By Julie Cole
Coming to Briercrest College and Seminary two years ago was a big step for Barry Drinkel and his family. It required leaving friends and family behind in their hometown of Stockton-on-Tees, England.
“That was a huge challenge,” Drinkel said. “We did a lot of research before we came, but I think until you land on a different shore, you never really know what it’s going to be like.”
Among the issues that he and his family had to adjust to, Drinkel says the difference in culture is one of the biggest.
“Most of the time the culture is very, very different,” he explained. “I think that’s been a big adjustment in a good way because we like the cultural view better here than in the UK in many ways. The U.K. is a very materialistic society, and you don’t realize how much that’s influenced your life until you come out of it. I think Briercrest has really helped us to see that and deal with it in some pretty radical ways.”
Besides the culture shift, Drinkel says the other big difference is the landscape.
“We grew up near the coast, right by the hills and then we came to Saskatchewan – which is miles from all of them,” he said. “That took a lot of adjustment. It just felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We are starting to appreciate that more, but still at times it would be nice to be near the mountains.”
Before their move to attend seminary in Caronport, Drinkel and his wife both felt a transition was ahead.
“(We were) full-time youth pastors at the time,” Drinkel explained. “I had been doing youth work for about 20 years . . . volunteer and full time. I just started feeling a little bit old for this. So we started asking God ‘Is this time for us to start moving on?’”
About that time the Drinkel’s church hired another staff person to help them in their youth work. Through a strange turn of events the worker eventually ended up taking over their positions.
“We kind of saw God’s hand in it,” Drinkel said thoughtfully. “It probably wasn’t handled particularly well, but it was certainly (good) the way God used it.”
The situation provided Drinkel with a clean slate for his future.
“One of my closest friends said, ‘If God gave you a blank sheet to do whatever you want to do wherever in the world – what would you do?’ I said I’d like to go back to do more study, because I went to Bible college for a year in Scotland and that really whet my appetite for more Bible study.”
Canada was always a country where Drinkel and his wife Helen had wanted to live.
“When Helen and I met and felt God wanted us to be together, we prayed about it and we both had kind of a list of things we thought God wanted for our lives,” Drinkel explained. “We shared those and at the top of the list for both of us was we wanted to live in Canada.”
After two years in Caronport, Drinkel says the move to study at Briercrest has been a good one.
“It’s really helped me to get my eyes more on God than I ever thought possible,” he said. “I think that for me a constant challenge (has been) to keep focused on the main thing – and the main thing really isn’t my degree. The main thing is whatever I do should push me to God more and more. So if I’m learning but I’m not growing in Christ, there’s a problem. Something’s gone wrong somewhere.”
This school year at Briercrest brings a new challenge for Drinkel. He will be serving as president of the student leadership team for the seminary. He is aware of some unique challenges of working with the seminary population.
“(It’s) a different community than college or high school because it’s largely made up of families,” he explained. “We have a lot of off-campus students which is quite a different dynamic. Making them feel included has always been a challenge.”
Connection between seminary students and the community is a passion for Drinkel.
“I think we have a tendency to build seminary community,” he explained. “I think the danger of that is the seminary still feels quite disconnected from the rest of Briercrest in many ways. How do we reconnect and get it more integrated and more a part of the whole?”
One of the first items on Drinkel’s checklist is to meet with the student leaders of the college to brainstorm about ways to work together more often.
“I think in seminary life we (can) get very tunnel-visioned,” Drinkel said. “We try to get through our degrees as quickly as we can without getting distracted, but most of the time God’s brought us here for something else than just the degree. I’d love to see as many seminary students as possible engaged with the college, with the dorms and (other areas). There’s more within our educational community where we could have a whole lot more effect. That would be my greatest desire.”