Wheaton logo 2020 color version also for mobile

#MyWheaton Alumni Blog

Posted November 4, 2016 by
Tags: Young Alumni The Liberal Arts Athletics Spiritual Life


I am a firefighter/EMT in the Denver, Colorado metro area. We are an “all hazard” fire and rescue agency that responds to structure fires, medical emergencies, technical rescues, water rescues, wildfires, hazardous material incidents, and other emergency situations. 

I love going to work. while I still have much to learn about my job, I am surrounded by people who go out of their way to help me become a better public servant and man at literally any time of the day or night. We do not just work together as firefighters--we live together as a family. 

One of the greatest challenges about my job is seeing people who are deeply hurting. I see the realities of the world’s brokenness and sin in very raw ways on the job; however, as Chaplain Kellough once said to me, “God equips whom he calls,” and the mercy of God continues to provide me strength and hope daily. 

Many people are surprised that I ended up in the fire service after completing a degree in Christian education at Wheaton College, and ask me when I changed my mind. In reality, I never did. 

While I didn’t start dreaming this job until my senior year at Wheaton, I have felt drawn to this type of career for quite some time. My work goes beyond the job description--it provides an opportunity to build strong community, serve the oppressed, challenge false definitions of masculinity, and be a good steward of my gifts and abilities. The beautiful thing is that I learned all of these things at Wheaton. 

I also had the opportunity to play football at Wheaton for two years. During that time I grew tremendously and made incredible friends, but one of the best things that occurred was a career-ending injury. Over the course of a few weeks, I went from starting defensive end to water boy. While my first reaction was profound bitterness, I eventually realized that Jesus did not die for me because I could tackle quarterbacks or because I belonged to an outstanding team. 

Anyone who has lost something that defines them can relate. When I eventually got over myself, I came to see a lot of sin in my life that needed to go and a Savior who was willing to take all of it. I realized that I had no reason to boast in myself or my abilities, and that ultimately helped me learn how to see others as Christ sees me. In a job where it’s easy to grow tired of being compassionate, the ability to see each person I encounter with the eyes of Jesus is a total game changer. 

I hope we can realize that ministry is not exclusive to churches, non-profits, international missions, camps, etc. As those redeemed by Christ, we belong to a priesthood of believers in which there is no professional hierarchy. Though we are led into different vocations, the only reason that we have life at all is because Jesus first forgave us. Work is not a “necessary evil,” but an opportunity to love, serve, and honor God. 

My advice to Wheaton students is focus your efforts on loving others instead of appearing impressive. You will get far more out of your time at Wheaton and will be a better person for it. Embrace the concept of “relevant irrelevance,” and if you don’t know what that means, email me or ask Dr. Laura Barwegen. Also, observe the Sabbath. Busyness is overrated. The Creator is wise in commanding us to rest. After all, we find great meaning and abundant life not when we attempt to honor ourselves, but when we honor God and our neighbors. 

Ryan Kerns ’15 graduated with a degree in Christian education and ministry. He currently works as a firefighter/EMT in the Denver, Colorado, metro area. Photo caption: Ryan on shift in Denver. 

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now. To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.