Seminary's Spring Semester Spotlights New Students

“You are at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary for the academic process. But the point is not only to get a degree, but to improve your skills at working with the unsaved, and making disciples,” said President Jeff Iorg, speaking at the Seminary’s new student orientation for the spring semester, which began on February 9. 

The Seminary welcomed new students at each of its five fully accredited campuses in the west, as well as over 50 Contextualized Leadership Development Centers throughout the country. 

One of this spring’s new students is Stefanie Cendejas, who is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Golden Gate Southern California Campus while working full time as a records clerk at the Fontana Police Department. Home schooled through 12th grade, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies with a minor in music from California Baptist University in 2006. She knew she wanted to continue to study the Bible and teach others, so enrolled at Golden Gate for an advanced degree. “At Golden Gate the emphasis is on ministry,” the 24-year-old Los Angeles native recalled. “The professors have a heart for ministry and really care about the students – this is the right place for me.” Stefanie is taking six units this spring, working full time and is involved in the music ministry at her church. She says that her job gives her an opportunity to share, and it has strengthened her faith. “I’m learning how non-Christians think.” 

Renan Santos, a native Brazilian studying at Golden Gate Northern California Campus, traded a successful 24-year career at Ford Motor Company to satisfy his childhood dream of attending a seminary to serve God as a full-time minister. This 52-year-old lives in San Jose, California and travels more than 100 miles to take three classes on Thursdays in pursuit of a Master of Theological Studies degree. He is also assisting his grown son with a new Baptist church plant in the Silicon Valley, one of the largest unchurched areas in the United States. “I am thrilled by the diversity of both the students and faculty at Golden Gate,” Renan said. “It brings more energy to the class, and challenges to the professors.” He noted that “when students graduate from the Seminary, they are much better prepared because of their exposure to the diversity of the people here.” 

Todd Miller, a youth minister at First Southern Baptist Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a new student at Golden Gate Seminary, Arizona Campus. He and his wife served with the International Service Corps in Zimbabwe and Malawi after graduation from Arizona State University in 1998. This 32-year old father of three is also the current Vice President of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. “I was encouraged to attend Golden Gate by Joe Panter, a church member who is also a former trustee of the Seminary,” said Todd. “He knew it was right for me, since I wanted to be back in a learning environment, to think introspectively and to connect with God and His Word on a new level.” Todd says he thrives in an environment where ideas are being shared, though was apprehensive that the Seminary would be “a crusty place for older guys.” He found that didn’t describe Golden Gate at all. “The class is engaging, the other students and the professors are fantastic – everyone is concerned with spiritual development.” 

“I am amazed at the quality and commitment of students that God brings our way each semester,” said Iorg. “Though their backgrounds are varied, their resolve is the same…to become better and more effective leaders for the Kingdom.”