Senior pursues his ‘calling’—not his major

Lexington senior J in the Chandler Memorial Chapel Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Bowling Green, Ky. Starks is planning to spend four months after he graduates on as a missionary with the International Mission Board. Mike Clark/HERALD

Nicole Ares

Like most graduating seniors, J will take a leap of faith into pursuing his future. 

This leap, however, will take the Lexington native to western Asia rather than into a job market. 

“Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s doing what you should do in the presence of fear,” J said.

In the fall of 2011, J came to WKU with the anticipation of pursuing a law degree after graduation. He chose political science and economics as double majors because in high school he was a very informed and opinionated person.

“My motivations for going to law school were not the best,” J admitted. “I honestly wanted to make a lot of money and have a lot of prestige. That’s not what all attorneys care about, but that’s what I cared about when I came to WKU.”

After one semester, J realized that being a lawyer was not the path in life he wanted to follow— he desired to live a more fulfilling life.

“I started to realize how empty those things were. You can be really important and make a lot of money, but in the end those things don’t really matter,” said J. 

Throughout college, J continued to pursue his double major, but also began to entertain the idea of missionary work. J has always enjoyed sharing his faith with others and has now decided to do it as a career. 

“Missionary work was the most effective way for me to reach the world and impact people,” he said. “In one sense it is a duty, but I think it is a calling that has steadily grown on my life.”

With the support of Christ Fellowship Church, where J has been a college intern for three years, he has decided to pursue missionary work in western Asia. 

“I just looked around my life and my church and realized that this was the place I needed to go,” said J.

Asia will be J’s fifth mission trip, but he has never been out of the country for this length of time and believes that it will be a whole new experience. 

“There’s definitely fear going to a new different country. If you’re not afraid or at least nervous, then you probably aren’t processing things well,” J said. 

Zack Van Zant, WKU senior and fellow member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, met J freshman year in Minton Hall. Van Zant said he has had the opportunity to watch J grow in his faith over the last four years and is not surprised that J is pursuing missions work out of college. 

“(J) is such a solid guy in his faith. I thought he would be really good at it and still do,” he said. “But with any type of missions work you face the potential for persecution. You have to know that what you’re ultimately sharing is worth it. I think that (J) has counted that cost and is prepared to do whatever it takes to share the gospel.”

In western Asia, J will be working for several months doing ethnography, the study of people groups and locating them within the country. He believes this is something he could do for the rest of his life.

For the last four years, J has focused on economics and political science. Ethnography is usually focused on anthropology, sociology or psychology. 

J doesn’t regret his chosen majors and believes he’s grown immensely because of them. He says if he had known he would pursue missionary work after college, this is still the best place that he could be.

“You need to be around people that are different than you, and you need to take classes that stretch you,” said J. “I will need the skills I have gained in college for the rest of my life.”

With graduation around the corner and the move abroad on the horizon, J says the anticipation is building, but he still has an appreciation for where he is now.

“Being a college student is a great thing; I don’t want to wish that away,” J said.

When the time comes, however, J believes he will be ready to radically change his life.

“I want to follow God where He has me and that could be working at an insurance firm, or being a banker, or being a waiter for 3 years of my 20s,” said J. “But I feel like this is where I need to be—this is what I am passionate about, and this is what I feel called to do with my life.”

This story has been corrected to change the subject’s name. This was done for security reasons while the subject is overseas.