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City Seminary of New York Students

City Seminary of New York students are from diverse cultures and a wide range of ministries and denominational backgrounds. They work in a plurality of vocations, but all share in a commitment to growing in their calling and service to the city. Here are some of their stories.

NEIL WALTER HOLZAPFEL

My name is Neil Walter Holzapfel. City Seminary of New York crystalized and confirmed some very important things for me over the last two years. Jesus gave his life away to give us life. Real Christian love demands self-giving and sacrifice. If we do not follow Jesus in giving our lives away, we will lose our lives. Community life demands that we walk, eat, pray, and partner together. Jesus was never co-opted in to power structures, but built God's kingdom and his kingdom alone. Indeed, God is making the world new. He is restoring the broken hearts, families, communities, buildings, economic infrastructure, social fabric. I want to join Jesus in this!

I worship at New Song Community Church in central Harlem and live nearby. New Song is a congregation focused on being a part of God's joy and justice for the neighborhood out of our love for Christ. I believe the only way for God's joy and justice to reign is for those who love Jesus to literally live together in community. New Song does this in wonderful ways.

My formal job is to try and find good stocks to buy in Africa and the Middle East for a large investment management firm. I spend a lot time in Africa and the Middle East. Besides Jesus, my passion in life is children without parents in sub-Saharan Africa. There are 20 million children without parents in sub-Saharan Africa today, and this number will double over the next 10 years. I believe that this is greatest opportunity in human history to see souls drawn towards the love of Jesus for life and hope, spiritual and economic. I know God is very passionate about these young ones, and I am too. My work takes me there frequently and I'm getting increasingly involved with walking with these HIV/ AIDS orphans.

ROGER CLARKE

OLIVIA KOENTJORO

My passion is to bring positive changes into people’s life that leaves an eternal legacy. I have always thought that I could only do this if I work in full time ministry or become a Christian counselor. City Seminary of New York has helped me see that full time ministry or Christian counseling is not the only way for me to bring positive changes. In the past 8 months, City Seminary has played an important role in shaping my views and understanding of what ‘vocational calling’ means. My vocational calling is to bring positive changes in the lives of the people I work with, live with, commute with and interact with on a daily basis.  

At the cross, Christ has given his all for me, what does it look like for me to give my all for Christ? The journey to understand my vocational calling starts with a changed heart. The Gospel needs to penetrate and be the foundation of all areas of my life. My sufficiency should be in Christ alone.  As the Gospel changes my heart, I started to have a passion for souls. Christ saw how broken I was and His desire is to make me whole hence the Cross. In my humility, giving my all for Christ translates to my willingness to invest in others’ lives no matter how broken it is because that is what Christ has done for me.

What does this look like in practical ways? City Seminary takes my faith to a new level. Through my class projects I visited other neighborhoods that I’d have never visited on my own, such as Harlem, Washington Heights, Elmhurst and the Lower East Side Housing Projects. Not only do I learn about the history and diverse cultures of these areas, I also learn to develop a heart for the people in these areas. I learn how to pray for the needs of others and most importantly I learn to have a passion for others who are ‘not like me’ but are equally loved by Christ. This is the beginning for me to have a passion for souls. This journey has truly been life changing.

HIROKO (MIMI) OTANI

HIROKO (MIMI) OTANI

My parents are Japanese with no religious faith in particular, but they sent me to a Christian kindergarten where I came to know Jesus. A few years ago when I was at a Holy Communion service, responding out loud "He will come again", I wondered, "Who is this God who never gives up on His people?" I wanted to know Him better, and Christianity became "not about me" but "about knowing God." After I did some research, I decided to go with City Seminary and the Westminster Theological Seminary Urban Mission M.A. program.

City Seminary and the Urban Mission program lectures and materials have helped and changed me greatly. I read the Scripture with a different attitude – not so much to rebuke my lack of faith and morality but to gain knowledge in how we as believers can bring peace to the city and love our God and our neighbors. I also apply what I have learned in class at the Dewitt Nursing Home ministry where I volunteer. Others have already noticed the difference!

In the future, I would like to bring a mobile worship service to nursing homes, hospices and rehabilitation centers for those who cannot physically go to church or for those who feel awkward going to church for worship. Involvement of community is certainly important but strengthening it (I view residents of such institutions as a part of our larger community, too!) is just as important. In time, we will see if this is the mission that God has chosen for me to carry out.

HIROKO (MIMI) OTANI

ADEBISI OYESILE

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time” – Ecclesiastes 3:11. When I look back on my life at the things God has allowed me to do and the opportunities He has opened up, I can see the wisdom of His perfect timing. Human tendency is to rush things. But just because something has not happened in our lives today does not mean that things will not happen tomorrow.

Starting my studies at City Seminary of New York/ WTS is another phase of my life. For two years I had wanted to attend seminary but could not because of the nature and schedule of my secular job. However, after becoming a Pastor, God made what was impossible possible. Becoming a student at City Seminary/ WTS has not only created in me a ‘new birth’ for evangelism but has begun to elevate my ministry to higher levels.

OGHOGHO WEST-ERHABOR

OGHOGHO WEST-ERHABOR

I greet you in the Name of the Lord. My name is Oghogho West-Erhabor. I am from Nigeria and Nigeria is in West Africa. I have been married to a God-ordained husband for twenty years and it pleased the Lord to bless us with four precious girls. I am working for the church right now, and I believe in God for a job for the future.

I came to City Seminary and the Westminster Theological Seminary Urban Mission Master of Arts program through Pastor Mark Gornik. As I hungered more and more to know and work for God, I had wanted to go to a Bible school, but did not know how to go about it. I asked a sister in my church and she said to talk to Mark Gornik. I have always wanted to be a Minister, and the school is helping me grow spiritually and also to achieve my goals.

As a child my mother would take me every Christmas to an orphanage. We would take clothes, food and gifts to the children there. I hated the idea, because I was afraid of them. There was so much sadness and they wore tattered clothes, if they had any. They’d sleep on bare floors with no covers and were generally very dirty. I thought to be an orphan was bad luck. Once a child lost both parents, either their relatives used them as house-help, sent them to work like slaves or dumped them in an orphanage.

My plans for the future by God’s grace is to care for and help orphans - children that are hungry and naked, unwanted babies that are dumped in the street as soon as they are born. Unlike here in America, the government doesn’t take care of these children. One out of a hundred individuals care for these children. I pray and know that God in his infinite mercy will help me adhere to these goals.

OGHOGHO WEST-ERHABOR