Finding ministry in law

Adrienne Derstine

Adrienne Derstine ’16 started here. Now she’s taking her first steps to everywhere.

Adrienne Derstine’s initial first step – spending the summer in Mennonite Church USA’s Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP) – may seem a bit unconventional for her “go everywhere” plans of a career in law, but she views it as practical preparation for the kind of law she hopes to practice.

“I’ve been challenged to view ministry as a lifestyle that transcends more than just one aspect of our daily lives, but instead transforms an individual to live out the gospel that is radical,” said Derstine (Harleysville, Pa.), who next plans to study peacebuilding and ministry at Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, Va.). “Today and in the future, I will dedicate myself to incorporate justice for humanity and the environment in everyday actions.”

Since May, Derstine has been working with and learning from the ministry team at Albuquerque (N.M.) Mennonite Church. Her responsibilities have included leading worship during Sunday morning services, preaching and participating in day-to-day tasks and meetings with the church’s ministry team. She’s also had ample time to expand her faith, explore what ministry means to her personally and find ways to connect her call to ministry with her career aspirations.

“I am exploring a variety of topics through books, including environmental sustainability, the Christian response to pain and what it means to live simply,” said Derstine. “I enjoy having freedom to explore the mysterious ways in which God works. Much of what church ministry consists of is putting it in the hands of God and allowing the Spirit to work. I have enjoyed learning about this process and been challenged to consider it as my first response every morning.”

Derstine’s interests, passions and curiosity are broad, fitting well with an undergraduate degree in pre-law, which lends itself to exploration in a variety of academic areas.

During her two years at Hesston, Derstine focused much of her course load on history classes, but she was also able to develop her writing skills by serving as a Writing Fellow (a peer writing tutor) during her sophomore year, as well as assist Marissa King ’05 in teaching a Basic Writing class, and even co-present on “Responding to student intentions through annotation” at a conference with King.

Adrienne Derstine serves as a Writing Fellow peer tutor and helps guide a student through the writing process.
Adrienne Derstine serves as a Writing Fellow peer tutor and helps guide a student through the writing process.
As a high school student making the college decision, she wasn’t quite ready to commit to a school or a major, so she first did a year of Service Adventure in Albuquerque through Mennonite Mission Network. She chose to start at Hesston because she felt more comfortable making a commitment to a place for two years rather than four.

Hesston provided her with the right combination of people and experiences that gave her direction for her passions and future. Derstine noted influences from instructors across various disciplines as being inspirational to her Hesston Experience.

“I’ve learned so much and been inspired by example by so many different people at Hesston,” said Derstine. “Marissa King (education instructor) demonstrated to me passion for work and insight into how a career can influence society. David LeVan (business instructor) and Karen Sheriff LeVan (English instructor) exemplified passion for connecting subject areas and encouraging broad content exploration. Andre Swartley ’99 (English instructor) and Kendra Burkey ’00 (communication instructor) encouraged strong, powerful women. Each person’s influence helped me find a trajectory for my life.”

An assortment of experiences and ideas has carried her into her time with MIP as well. As should be the case with exploration, some experiences have stretched her beyond what is comfortable and challenged her with new perspectives.

“I participated in a week-long retreat in the Pecos Mountains of the Santa Fe wilderness where I was the youngest in the group by nearly 20 years, and there were long periods of tumescent in silence and reflection,” said Derstine. “This experience was difficult as I enjoy being surrounded by others and engaging in conversation often. But I came away with new insights and a tremendous amount of growth that I could never imagine in our consumption-driven world.”

With the end of summer break in sight and a focus beginning to be pulled back toward the world of academia, Derstine reflects that she wants her experiences with ministry to be life changing – not just for her, but those she works with as well.

“I came into this experience believing I wasn’t cut out for ministry – that I would not become a pastor,” she said. “However, while I don’t know that I will become a pastor, I don’t believe I’m not cut out for ministry. Much of what I’ve learned I hope to incorporate into my life, not just my career. I have come to understand ministry as day to day actions that we all choose to take. We may be contributing to the ministry of God or the ministry of the world, but we are always contributing.”