When in doubt, look to Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune
Two years ago, Victoria ‘17 and John Galloway ‘16 were faced with a decision that would forever change their lives. Should they accept the invitation to become pastors of the newest campus of Calvary Christian Church in Palm Coast? Just 24 and 26 years old, respectively, at the time, and fresh out of college, the couple wondered, were they truly called to lead a congregation of believers? After all, most pastors attended seminary school before taking on such a responsibility.
As they discerned their decision, they noticed how God had been preparing them for this moment, most notably through the people they met and the experiences they encountered while students at Bethune-Cookman University.
“Looking back, it seemed like it should have been absolutely impossible,” Pastor Victoria said. “It's not the typical way things are done. We were so young, and most preachers and pastors go to seminary school. We had plans to go to seminary school but not at this time. We had just graduated from college. Then we thought about Dr. Bethune and the faith that she had and the path she took. And we're just basically living that out every day.”
“The reality is that if Dr. Bethune can start a whole university with $1.50, these little girls and, and a mustard seed of faith, we can do this,” Pastor John said, adding that the church leaders made the announcement of the couple’s acceptance to God’s call on his 26th birthday, which happened to be Easter Sunday that year. “So we went from renting cars and working with children with autism one day to the next day being pastors over a campus.”
Today, the couple serve a congregation of about 240 people.
John and Victoria both admit that they had no intention in becoming ministers when they first stepped foot on B-CU’s campus. John, a native of Connecticut, came to B-CU to play football and major in political science with the hopes of one day becoming a lawyer. Victoria, who grew up in Tampa, is a first-generation college student who planned to join the Navy after high school. At the urging of her friend, she applied to a few colleges in hopes of bettering her life.
“Getting accepted to B-CU was one of the happiest days of my life,” she said, adding that she began her postsecondary education as an undecided major. “I didn’t even consider college growing up. It was never mentioned while I was growing up. So I didn't know what to do when I got here. I was just happy to be here.”
After two semesters, Victoria declared a major in psychology, with a minor in religion and philosophy, with aspirations to become a clinical psychologist and ultimately helping people.
Both quickly got involved on campus. John was a linebacker on the football team, served as the first president of Brother 2 Brother, and joined a fraternity. Victoria was involved in the Student Government Association and Pinkie to Pinkie, an all-girls group dedicated to growing in their faith and love of God. She served on the Student Conduct Board, was one of the Kings Queens as well as Miss UNCF, and represented B-CU on a trip to the White House as a HBCU All Star. (Unfortunately, she did not get to meet President Barak Obama in person, but said the experience was still thrilling.)
A journey founded in faith begins
Two things the couple did have in common were their involvement in the chaplaincy department and their deep respect for Rev. Kenya M. Lovell, B-CU chaplain. In fact, it was in her office that the pair first met.
“Victoria and Reverend Lovell were having a conversation and I had walked in just from football practice. So I was probably not the most, uh, hygienic after working out,” John said. “I say, ‘hello’ and Victoria, didn't even acknowledge me. She gave me absolutely no time of day. And I was like, what's up with her?”
“I had a boyfriend who I thought was it,” Victoria said with a chuckle. “I'm 18. This is the one for the rest of my life. I’m not going to look at you, football player.”
The two began traveling in the same social groups that were centered on growing in faith. Their association soon blossomed into a deep friendship. When John rededicated himself to God during his junior year in college, Victoria was by his side.
“She was honestly a friend who supported my transformation,” Pastor John said. “She was someone who recognized that walking with the Lord is not the easiest decision to make, especially in college, but ultimately is the best decision you ever make.”
Shortly thereafter, the couple began dating and were married in July 2017.
Today, as ministers of their own congregation, Pastor John said he and Pastor Victoria hope to bring the same spiritual experience they had while at B-CU to college students and young adults. They remain tied to their alma mater, preaching on campus alongside their mentor, Rev. Lovell, and bussing students to their church for services and other celebrations.
They said they were touched by the ongoing support of the B-CU community.
“We received so much from BCU, but even after we left, Bethune-Cookman didn't leave us,” Pastor John said. “We still get checked on from some of the highest levels of leadership at the institution. Their investment and their involvement supersedes our time as students. So it really is not just a four-year experience, but it's a lifetime engagement. We're living testaments of that.
Pastor Victoria concurred.
“Not only has Rev. Lovell believed in us since day one, but every leader on the campus of B-CU has poured into our lives some type of way,” she said. “B-CU will always have a special part in our heart.”