by Hannah (West) Velasquez, Class of 2020
Hannah (West) Velasquez is a May 2020 graduate with a degree in communication studies and a minor in women’s ministry. She worked for two years on the University’s marketing and communications team.
Note: The locations of her travels are redacted due to safety issues.
The summer before I first attended OBU, I met a woman who owned a bakery. I was not and still am not a baker, but I was interested in what she was doing. This wasn’t a regular bakery though. She owned a shop overseas that rescued women out of human trafficking and gave them a job, helping them rebuild their lives. After hearing her story and talking to her, I just knew it….I had to go there. I did not know when or how, but I knew God was calling my heart to this country and these people.
When I was 17, I surrendered to the call to be a missionary. I didn’t really know what that meant but gained somewhat of an understanding through women I knew growing up who had served overseas. All along, I felt God was going to not only send me overseas, but also call me to give Him my education.
During my freshman year at OBU, I was a struggling nursing major who really thought that was the educational path God wanted me to take. It was so hard. I have so much respect for nurses and have been blessed to continue friendships with professors and peers who have stayed in the profession, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I could feel in my soul the deep call God was giving me to go. So, at 18 years old, I signed up to go on an OBU GO (Global Outreach) Trip overseas the next year. I knew I could hear God’s voice telling me to ‘Go,’ but I did not know how much it would change my life.
I took the summer to pray and really ponder my education. When I returned to campus, I was 19, thought I knew it all, and changed my major to communication studies. In January 2018, I went overseas for the first time. That trip became the cornerstone for my ministry and my calling. I did not know what to expect and I quite frankly was terrified, yet all the while I could still hear God telling me to go.
When I returned from overseas and began the spring semester of my sophomore year, I added a women’s ministry minor. As a result, I walked into the women’s ministry class taught by Dr. Joy Turner, professor of Christian ministry and director of global mobilization, and met my mentor and professor all in one day.
Looking back on my trip, I remember saying, “My people are out there, but I’m not sure if they’re here.” That is when God started working on my heart and growing my passion for that place, causing me to sign up for a second trip there in January 2019. During this trip, I absolutely fell in love with the people and the place. I wanted to drop out of school and stay there forever, but I could still hear the small voice in the back of my head telling me that I needed to continue my education.
I returned to OBU in February 2019 and quietly began researching seminary. After realizing that dropping out and moving overseas was not the plan God had for me, I finally surrendered my education completely to Him and took the next steps to attend seminary. A commitment to attend seminary is challenging for women to make, whether that is due to fear of feeling out of place or lack of knowledge about what seminary has to offer for women. I, however, decided to jump in feet first and discover all that God could do in my life because of my education at OBU and future education at seminary.
I have not known many women who went to seminary, and I want to be an example for young girls and other women who feel like they should pursue Christian theological education. Pursuing Christian higher education and studying theology and ministry allows us to gain more knowledge about many things that should be extremely important to us. We learn how to read and study God’s Word better and even how to be a better member of our local church.
It’s funny how quickly God closes certain doors and opens new ones. In the wake of my fourth and final GO Trip with OBU, I found myself in the literal middle of the COVID-19 outbreak. I was exactly 18 days into a 21-day trip when we heard the term “coronavirus” for the first time. We didn’t know what it was…we were just trying to be flexible and work on a farm every day.
During my final semester of college, I was engaged to be married in May and planning to move to North Carolina with my husband in July. I was thousands of miles away from the country that had stolen my heart and was planning to lead OBU’s GO trip in January 2021 along with my new husband. Praying all along that God would send me back to my country and my people, but God had other plans for us.
“I could hear God’s voice telling me to ‘Go,’ but I did not know how much it would change my life.”
When OBU decided to close in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester, I was distraught. How could I have my fairy-tale wedding in my college town if I wasn’t going to be living there for the next few months? How would I move across the country and find a job if I couldn’t visit? I didn’t know the answer to either of these questions, but a verse kept coming to mind that had been recited to me dozens of times by a missionary mentor during the months leading up to my final OBU trip: “He who calls you is faithful; He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (CSB).
My husband, Jay, and I have since moved back to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. He is currently the youth pastor at our church, the church he grew up in, and is teaching middle and high school Bible. I am currently serving at our church as the director of communications.
I am also making the 16-year-old me proud by working on my Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary online while Jay pursues an M. Div. at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We are currently serving the Lord through the local church and just returned from our first mission trip with our youth group in June 2021. Our plan is to pursue a career with the International Mission Board one day, but for now we are serving the Lord by sharing the Gospel in our own backyard in Fort Worth, Texas.
I do not have all the answers, but I find hope in the fact that He called me, and He is faithful. He will do it.