The two didn't travel together but if it hadn’t been for Jeanene Reese, Olivia might not have chosen ACU and she definitely wouldn't have gotten the encouragement for a life in ministry that she has received from Reese.
As soon as Olivia arrived on campus for a quick visit in the fall of her senior year in high school, Reese caught her attention. Olivia had never seen a woman in any ministry role at her home church in Raleigh, N.C.
Olivia was faithful to her Church of Christ heritage but also knew she wanted to be in some type of ministry. She was afraid that wouldn't be possible in her church and decided to study psychology instead. She got accepted at nearby Duke University and put down a deposit.
That was before the visit to ACU and meeting with Reese, who immediately showed Olivia a list of about 50 positions held by women in Church of Christ congregations.
"That really altered my perspective," Olivia said. "I really had to have a major shift in my thinking."
The good news for Olivia is that when the day comes for her to begin her ministry, Reese will just be a phone call or an email away. Reese not only teaches courses in the Department of Bible, Ministry and Missions, she also is director of the Center for Women in Christian Service.
In fact, Reese came to ACU as a part-time faculty member and director of the center. Since then, the director and the center have become synonymous. Reese is known as a mentor, advisor, supporter and encourager of women, both ACU students and in the larger church community.
One role of the Center for Women in Christian Service is to provide assistance and guidance to women in ministry. Many of those women will be ACU graduates who once sat in Reese's classroom or perhaps in her living room.
Through her teaching and work with the Center for Women in Christian Service, Reese has a huge influence in the lives of young women who want to serve people through their church. Young women like Olivia have a heart for ministry but don't always know what direction to take.
Olivia earned a bachelor's degree in Christian ministry in 2007 and expects to get a master of divinity degree in 2010. Besides serving a chaplaincy internship, Olivia has ventured into other cultures as part of ACU missions courses, and she is a teaching assistant to Mike Cope in the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry. But, still she isn’t quite sure what she will do when she gets her master's degree.
Chances are that Jeanene Reese will play a role in her eventual decision. Olivia was in a mentoring group with Reese and has taken three courses under her - Teaching and Speaking to Women in the Church, Introduction to Ministry and Missions, and Reflections on Ministry and Missions.
"All three helped me explore my opportunities as a woman in ministry," Olivia said. "I remember specifically discussing how women in public roles, particularly in theological circles, have so few models and the importance of developing a distinctly feminine public presence."
With the help of Reese and other professors and mentors at ACU, Olivia one day will be a new role model for young women wanting to enter the ministry. Olivia hasn't settled on a career yet, but whatever it is, her mission will be the same.
"I want to find some hurting people to love," she said.
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