“A lot of organizations provide fellowships, but the seminar component is what sets PULSE apart. It’s during the seminar where the formation and the enrichment happens, where you can reflect on the relationship between vocation, faith, and the city, and where you can grow in community with other participants.”-Joel Shenk, PULSE ’04-’05 Alumnus
Joel Shenk is a 2004-2005 PULSE alumnus. During his time with PULSE, Joel made the decision to pursue a career with the church, where he continues to be active in serving others in his community. Although no longer located within Pittsburgh, Joel has found ways to keep in touch with PULSE including a monthly donation, Facebook posts, and PULSE newsletters.
How were you impacted by your PULSE experience?
It was during my year in PULSE that I heard and answered the call to attend seminary. Steve Kriss, who was the PULSE director at the time, was a great mentor for me and helped me a lot in my discernment process. PULSE led directly into that life decision, so it’s safe to say my life wouldn’t be the same had I not attended PULSE. Unfortunately, the decision to attend seminary meant that I had to say good-bye to Pittsburgh, a city I still miss. But all-in-all it was a very positive experience and decision for me.
What was the best part of your PULSE experience?
I loved the seminar component; the readings, the discussions, the site visits to places around the city. A lot of organizations provide fellowships, but the seminar component is what sets PULSE apart. It’s during the seminar where the formation and the enrichment happens, where you can reflect on the relationship between vocation, faith, and the city, and where you can grow in community with other participants.
How did PULSE prepare you for what you are doing now?
My placement at the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation helped me to learn more about program development and fundraising. It also gave me my first real experience working in an organization doing actual good work in the community. It’s one thing to learn about things in a class room, it’s another to actually put it into practice in the real world. The PLF gave me my first window into that. While I’m not directly involved currently in a lot of fundraising and development, it’s definitely helpful to have that as part of my back ground in my work with my congregation and on the boards on which I sit.
What about the PULSE program was attractive to you?
While I was a student at Eastern Mennonite University I participated in the Washington (DC) Community Scholars Program. I instantly fell in love with the city, and I also grew in my commitment to seek the shalom of the city through an Anabaptist faith perspective. After graduation, PULSE was an attractive option to continue in this same pursuit.
What did the PULSE experience teach you about yourself?
PULSE helped me solidify my commitment to the church and to the work of seeking the shalom of the city. My faith had been important to me before PULSE, but it was my PULSE experience that led me to serve the church and the city vocationally as well.
How have you stayed connected with PULSE?
I support PULSE financially on a monthly basis. It’s my way of giving back to a program that had a tremendous impact on me. It’s also a monthly reminder to think about and pray for the continued success of PULSE and the new classes of emerging leaders. Living out of the area means that I can’t make it to a lot of PULSE events or see people face-to-face, but Facebook and newsletters help me to maintain at least a small measure of relationships.
What kind of work do you do now?
I am the pastor of Toledo Mennonite Church. In my role I do the typical work of a pastor such as preaching, directing worship, visitation, and organizational leadership. I also serve on two boards in the community: 1) Assets Toledo, which provides business education to low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs in our city, and 2) The Center for Servant Leadership, which provides personal and spiritual coaching to help individuals live authentic, responsible lives in pursuit of justice and in service to others. I’m also very active in the sister-church relationship that Toledo Mennonite Church has with Mennonite Church of Dodoma, Tanzania. My family and I were able to visit our sister-church this past March while I was on pastoral sabbatical.
Story by PULSE intern Emily Fecile