Jenica Groot-Nibbelink’s path seemed clear. She had completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and was enjoying her work as a ministry intern with a CRC campus ministry at Western University in London, ON. Although her studies at Calvin Theological Seminary were initially set to begin in the fall semester of 2013, she decided to defer the start of her program for one year to enable her to continue serving in her chaplaincy role at Western for another academic year.
But suddenly, all those plans changed.
On Sunday morning, March 16, 2014, Jenica had just finished preaching a sermon and was on her way back home when she was in a horrific accident that left her with several life-threatening injuries, including severe head trauma. She spent weeks intubated in a critical care trauma unit and months in various stages of a coma. When she at last regained consciousness, she would need to relearn everything, from walking to talking, and from breathing to eating. Finally, after six months, Jenica was deemed well enough to be released from the hospital to her parents’ home. Nevertheless, her healing journey had just begun. Her new, rigorous schedule was dominated by appointments with doctors, therapists, and other specialists.
Still, in and through her long and ongoing road to recovery, Jenica’s sense of calling persisted. In the fall of 2015, she decided to test the waters to determine how ready she was to begin academic work. With her local support system, Jenica’s original plan of residential studies was now off the table. However, Calvin Seminary worked with her to offer a course by distance learning that she could take as an independent study at her own pace. The course proved to be a growing experience and incredibly affirming for Jenica. For the next few years, Jenica’s pattern became one course per semester until more recently when she began experimenting with two courses per term. She’s now on track to graduate with her MA in Ministry Leadership in the spring of 2022.
In Jenica’s view, Calvin’s distance learning program is “an expression of God’s hospitality.” “The barriers of relocation and transportation are removed,” she explains. “The distance learning program allows you to express and apply theological truths in your here and now, wherever you live, breathe." Jenica has found that the program removed “the hurdles” that otherwise would have made her studies almost impossible.
While Jenica’s story has inspired many, she finds that the stories of her fellow distance students also inspire her. “I am in love with stories,” she admits. “I love hearing people’s stories and listening carefully to spot sights of the divine.”
At this point, Jenica is unsure where God will lead once her degree is complete, although she dreams about possibly serving as a Spiritual Director at a retreat centre. Nevertheless, she’s learned through her journey that it can be an audacious thing to claim to know what God has planned. “There is so much mystery,” she suggests. “His ways are not our ways.”
Wherever He leads, Jenica insists that Calvin’s distance learning program has been a significant partner in the journey and, for her, yet another experience of God’s mercy and loving-kindness.
Calvin’s distance learning program is an expression of God’s hospitality. The barriers of relocation and transportation are removed. The distance learning program allows you to express and apply theological truths in your here and now, wherever you live, breathe.- Jenica Groot-Nibbelink