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Fellowship encourages senior to find calling

July 14, 2008

Fellowship encourages senior to find calling

Since childhood, Timothy Siburg’s sought to determine his life’s purpose. At PLU, the quest to find his vocation has only intensified. The senior religion and economics double major knows he wants to serve others, but he isn’t sure in what capacity. His friends tell him to stop stressing, that everything will work out. Still, he frets about choosing the right path.

“For better or for worse, I feel there are certain gifts I have to serve with, and I have an obligation to serve,” he explained. “I want to do what I’m suppose to do and find out how to get there.”

He got a chance to talk with students from across the United States who are struggling with similar questions of vocation when he was named a recipient of the Fund for Theological Education Undergraduate Fellowship.

The competitive fellowship recognizes students who have gifts for leadership and are exploring the possibility of ministry as a vocation. Only 50 were awarded to students at colleges and universities across the United States.

Provost Patricia O’Connell Killen, who is also Siburg’s advisor, nominated him for the award.

“Timothy’s strong academic record and his involvement in music and his local congregation made him a strong candidate for an FTE fellowship,” she said.

“Even more, his dual interests in religion and economics, especially in the question of how religious organizations are resources for communities’ economic and civic empowerment, made him stand out as a candidate. He thinks critically about religious organizations for the future, not simply today.”

Along with a $2,000 award to offset tuition costs, Siburg attended the association’s Conference on Excellence in Ministry in June at Emory University in Atlanta. There, he attended workshops and seminars, talked with distinguished theologians, pastors and church leaders from across the United States, and found kindred spirits among many of the fund’s other fellows.

“I got the sense that I’m not crazy because I wrestle with what to do with my life,” he said. “It was reassuring to see other people who are having the same struggle. I came away inspired.”

At the conference, he was reassured to find other students actively seeking out their calling. Many of the speakers spoke to the topic as well, and Siburg said a speech by Charles Stith particularly inspired him.

An ordained minister, Stith heard a call beyond the pulpit. He left the ministry and got involved both politically and socially, even serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania in the late 1990s. During his speech, Siburg realized people have an obligation to be involved in society.

Siburg credits his family and Lutheran faith with instilling in him a desire to serve. One reason he chose to attend PLU was because he felt the university was a place he could develop his sense of calling – and that’s been the case, he said.

“It’s ingrained in the PLU culture,” he said.

Along with singing in the Choir of the West and serving as vice president for the Residence Hall Association, Siburg is currently working on his capstone project for religion and economics. His research examines the religious promotion of sustainable development in third world nations.

Siburg is the third PLU student to receive the fellowship.