“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ ” Theologian Abraham Kuyper first spoke these words in Amsterdam at the inauguration of a Christian university in 1880. The “domain” to which Kuyper referred isn’t the natural world, but the stuff we humans create—government and culture, technology and commerce, buildings and books. To be co-creators with our Creator has practical implications in our ordinary, day-to-day lives. From caring for our families to leading people or organizations, what we do each day—and how we do it—matters to God.
SHEPHERDING A CONGREGATION THROUGH WAR IN EUROPE
Heero Hacquebord ’92 is a native of South Africa, who moved to the United States as a teen. Since 1997, Hacquebord has lived and worked in three different regions of Ukraine; he and his family now live in the western Ukranian city of L’viv.
Hacquebord serves with Mission to the World, the mission board of the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He says expressing spiritual truths through his third language is often humbling, a strong reminder that “one has to know people’s heart language in order to really connect with them and their culture.”
Since 2022, Hacquebord has also faced the daunting task of shepherding a congregation through the Russian invasion and war. “L’viv has been a major hub for those fleeing the active war zone in other parts of the country. Caring for people among all the pain, turmoil, and disruption of war has been a deeply emotional experience,” he says. Questions such as what it means to pray for one’s enemies and how to understand war from a Christian perspective are not just theoretical, but pressing and immediate concerns.
“In some circles there seems to be the notion that Christians should keep their hands clean from the unsavory dirt and blood of conflict. But, truly, the ‘domain of human existence’ includes not only art, education, and economics, but also warfare,” says Hacquebord. Citing Ecclesiastes 3, he adds,
“In this fallen world there is ‘a time to kill, and a time to heal … a time for war, and a time for peace.’ Nobody who loves Christ wants to be engaged in killing; but sometimes we must fight in order to save lives, culture, beauty, truth, and to create peace.”
NURTURING A SIMPLE LIFESTYLE IN NORTH AMERICA
A universal commitment to the value of beauty, truth, and peace happens on smaller scales, too. Andrea Wagner Dekker ’07 believes God delights in and honors the small ways his people faithfully and lovingly attend to the day-to-day. She and husband Dave Dekker ’04 enjoy small-town life in west Michigan, raising their four young kids in an antique farmhouse. Dekker’s days are full: caring for her family, volunteering, and running a small online business that helps people embrace simple living and create peaceful homes.
Her website, andreadekker.com, offers recipes, easy-to-follow advice, resources, and blog posts about topics such as personal finance, organization, and family. She also sends weekly email newsletters to subscribing members that contain practical tips, life updates, and video content. Dekker has been featured in publications such as Rachel Ray Home, HGTV Home, and HuffPost, to name a few.
“Many people grow up with big hopes and dreams to be used in extraordinary ways for God’s kingdom. But most of us will be used in very ordinary ways within our own homes, families, and communities. That’s where I see my calling,” Dekker says. For Dekker, all our work matters to God, whether that’s making to-do lists, planting a vegetable garden, or trying a new recipe to share around the table. As mundane as these tasks can feel, they take on a unique beauty when we remember God can use our work in ways we could never expect or imagine.
IMPROVING ACCESS TO PERSONAL FINANCING IN AFRICA
As a student, Ghanaian native Pearlyn Budu ’09 could not have imagined her current career—that’s because it didn’t yet exist. Budu graduated one year after the 2008 global financial crisis that led to the rise of the digital financing (fintech) industry. Today, she is the head of commercial operations for Uganda at M-KOPA, a fintech platform that helps financially excluded people access personal financing for everyday, life-improving commodities, such as smart phones, electric motorcycles, solar power systems, and health insurance. The company serves over three million underbanked customers in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana.
According to the World Bank, only 20% of Africans have bank accounts. M-KOPA’s customers, who reflect this statistical reality, are typically low-income, have no credit histories, and may earn their living through informal employment, meaning both their source and amount of daily income is inconsistent. “Most organizations do not see value in offering services to this type of customer, due to their limited earnings,”
Budu says. “Improving access to financing for this segment of customers is what my role is about.” Budu’s respect for the value and dignity of all people inspires her dedication to her role. She has seen informal traders, farmers, and boda boda drivers acquire smartphones through M-KOPA’s simple financing plans; having reliable internet access significantly improves their businesses and quality of life.
Budu loves adventure and exploring new cultures, two qualities that equipped her to move from her home city of Accra, Ghana, in West Africa to Kampala, Uganda, in East Africa. Taking a leadership position in a still-emerging industry while navigating language and cultural barriers hasn’t been easy, but Budu’s commitment to the instructions of Micah 6:8 keep her centered: “to seek justice for all, act with mercy, and walk in humility with God.”
ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS TO BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE IN SOUTH AMERICA
Nick Liza ’13 lives by another important biblical principle found in Luke 12:48—“to whom much is given, much is required.” Since 2014, he has used his engineering background to help lead the way in the expansion of trenchless technologies and utility service installations in South America.
Trenchless technology allows upgrades and expansion of underground infrastructure like gas, water, and sewer without opening trenches in existing city roads and disrupting urban activity. “It is a push for ‘clean cities’ where overhead cables that were once used basically become nonexistent,” Liza says.
As an engineering manager for Vermeer Latin America, Liza brings products that best fit the Latin American market and needs to infrastructure expansion projects and renewable energy applications. He oversees a large territory extending from Mexico to the lower tip of Argentina.
Liza said one of his greatest daily challenges is working crossculturally. “This includes leading with others who have different beliefs, worldviews, and lifestyles, understanding different laws (as countries have their own regulations), and sourcing different types of available resources.” His faith helps him “lead in a loving, caring, and respectful manner.”
Working cross-culturally has also made a deep impression on Liza’s understanding of Kuyper’s metaphor. Christ’s claim over every square inch is “not just creation—trees, rivers, animals—but also the development of societies, technology, medicine, and even everyday human interactions.” He believes both progress and difficulty (a natural outcome of human striving) fall under God’s sovereignty “to bring forth blessing to an ever moving forward world.”
REDEEMING HUMAN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT IN AUSTRALIA/OCEANIA
It would be impossible to talk about “the whole domain of human existence” without also considering the way humans interact with their environment for better or, often, worse. Janelle Wierenga ’98 is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. There she collaborates with a team of researchers attempting to save an endangered species of penguins, one that is culturally important to the local Māori tribes of New Zealand.
“We’re trying to discover the source of two diseases causing significant mortality and morbidity within the rarest penguin on the planet,” Wierenga says. She works with a steady commitment, even though she recognizes it may be too late to save the yelloweyed penguins, also called hoiho in Māori. “Most people would put up their hands and say this is too big, we can’t do it,” Wierenga says. “I just want to keep trying. Development of a covid vaccine demonstrated the remarkable progress the scientific community can make through collaboration around a unified goal—the same could be true for endangered species like the yellow-eyed penguins.”
Wierenga appreciates the way all living things are interconnected and believes learning to “share our home” with them is important. “New Zealand, for example, is one of the first countries in the world that has designated rivers as living entities, which gives them a level of protection and respect that can hopefully lead to more legal protection. How we take care of one profoundly affects the others.”
EMPOWERING UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES IN ASIA
The idea that what is good for one of us is good for all of us extends beyond environmental activism to education and humanitarian efforts as well. Since 2018, Joy Lee ’09 has served as the executive director of a young, local non-profit organization called YICF in Jakarta, Indonesia. YICF is an umbrella entity with two main subentities—Roshan and LIFE. Roshan is a refugee education center that serves almost 200 refugee children and adults, while LIFE is a service providing early childhood education and after school tutoring to almost 500 Indonesian children of waste-picker communities surrounding one of the largest open landfills in the world, Bantar Gebang.
As executive director, Lee finds herself interacting with many sectors, some faith-based and others secular. “I feel very passionate about bridging the gaps between these worlds and especially calling believers to collaborate creatively and humbly. I love Romans 12:2, which challenges us to not settle for the patterns of this world—including the patterns we are molded into by our industries, fields of study, and even political alignments.” A recent, short-term partnership between YICF and some of the world’s largest AI companies reinforced this belief.
Building partnerships across diverse private and public sectors reminds Lee of the claim God holds over all that humans build and create. It also reminds her to whom her work ultimately belongs. Whether partnering with underserved people, building a strong volunteer network, or pitching pilot programs to industry leaders, Lee says her deep hope is to live purposefully and open to what God wants to see happen through her.