The Story of Brendan Hooker: How Internship Inspired a Recent College Grad to Make Life-Changing Decisions

By Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations at the University of Mount Olive

Brendan Hooker of Garner had a rocky start in life.  A child of divorce, he struggled with his identity, family connections, and friend choices.  

“I considered myself to have been a rather difficult person to get along with until I found religion near the end of high school,” he admits.  “Mental health issues and a general feeling of being unwanted made me act out in ways I’m not proud of.”  

Once Hooker found Jesus Christ, he said, “I began to improve myself on moral grounds, as well as tackle the internal struggles that were negatively influencing my well-being.”

Hooker became a kinder and more outgoing person.  Rather than avoiding him, people began to gravitate toward Hooker.  “I was finally able to accept myself, and I became comfortable associating with others,” he said.  “I began to form positive relationships that opened up fantastic opportunities to me.”

One of those opportunities came about during his studies at the University of Mount Olive (UMO), where Hooker was a student from the fall of 2018 until the spring of 2022.  Majoring in English and minoring in psychology, Hooker accepted an internship during the spring of his senior year with the History Department at Wayne County Public Library.  “One of my English professors, Dr. Alexis Poe-Davis, actually recommended the position to me,” he said.    

During the six-week internship, Hooker’s responsibilities included attending lectures, helping teach classes on genealogy resources, and assisting other librarians.  His favorite part of the job was writing for the library’s monthly newsletter, “The Big Ditch.”  “I was really able to put my writing skills to work,” he said.  

Hooker enjoyed the experience so much that, at the close of the internship, he applied for and accepted a position as a Digital Navigator.  Since then, he has been promoted to Library Assistant/Public Relations Coordinator, effective August 1.  In this new role, he will soon relocate to the Mount Olive branch of the Wayne County library system.

“My internship helped me to realize that libraries have so many great resources to offer in addition to books,” Hooker said.  “My ultimate take-away is that you should take an opportunity when it is presented to you.”  

Hooker plans to seek his librarian certification as he continues his passion of public service within Wayne County Government. He currently resides in Warsaw, NC.  

“I am so grateful for the life-long bonds I formed while at UMO,” he said.  “The quality of education that I received from my professors will help me achieve anything I set my mind to accomplishing.” 

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists.  For more information, visit www.umo.edu.              

The Thorn is Not a Thorn

Today is a day of thorns.

When this story goes to post it will be Good Friday, the day commemorated in Christianity as a day of fasting and penance for the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

We remember Christ in his sufferings and call it “good” not because of what he endured but why he endured it.

Since the very beginning of time, God planned to send his only Son into the world to redeem and bring back to himself what was lost and stolen by sin (John 3:16-17). We as a people stepped away from him, but God stepped two steps towards us.

When Jesus Christ came into the world, this promised Messiah, this prophesied King and Redeemer, was expected to come with a mighty army to overthrow the Roman rule–but he didn’t. He was expected to overthrow physical restraints on his people, topple Rome and make Israel politically free–but he didn’t. Instead, Christ preached about freedom of hearts and minds–freedom that can’t be taken or shaken by circumstances.

Jesus was expected to be mighty and physically strong, yet he came as a baby needing the help of others. All hope seemed lost at the end, on Good Friday, when he hung defeated and dead on a cross. A crown of thorns pierced his head and mocked the idea that he was a king at all.

Christ wasn’t the only one to bear thorns.

Thorns became a metaphor, following Good Friday, of putting up with some crippling difficulty.

The Apostle Paul wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. He had something he had to wrestle with that bothered him so much that he prayed for God to remove it. We still don’t know what Paul wrestled with, but the response to his prayer stands true still: God shows his power through our weaknesses.

Today, we haven’t gotten away from the crown of thorns.

One of the strongest women I know comes from the hills of Kentucky. Though she has traveled the world and lived in other cultures like Japan, she still has the pluck of a mountain woman. All the time I have known this ginger-haired woman, she has been thin and frail. While she worried about feeding her children, they worried about putting meat on her bones. Even as a teenager, you could lift her feet off the ground with a good bear hug. When you thought she couldn’t get skinnier, she got sick, couldn’t eat, and lost more weight. She developed COPD and struggled to breathe, but she kept smoking.

One day, I stepped outside to light a cigarette, and I went to take in a breath of air, and I couldn’t get one. I literally couldn’t breathe.

Betty Eubank

That was the end of cigarettes for Betty. Still, it didn’t resolve her COPD. There were expensive treatments ahead but no cure. The disease itself was painful; medicine could at least ease in that. Still, for the most part, Betty rejected it.

How can I call this a Thorn in my flesh when I look at all Christ went through for me? This little bit of stuff I deal with is nothing compared to that.

Betty Eubank

Instead of worrying about her disease, Betty focused on her faith. She turned to Christ and developed a deep faith and patient trust in God’s will for her life. She doesn’t fear COPD. In fact, most days she barely acknowledges it. If she is in pain, she doesn’t talk about it. Instead, she lets her weakness remind her of Christ and all he has done to reconnect her with the love of the God that made her.

SPOILER ALERT: Christ doesn’t stay dead on a cross. He ends up coming back to life after three days in a burial tomb. He walked and talked and was seen by others for a short time. Then he went to Heaven to prepare a place there for all that believe in him and choose him as Lord. The end was just the beginning.

What end are you facing in your life today?

What thorn stands between you and happiness? Pray and ask God to help you through your weakness.

If you are still not sure about this Jesus, it is not too late to get to know him. Read what he did in the Bible’s Gospel of John. The heart of the Father in Heaven is to love you and restore a relationship with you. It has never been to condemn you. Return to Him today.

A Poetic & Auditory Response to A Silent Night at Museum of the Bible

The bleak midwinter settles

in layers of flurries without and within

Crackling fire and a boy hold

a protected book in a one room cabin

Creaking floors and hinges, rattle open

Footsteps in the snow lead

lanterns to a stage floor

where percussion explodes…

Lift up your head! See

the percussion army dance, swing

wide from the shores of burning ships, sink

deep to the lost and hopeless, feel

the heart beats of hope again, watch

footsteps cross continents to bow

on National Mall in Washington DC, dare

to imagine a world where history

comes alive

celebrates The Word of light, the babe

born king, unpretentious, sets

the world ablaze with purpose.

No pit of darkness stands,

when Jesus Christ is in command.

Your army of artists surrender

Pens–Voices–Sticks–Vessels to Your hand.


For King and Country’s Christmas Special is a Partnership with the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Tickets give you 4 hour access to the 1 hour performance. The show is available for a short time only from December 10-17.

It is a show that blends all the arts–music, theater, writing, and more–to bring to life one of the most important events in world history. Pick up a ticket online before this opportunity passes and grab your headphones for a repeat show. You don’t want to miss this in surround sound.

Faith is the Substance!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

Hebrews 11:1-2, NIV
Poem read by the author, Rebecca Whitman

Faith is the substance

Of things hoped for, it is the

EVIDENCE

It is the root of the tree, the bird of the wing, it is the

WING

It takes flight with our dreams…

It is the fruit of the seed, it is the

SEED

It’s that tiny ember of spark, the burning coal of flame…the essence of life… it is that seed

Growing in the unseen; the truth propelling the future into reality… it is the breath

of life still waiting to be defined

DEFINED

By faith that understood how the heavens were formed by God’s command not the spontaneous decision of a single cell or a cosmic burst.

By faith that led men and women to worship an unseen King, walk with him when he was seen, live through joy and pain, fight and defend and die for…and with…this King.

KING

This King who walked among us not as a prince but as a man. The man who had every right to wear a crown and snub society but chose to hangout with outcasts and live with propriety.

This King who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, raised the dead to life, healed the sick, and escaped the sword…

This King whose perceived weakness became the power that launched a thousand ships, routed enemies, conquered kingdoms, ruled justly, and obtained the promise for all Heaven and Earth…

EARTH

The place where Heaven bends down with supernatural provision and we are two house finches at a glass feeder: stuffing our beaks with seed we didn’t earn, lifting our little red heads with pride and joy, and stretching our woodgrain wings to fly.

Charles Martin’s “What If It’s True?”

After reading Educated, I found myself really wrestling with some issues. Not only had the book wrecked me to see a child so mistreated, but it also upset me to see her worldview so warped against God.

After reading her book, I craved something happy, but not just anything good…I needed something true about Jesus. Enter Charles Martin’s book, What If It’s True?

‘What If It’s True’ — An Explanation from Author Charles Martin on Vimeo.

What we often lose in translation when we read the Bible is the why of what was done. We don’t understand why David cut off a corner piece of Saul’s robe or why a sick woman would be an outcast in society. We miss the implied meaning in the actions of the Bible because we no longer live in a culture saturated with meaning the way our ancestors did.

In the past, cultures lived with constant reminders of where they came from. These reminders were in monuments and walls you passed by every day. They were talked about in stories in school and reinforced in lessons at home. They were mentioned in required prayers prayed throughout the day. They were even echoed in the choices made concerning clothing. You might forget the details, but you couldn’t escaping the lessons of the past.

Today, we live our lives in perpetual motion. We protest reminders of the past and treat each day like it isn’t moving forward fast enough. We don’t care to look backwards at the tracks we are leaving. If something happened twenty years ago, we think it is old school or vintage. We don’t dare to dig back any further than that, so we lose the power of knowing where we came from and what, exactly, is influencing our world.

In this book, Martin writes like a millennial who has taken his face out of a phone long enough to speak plainly about the Bible. Yes, I realize as I am saying this that Martin is older than me and probably more of the Gen-X generation, but he doesn’t write like one. His words are fresh and modern; they reveal the humanity of the moment in translation to a language that can be relevantly read today.

Martin says this book is, in short, for broken people to find freedom. After reading Educated, I desperately wanted Tara to have this book. I wanted her to have this book because no matter how much we may free ourselves from the tyranny of others, we cannot free ourselves of the scars it leaves on our hearts. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal those kinds of wounds.

I hope that someone tells Tara about the true Jesus Christ–not the lies she was told. If you found yourself identifying with Tara’s story, I hope you will read this book too and start the journey of getting to know Jesus. This book is not a substitute for the raw material of God’s Word, the Bible, but it does do a fair job of bridging the gap of understanding between us and it. I hope you will read it.

 

The Love That Came At Christmas To Heal Us

Around the world right now, trees are decorated with lights, precious trinkets we call ornaments, and wrapped boxes we are anxious to open. Music and food we reserve for just this time of year are shared and relished with family and friends. We hurry to shops and parties we don’t bother with the rest of the year. Then we slow down with a cup of cocoa, a blanket, and a Hallmark movie to feel the magic that anything truly can happen this time of the year. We take longer baths, we sleep in and read books in bed, and we dream of snow all to pamper ourselves. Now is the time of year when we relish the things we have accomplished and the ones we hold dear and seek to show them our love with our gifts and our time.

But none of this gift would be ours without Jesus.

Once upon a time two thousand or so years ago, there was a baby born in a barn because there was no room for him elsewhere. He was wrapped in rags and laid in a feed trough because it was the closest thing to a cradle and diapers in a barn back then.

He was no ordinary baby because he had no ordinary father. His mother was a woman so young that she was practically a child herself. She became pregnant while she was engaged to another man; she became pregnant by God.

I imagine she was a beautiful woman, but beauty would not have been enough to save her from the shame and punishment of an unwed pregnancy. Still, her betrothed loved her dearly and chose to protect her when he was told the news. Not only did he protect her, but he believed with her that the baby was a gift from God not a betrayal with another man. He accepted the role of a stepfather and chose to love the son she carried like it was his own.

A wicked king got word that a baby was coming that would be a greater king than any on Earth, a king of all kings. He didn’t like that, so he made a decree that all the male children in the land should be killed. Many innocent babies were slaughtered, but the young king of kings escaped unscathed.

The young king was born in meager surroundings to parents who could never offer him the riches of a palace. He came at an unexpected time in the middle of a journey to a destination that had to change when news of the wicked king’s evil plans reached his parents. Before he was a minute old, he was challenging and changing their world.

I imagine it was not easy to raise a son knowing he was also the son of your God. How could they instruct the one who was there when the Earth was formed from the black void of the heavens? What could they possibly teach him that he didn’t already know himself? They taught him love. His stepfather taught him the tools and skills of his trade, carpentry. His mother likely taught him manners and social skills. If he knew better than they, he did not show it. He chose humility and obeyed them.

The God child did not come into the world for a fun adventure. He came to meet specific people in history and fulfill a prophesy to restore right relationship between God himself and mankind. He didn’t care about taking any king’s throne; he cared about making a way for all kings and commoners to approach God again (something they could not do when sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden).

The God child, Jesus Christ, chose to die a tortured death with his hands and feet nailed to a Roman cross with nails the size of railroad spikes. It was a death reserved for the worst of criminals, but he did not do anything to deserve it. He chose to die in this way so that he could symbolically suffer for the sins of all mankind and pay the penalty of their sin in their stead.

The sacrifice worked, but it did not come easy. As he pressed against the nails and broken bones, he struggled to breath and slowly suffocated. In a dry voice barely more than a whisper, he said, “it is finished.” The earth shook violently as he breathed his last breath. Inside the temple where religious ceremonies were performed, the veil representing the separation between God and man was ripped in two from the top down. Heaven and earth were echoing the victory of the dead king of kings.

Jesus Christ was buried in a stone tomb large enough to bury a man’s whole family. A giant boulder was rolled in front of the entrance and guards were made to stay behind and keep anyone from coming and trying to steal the body away.

If the story ended here, the redemption would have ended there too because no one outside a certain group of people knew his story. God had bigger plans; he wanted to save the whole entire Earth–including people who didn’t know him yet and people like me and you who weren’t born yet. He would have to do that through the testimony of people that knew him, people that had scattered to the four winds in fear and hiding when he was crucified. He had to find them again and tell them what he wanted them to do.

For three days, Christ laid in the tomb cold, lifeless, and wrapped in nothing but rags much like the day when he was born. On the third day, the tomb burst open from the inside. Warrior angels rolled away the stone and Christ walked out, fully alive and robbed in white.

Christ found his hidden followers and spent forty days with them before he went back home to Heaven. He spent those forty days with them so there would be no doubt in their minds that he was fully alive again. He told them to go into the rest of the world and tell people about him and the hope of forgiveness and love he had restored for them. The followers did what he asked them to do.
This Christmas as you celebrate the holidays with joy, remember that the Christ in Christmas came to save your life too. If you have not chosen him as the leader of your life, it is not too late to do so now. He said that we all fall short of what we are supposed to be and cannot be made right without him. He said that if we confess what we have done wrong, he is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from our sins.  Open your heart and talk to God today.

Merry Christmas!