Evangel Profile

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.”

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