NTS student Kristi Seaton shared her powerful testimony with the NTS Board of Trustees at their October 2018 meeting.
Good evening! My name is Kristi Seaton and I’ve been invited to share my NTS journey. I began my journey the Spring Semester of 2017 as a M.A.T.S. major. I am scheduled to graduate May of 2019. I am a non-traditional student with a Bachelor’s of Science with an emphasis on Business and Project Management. I have previously been employed in a large clinical radiology practice and then at Stowers Institute for Medical Research where I worked with world-reknowned primary investigators in the fields of cancer and genetic research. I am now a stay-at-home wife and mother of a large blended family with LGBTQ foster teenagers and several stepchildren. I teach Adult Sunday School, Children’s Church, volunteer with the church youth group and serve as the church board secretary. I do not currently have a call to professional or formal ministry.
I grew up in the church here in Kansas City. Growing up Nazarene in Kansas City is a unique experience. Early on you begin to believe that anyone in Kansas City who is a Christian is Nazarene and someone you might bump into at District Assembly or camp meeting. My childhood while not idyllic was pretty typical of the 1980s. I grew up in Sunday School, with Children’s Quizzing, church camp and Caravans. I was always aware of NTS when growing up. As a preschooler, my father worked in the tower with a radio station where I imagine Dr. Harold Raser’s office used to be and my sister and I played on the sloping front lawn while waiting for him to finish his show. I suppose that my journey at NTS started before I could even write my own name. My childhood church always had several seminary students in attendance. My parents often had seminary students over for Sunday dinner, and a few marriage matches were made around our dinner table. We congratulated the students as they graduated and scattered to their various callings around the country and the world.
I was diagnosed on my 18th birthday with a chronic and incurable auto-immune disorder; Crohn’s Disease which profoundly shaped my adulthood and spiritually challenged me. I struggled to make sense of God in my suffering. During this season of life. I began to form a narrative about God and what sort of god he is. I concluded He was a train-hobbyist god. My grandfather had elaborate model trains set up in his basement and nothing thrilled me like the opportunity to work the switches. One day while playing with the trains my grandmother called us to the backyard needing help. When we had returned to the trains they had derailed in our absence. I began to think of God as a train hobbyist called away from the switches and things had gone off the rails in his absence.
In my twenties, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to work at the Stower’s Institute for Medical Research. Stower’s does groundbreaking work in cancer and genetic research with stem-cells and were developing SCNT – Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer – which is a fancy million-dollar word way of saying “cloning”. My Christian ethics made me hesitant to take the job. I called NTS and remember asking the switchboard operator if there was a professor who taught or worked in ethics because I needed some help making a decision. I left my name and number with her and later in the day my phone rang with the caller ID identifying NTS as the caller. Dr. Truesdale said he would love to sit down with me and discuss the decision I needed to make. He met me for breakfast and listened as I explained my dilemma. He patiently explained that science and Christianity were not at odds and reassured me that the sort of research I would be helping with was not in contradiction to my Christian ethics. In my personal life, I had married my first husband in the NTS chapel and started what turned out to be an abusive marriage. My train hobbyist god had never felt as absent as he did in this season of life. In the summer of 2008, I lost my job, my car, my house, and my toxic marriage dissolved. I had spent the last several years watching life unfold in front of me under my microscope, marvelling at a creative God who designed each cell with extra-ordinary capacities for healing the sick and lame but could not escape the feeling that God had “left the building”.
In my twenties, I did what I needed to do. In my thirties, I did what I was expected to do and I decided in my forties I would do some of the things I wanted to do. So, now remarried, to an incredibly supportive man and with the encouragement of my best friend at church I applied to NTS. I was given a lot of encouragement from friends and pastors and became anxious to start classes. It soon became apparent that my feelings about God weren’t facts about God. I was challenged in my Theology of Creation class, God created me with tremendous delight and was actively making all things new, including me. I was challenged by my class The Christian Faith and the Apostles Creed, God can and does suffer with me. I am currently finding the intellectual and spiritual freedom to release my absentee train hobbyist God fantasy in my Resurrection in the New Testament class. Seminary has been a journey of spiritual reparative therapy.
Since I have started at NTS I have found a home and a family. A family that gathers at my house every Tuesday night to break bread and fellowship together at my family table. A family that I share muffins and donuts with in class. A family that has left me feeling incredibly loved during a very vulnerable time of my life. This past summer I was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease – my kidneys are failing. When I began to ask for prayer in my classes my classmates stepped up. Of the ten people who have asked to be tested as donors seven of them are current NTS students or alumni. My story is being redeemed and continues to be written in the halls of NTS. During my admissions interview, I was asked why I wanted to attend NTS. I told them that I wanted to teach better Sunday School, and that was the truth. What I didn’t anticipate is that the academics that have challenged me between my ears is also working a healing in my heart and my body. NTS cares about all of me, head to toe.
I am often asked what I plan to do when I leave NTS. I honestly don’t know what life looks like after graduation. My hope is that perhaps a suitable position will become available that keeps me in the work of the academy. What I do know is that I already parent from a different place with my teenage stepchildren and foster care placements. I marvel at the renewed love and adoration I have found to be shared in my marriage. I already teach Sunday School with a greater excitement and passion. I already find myself loving and leading with a more vivid imagination captured for the kingdom. I am already increasingly confident that I serve a loving and very near and present God – and perhaps that is enough.