Disciples News Service

Disciples college service-learning shapes leaders

from the Winter 2019 edition of the Culver-Stockton College Chronicle alumni publication

photo and text provided by the Office of Marketing and Public Relations, Culver-Stockton College

Students at Culver-Stockton College learn the importance of improving the world around them through service learning. Service learning at C-SC starts the first week of school with the annual Extreme Dome Makeover and continues on through many other significant projects. Students leave an impact on Canton through their service learning and enter the world beyond the College as adults, ready to get involved in their communities. When students of Culver-Stockton College leave “the Hill,” they continue to make a difference wherever their futures lead them. At larger institutions, it may be more difficult to gauge results from a service project. Within C-SC’s system of service learning however, every individual’s contribution counts, and makes for a more meaningful experience.

The lasting effect of service learning on a student’s life cannot always be seen, but for some it serves as a deciding factor in their prospective career. Tracing your path back through your college experience can reveal the moment your path is changed. For Rev.David Yonker ’00 his path as a baseball player transitioned to pastoral work after an unforgettable experience his sophomore year. It has led him on a path to serving as a pastor to a congregation of hundreds and back to Culver-Stockton College as a member of the board of trustees representing the Disciples of Christ (DOC) of the upper midwest.

Yonker has a long time family connection to C-SC. His grandfather graduated in the class of 1933 and was a pastor. Yonker’s father also served as a pastor, so the feeling of wanting to do something different was present upon enrolling into C-SC. As life would have it, his plans of becoming a history teacher and baseball coach were changed rather quickly.

During the spring semester of his sophomore year Yonker innocently enrolled in a “Introduction into Preaching” class, taught by Rev. Steve Monohan, the college pastor. Yonker had started to feel the urge to serve in high school, a feeling that would grow larger as he spent more time at C-SC. After only a few classes in the bottom of Johnson Hall, Rev. Monohan set up Yonker’s first chance at a sermon.

The venue was a local nursing home, but it might as well have been Madison Square Garden with the way it made Yonker feel.  “I felt like I was going to throw up,” remembered Yonker. The venue, although small, served as a great experience and luckily the gallery of nursing home residents appreciated his novice attempt at preaching. Future opportunities led to giving sermons in Hannibal and as the student pastor of the tiny congregation at Bunker Hill Church.

The experiences he had were valuable lessons in his future career, and coupled with his traditional classes, C-SC prepared him for the next step. When talking about the academic challenges he faced Yonker recalled many classes with Dr. Patrick Hotle, Professor of History. “Dr. Hotle expected the best out of his students.” The writing and critical thinking learned at C-SC served as the impetus that anchored his skills when he began seminary school. As grad school required more writing, his experience through C-SC gave him the edge on his assignments. Yonker attended the masters of Divinity program at Lexington Theological Seminary.

Something else Yonker might want to thank Dr. Hotle for is introducing him to his wife. During Dr. Hotle’s travel study course to England, Yonker met his future wife Liz (Hammer) Yonker ’01. Dave and Liz now call Burlington, IA, home, with their two children Samuel and Emmy.

Today as the pastor of First Christian Church in Burlington, Iowa, he finds himself everyday using the sames skills he learned at C-SC. Yonker explained that “The ability to write and think critically are really important.” He has even reconnected with his former professor and had Dr. Hotle present a workshop for his congregation. Although education is different than when Yonker was on “the Hill” he is encouraged that service learning is still a pillar of the education a Culver-Stockton student receives.

As a Disciples of Christ institution, service learning is at the heart of our mission and through the ample opportunities from EDM (Extreme Dome Makeover) and community involvement C-SC students will learn the value of service. And in the end serve their communities, home towns and the world.