Emily Renken (’10): International adoption center worker
March 31, 2011
Emily Renken (’10) graduated from Evangel with a degree in Psychology, a passion for photography and a love for people who are hurting. Shortly following graduation, Renken traveled to Nakuru, Kenya, on a service trip with a fellow Evangel graduate Lauren Quackenbush.
“I experienced a relational culture and a simple lifestyle, where stripping away non-essentials left me desiring very little,” Renken says. “While the color of my skin didn’t change, I was able to live like an African, hand-washing clothes and milking cows.”
During her time working at a children’s organization, Renken remembers a definite shift in her worldview: “It was within the heart-wrenching testimonies and the faces labeled ‘starving’ that a paradigm shift occurred, making it impossible to come back to America and resume a normal routine. The Lord spoke to me and forced me to take the cotton out of my ears. It’s been seven months since I left, and I’m still trying to process my thoughts and the long-term implications of my experiences.”
After arriving back in the states, Renken secured a seasonal position photographing products for an office-supplies manufacturer based on her photography experience at Evangel. As a student, Renken pursued her passion for photography, working as a photographer for the Public Relations and Enrollment offices and also serving as photo editor on the yearbook staff.
Though this seasonal position was not her dream, Renken was thankful the job allowed her to live at home, search for a full-time position, become grounded financially and try a different avenue of photography. During this time, Renken connected with an award-winning Dallas wedding photographer who allowed her to start second-shooting weddings on the weekends, which has allowed Emily to build a strong professional portfolio.
As her seasonal office-supply-photography position came to a close, Renken, through connections she had formed with others possessing a passion for Africa, applied and received a last-minute interview for a dream position at an adoption agency.
“Despite my age and inexperience, [the Gladney Center for Adoption] decided to give me a chance,” says Renken.
“I am so proud to be a part of an organization that considers passion and heart-felt commitment along with technical qualifications when hiring employees.” Renken is now the International Program Assistant for the Africa Division at Gladney Center for Adoption, and she feels that her time at Evangel has prepared her for the tasks at hand.
“My psychology degree allowed me to study the ‘what and why’ of humanity,” says Renken. “The crux of my position is walking beside families who are on an emotional, life-changing journey; it involves connecting with people in ways that are meaningful to them. My coursework enhanced my understanding of people in their environment, taught me how to critically think, and encouraged me to turn knowledge into power and live with conviction.”
Renken currently works directly with families who are adopting children from Ethiopia. She assists them through the application process by maintaining contact, answering questions, and preparing and processing the adoptive family’s application. “It’s an incredible position because I’m able to witness families’ heartfelt motivations for adoption and watch them putting their faith into action,” Renken says. “I walk away so inspired by their heart for providing a home to the vulnerable, orphaned and abandoned.”
In addition to her role at the Gladney Center, Renken is anticipating the wedding season’s near arrival (April – October), during which she will be shooting weddings as an apprentice under a successful photographer who will be serving as her professional mentor.
All in all, Emily Renken knows that God has strategically orchestrated her education, her experiences and her personal networks to bring her to this fulfilling point in her career so soon after graduation. “The Lord used the three years that I spent at Evangel in powerful ways,” Renken says. “I learned so many valuable lessons. I will forever be a strong EU advocate and supporter.”