This is the third in a series of posts telling the story of Urban Scholastic Center through people involved with the ministry. Read the story of USC founder, Chuck Allen, here, or of Tre & Khrystal Coppage, USC indigenous missionaries, here.
“My story is that God always made sense,” Kent Broddle said. “I can remember praying to him at an early age and knowing that I was praying to someone real.”
From age 5 on, Kent went to church every week and learned all of the traditional Sunday school Bible stories and verses. By the time he went to college, he had a decision to make: go into ministry or go into engineering.
“I never really felt like I was called into ministry, so I chose engineering,” he said. “I always wondered what ministry would have been like or if I had made the right decision. But God definitely used [engineering] and blessed me in some really cool ways.”
So Kent became an electrical engineering major at Kansas University. After graduation, he moved to Texas where he worked in the defense industry for a while. Then, in 1992, he got a job at Garmin, moved back to Kansas, and has worked there ever since.
He got married just out of college, and he and his wife, Tonya, now have three grown children. When his family moved to a new house in 2004, he and his wife set up several large “standing stones” in their backyard to represent what God had done in their lives and the lives of their kids.
Though Kent didn’t choose to go into ministry, service has remained an important strand that weaves throughout his work and family life. On Sunday mornings, Kent teaches 1st through 3rd grade kids, and he has also taught some parenting and marriage classes at his church, Cedar Ridge Christian.
In fact, it was through his church that he learned about the Urban Scholastic Center. With his small group, he visited USC several times to help serve meals for Soul Food, USC’s Wednesday night ministry.
Then he took a mission trip to Ethiopia through Life in Abundance. He still vividly remembers the visit he made to a home in the slums of Addis Ababa.
The two-room home had walls plastered with mud and supported by round tree limbs that had had the extra branches hacked off. Beneath the tin roof hung a single light bulb, its wire running across the ceiling and down the wall to the light switch. A foam mattress and couch were the only furnishings. Around the corner was the kitchen with a fire pit, and beside that, a latrine. All of the floors were dirt.
“It had rained that day, and I’d gotten mud on my shoes,” Kent said. “I still remember thinking, ‘I can’t bring mud onto her dirt floors.’”
The family, desiring to be good hosts, offered tea to Kent and the other Life in Abundance visitors.
“That trip turned my norm upside down. [I realized] it’s not about any stuff – you can be content with whatever.”
When Kent returned home, he connected his trip to Africa with his experience at USC, realizing he didn’t need to take a short-term mission trip to make an impact. Due to a discontinued product he had been working on at Garmin, Kent switched departments, and when he did, he went to his new boss and said, “I’m taking off Monday afternoons from now on, and I’ll make up the time.”
That was five years ago. Since then, Kent has been volunteering as a mentor at USC every Monday afternoon.
On Mondays, USC focuses on teaching the kids about the Bible, so as a mentor, Kent leads a small group Bible study every week. “I get to teach them all the stuff I learned when I was a kid.”
His belief in God’s love for orphans and the oppressed has given him a heart for the kids he serves at USC. Through Chuck Allen, he has also learned to look at the bad days – the days when kids are disrespectful or don’t listen – and not take them personally. On those days, he focuses on God’s heart for the kids.
“Then some days, they come up and give you a big hug, and you think, ‘Who is this kid?’ It never hurts to have a hug or a high five or a ‘Mr. Kent!’ A ‘Mr. Kent!’ goes a long ways,” he said with a smile.
A year and a half ago, Kent became a board member at USC. The board sets policies in place to guide the director and other staff members and helps with fundraising, whether through their own means or the means of people the board members have connections with.
“And then some of [the board’s responsibility] is just encouragement,” he added. “It helps [the director], encourages them, keeps them sane, gives them someone to bounce ideas off of.”
USC hasn’t been the only way God has challenged Kent in the last five years. In 2009, Kent felt a call toward film and specifically “telling God’s story.”
“I held onto [the idea] for a while, and then I finally couldn’t take it anymore and decided I had to obey.”
After that first decision toward obedience, Kent slowly gathered a team of creative individuals who were passionate about his idea. Together, they’ve created a script based on the story of the Good Samaritan. The script, originally designed to be a short 5-10 minute film, has grown to what would be an hour and a half long movie once made.
Kent doesn’t know where God is leading in this particular project, but he has continued to take “baby steps” of obedience.”
In the meantime, he continues to serve and obey where he is.