A big hello to my dear friends who’ve stumbled on to this little corner of the internet from all spaces cyber. What follows is the beginning of a project- an attempt to learn a bit more about the wonderful human beings who would identify as “4th year” or “senior.” I had the chance to sit down on the world’s comfiest couch and chat with the Colossus of Clout, himself: Derek Ferguson.
Derek, if you could be a cartoon character from a cereal box, who would you be and why?
I suppose my options are somewhat limited based on the small amounts of cereal I had as a kid. I don’t know, would Looney Tunes characters have been on a cereal box? I don’t know.
What kind of cereal did you eat?
Not ones with cartoon characters.
What was on the box?
Serving suggestions. Yeah, I’d probably be one of those little rasberries they had in the corner; we couldn’t afford to buy them- we could only look at them.
So, how did you end up with Agape and Ecclesia?
Uh, let’s see, when I got here to Loyola, my youth pastor had given me a strong suggestion that I should join a Christian community, so I was on the lookout. I went to the org fair as any good freshman might, and Mike actually spotted me, Mike Moore, and I would have spotted them eventually, but the fact that he found me first was even more of an indicator that that’s where I should be so I showed up to their first meeting, and I’ve never missed one since.
What would you say draws you into this community?
First of all, I guess I should say the immense variation, and I know there are a lot of similarities, but compared to where I’ve come from, Chicago and this school are truly diverse in their makeup of people. Just having people from so many different denominations and really not having that matter so much in the grand scheme of things says a lot in itself. And, sort of, to not throw our traditions to the wayside, but use them so that they add up to a greater whole. The second thing, I would just say, is, if you want to call it an aura, of integrity and by integrity I mean the actual willingness to be real and help and serve, despite the fact that often times we have other things going on, and we all are students and have our jobs to do, but the willingness consistently be a body and be more than a club, honestly, to be a church. And that takes a lot of commitment personally, but more than that, it means that the Trinity is a community, and that’s the most important thing.
Why are you a Christian?
I was raised sort of non-denominational, I was raised Christian since my conception, you could say. So that’s why- that’s why I started, of course I’ve grown a lot since my conception, and over the years I’ve been clued in on new things about the faith and new reasons for being a Christian, even though I already was one. It’s a deeper understanding. A wise person once said that love itself is a kind of knowledge, so when you truly know something, you love it more and more.
What gives you hope?
hope…hope…hope. Well, I guess the easy answer is the Holy Spirit or God, but really it’s more than that because God just isn’t something that sits on your shoulder and gives you encouraging little phrases. It’s through the things I’ve seen, and that sort of thing can only come from experience, but ever since I was 10 or 11, I’ve seen these things- it goes back to what I just talked about, about knowing more about my faith. It’s knowing more about what God does through action- not many of us have seen the red sea parted or water turned into wine, but we do see things, and the more you see the more you know, and the more you know the more you realize that God is actually everywhere, and he is hope in its purest form. So I try not to cling to things, I try to look to him and what he’s doing in the community- if I’ve had a hard week or a hard day I go and I see people who are having hard weeks and hard days, but they are sharing glorious things that God has done in their lives, and you know, that’s hope. It’s not inspirational, or nuance- it’s something concrete. God built a world that is real and where things move and have action, and he’s a big part of that. It takes time and it takes a lot of experience to be able to see those things- especially the small ones, but once you do, then you really don’t need an external source of hope; you see God’s work through you and other people, and that’s your source of strength.
What draws you to Jesus?
First of all, I guess I would say: I don’t move toward Jesus, Jesus came to me, so he draws to me. So, the whole thing is being open to that. Jesus is… a tricky person to describe. It’s tricky to sort of describe why you’d be drawn to him, or why he’d be drawn to you. But there’s just something about God and man being one that makes you go to class in the morning and feel like “oh, Jesus is here- Jesus knows, Jesus learned things, Jesus sat in a dining hall, you know, not exactly, with people who were loud, and maybe were obnoxious, and that’s a sort of realism…an action that you just don’t really see anywhere else, honestly; it’s something that people want- they don’t know they want it. They want someone who knows everything but at the same time knows just what you’re going through, and those two things are not often found in the world of religion and classical literature, of someone who can recognize what you’re going through, but at the same time not just empathize with you but someone who knows what its all about, what it’s all gonna end up looking like, so it’s a friend and someone who knows the ultimate plan. He’s in the boat with you, but guiding the boat at the same time.
What’s one book you’d recommend to anyone- doesn’t have to be Christian or anything, just a great book?
I’m going to go with my favorite piece of literature outside of scripture, or one of my favorites: The Count of Monte Cristo. Now, The Count of Monte Cristo is not necessarily right away a Christian text, but it’s all about a man who makes a lot of wrong decisions- he’s wrongly convicted and thrown in jail, and he gets out and amasses wealth and he uses it to essentially play God; he seeks vengeance against those who’ve wronged him and he does this in intricate ways to make them feel what he felt. At the very end, though, he realizes that it’s all for nothing- he hasn’t gotten anywhere. God says “vengeance is mine.” It all goes into the story of, however much you get pushed around or how much you don’t get to experience in this world because of other people, God’s the one who ultimately has the last say. It’s a story of failure, but it also is a story of hope- there are a couple of young lovers who end the story quite happily, with his help and he realizes that helping them is has been more fulfilling than all of the vengeance that he’s reaped against his former enemies. So, I would hope that that would encourage us not to play God, not to judge, but to love and to aid where we can, and to try to be a servant rather than a master.
Thanks, man- any parting words?
I suppose I’ll end with “the chief end of man.” This is something that has always been near and dear to me since I was a sophomore in high school and I took a class on it. The Heidelberg Catechism says “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” That’s the simplest advice I can give anyone who’s a Christian, and it’s extremely short and simplistic sounding, but it really gets into every aspect of our lives, whether it’s class or our ministry or service, whether it’s our relationships, whether that ends up being marriage or just family, it’s to glorify God and enjoy him forever. It’s to live praising God but also like I was saying from the beginning, concretely enjoying him and living in what he’s given you, and trusting in him to guide and to lead you where he will have you go. And I’m in a place where I don’t know exactly where that is yet, but I am confident that it’s somewhere nice.