James Mayville, a 2022 graduate of Criswell College, shares how the College’s community shaped his educational experience. It is a privilege for us to share James’s story.
As I have quickly approached the moment for which we all work so hard—graduation—I have had a lot of time to reflect on what Criswell has meant to me. To truly explain that, I must go back to when I first stepped foot onto 4010 Gaston Avenue.
I fell in love with Criswell College almost seven years ago when Mack Roller—a Criswell alumnus, former trustee, my pastor, and one of the people I admire most in the world—let me tag along on a preview day trip. That trip is when my appreciation for this school, for its mission, and a welcoming embrace from the people who serve it began. From that point on, I have been committed to being part of this school’s work as much as possible.
Over the last four years, God has blessed me with incredible opportunities. I was blessed to spend several years working in the Student Services Office. I was fortunate to create and lead the Student Government Association in its inaugural years as founding President. I was able to serve the housing community as a Resident Assistant. More importantly, I was shaped by the incredible education of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics program.
But when I think about my time here, these opportunities take a back seat to what really made this experience worthwhile—the people that God brought into my life along the way. Through every challenging moment, through every obstacle I faced in the classroom, in my job or in an internship, it was a friend, a mentor, or a professor who came along to get me through.
It was Luis Juárez who, when all he had to do was be a boss, instead chose to invest in me, caring in a way that made me a better student, a better professional, and a better man of God. Along the way Luis became a great friend and mentor who I know will be a reliable force in my life for years to come. It was Genevieve Collins who took a chance on a young ambitious intern and inspired me to pursue a career devoted to the service of others and has given me every opportunity to do so. It was reliable brothers like Sam Knox, Roman Browning, Chandler Amason, Adonia Dixon-Thomas, Caleb Shockey, Gabriel Robledo, Omar Rivera, Abel Hagos, Edward Meshell, and Jon Petty who were there at the drop of a hat to pray for me, challenge me, and encourage me in the hardest of times. It was sisters like Emma Shockey, Naomi Karanja-Rivera, and Melea Robledo who challenged me to think harder, love people better, and approach every moment with the Gospel in mind. It was a professor like Dr. Seitzler who took my education beyond the course materials. He changed the way I see the world by asking questions that forced me to think beyond the bounds of where I had thought before. Each of these people has changed me for the better.
That is what makes Criswell College what it is. It is the people that come along to lead you, to care for you, and to challenge you. While we have an incredible residence hall to enjoy a 24/7 campus life, while we have incredibly rigorous academic programs that shape us as scholars and theologians, while we have great programs and organizations that give us opportunities to gain experience, it all comes together in the community that is built as we pursue God’s calling on our lives.
As I bid farewell to the school that I love, I leave my peers who will soon be in the position in which I now find myself with a word of advice: when it all seems too overbearing, when the challenge seems greater than you can imagine, when the memorization of Colossians just will not stick, when you do not meet a word count or you do not know how you will pay for the next semester, just stop. Stop and look to your left. Look to your right. Look behind you, and in front of you. It is in those moments of looking that you see the Eddys and the Luises that God has placed in your life. Once you have had a chance to thank the Lord for putting you in this community, go to them and find the grace of God in His people. And then go visit Student Services, because if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that they can move mountains!
Criswell has been more to me than an education, it has been a family and a home, and I know that it will be for you, too. I encourage my peers never to take any moment for granted and to approach each semester, each week, and each day with a sense of urgency. The Lord has not called us to an easy task. By being a student here, you realize that God has called you to devote your entire career and life to Him. It will require much of each of us to go out and be an effective ambassador, cultivator, peacemaker, problem-solver, and professional, but I have no doubt that we are up to the task. Because of our time here and with each other, we will be more than able to answer the call.
James A. Mayville II
Class of 2022