By Bria Figgins and Hannah Nicholson
The latest installment of the Faith in Society Speaker Series took place on Wednesday, Oct. 23, featuring Dr. Christina Powell. Powell works in biomedical research at Harvard Medical School, is an ordained Assemblies of God minister, holds a PhD in Molecular Biochemistry from Harvard University and writes documents for the FDA on cancer research.
Powell is currently conducting research on how to help patients harness cancer with their own immune systems, and she published a book titled “Questioning Our Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith” in 2014.
Her sermon in chapel focused on faith in action, highlighting Nehemiah 4:1-15.
“We are at the beginning of our ministries,” Dr. Powell said, “building up the broken down aspects from the previous generations.”
Her sermon focused on the three main parts of discernment: ignoring discouragement, beware of jealous critics, and overcoming obstacles.
Ignoring the discouraging mockers is a very relatable action, but those at Northwest University might understand this concept better as, #hatersgonnahate. This popular idea (and hashtag spread through social media) is about combating the negative ideas that others oppose upon you. This act of ignoring is not to be done flippantly, Powell said, but in partnership with God for His will in your life.
“There will be truth in the mockery and discouragement you hear,” she said. “But there are so many Bible stories of people who everyone else said shouldn’t do it, but did.”
Being aware of jealous critics is most dangerous at the midpoint of your success. Powell observed that Nehemiah set guards along the wall in the weakest places, to protect his calling. “Mockers bring frustration and discouragement,” Powell said. “But jealous critics bring opposition enough to stop your calling.”
Overcoming inevitable obstacles is a constant challenge; some might see this as “senioritis.” Powell encouraged her listeners to go back to the excitement they felt when they first enrolled at NU. Nehemiah posted those guards on the weak places of the wall, but he did not place them alone; he placed them with their families, in order to feel encouraged, and to look out for the soldiers.
“Do not be afraid of them, remember the Lord who is great and awesome.” Nehemiah 4:14 (NLT).
Powell left the students with this final thought: “God is bigger than any problem you are facing. He will help you make a way to the next place you need to go. Remember in life what it is that God has given you to do.”
During the evening public lecture, Powell talked about “Living at the Intersection of Faith and Science.” Powell offered advice on one of the largest hazards that Christians can face to their faith, schedule overload. She cautioned students to not get caught up in academics to the point where spiritual life suffers. In order to keep their life in balance, Powell suggested “setting boundaries and . . . set[ting] aside time for worship and activities with your faith community.”
Powell also spoke about the relationship between science and faith
“Faith is not meant to be ‘proven,'” she said, “but there are biblical practices that make scientific sense.”
Powell also pointed out studies that have been conducted on how there are social and health benefits when attending church on Sunday. People are happier, will live longer, and have stronger marriages, the research found.
Amid the lecture, Powell touched on her experience of being a woman in ministry as an ordained Assemblies of God minister. Senior Lina Takada, expressed grattitude for Powell’s perspective.
“I appreciated the speaker’s open-mindedness and courage when talking about what it is like to be both a preacher and have a job in the STEM field,” Takada said, adding that she “walked away from the lecture realizing that it is possible to be a believer and to believe in science at the same time.”
The night concluded with an open-mic question-and-answer period with Dr. Sarah Drivdahl, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Freshman Jennifer Conner said Powell provided insight into several difficult questions.
“I was surprised at how simple Powell’s answers were, despite her field of expertise being complicated,” Conner said.
The evening ended with a follow-up time of conversation with Dr. Powell in the HSC.