Presented with an ultimatum to clean up his act or lose his family, Jeremiah White finally decided to give up drugs and alcohol.

The 29-year-old Hermiston man, who dropped out of high school because of chemical use, now has a new direction in his life. He’s pursuing a degree in pastoral ministries at Hermiston School of Urban Missions Bible College & Theological Seminary. Eventually White would like to be the senior pastor at a church.

“I want to be Pastor Terry when I grow up,” he said, referring to the Rev. Terry Haight of the Hermiston Assembly of God Church.

The college, based in Oakland, Calif., is in its third year in Hermiston. When Rev. Dean Hackett of the Living Faith Church said he couldn’t continue to run the local cohort, Haight readily helped facilitate the move this past fall.

“Eight years ago, the Lord put on my heart to see that a Bible college be raised up in Eastern Oregon,” Haight said.

The cost to attend is $10,000 a year. In addition, Haight said the college has an 85 percent ministry placement.

White, along with nine classmates, utilize laptops and a satellite feed, which connects them with other classrooms and professors. Through the use of live webcams, the students participate in discussions and lectures in real time as they work towards a bachelor’s degree. Students are able to complete a program in three years through the college.

“This is the future of college education,” White said. “It’s so flexible for the students and the quality of professors doesn’t even compare to community colleges.”

The students are sponsoring Pursuit, an event that spans three nights of pursuing God’s presence and his promises. Pursuit will feature music, a guest speaker and prayer. In addition to the upbeat worship experience, the event’s purpose is to get the word out about S.U.M. — the School of Urban Missions.

Pursuit is Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. each night at the Hermiston Assembly of God Church, 730 E. Hurlburt Ave. There’s no admission charge.

Hector Ramirez, pastor of Templo Fe Esperanza y Amor Iglesia de Dios, is in his second year at the school. The 1989 Hermiston High School graduate, who has pastored the church for 13 years, said the education will enhance his ministry.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime that can benefit people’s lives,” he said. “As I grow in the knowledge of the word, I can share it with our congregation.”

A pair of global ministries students, Brittany Saddler, 25, and Emily Reedy, 19, are preparing for the mission field.

Saddler and her husband Brad, who also attends the school, feel God has called them to serve in India. Reedy hopes to serve in Alaska.

The school, they agree, is perfect for them. The Saddlers find it easy to juggle their work and school schedules. Reedy, who grew up in both Hermiston and Ocean City, Calif., wanted to stay close to home after graduating from the Hermiston Christian Center.

“I knew I wasn’t interested in community college,” Reedy said. “I wanted a Christian education, but not far from home.”

For more information about the School of Urban Missions or the Pursuit event, call 541-567-5831 or go to www.hermistonag.org.

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Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539.

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