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God sustains seminarian's dreams
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Davenport native and seminarian Hannah Campbell Benedict is pursuing her dream of becoming a Lutheran pastor.
DAVENPORT -- Wouldn't it be nice to see a big sign that says, ''Welcome to your dream. You've made it,'' second-year seminarian Hannah Campbell Benedict said.

''If only it were that easy,'' she said.

Yet all the signs she's seen so far on her path to pastorhood feel like she's living a dream, especially in terms of her relationships with God, family and friends.

''This is the one place that I keep finding satisfaction and food that feeds me,'' Mrs. Campbell Benedict said. ''I didn't have many dreams when I was younger, but I knew I wanted it to be something that would include a sense of community building that would testify to God's presence in our lives.''

Enrolling a year ago at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., ''helped precipitate that dream,'' she said. ''It has shown me what it means to be a part of God's word and learn to be the person God created me to be.

''I've learned a lot more about my faith, and you could say that it connected my feet to my heart to get me going,'' Mrs. Campbell Benedict said. ''I'm enjoying what I'm doing, even when it feels like nothing is getting accomplished. But I feel surrounded by people I feel deeply for and feel like I've been honest to my dreams.''

Her husband, Josiah Benedict, ''is my balancer,'' she said. ''He's been someone who has kept me balanced through it all.''

He's also the one who kept her on the seminary track. ''He wasn't going to let me get off it,'' she said.

They got married first, and then moved from the Quad-Cities to the Twin Cities, before she arrived at the seminary's doors. A week after arriving, Mrs. Campbell Benedict found herself in what's affectionately called ''Greek Boot Camp.''

''The Hebrew was tougher,'' she said, ''but I had a good professor.

''Lots of dead languages came to life in those first few weeks,'' she said. ''It was like jumping into cold water, hoping it will get warmer.'' And it did warm up, Mrs. Campbell Benedict said, referring to this, her second year at seminary.

''I've taken a lot of good classes this year that have gotten me really thinking,'' she said. ''It's like getting the hamster of your mind spinning on a wheel.''

An internship year at a yet-to-be-named church awaits her next school year, and then she'll return to seminary to finish her senior year.

After that, she would love to be called to a church somewhere along the Mississippi River, ''but preferably where I won't have to wear a winter coat starting in October,'' she said. ''My husband's from Minnesota and tried to convince me that the winters aren't that bad.''

Weather wasn't the only thing that didn't go exactly as she wanted or planned, Mrs. Campbell Benedict said. The loss of a family member to Huntington's disease was unexpectedly painful, and triggered a ''wrestling match with God'' for a few months, she said.

''Cosmically, I knew there's suffering in the world that can't be excused or justified, and that God doesn't protect you from suffering. But at the same time, I wanted Him to step in and do miracles,'' Mrs. Campbell Benedict said. ''It's not always easy to realize that God's not a big superhero in the sky, but He helps people in their brokenness. It's just not that easy to always see that.''

It took a lot of questioning, soul searching and even some ''yelling matches with God,'' she said, to reach the point of being satisfied in knowing that God is a sustainer.

''Whoever you are and wherever you are, He will sustain you, through all the stormy or heart-breaking times,'' Mrs. Campbell Benedict said. ''God is carrying you through, without rushing, pushing or dragging you. He's always present with you along the way and sustaining you, and that's enough.''

She's also grateful for all the ''sustenance'' provided by her parents, John and Cynthia Campbell, of Davenport, and for her pastors at her home church of Grace Lutheran, in Davenport. Senior pastor, the Rev. John Grebner, and associate pastor, the Rev. Kristin Berglund, ''have been amazingly supportive,'' Mrs. Campbell Benedict said, and ''are the kind of pastors I want to be. They have been my pillars of support.''

Some of her Quad-Cities friends and Davenport Central High School classmates did think her decision to become a pastor was ''a bit weird,'' she said. Many of them thought she would continue chasing theater dreams. It was what she majored in when first going to college, and after completing her undergraduate degree, she toured with a children's theater program.

Yet she couldn't shake a nagging feeling that she belonged in the ministry, and that's what led her to seminary, she said.

''The first time I considered it was when I was in high school and went on a mission trip to Guatemala,'' Mrs. Campbell Benedict said. ''I saw what it was like to live out my faith and to put faith into action; and how that could impact a community and individuals in it.''

Becoming a pastor wasn't anything she considered when she first joined Grace Lutheran.

''I was in seventh grade, and it was just something I found fun to do,'' she said. ''That seventh-grader wouldn't believe where I'm at now.

''If I could advise her, or other kids considering it, I would tell them it's OK to be afraid of the messiness or the confusion, as long as you trust that you're going to get through it,'' Mrs. Campbell Benedict said. ''It's OK to be uncertain, and it's OK to question. You'll be OK. Remember there is something and someone that will sustain you, and you will have enough strength to do exactly what you are dreaming to do.''

Chasing the dream

Who: Hannah Campbell Benedict, second-year seminarian at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

Quote: ''I didn't have many dreams when I was younger, but I knew I wanted it to be something that would include a sense of community building that would testify to God's presence in our lives.''

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