My standard response was, "No. I can't afford it."
Like most people who go to law school these days, I took out some sizable student loans to pay for my education. I have been faithfully sending in money each month for several years, but it will be a long time before I am finished paying those loans off.
Now I am going to seminary in the fall. I still can't afford it.
I have been very fortunate: all three of the schools I applied to offered me full-tuition scholarships. One offered me a generous living stipend as well. Unfortunately, it was not the school I felt led to attend.
Last month, I was on a plane between school visits, praying. My prayer went something like this: "Hey God, this school is offering me a lot of money. It is really hard to say no to that. What should I do?"
The response I got was, "Since when do you make decisions based on money?"
Of course, that is right. If I made decisions based on money, I would have made a lot of different decisions over the past few years, up to and including applying for seminary. But I don't make decisions based on money; I try to make decisions based on how I discern God is leading me.
A few days later, I was sitting on the campus at Candler School of Theology, waiting for a friend to pick me up, when a student walked up to me and handed me small card with a piece of chocolate taped to it. The card said,
"So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you." Isaiah 41:10I went home and sent a letter to the school that had offered me so much money, thanking them for their generous offer and letting them know that I would be attending Candler.
Even though I have a full-tuition scholarship, I will need money for living expenses. I am planning to get a part-time job while I am in school and I am going to take out more student loans. At this point, that feels somewhere between a leap of faith and flat-out crazy. But I believe this is the path God is putting me on, and I will do my best not to fear or be dismayed.
So I am asking for money again, as I have so many times before. Would you be willing to contribute to help cover the cost of my theological education? Any amount helps. If so, please see the letter at the end of this post for information about how to make a contribution.
Another way to support me is through gift cards. Two of the expenses I will have in the fall are food and books. I would especially appreciate gift cards for Kroger, Powell's Books, or Whole Foods.
Finally, if you know of any scholarships that could help defray some of the cost of my education, I would love to know about them. You can leave a comment here or email me; my email address is: ashleymwilcox AT gmail DOT com.
Thank you to all of you who have supported me in prayer and financially. My ministry would not be possible without you.
* * *
[A letter from the Candler School of Theology Office of Financial Aid.]
Dear Colleagues in Ministry,
It is my pleasure to inform you that Ashley Wilcox has been admitted to Candler School of Theology's Master of Divinity degree program, beginning in the fall 2013 semester. Ashley has also been selected to receive our Honors Scholarship.
The Honors Scholarship provides a $19,800 award. This award is renewable each year, based upon maintenance of a minimum GPA requirement.
Candler's mission is "to educate faithful and creative leaders for the church's ministries in the world." It is our hope that you will partner with us to assist Ashley in funding her theological education. While Ashley's scholarship addresses tuition expenses, the actual cost of attending Candler this year is $44,009. I invite you to make a contribution to Ashley's theological education. You may alert me of your intention to make a contribution by letter, fax (404-727-2915), or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). This will allow me to include your contribution as "Anticipated Aid" on Ashley's student account.
To ensure your contribution assists with fall semester expenses, please send it to Candler's Office of Financial Aid by August 15. (Spring semester contributions are encouraged by January 15.) Checks should be made payable to Emory University and mailed to my attention at
Candler School of TheologyCandler's scholarship programs, along with generous support from individuals, local churches, community groups, and denominational bodies help make theological education possible for promising candidates for ministry, teaching, and service. We believe that an investment in Ashley and students like her is an investment in the future of the church and society. Please accept our thanks in advance for the support, both financial and spiritual, that you will provide Ashley in the days ahead.
Office of Financial Aid
1531 Dickey Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
Financial Aid Advisor