At age 21, finding himself on hard times, Justin Chitwood went calling on the Lord. The entire life he had planned for himself crumbled before him, but the Lord encouraged him.
He said, “Justin, I have a purpose for your life. You’re not where you’re supposed to be.”
In the back of his mind, Justin knew he was right and felt the Lord leading him to ministry.
Justin spent the next year talking to significant people in his life about his next step, something he now calls his coming to Christ.
“I had been in church, but that was truly our moment where we made things real,” he said. “I surrendered at that moment to what the Lord had for me and spent all of 2017 figuring out what my next step was.”
In April of 2018, Justin stepped foot on Emmanuel College’s campus and heard the Lord loud and clear saying, “HERE.” There was just one problem.
Justin thought he would obtain his degree in ministry online, but nothing felt right.
“At the time, I was working a full-time job, living on my own,” he said. “I had a house on the lake, doing well with my career, but the Lord called me to a 4-year college.”
Looking back, Justin is confident Emmanuel was where God called him to be.
“Since coming to Emmanuel, God has opened so many doors for me,” Justin said. “He’s provided the cost of college and allowed me to have so many connections within the IPHC.”
At EC, Justin began to understand the foundation of his faith.
“I’m beginning to understand how important my faith is to the world,” he said. “It’s going to be important to my life teaching and preaching of the gospel, bringing the lost to Christ, really understanding why it is that I believe what I believe.”
That belief has completely transformed his life, and now he hopes to understand it enough to preach and teach it to others to help God impact their lives the way He did his.
His time at Emmanuel in the School of Christian Ministries has not only helped him understand his faith but has helped him with time management.
“I’ve gotten a lot of time management help from Dr. Luper. He has made a significant impact on my life,” he said. “The longer you’re in college, the busier you get, and the bigger the workloads. Knowing how to manage my time is something God’s been working on through me, how to handle my time, and honor him with my time.”
His time at Emmanuel also helped him figure out his why and what type of ministry is on his heart.
“Ministry is so broad,” he said. “Your ministry is everyday life, professional life, in your home as a husband and father, just figuring out where you’re starting. My Christian Ministries classes exposed me to how theology has developed and the thinking behind it, how things became solid in their teaching and the continuity between biblical times and now, understanding all of that helps you grasp your faith more.”
On campus, Justin has his hands in several activities and campus organizations. Justin serves as both a CSO officer, helping organize the Oasis Chapels which are open to the school, and as a Chaplain, a position he takes seriously.
“I think it puts a title on what my convictions are on this campus,” he said. “To be there for my peers and be the arrow pointing to the source of hope during stressful times, being able to pray with them and give counseling, whatever bit of wisdom I have or whatever the Lord imparts on me to give to someone.”
Another area on campus where Justin serves is as the Student Representative for the EC Serve Committee.
“I have a servant’s heart,” he said. “I’ve never been on a missions trip but have been on domestic trips with the college through Samaritan’s Purse at the restoration site they have in Horry County. I love being involved in that, being able to give something back to people who have lost their homes, and everything else has been great.”
As a hands-on person, Justin enjoys his involvement with Samaritan’s Purse because it allows him to build something.
“It’s become a passion of mine,” he said. “Being used to play a small part in restoring a piece of someone’s life everyone loves their home and a lot of people have been without theirs for a long time. It’s encouraging to me to see other students sign up to get that experience.”
There’s a saying that is synonymous with mission trips, “You go because you think you’re going to help change a life when your life is the one that ends up changed.” This saying is one Justin truly believes in.
“You get exposed to how close hurting people are,” he said. “How easy it is to be an arrow to point to Christ, he’s going to be there with you. It’s an opportunity to be a light in this dark world and see the passion and love Christ has put in a lot of people to take care of those who can’t help themselves because life has dealt them a band hand. Just giving them unconditional love is what’s important.”
When Justin arrived at Emmanuel, he did so as a non-traditional student. What advice would he give to others looking to do the same?
“If you’re in that same situation, going back to college is extremely scary,” he said. “It’s the process of being Kingdom-minded instead of earthy minded. I’ve found that everything the Lord gives us is not our own. If you love Christ and you’re close to his heart, you’ll realize that he’s going to take care of you regardless of the sacrifices you’re giving up. Just because it’s scary, doesn’t mean it’s not God.”
Justin arrived at Emmanuel self-dependent, but today his dependence is on God and through this process, he has been humbled and transformed. He gave up everything to heed to the Lord’s plan for him by attending Emmanuel College and saw God bless him tremendously. All he had to do was be a light.