Student Q&A: Julia Wallace

September 17, 2018
Julia Wallace
You were an International Studies major with minors in Social Work and Religion at Baylor. What made you decide to stick around Waco a little longer and attend Truett Seminary?

My initial intent was always to pursue a Master of Social Work degree. Years ago, I had looked up dream jobs and most of them had that as a prerequisite. But then at Baylor, I got to know some Truett professors and I felt called to explicit ministry, rather than just nonprofit work, which is what I was originally thinking. Once I realized that, I found out that Truett had a joint degree with Social Work, so I applied and here I am!

Now that you are a couple years into your degree program, do you still have the same dream job from when you were originally researching future careers?

It has definitely changed since coming to Truett. I was originally interested in going abroad to do “international missions” or relief and community development work, but now—because of Truett, actually—I’ve realized my passion for working with the local church. My dream job would really be working in some capacity that allows me to mobilize, educate, and equip local churches to serve their communities. And that’s where I think both of my degrees will be helpful. I have a passion for the local church; I feel like that’s where God has called me to serve. But I think it might be good to have technical know-how as well when it comes to serving in a way that is effective, but also pastoral and caring.

How did your experiences at Truett—and outside of seminary—influence this change in career goals?

It was kind of a twofold experience. First, the summer before I came to Truett, I went abroad to Lebanon to attend a two-week conference about how we, as Christians, are supposed to respond to the refugee crisis. I went there thinking, “I’m going to move to the Middle East. This is something I’m passionate about.” But then after hearing from all of these global Christians, we got to see what the local church is doing in Lebanon. And that’s when I realized, wow, the local church matters. I was able to see the response of the local church and how, in the midst of this crisis and this suffering, they really were being a light and a witness to Christ.

So that was one way. The second was taking classes with Dr. Stroope at Truett. I took a whole class on the church—what is the church, its mission, its identity. We also explored the idea of cultural humility—is it my place to go? It’s the idea of recognizing that maybe God is raising up people in their own contexts to serve. What ways can we empower them and what ways can we serve in our own contexts?

Your calling to serve the local church has not dampened your passion for international travel. Tell us about your experience this past summer with the Fellowship at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) program.

The FASPE program uses the Holocaust and World War II to discuss the role of professional ethics. I traveled to Germany and Poland with 12 other seminarians and 14 medical students for a two-week stint, visiting various museums and historical sites. The program originally interested me because it is an intersection of ethics and politics. I thought it would be interesting to integrate faith and political action and contemporary ethics, and this program seemed to do all of that.

One of the most interesting aspects of the program was defining “good.” We recognized that whenever Nazi German professionals defined what they were doing as good, it’s not that they didn’t have ethics but that they had perverted ethics. So, one of the biggest takeaways for me was recognizing how problematic it is when we allow people to define what is good and how easily that can lead to genocide or taking away people’s civil liberties. I realized how important it is to go back to Scripture and to see what God tells us is good. We have to reorient ourselves to trust that God tells us what is good and that we are to live according to what he says, not what we can justify.

I was also reminded of what an important role we, as Christians in general but also as future religious leaders, have to play in speaking up on behalf of others. The nature of our leadership roles gives us a certain level of authority and influence on others, and we need to remember what a serious responsibility that is. Unfortunately, most Christian clergy were either complicit or silent during the Holocaust. As I read Scripture, both stances—silence and complicity—seem to be inconsistent with the demands God places on our lives to resist evil and stand up for the oppressed. We talked about the various reasons why clergy did not stand up against the atrocities of the Nazi state, and although it is easy in hindsight to condemn them, we discussed specifically the complexity and nuance of ethical decision-making. Our goal in these discussions was to help us see our own potential to act in similar ways, so that when difficult decisions come we may be better equipped to address them.

Switching gears a little bit, at Truett you’ve been very involved with the Truett Women in Ministry organization, serving as Vice President for the past two years. Can you tell us a little about the group and about your experience as a woman studying at Truett?

Truett Women in Ministry exists to educate, equip, and encourage women, and to educate and equip men to empower women as they pursue their God-given calls to ministry. It’s a group for encouraging and educating. For example, last fall we had a discussion with a few Baylor professors about some of the challenging passages in Scripture that talk about women having subservient roles. We had an honest conversation about how we, as Christians who hold Scripture as authoritative and as a guide for our lives, navigate the hermeneutics and interpretations of these passages in a way that’s faithful to Scripture and yet that acknowledges God’s calling on women’s lives.

As a woman at Truett, I’ve felt encouraged in my calling both inside and outside of the classroom. Just the fact that Truett is nearly half women allows you to be in classrooms with a multitude of voices. A few other examples… In Dr. Reid’s Scriptures class, he incorporated womanist and feminist commentaries into our syllabus so we could gain these different perspectives. And outside of the classroom, Shawn Boyd, the coordinator for the Kyle Lake Center, asked me to preach at the church where he’s an interim pastor. That was the first time I had been asked to preach at a church. At Truett, you’re surrounded by people who genuinely care and want to come alongside you and help you as a woman understand and live boldly in your calling.

How would you encourage other women who might be considering pursuing ministry?

One of my favorite verses is Acts 20:24. The New Living Translation says, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” My encouragement is that if you know this is God’s call on your life, pursue it. Although there may be challenges, in the grand scheme of things, I hope all else fades in light of the joy you find in obeying God’s call and living fully into the plan He has for your life. Don’t do it because it’s your right, but do it for the glory of God and the love of others.

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