Outgoing SGA prez sees future helping others as minister

Ashlee Clark

Churches have that certain smell.

It’s an indescribable scent, one that John Bradley remembers from the Presbyterian church in Anna, Ill., he attended as a child.

His earliest memories of the church also include attending Sunday school and how well the people there treated him.

Now Bradley’s future may take him back to the divine.

Bradley, the outgoing president of the Student Government Association, says his personal experiences with God and his desire to help people will lead him to a seminary after he completes graduate school.

He plans to accomplish his “life goal” of helping people by becoming a minister.

But Bradley said he’s already used his beliefs in God as SGA president, a position he’ll leave tonight when Henderson junior Nick Todd is expected to take office.

Bradley said he started feeling a strong call to become a minister during his sophomore and junior years of college.

But an obstacle gave him his most significant experience with God – literally.

Bradley, who was an Army reservist, was scaling down a rope as part of an obstacle course at a leadership camp in Fort Lewis, Wash.

The net below had been replaced by spotters, whose job was to catch people scaling down the rope.

Bradley fell.

No one caught him.

A sharp and radiating pain passed through his body as he fell on his head and shoulder, he said.

Bradley had broken his back.

“As soon as I felt the pain in my lower back, I knew God was working,” he said.

He had been in the reserves since he was 17 and wanted to eventually become a chaplain. But Bradley, who calls himself a pacifist, had doubts about some aspects of serving.

He said he had a “large, moral conflict” in taking another person’s life and had been agonizing over his place in the military.

Bradley couldn’t walk for a week and a half. He was then confined by a torso cast for five months, but there was little soft tissue damage.

“Breaking my back really gave me the opportunity to take a better path for me,” said Bradley, who is classified as a disabled veteran.

Bradley these days sees himself in a civilian church.

Being a minister, Bradley said, allows for more personal relationship with others than a mental health care professional or counselor could have.

“They can be a part of your life and you can be a part of theirs,” he said.

He currently is a mentor at LifeSkills, a community mental health agency, where he works with four emotionally or behaviorally challenged boys.

Bradley, who refers to the boys as “his kids,” talks with them and works on their behavioral plans.

They also do activities such as going to the movies, playing basketball or hiking, he said.

The experience has been rewarding and difficult, he said.

“It’s sad because you really want things to be good for these kids and you really want to help them,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not enough.”

Bradley said his work mentoring children at LifeSkills has heightened his knowledge of counseling and also marriage and family therapy, areas he is interested in pursuing.

“I think it’s given me a little more perspective on the challenges real people face,” he said.

Those challenges could be found during his year-long tenure as SGA president, where Bradley was responsible for representing roughly 18,000 students.

He said some people questioned his character and judgment when he expressed concern about possible funding options for the Greek Village.

He didn’t get defensive or hurtful. Bradley said he tries to consider whether his motives stem from love when thinking about something important.

“I don’t think in politics people try to use love as a filter,” he said.

He said there are times when he has forgotten to consider love, including when SGA began developing strategies against plus/minus grading.

Bradley has also been going through a difficult time recently with SGA. Todd is the only suspect in an investigation of a reported misuse of an SGA Dining Dollars account.

Bradley said his friends and his wife, Bowling Green sophomore Annie Cole-Bradley, have helped him get through the recent events.

“If she wasn’t around to calm me down or help, it would probably be much, much worse than it is now,” he said.

Bradley understands the politics of how things work, but it doesn’t feel like “he’s trying to wiggle things around and do things dishonestly,” said Michael McCormack, the associate pastor for youth at The Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green.

Bradley interned at the Presbyterian Church for two years.

Cole-Bradley said her husband has put emotion into the SGA presidency.

“I’m a little biased, but I think he’s done a wonderful job,” said Cole-Bradley, who’s been married to Bradley for almost a year.

Bradley has been like a father figure to the SGA executive cabinet, said Marion senior Patti Johnson, the SGA executive vice president.

“No matter what the situation is, the first thing he thinks about is how it is going to affect everyone else,” she said.

Now Bradley is going to continue thinking of others to achieve his “life goal.”

And it he may take him to the familiar scent of his childhood.

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected]