Rethinking the American Dream

How a student found true joy in a dream larger than himself.

Last August seventy one new freshmen stepped foot on the campus of Bethany Global University (BGU) with dreams of becoming missionaries. Dreams that, for many, had come at a young age. “When I saw the impact I could have at 12 years old on a short term mission trip, I knew I wanted to be a missionary” said Kaylee Harker. With its precision-focus on training missionaries, the university attracts many who have had a life-long calling to reach the lost overseas. Yet, there are few students on campus who have a different story. For these few, a life devoted to reaching the lost in some of the hardest and darkest places of the earth was not on their radar, let alone part of their aspirations. One of these students is Nick Dobbs.

When Nick left his home town of Murphysboro, Illinois to start at BGU, he left more than a geographic location. He left behind his lifelong friends, family, opportunities, and known way of life. Nick left behind the thing even many Christians hold fast to: the American Dream. It was an unexpected transition that left his parents disappointed. “My dad worked so much and so hard so that I would have the ability to have a good education and be successful,” recalled Nick. “For him to have worked so hard, and for me not to have taken advantage of it was a complete waste in his eyes.” Despite his parents’ wishes, Nick chose to respond to God’s call to serve in missions overseas. It was a choice that came as a shock to those who knew him before the accident.

Six years earlier, Nick and his older brother lived like many teens do, chasing parties, alcohol, and the “fun” life. Having two parents working full time meant that free time was on their terms. “It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to not come home for a week at a time,” Nick admitted. From the influence of his brother, Nick was introduced to this lifestyle early on, earning him the moniker “Little Dobbs” by his brother’s friends. It wasn’t long before he started to see the warning signs of the lifestyle. With his brother ahead of him, Nick could see where his choices would take him. Halfway through high school, Nick was shocked by a bad accident involving a close friend who was on his way to a party that Nick was also invited to. This accident was the beginning of Nick’s rejection of his normal life.

The shock of the accident was so great that Nick began looking for new friends and a different way of living, opening up a door to a group of people he had held at arm’s length: Christians. While never outright opposing Christians, the Christian life had no appeal to Nick, until he met Jessie, a young youth pastor of the church Nick began attending. Jessie took Nick under his wing and discipled him. “His honesty, boldness, and sincere love stood out to me,” said Nick. “He became a new older brother that I could follow.” Through Jessie, Nick began to truly see his need for Christ and accepted Him as his Savior. This new faith and friendship became the foundation Nick needed to walk forward into what God had next for him.

Not long into his spiritual journey, Nick had the opportunity to share his newfound faith on a short term missions trip. It was on this three month trip that Nick began to sense God’s calling on his life. Always fascinated by other cultures, Nick first experienced true joy by serving others overseas. “At first, three months seemed like a long time to be overseas, but I soon discovered that it wasn’t nearly long enough,” explains Nick. “The joy I found on the mission field serving others was a joy I had never experienced as I lived for myself at home.” About that time, Nick remembered a school for missionaries that a friend had previously mentioned called BGU. This friend had been through the BGU program and had spent 16 months in Thailand as a missionary learning intercultural skills. To Nick, BGU became a great next step toward becoming a full-time missionary.

“The joy I found on the mission field serving others was a joy I had never experienced as I lived for myself at home.”

Today, Nick studies and prepares for his Global Internship with BGU where he hopes he will train in the country of Georgia. To his friends and family back home, Nick is a new person with an strange idea of what he wants to do with his life. To many of them it seems like a foolish choice or a waste of a life, but for those who have seen the need for world evangelization and heard the call to do something about it, it is anything but foolish.