Category: Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight: Carmen Raines & Mary Wood

Central’s global community of faculty, staff, students, and alums offers support, networking, and resources.  At Commencement 2022, two Central graduates from different degree programs and different parts of the country were united as they discovered how one graduate’s Bible Study on the book of Ruth and refugee border areas was utilized by another student at her Hungarian congregation.  Read the story below in Mary’s words!

I (Mary) was discerning the scripture story to provide foundation to my dissertation project. I was considering the story of Ruth the immigrant. My Hungarian UCC church is a historic immigrant church in East Toledo. While discussing this with my academic advisor, Dr. Ircel Harrison, he remembered one of his M.Div. students had designed a Bible study on the book of Ruth. He put us in touch with each other. 

When Carmen Raines and I connected by Zoom, I witnessed her imagination and creative spirit as she applied Ruth’s story to refugee border areas. In addition to serving an immigrant church, I also work alongside the Karen community in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. When Carmen gave me permission to use her Bible study at my church and for my project, I had no idea the impact and connection it would serve during the season of Lent 2022. The horrific war in the Ukraine started. Pictures of refugees fleeing their homeland filled the screens of our phones and televisions as we watched refugees seeking refuge in a new land.

My church has a history of family fleeing Hungary, many during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Russian invasion. 

The Karen hill tribe (as many other hill tribes) is a current story of fleeing to border areas, especially since the February 1, 2022 Burmese Military Junta coup. 

The story of Ruth reveals the strength and hope of the immigrant/refugee community. There is resilience, perseverance, and hope in these places resembling wilderness.

At graduation on May 14, I had forgotten that Carmen was also graduating with her M.Div. Prior to graduation, I went into the hallway to take some pictures next to a church sign: Raised to New Life. I was struggling to get just the right angle for my selfie. A student walked up to me and asked if she could help me. She stated she had photography experience. I was so thankful as she took my picture. A selfie only gives one perspective. Her perspective added so much to the photo. 

After I thanked this student, I introduced myself as “Mary.” She replied, “I’m Carmen.” I quickly asked, “Carmen Raines?” She replied, “Yes!” Soon we were hugging and gushing about our shared experiences. I’m sure the spirit of Ruth was with us as moments later we crossed another border together. 

We both walked the stage at graduation to receive well-earned academic degrees. 

Congratulations, Carmen! I appreciate you so much!