Alum Stories

Alum Mentorship: Kelsey Burns and Rev. Fernando Siaba

Kelsey Burns, master of divinity student, and Rev. Fernando Siaba (G-ETS 1976), retired United Methodist pastor

Rev. Fernando Siaba (G-ETS 1976) knew immediately he wanted to volunteer when he heard about Garrett-Evangelical’s new vocational networking program. After all, he said, a couple of his mentors ended up changing his life significantly.

Drafted into the army in 1970, Siaba was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas. Until that point, Siaba had had no faith or church experience at all. That changed when he offered to sing in the Protestant chapel services. As time went on, he also began listening to the sermons and getting to know other Christians. One of those Christians was a United Methodist army chaplain, who later became a mentor and eventually urged Siaba to consider seminary. After he was released from the Army, he found another mentor in his pastor at a United Methodist church in upstate New York, where he attended services.

“I thought it was an appropriate thing for me to do, helping a seminarian, because of how I was helped early in my Christian life,” said Siaba, who recently retired from The United Methodist Church after pastoring for 41 years in Northern Illinois. “I was greatly influenced by my mentors and wanted to give back.”

Siaba is mentoring Kelsey Burns, a second-year master of divinity student, who grew up in Michigan in The United Methodist Church. She said she heard her call at camp and listened to her call at Albion College in Michigan. Burns said she chose to attend Garrett-Evangelical because “Garrett-Evangelical is a place that makes good pastors.” The evidence, she said, are the many pastors she knew who graduated from the seminary.

Burns said she signed up for the mentoring program because she had already benefited from having mentors in high school and college. Although she continued to keep in touch with her past mentors, she wanted someone who lived closer to her now. “It’s good to get another perspective,” she said. “You can’t have too many mentors.”

The pair has met in person about five times so far and have talked about their lives, their calls, what Burns is learning in her seminary classes, and potential career opportunities, among other topics. The best part of the program, according to Burns, is having the support of someone who has gone to seminary and has been a pastor. “It’s great to have an outside observer to bounce things off of,” she said. “Plus,” she said, “the time commitment is perfect for a busy seminarian.”

Siaba said participating in the program made him hopeful for the future. “I find it reassuring to know that God continues to call and lift up persons to continue in ordained ministry in our denomination,” he said.