Busy at work one Friday in May 2016, Renee Yoder had a sense that the Lord wanted her to check out Ashland Theological Seminary’s offices in Cleveland. But she didn’t do anything about it right then.
“The sense of community was amazing. “Right away, I felt like, these are my people.”
Renee is the Director of Professional Development at the Cleveland Center of Ashland University’s Founders School of Continuing Education. So…her office was not far from the seminary offices. But she said to herself, “This is crazy. I’m working. I just can’t go over there.” Renee says now that that was the first time she ever experienced the Lord sending her somewhere, and she didn’t believe it was real.
The very next Friday, at the same time of day, the leader of the Cleveland campus of the seminary walked into Renee’s office. He said he wanted to check out her center’s offices. That hit Renee like a ton of bricks. It was the first time the two of them had ever met. She knew that God had sent him to her.
The next Monday Renee went to the seminary offices. She told her story, explaining that she sensed the Lord calling her to attend seminary and that she felt his plan for her was very specific. It wasn’t long before that plan was put into action, with Renee enrolled and pursuing a Master’s in counseling.
Renee says, that on her first day there, she felt like she had come home. “The sense of community was amazing. Right away, I felt like, these are my people.” She got especially close to the women in her classes that first semester. They called themselves “Soul Sisters,” as they met to study together, celebrate birthdays, and support each other’s ministries. Renee believes the community they formed has been a key part of her education at the seminary.
As Renee is getting close to graduation, God is already using her in special ways. She is passionate about her work with an after-school learning center in an economically challenged part of Cleveland. She did a semester of field work there and has stayed involved. The experience has changed her outlook. “I have lived an affluent life...this has changed me...like how I do Christmas.” Renee describes herself as more empathetic. “I try to be more like Jesus, because he cares what happens to these families. He doesn’t want them to fall through the cracks. The Lord is doing something amazing over there.”
Renee is grateful that graduation won’t mean the end of her close-knit group of women. They have changed their name from “Soul Sisters” to “The Society for Women in Ministry.” As they are each coming into their own and dispersing to the places they are called to go, they are staying connected, even creating a newsletter to keep the group informed. “We are here to support and care for each other, wherever we are.”
Renee doesn’t know what’s in store for her after graduation. She describes her time at the seminary as a “nice surprise given to me by the Lord,” and she’s open to a new surprise. She knows this much: she’s called to provide leadership and to help other ministers, and she has a heart for home missions—missions in our cities. But Renee will wait on the Lord. She sums it up this way: “All of this has been bathed in prayer, and continued prayer is so important. Before any move of God occurs, it must be bathed in prayer.”
Has God been nudging you to consider attending seminary? Explore the program and campus location that might be right for you!