Simon Kui (Master of Divinity)
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi
Simon Kui doesn’t think in terms of “possible” or “impossible.” Embracing each day with a positive spirit, he accomplishes more in a day than many of us do in a week. Simon, a native of the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma) balances a demanding schedule that includes a challenging, full-time job at the Hillside Family of Agencies, caring for his wife and three children (ages nine, five and three and a half), fulfilling requirements for the CRCDS Master’s of Divinity program, and preaching at Lake Avenue Baptist Church (Rochester, NY). Additionally, he is frequently asked to translate Burmese for patients at Strong Memorial and Rochester General Hospitals.
Simon’s biggest obstacle is time, but he regards this as a temporary problem which will eventually resolve itself. The people in Myanmar, he says, have much bigger struggles: since 1962, the country has suffered under a brutal military regime that is deemed one of the world’s most repressive and abusive. Human rights violations are the norm, as is religious persecution, especially among Christians and Muslims. One of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, families typically earn between $80-$100 per month. Known as one of the most unconnected countries in the world, only 25% of the people in Myranmar have electricity; 1% have internet access. Considering the hardships Simon’s family left behind, challenges for his family in the United States are framed as manageable opportunities.
Simon is exceedingly proud of his role at Lake Avenue Baptist, where he preaches, leads Bible study, participates in fellowship and assists in the spiritual formation of Burmese refugees, 50% of whom comprise the faith community. Rev. Dr. Michael A. Ford (CRCDS ’12), Senior Pastor at Lake Avenue Baptist, CRCDS Trustee, M.Div. student and Simon’s mentor, says, “The Burmese people, with their commitment to faith, family and community, have truly taught us what it means to live in community with each other.”
Although preaching an “English service” at Lake Avenue Baptist is difficult for Simon, he characteristically views it as a work in progress and has faith that he will improve. His father and grandfather, he says, had extremely strong personalities and taught him the importance of perseverance, a trait he admires – and needs – while helping Burmese friends navigate American life and while teaching his wife, who does not have a driver’s license, to operate a car.
In spite of his rigorous time constraints, Simon is someone who will almost always say “yes” when asked to help. He explains, “I said ‘yes’ to God when He told me to come to this country. So many people who helped me get here said ‘yes.’ So I do the same.”
We are grateful for all of the people who say “yes” to CRCDS by supporting the good work of the School.
Jessica Shand, M.D. (Graduate Certificate Studies Program)
“Compassion is a verb.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
The majority of students that cross the CRCDS threshold bring with them two qualities: the desire to be of service, and a unique skill set. Dr. Jessica Shand, CRCDS student and pediatric oncologist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (URMC) exhibits two added traits — a deep sense of compassion, and a remarkable sense of modesty. Jessica says, “When I tell people I am a pediatric oncologist, their first question is almost always, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ For me, the decision was a simple one in that I believe God led me to this work in order to apply whatever gifts He bestowed on me to address this particular kind of struggle and suffering for children and their families.”
Jessica credits her “two incredible parents” for her personal philosophy. She and her husband Daniel, an emergency physician at URMC, say they feel blessed to have the opportunity to raise their two young sons, ages four and six, to be sensitive, community-minded young men who will follow in their footsteps of selfless service.
Jessica believes her work with critically ill patients, one young woman in particular, led her to study at CRCDS. The patient, who retained and preached her faith right up until her death from metastatic soft tissue cancer, helped Jessica reconcile her faith in God’s goodness with the suffering around her. Realizing her work as a physician is also a ministry in its own way, Jessica views her studies at CRCDS as a means to create an integrated approach between clinical work and Biblical scholarship.
By attending CRCDS and interacting with faculty and a diverse student body, Jessica hopes to develop her own voice as a writer, speaker and educator to bring a perspective on the suffering of sick children that is applicable to both students of medicine and theology. One of her core beliefs is that finding solidarity and faith through suffering may be one way that we, as a global community of God’s children may begin to heal and move forward as a humanitarian society.
An Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at URMC, Jessica believes that CRCDS is the perfect environment for her to find her own voice within the academic medical establishment, bringing together seemingly disparate elements of clinical medicine, scientific research and theology. She points out that true progressive thinking—and solutions—come when we explore unlikely connections. As such, she has a deep admiration for spiritual leaders Fr. Thomas Merton, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and St. Francis of Assisi, whose teachings she says, “emphasize overcoming perceived differences on the path to peace and humanity, often in contrast to consensus thinking.”
Personally and professionally, Jessica views her patients and their families as unbelievably heroic, each in their own way. She is grateful to the nurses who care for her patients through the day and night and says they are, without question, the unsung heroes of the medical field.
We are proud to have such accomplished and dedicated students at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and are grateful to those who provide support and encouragement for all of our students.