Between Wheaton Connection, Discipleship Ministries, and a biology major, Abbi Littrell’s campus experience set the stage for her current post-graduate pursuits in bioethics and theology. Now, she is helping students discover their own passion for ministry and the Word.
Words: Jasmine S. Young ’13
“When I was a student, small groups helped me process what I was learning in the classroom, see everything in light of the gospel, and figure out how to apply it to my life.”
Born and raised 30 minutes north of Wheaton in Schaumburg, Illinois, Abbi Littrell ’21 had her heart set on attending a school close enough to maintain tight knit familial relationships.
She created a spreadsheet that included universities within 3–4 hours from her home, including Wheaton College.
“At the beginning of my search, my mom was joking and said, ‘You’re going to put in all this effort to do all of these visits, and you’re going to end up going to Wheaton College,’” Littrell remembered. “And that’s exactly what happened.”
After her visit during Wheaton Connection—a two-day campus visit that allows prospective students to experience life at Wheaton, including an overnight stay in the residence halls—Littrell fell in love with the intentional and faithful community. “The community experience really stood out compared to the other colleges I visited,” she said.
Originally planning to attend veterinary school, Littrell majored in biology. However, during her studies, it became clear that veterinary school was not where the Lord was leading her. Littrell added a minor in biblical and theological studies during her last two undergraduate years, simply because she enjoyed the work. But during her senior year, she realized she wanted to pursue the field at a graduate level.
At the same time, Littrell remembered being drawn to the field of bioethics during the genetics unit of Biology 241, a lab course with Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Dr. Lisa M. Burden. A robust discussion about embryo adoption programs piqued Littrell’s interest in the ethics of biological and medical advancements.
“Because bioethics is thinking about the beginning of life, end of life, and sustaining life issues, I always found the complex questions they presented to be fascinating and something I was excited to wade into and learn more about,” said Littrell.
Interested in the overlap between bioethical issues and theological anthropology—viewing human beings in relationship with and through the image of God—Littrell is now enrolled in a dual master’s program for bioethics and theological studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
“Everything we say and do is, at its core, an issue of discipleship,” Littrell explained. “Our theology informs the decisions we make, which includes bioethical decisions that pertain to the beginning of life, sustaining of life, and end of life. For example, in order to properly discuss physician assisted suicide (PAS), we need to consider theological questions regarding the imago Dei, suffering, and free will—just to name a few.”
“Theology informs the decisions I make, which includes bioethical decisions that pertain to the beginning, sustaining, and end of life,” she explained. “I view a lot of the bioethics issues as theological issues. For example, when discussing physician assisted suicide, I consider theological questions regarding the imago Dei, suffering, and free will, just to name a few.”
Littrell also serves as the Interim Ministry Associate for Discipleship at Wheaton College. Since she was faithfully involved in small groups while attending Wheaton as an undergrad, she was enthusiastic when the opportunity opened up for her to continue working in the Chaplain’s Office, overseeing Discipleship Ministries (DM) and its various student-led small group offerings. Most small groups in the program focus on balancing Bible study and prayer with fun activities and supporting one another throughout the week.
“In my small groups, I was really encouraged and empowered in my giftings,” she said. “At the same time, it was a space where I was challenged and supported in my weaknesses. When I was a student, small groups helped me process what I was learning in the classroom, see everything in light of the gospel, and figure out how to apply it to my life.”
As an alumna and leader in DM, she hopes to preserve the influential environment that small groups provided her, and looks forward to continuing to apply her passion for theology outside of her bioethics classrooms. Littrell encourages current and incoming students to tap into DM’s available resources as much as possible.
“Join a small group!” she said. “It was such an influential part of my Wheaton experience, so I encourage all students to connect with campus life and plug into the many opportunities for building intentional community.”