Learning is never a one-way street.
The great paradox of shepherding college students is that you look up and realize they have given as much as they have received. Throughout the years, students have come to me for wisdom, even as they rattled off their own. They’ve asked good questions, not realizing that asking the right question is often more meaningful (and more possible) than knowing the right answer.
I have rarely been in a place where I have felt so valued, so appreciated. Where there is a palpable feeling that I am a key contributor to something greater than myself.
Just weeks into my time at King’s, my wife and I were doing premarital counseling with an engaged pair of seniors. We walked alongside The House of ten Boom after a suicide had rocked the community to its core. One semester, I had a standing meeting with a student who slunk into my office and cried, every Thursday at 1:15, just seeking an oasis in a place she felt was overwhelming. I’ve loved ten Boomers, Cabinet members, and staff and had the honor of being loved by them. I’ve had ten Boom women tell me that watching my marriage to Kylie has helped redeem their belief in what marriage can be, what a man/husband/father can be. There are few things I have ever experienced that I treasure more.
Over the years, we have had five different King’s students live in our apartment at one time or another. A transgender student wondering if she has a place in God’s Kingdom, the world, or The King’s College. A cabinet member whose finances took a surprise hit. A student desperately needing two weeks to figure out a life decision.
Kylie and I have talked with students about pregnancy scares, suicidal ideation, porn addiction, heart-wrenching breakups, difficult choices, and deaths in the family. But also, perhaps especially, there was purpose in the everyday conversations – roommate disagreements, career path, boundaries, dating, theology and philosophy, the ups and downs of the city, how to lead well, how to be a good friend. Not a day goes by that I am not engaged in a meaningful discussion.
Then there is the staff. Nothing bonds people together like a shared mission. Through thick and thin, one thing is clear: the people who work at King’s care about it immensely. Some Student Development staff have become among my closest friends.
When Kylie and I arrived five years ago, we were in the midst of a dark tunnel of infertility. We brought the community into it, sharing our story freely. Four and a half years later, countless students, staff, and faculty had walked alongside us during a difficult journey we were not sure we would ever get out of.
I was on paternity leave when I found out that the closing of King’s was a real possibility. The idea of my twin babies not running through the halls of 56 Broadway, popping into fishbowl offices, high-fiving students in the library, attending Fall Retreat, or watching Interregnum is nothing short of heartbreaking. King’s students and staff were among the first to know when Kylie became pregnant and to visit our newborns when we got home from the hospital. One of the things that kept us going during those long years of infertility was the thought of how well-loved and community-entrenched our children would be from Day One. A major part of what we envisioned as parents was exposing our children to the wisdom, searching, trying, and affection that is so prevalent within the wonderful humans that make up The King’s College. They say it takes a village to raise a child and we are delighted that this is our village. Our place. Our people. Our home.
Joey Willis
Director of Student Development | The King's College | Serving Since 2018
You Can Invest in a Story Like This.

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