Colleen Jousma – Pastor-In-Training With The Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Now Secular Humanist
Colleen Jousma was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has one older brother. Her parents separated when she was about 3 or 4. She lived with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend for most of her childhood after her parents separated.
Colleen’s parents were both members of local Seventh-day Adventist churches, but when her mom separated, she stopped attending church. Her dad continued to attend and when they would visit him on weekends, he would bring them to church, both on Saturday and also on Sunday.
Her earliest religious memory was when she was 5 years old. They were in church one Sunday and the pastor called a young couple to the front of the church. The couple was going overseas to be missionaries. The pastor asked people in the church to come forward, place hands on the couple, and pray for them. Colleen’s grandma remembers she looked up at her and asked if she could go and pray for them. She considers that day to be a strong example of her desire, even at a young age, to help people. There was a time that she thought it was a sign that god had called her to be in ministry.
The “true” Church
Around middle school, she stopped visiting her dad on weekends, and consequently, stopped attending church. In high school, Colleen attended a retreat at her friend’s church. When they were having an altar call, she “rededicated her life to Christ”. However, instead of attending her friend’s church, a “Sunday” church, she decided to go back to her dad’s old church because it was the “true” church. She finds it amazing how someone who only was around a religion on the weekends would pick up that mentality. Then again, Adventists are pretty strong about evangelism. It probably took hold a lot more than it would have if she’d gone to a church that wasn’t an evangelistic type.
After high school, Colleen went to a public university for one year. From there, she transferred to the “flagship” university of Adventism, Andrews University. Her first term there, she was a history major. Then she switched to religion. She loved her time at Andrews, loved the bubble she lived in and planned to be a pastor (even though female pastors were a very small number in the Adventist church).
She was disheartened a few times during university by her professors and fellow religion majors, but kept pushing on. Afterwards, she went to Seminary but didn’t do as well. She switched to a counselling degree. Then, she decided to go overseas to do a year of missions work. She had gone one summer to teach English in Ukraine and felt like that was the best place to go. Colleen raised the funds to cover the year, and off she went. After returning from Ukraine, she went back to the Seminary instead of going back to the counselling program.
Colleen received a Masters in Religious Education, which enabled her to go overseas to teach English. She taught English in South Korea: first with a Seventh-day Adventist school and then high school with another denomination. She had a lot of anxiety for a decade and after finishing undergrad, she made the difficult move out of dorm life. Then, during the weekend of her graduation, she found out that something was wrong with her mom. Later that summer they found out it was a brain tumor. She dealt multiple tumors for 10 years before she succumbed to them.
Grad school really didn’t go as planned. When Colleen went to South Korea it was hard to deal with. Her anxiety got the best of her (she now realizes that she didn’t know how to deal with anxiety until a few years ago). She came back to America in 2009 and jumped around to different jobs and stayed with a few friends. She took a self-development course, which, really opened up a lot for her. At the time, she remembers saying that she found out who she was “in Christ”.
Looking back, she realizes that she was learning to be ok with herself. In 2010, Colleen took another course and it was that one that really woke her up more than she ever knew it could. It was because of these trainings that she finally woke up to her anxiety and how it affected her life.
Her departure from religion started with her departure from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in January of 2011. She dabbled with the Unity Church after she’d read some of Shelby Spong’s books. The one that really broke her worldview up was, Biblical Literalism, A Gentile Heresy. After only reading part of the book, she started to understood that the Bible was man-made and her faith fell apart.
Colleen felt that her beliefs were all based on the evidence in the Bible. So, if the Bible wasn’t true, there was no point in keeping the Christian beliefs. She held onto faith in God (though not the Christian god) for close to a year, but by the time she started dating her boyfriend in 2012, she was no longer a believer in any god.
Colleen has changed careers from teaching and now enjoys taking care of pets and volunteering with animal non-profits. She also has started a blog featuring stores of people who are championing Secular Giving.
Colleen’s personal blog: My Journey Through Life
To submit a guest blog: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook at: Secular Giving
Alex Record’s post: Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More
Colleen’s interview on Everyone’s Agnostic Podcast
Podcast YouTube Channel
Music – Original Composition by Esther Nicholson
Podcast Logo by Sarah Nicholson