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Baccalaureate testimony: Blake Swanson, Class of 2013

Posted: May 07, 2013


Growing up, I never felt like I had a “testimony.” Over these last four years, I have come to realize that although God is willing to take people from rock bottom to the top, a testimony is more than that. A testimony is a declaration of any way in which God is working in your life. He has certainly worked in mine during my time at Olivet.

Since coming to Olivet, my spiritual development has been beyond what I ever could have thought. It began quickly freshman year with the teaching assistant who led my Christian Formation group. He was not afraid to ask difficult questions and challenge many of the perceptions I had about my faith. He helped open me up to the idea that I clearly did not have everything figured out, and allowed me to seek more knowledge throughout my time as a student in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry.

I have not always been a youth ministry major. I came to Olivet with aspirations of one day working in video production for ESPN or Discovery. I completed my entire freshman year as a communication major and loved what I was doing. Throughout the year, though, God was prodding me toward a life of ministry.

One summer night between my freshman and sophomore years — through the prodding of my now soon-to-be wife, Caylee [Wagner ’13], who recognized I was running from my call — I fell before the Lord and made the hardest decision of my life. Although it may be one of the most difficult, it is a call He has confirmed countless times over the past three years. My sense of peace could not be greater.

Another major experience in the development of my faith was a trip I took with Missions In Action (M.I.A.), Olivet’s student mission organization, for three weeks to Thailand. We left for Thailand assuming that it was a very dark country spiritually. While we definitely encountered spiritual darkness, we were overwhelmingly reminded of the ways God was penetrating this darkness through the hands and feet of those who worked alongside us.

During this time, I was able to truly grasp the global nature of our God. He breaks all language barriers and cultural differences in order that His light may radiate through any amount of darkness that attempts to hold it down.

Although the Lord has had a plan for me throughout my years at Olivet, I have recently had to learn to fully trust in his provision. As graduating seniors, most of us would like to know what is next so we can fully adjust and figure it out. However, this is not always the way God works. He has taught me what it means to be patient and wait for His timing. He is working out all things for the good of those who are called according to his purpose.

Along with my spiritual growth, I have also grown in amazing ways personally. Most notably, I have learned what it means to fall in love and be in a relationship that is truly centered on God. It may be the stereotypical story that many like to joke about, but it is my story and I cannot imagine it any other way. Caylee has taught me what it means to live sacrificially for someone else. I am excited to see the ways the Lord is going to use us to further the kingdom.

I have learned what it means to prioritize, and to the dismay of many of the professors here, that sometimes meant foregoing an assignment for an extra day. Or not proofreading a paper as well as I should have in order to make time for that unexpected conversation with a roommate or friend. Extraversion has been a trait of mine I have never doubted. But now more than ever, I realize the power of relationships and getting to know others.

Olivet has provided many ways for me to grow as a leader, whether through my ministry as a resident assistant or volunteering with the crazy group of sixth grade boys at College Church on Wednesday nights. Through these experiences, I better understand what being a team really means, especially within the context of the kingdom. We all have the ability to be world changers, and we can do this by leading a team, or joining the team of someone who shares our same passions.

Finally, I have grown in many ways socially. I learned what it means to truly live in community, sharing in the triumphs and defeats of others. I have tasted victory in Ollies Follies — standing on my chair in Chalfant, screaming at the top of my lungs in support of the class that has meant so much to me over the last four years. I have seen how much a campus can be brought together by the loss of someone close. Some may mockingly call this the “Olivet bubble,” but the deep sense of community that I have experienced within this “bubble” is unlike any other.

The relationships I have developed here are ones that I know will last a lifetime. I think of my roommate of four years, Tyler, who has endured my company and severe disorganization within the apartment. We spent more nights than I can count watching funny videos or going on adventures. We blew up a microwave, almost burned our apartment down with a pizza box and even had a slight run in with the authorities. However, the times I will cherish most are those when we were open and raw with each other, allowing each other to speak into the other’s life. I hope this is something that will continue because I have come to realize that this is necessary for everyone to have in life.

I think of my friends in the boat. They know who they are. I could not ask for a more supportive group of friends, whether in my relationship with Christ, with Caylee or even my life goals. I know that we will be having game nights at Homecoming in the years to come. Thank you for pouring into me and helping to shape me into who I am today.

These last four years have been slowly shaping me in ways that I never would have thought possible. If you had told me when I entered college that I would graduate with a degree in youth ministry, jump out of an airplane, run a marathon, see six different countries and be getting married just three weeks after graduation, I would have called you crazy. Well, it happened and here I am.

Many people will tell you that these four years are defining in your life. I am proud of the definition that has been written for me. Thank you, Olivet.


Olivet's School of Education is among the top six largest producers of teachers among all Illinois colleges and universities.