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An open letter to Belhaven,

Money has always been an issue for me. Being on disability at under $600.00 a month left me barely getting by, as a matter of fact, without out family, I wouldn’t have gotten by. For years I wanted to go to college. I would sit and look at course catalogs and pick out the classes I wanted but it was just not the time. Self doubt and discouragement and funds kept my dreams out of grasp.

Forty-two years old and one year after the death of my father, I thought about that school who’s sign I seen along I-10, It was close by me, from what I remember the billboard mentioning. I searched it out on the internet, then I researched the accreditation, all looked good but, could I get in? Am I to old? Will I be accepted? Will I get enough loans?

I decided to take that first step and I contacted Belhaven through the internet and soon I was contacted by the Houston campus. A short discussion and I agreed to come visit. Upon visiting the first thing I heard as soon as I walked through the glass door was women praying! Impressive! Soon I was helped and introduced to Elizabeth Salathe. She put me at ease, You see, I get nervous pretty fast talking to people I don’t know But, She treated me like I was someone and her attitude and enthusiasm put me at ease. She showed me around and I liked what I had seen. Next came the transcripts and that took a little effort but Elizabeth helped me every step of the way including finding a notary public. Next came financial aid, Within a couple weeks and transcripts in I was accepted, I was excited! I shared with everyone I am going to an University! A Real University! Then it hit, and my hopes sank.

Financial aid required as asked to by the loan people for me to get a physicians certification that I am able to be gainfully active. Till then I could not even find out if I did this would I have enough funds to complete school. You see twenty years ago or more, I attended a trade school for electronics engineering and I soon left that school and I had to repay the loans. During that time I was found to be 100% disabled and the loans were written off through insurance.


So Now I have to get my Doctor to sign a paper saying basically I am OK. This caused much concern, With this paper I could potential loose my disability and my small income that pays what it can. I talked it over with family and friend and told my decision to Elizabeth at Belhaven that I will postpone because I could loose my disability if I had obtained that paper and I still don’t know if I would even have enough money to complete my schooling. She understood and one thing she said to me, “That right there tells me that you are ready for this and that you are responsible.” What she said meant a lot to me, feeling like a failure, her words lifted me. Even after that I presented that paper to my physician for her to look over and get back to me, I never heard back from her.

Fast forward three months and Belhaven was on my mind again. I need to go to school and inside I had that feeling that I just needed to step out and trust God. If I am hearing Him wrong I may loose it all, then I just need to trust He will make a way. If I am hearing Him right about Belhaven then I need to do it because it is His will and He will take care of me. I really had nothing to loose, Month to month living is getting worse, money does not go as far as it did a short time ago.

I emailed Miss Gentry (who emailed Veronica) and I emailed Susan in Student financial services. In no time at all I had heard from Susan Smith and Miss Gentry via Email and Veronica via Phone and even Elizabeth by email. What can I say but, WOW!!! From that first email I sent as day One, I was in class On day 3! Now that is fast! Could that have been God? Later looking back, I believe it was, as a little sign to me, I realized that it was 3 days, just like Jesus arose on that 3rd day!

It was early in the week when Veronica called, she told me I can start class that week. It was Monday or Tuesday and class started that Wednesday, I was nervous, Was I on track with God? I had my doubts. In Bus 205 with Dr Ruddell my fears settled and I got excited. Class opens with prayer and is laced throughout with scripture, this sure was not the devil wanting me here! Then Dr Ruddell spoke about how man makes his plans but God directs His steps. My spirit Jumped! Later Dr Ruddell spoke


on the parable about building houses on sand or on the rock. He pointed out that the wise not only hear the word of God but put it to action. I applied that to my situation, I heard God about attending Belhaven and I put it to action, I put aside the fear of loosing my income in addition to my fears about returning to school and I went for it. I put action to what I thought may be God leading me, and God honored my action. I am in a Christian University and God is reassuring me that I am in His will.

I received another confirmation, My doctor had that paper for more than 2 months, I had to resend it to her in order to get my financial aid and find out if I will have enough to complete school. Well they sat on it a few days and I called again, the next day I had it in my hands. That day Financial aid had it in their hands. Soon after I got my award letter and I found out I had enough so far to pay for me to summer of 2012! Praise God. I am where He wants me.

I will add this, one night after we finished a group presentation, A female student spoke out in class and told me “You have a calling on your life!” She didn’t know that I was taking classes at Belhaven because I wanted to be a Hospital Chaplain. Yet another confirmation!

I want to take this chance to thank God for this opportunity to be a part of Belhaven and I also want to thank those at Belhaven who stepped out to Houston with a campus. I also want to thank Elizabeth Salathe for her enthusiasm and encouragement and her care. She was and is a major role in my life at Belhaven. Thank you also to Veronica Garcia and to Susan Smith. You all are great, you have been patient with me and You all are helping me achieve my goals and what I believe to be my calling in life, to be a chaplain to the sick and dying and perhaps even a pastor. May God bless each of you and May He Bless Belhaven Ministry in Education.

Thomas Wagner

Future Chaplain and Pastor -Future BASS Degree Recipient -Houston Texas


Posted September 9, 2011 by Thomas D. Wagner in Misc

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A Short Presentation I have to give Wed 9/7/11   Leave a comment

   I never gave much thought to a worldview and how that has changed since that first wednesday night class. That class has inspired me and challenged me to analyze what my true views are. I understand that Worldviews are shaped by loved ones, society, situation, and our past. I also began to understand that there is a correlation between my worldview and my ethical beliefs. I realized that I had a tainted Christian worldview, meaning I let this world plant into me ways of thinking that are contrary to God’s Word. Perhaps a diabolical plan of the enemy if we apply  Matthew * (in context of this discussion) the enemy sows tares,(wrongs ideas, thought patterns), to water down our testimony and cause our light to not shine as bright. I can not change those patterns on my own but the scripture reaches out to me in Romans 12:2 (NIV)  “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” With Belhaven’s curriculum having a world view focus, I am now challenged to no longer conform my worldview with society but to measure it by the Word of God and to use what has become a cliche or a joke to many today, and ask myself, in all things, “What Would Jesus Do”, or “What Would Jesus have me do.” This overflows into ever facet of life and it will be a catalyst for renewing of my mind, for weeding out the tares, for shining brighter in a world of darkness, and thus glorifying God in everything, from my time management, to my school work, to my effort in class, to my effort on the job , my interaction with people, my being a better witness for the love, mercy, grace and power of God Almighty!

*But while everyone was sleeping, an enemy came and scattered weed seeds in the field and then left. When the plants came up and began to ripen, the farmer’s servants could see the weeds. (Mat 13:25-26 CEV)


Posted September 6, 2011 by Thomas D. Wagner in Presentations

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Essay week 3 Improving My Academic Performance   Leave a comment

   My goal is to graduate Belhaven in the top 5% of my class.  The night of my first class,“Business 205 Time Management”, I realized I needed to change some habits using the tools I had been given in class to achieve my goal and bring Glory to God.
   The first area I need to change is my use of time.  I am implementing using a weekly task schedule in order to organize my daily life of work and school.   Through this I will be made aware of the time already accounted for and an idea of what time I have available to put to better use.  With this schedule I can clear my mind of wondering, “Do I have enough time?” or, “Am I forgetting something?”.  I won’t waste time or forget something using the weekly task schedule. 
   The second area to change is my focus.  I plan on focusing on one project at a time to stop spreading myself so thin.  Sometimes in doing research I get sidetracked and follow an inspiration that draws me away from the task at hand.  Keeping my focus on the project I am working on will improve the quality of my work and improve my grades.
   The third area to change is my organizational habits.  (I tend to scatter everything around — if I was better organized I would waste less time.)  I plan on using the CIA method in this problem area:
    1. Current: these are the supplies you need right now.
    2. Imminent:  things you will need in the near future.
    3. Archived:  things that can be filed because you will not be using them anytime soon.
This system will free up space around my work area and prevent a cluttered feeling while placing items I need within reach.  I will save time by not having to look for needed supplies and get the psychological boost of a clutter-free workspace.

   The fourth area I need to work on is limiting my distractions.  I lose much time and focus when I am interrupted on a regular basis.  The techniques I am using are:
1. Turning off the computer so I won’t check e-mails, Facebook, etc.
2.  Placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door.
3.  Giving my cell phone to a family member to field my calls.
4.  Keep my back to the window to limit distractions.
   The last area I am planning to work on is improving my vocabulary.  From childhood we are taught “knowledge is power”, but without the words to ignite that power it is useless.  Words have power, and the stronger my vocabulary is the stronger I will be.
The Bible says “All things are possible to those that believe”.  I plan to honor God by implementing these strategies into my life.  I also believe this plan will be highly effective in improving my academic performance to be successful in college and help me attain my goal of graduation in the top 5% of my class at Belhaven University.

Posted September 6, 2011 by Thomas D. Wagner in Essay

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My 1st Class Essay (Rough Draft)   Leave a comment

  College is a matter of life and death and everything in between those two points. As a child I remember vividly those dates, like looking at a photograph, the deaths of loved ones. It is these past events that created in me the desire to help those hurting, those grieving, those sick, and those dyeing. It created in me a desire to become a hospital Chaplain. Such a task requires a foundation of experience compassion and knowledge. The first comes from life, the second from God Almighty and the third from College. In the case of Thomas Wagner, future Chaplain, college is a matter of life and death.


  As a young boy I remember the day when my parents picked me up from school to take me to lunch, that day I learned my mom had cancer, I was 11. The next two years I watched the ups and downs of this sickness as it destroyed my mother. When I was 13 that day came, I remember it all to well, “Wake up and tell your mother goodbye”, I can still hear my dad’s voice. Almost 30 years later that day is still alive and real. I still hear the  crying, I still see the tears, I still feel the press of my brothers body against mine as he sheltered me from watching them take my moms body out of the house. The impressions death left was nothing but pain, sorrow and torment. Death will affect the families it touches for a life time. In our case, it wasn’t a positive outcome it caused some in my family to grow apart.


 When I was in my twenties, my dad was attacked by this disease and once again the fight was on. He was strong, He fought a brave fight and He won the victory over kidney and prostate cancer but, it changed his life, it left its scars on him for the rest of his life. Nearly 20 years later at 89 my dad passed away after a week in a coma, Once again sickness and death rocked my family and though there were tears, this time it was a catalyst for change for some members whose lives changed drastically for the better.


 More recently, after taking her to the hospital, my best friend laid in a hospital bed sick with a serious illness and tormented by pain and nightmares. This strong self reliant woman who managed to be a single parent and run her own company, was now dependant on others and I seen in her eyes the toll this sickness was taking on her and the affects of it on those who love her.


Through life situations, through sickness, suffering and death and seeing how it can wreck a family or make others stronger, it created in me a desire and God gave me the compassion for others and now I turn to college to give me the knowledge needed to reach my goal of being a Hospital Chaplain which will give me a chance to be used by God to touch the lives of those who face sickness and death and to comfort the lonely and hurting and to be a light in the darkness that God desires us to be. So yes, in my case, my choice of Belhaven University is a matter of Life and Death and everything in-between.

Posted September 3, 2011 by Thomas D. Wagner in Essay

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