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Story Magazine

Second Quarter 2008

Vanessa Bradby Gives New Meaning to International Student

by Andy Behrendt, M.Div. middler

Vanessa Bradby

When she began at Luther in 2006, Bradby lived in the Twin Cities. But in March 2007, her husband, Mark, received a job offer in Pakistan. Mark, born in India to missionary parents, and Vanessa, who shared his calling to serve overseas, had planned on moving abroad at some point, but Vanessa wasn't even halfway through seminary.

Yet faculty at Luther said they could make it work. "I'm kind of a high-maintenance distance-learning person," said Bradby. "They've been working very hard to make sure the program works out for me. I just finished my first semester from Pakistan."

Now a Master of Divinity middler, Bradby moved to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in July and finished her summer Hebrew course by recording lectures using an Internet calling program. Last fall, she took three online courses and "attended" one course via Internet phone.

Bradby has always been a bit unique--her background is especially ecumenical. She is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, was called to ministry while working at an American Baptist youth camp, attended a Nazarene college, and worked for Episcopal and Methodist churches. She and Mark now attend the Church of Pakistan, which she has found to be an especially challenging context for the contextual education involvement required by her program.

Amid her new life, Bradby has pondered how to piece together her call to ministry with her passion for overseas service and experience with youth. She aims to complete seminary in 2009 and expects that she and Mark will be in Pakistan at least that long.

It's lonely to be a long-distance student, but Bradby has found community with other seminarians. "There are people who felt connected to me who I had never seen because they sat next to my Internet speaker," said Bradby, noting the attention she received while on campus for January classes. "When I said what I was doing, about six people turned around and said, 'Ahhhh! I know you!'"