From the beginning of his college search, EC alumnus Eric Foster-Whiddon (’01) was looking for a place to “study God,” and he found that place at Emmanuel College.
“I liked the fact that it was small,” he said. “There was a sincere Christianity and love for the Lord at EC. I liked the regular chapel services and the environment.”
Before attending Emmanuel, Eric started a Christian rock band and he continued to play with his friends throughout his time at EC.
“Most of my friendships at EC revolved around the music scene at the college. I was amazed at how much talent was at the school, so I would put together concerts or festivals,” he remembers. “We had a music venue we managed and ran as an outreach to teenagers in the community, but it became a social hub for EC and the area. It was called the Mainstream in downtown Royston.”
Along with solid friendships, Eric expressed his appreciation for the evident devotion and love for God from his professors, Dr. Paul Oxley, Dr. Tony Moon, Dr. Tracy Reynolds, and specifically, Dr. Mike Luper.
“The way that he challenged us and opened the door to study the New Testament in its original language lit a fire in me,” he said. “It got under my skin and never left. The love for scripture and biblical languages that he passed on to his students still impacts me today.”
Although Eric graduated with an SCM degree, he envisioned himself working in the music industry as opposed to the church. However, the Lord had other plans and he found himself serving as a youth pastor in his hometown. “I really was clueless. I had not taken youth ministry classes at Emmanuel because I didn’t plan to be a youth pastor. All I knew to do was share with the students the things that had been so impactful for me: Christian friendships, discipleship, youth worship services, and music.” He began teaching music to the students as a way to keep them involved. “I offered to teach music lessons for free if the students would agree to bring their instruments to youth and help me with a worship band. Then parents from outside my church started asking, ‘What do you charge for lessons?’ I thought, ‘Charge? That’s a good idea!’” After ten years of youth ministry and music lessons, Eric and his wife Vanessa felt called to open a café and music school called Beans and Strings.
“At one point we had over 200 students weekly. We had band camps during the summer and live music every Friday and Saturday night,” he remembers. “My experiences with the Mainstream and the music scene at EC directly led to what we did at Beans and Strings. The seven years we had the business were challenging, fruitful, and a lot of fun. I knew the Lord called me to entrepreneurship for that season just as certainly as I knew he had called me to youth ministry for the previous decade, but as I taught kids to play ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ I was wrestling with my calling and my fit in the body of Christ. God was using that season in entrepreneurship to clarify and intensify my calling.”
Eric had begun a Master of Divinity before opening Beans and Strings, but could not continue his studies while running the business. After seven years of hard work, Eric and Vanessa sold Beans and Strings to follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership back into academic studies. Eric completed his M.Div. at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and taught Latin and Greek locally for three years before obtaining a Master of Philosophy in Cambridge, England. With prayerful consideration between Eric and his wife, their journey led from Cambridge to St. Andrews, Scotland, where Eric is currently a first-year Ph.D. candidate in New Testament. While moving internationally with teenaged children was already difficult, Eric and his family faced a unique set of challenges that came with the pandemic.
“Once COVID hit, we were already in the process of relocating to the U.K. and decided to move forward,” he said. “We were confident that God was leading us to take this step, and the pandemic was no surprise to him. We figured that COVID was just part of the journey for us, even if it made everything more complicated.”
Today, Eric is focused on his Ph.D. thesis which is a literary study of the Gospel of John in comparison with Greek novels. In addition, he hopes to get the word out about his new book Misplaced: Here, There, and the Journey Between and its supplementary podcast. “I describe the book as a ‘mostly-true story about difficult paths and personal growth.’ It is an allegorical telling of a backpacking trip that I took with five men during the most difficult season in our business. The trip was a wake-up call for me that God used to change my trajectory. Most importantly, he used that weekend to put me in fellowship with some incredible Christian men who are my closest friends to this day.”
As for the future, Eric is considering two more books to follow Misplaced to complete a series. You can learn more about Eric and pick up a copy of Misplaced at efosterw.com. The Misplaced Podcast is available on all major podcast platforms.