Poor Drives GML Student
From homelessness to Baylor, Nigerian student plans to help others through difficult times

John David, a first-year Global Mission Leadership (GML) student, is working on a dual degree combining an MDiv from Truett Seminary and an MSW from the School of Social Work. John is married to Chabraba and they have two children, Callidora and Charissa. John and his family came to the U.S. from Nigeria.

"Growing up in Nigeria is a mix of different things. You experience a mix of people who are very wealthy and very poor. Though Nigeria is blessed with a lot of resources, there are a lot of poor people. There is a wild gap between the rich and the poor," he said. John believes that growing up in a poor area exposed him to what life is like in poverty and how to find ways to put in your best in that situation. "I'm coming from a poor [family], so that has given me a perspective of what it means to be poor," he said.

John is doing his internship at Christian Men's Job Corps, a faith-based organization that helps men who want to improve their lives with job, interview and computer training. "It's a holistic program that pays attention to not just the aspect of a job, but also helping them have spiritual growth in connection with their faith," he said. His internship has been helpful with what he has learned in his classes as it gives him a place to apply his social work training.

He also sees himself applying what he has learned in his home country of Nigeria. He came to the realization that there are many churches in Waco supporting the homeless population group, providing services and shelter. John wishes to see that happen in Nigeria as well. He wants to see churches that are actively engaging in the community, because it is important for them to respond to the socioeconomic issues in Nigeria, rather than waiting on the government. "What I'm learning is helping me think of how I'm going to apply that in my country, to help churches also connect their ministry to the socioeconomical situation in our community," he said.

To help John in his educational journey, he received a Baptist General Convention of Texas scholarship and other scholarships through the Baylor School of Social Work. This assistance has provided John with the opportunity to go to school with less worry of financial burden so that he may focus on his studies. "It's a blessing for me to have these scholarships," he said.

John began studying social work because of his passion for service. "I just love to help people, it puts a smile on my face to help people deal with different situations," he said. John served as a pastor in Nigeria for nine years and says that the peak of his excitement in ministry is the moment when someone comes feeling hopeless and by the end of the meeting that person has a glimpse of hope and is excited about the future and the hope they have found. "That is part of why I wanted to do social work, to be able to help people," he said. John believes his training will enable him to help people through a professional standpoint.

The lessons John has learned from his classes has taught him much in conjunction with his field internship. The classes teach him about what skills to use and how to use them to help facilitate groups. "It gives me room to translate those informative moments to my context back in Nigeria," he said. His internship has given him an experience where he has the opportunity to learn on the job from people already in the field and also have exposure to real cases where he can put into practice what he is learning.

The lessons John has learned in the School of Social Work have also affected his personal life. "I have been in moments where I have been homeless before. Just being able to walk with that population group, where I see people who are homeless, and trying to tune into the client, I reflect through my situation and what has helped me come out of my struggle," he said. That experience in addition to being able to connect with people and each day being able to say something, do something, and take action at his internship, to put a smile on people's faces, brings John joy.

After graduation, John plans to return to Nigeria and continue being a pastor while integrating his faith and practice in motivating and helping the church in social work activities. "Part of what I intend to do is to see how I can practice from the perspective of a church or faith-based organization to offer social services to my community," he said. In a broader sense, John wants to take little steps toward making someone smile and brightening their day. John has a passion for the poor and wishes to do something that will eventually make them feel happy and something that will give them hope for the next day. "I have a passion for Nigeria, and for Africa, and I am thinking of ways to help respond to the socio-economic challenges there," he said.

Story written by Sarah Baker, BU Journalism Intern