The Moody Bible Institute

I remember waiting for Moody’s decision letter.  I had no idea what Moody was when I applied.  I didn’t know the history.  I had just heard the name once spoken, and the name itself bore such elegance that I was drawn there.  I had applied to no other school, and found out later that only half of the applicants would be accepted.  I came home one day and found my mother sitting at the table, the letter from MBI laying flat, untouched.  I opened the letter in silence, and together we found out I was accepted.  My mother cried tears of pride.  I was gonna be the first member of our family to ever attend college.

I remember my first day at Old Testament Survey.  We were given an assessment quiz to see how much we knew.  This wasn’t for a grade, but rather a thermometer of our knowledge.  Out of a hundred questions, I got eleven correct.  Eleven.  That is how much Bible I knew coming here.  I was three years old in my faith and was in way over my head. 

I remember the moment I realized that most of my personal theology was based on my love of a pastor, and not on the actual teaching of the Bible.  It shook my entire foundation.  I believed what I believed because someone I trusted told me it was true.  I didn’t know what Jesus actually said. As I began to listen to Him speak, He surprised me.  Jesus is still surprising me these many years later.

I remember falling apart, being unable and unwilling to face the pain of my life.  One day a professor stopped me in the hallway, looked at my haggard and unkempt self, and said: “I love you, Ernesto.”  And he embraced me.  He was one of the only men in my entire life that ever did that.  And as I kept sliding toward destruction, he never stopped doing that.  I never cried when he said these words… but I do now.  I still love that old man who saw me and cared enough to reach out.  

I remember failing out of college.  I had received every punishment Moody had to offer.  I fought against the authority of the school… because I needed to fight against something.  I was the boy left to himself who brings his mother to shame.  Community service hours, kicked off athletic teams, fines, I even got grounded once.  I don’t think they even do that anymore.  I couldn’t leave my dorm room.  During my isolation, freshmen would bring gifts of Coke and salsa to my door as tribute.  I was on chapel probation, academic probation, and I think I was put on behavioral probation at some point.  I finally failed every class I was enrolled in, and left knowing I would never be back.

But I came back.  

I remember the Dean calling my house after I applied to come back.  He asked me the question, “Why should I let you back in my school.”  I answered him honestly.  “I don’t know.”  He hung up with me and opened the door for my return.  The leadership shouldn’t have.  I was a longshot.  I didn’t fit.  I was a troublemaker and rabble-rouser.  I was a proud fool who didn’t know how dumb I was.  But Moody took me back.  They gave me yet another chance.

I remember the dorms full of brothers, and how many of them are still my best friends today.  I remember professors who asked penetrating questions that took me years to even understand.   I remember a place that gave me the room to be a person.  A place I learned to think and love and be.  The tools I gained at Moody took me from youth ministry in the suburbs, to the villages of India, to the pastorate of a megachurch, and finally to a church plant in a dying city in the rustbelt of America.  I never learned how to do any one of these things at Moody.  But I learned to read the Bible, and that was enough foundation to figure everything else out.  

I not only remember Moody, I honor its place in my life.  I pray for her.  I give that other student may receive what I received.  I send my disciples there that they may learn to stand.  She is not perfect, but she is committed to the kingdom.  And for that I am and will be forever grateful.