Jeremias Cruz, freshman theology major at Walla Walla University, was awarded the NextGen Pastor scholarship this past summer. WWU was provided with scholarship funding by the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC). This forward-thinking investment was designed by the NPUC to equip and recruit the next generation of pastors and teachers.
Cruz grew up with a gift for speaking and a passion for God, but faced unique barriers during his childhood, including a rare condition that required him to undergo surgery every six months between the ages of two and 15.
As a young person, Cruz considered a few career paths before realizing his calling. Cruz credits his father with helping him connect his ability to speak with his love for God. When his father invited him to preach, Cruz felt God speaking to him and through him. He knew it was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life and began to look for a way to answer the call.
A year before coming to WWU as a freshman, Cruz had no idea that the university existed. He was enrolled at Andrews University with a down payment submitted and a roommate assigned before it became evident that finances would simply not allow him to pursue higher education there. After considering community college options, Cruz recalled his father praying, “Lord, how is it so hard for my son to serve?” Just two days later, a local pastor’s wife sent the family a link about the NextGen Pastor scholarship offered at WWU.
A rush of adrenaline hit Cruz when he found out he had won the scholarship just one month before fall term began at WWU. Shortly after, he called Carl Cosaert, dean of the School of Theology and professor of biblical studies, and realized it would be possible to attend WWU. Cruz remembers his parents listening to the call at his door and shedding tears of gratitude.
According to Cruz, attending WWU has renewed the fire inside him to serve, and he has a difficult time imagining himself anywhere else. His foremost goal is to develop his relationship with Christ as a friend and savior. He believes this relationship will aid him in every other aspect of his life, including his pursuit of a pastoral role. He mentioned a verse in the book of Matthew that has inspired him; “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”