The Rev. Joshua Burkholder ’02 and David Rojas Martinez’s paths first crossed because of a stained glass window, but it was a shared adoration of Lutheran liturgy that forged the friendship that would shape Martinez’s future.
“I really love church art,” said Martinez. “I had seen this church with a really beautiful stained glass window, and one day the door was open so I walked in. The pastor was there, and we started talking.”
Burkholder was that pastor, and after their meeting Martinez started attending the church — St. Paul Lutheran Church in Frankfort, Ind. Martinez was raised Roman Catholic but started feeling drawn toward Lutheran theology in high school. And Burkholder, who had become a Lutheran while studying at Valparaiso University, saw a bit of himself in Martinez’s search for truth.
“Valpo was my introduction to liturgy and Lutheran theology,” said Burkholder, who studied political science as an undergraduate. It was the professors in the theology department, though, who encouraged Burkholder to start thinking about his faith.
“Part of David’s and my relationship was that we both came out of non-Lutheran traditions where we had questions about our faith and struggled with certain theological ideas. We really found a theological home in Lutheranism,” said Burkholder.
As Martinez became more and more involved at St. Paul, Burkholder thought of another stained glass window Martinez might like to see — in Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection.
“It was clear that David was very bright and also passionate about the liturgy,” he said. “I thought Valpo would be a place where he could grow spiritually and be challenged academically.”
“He and his wife brought me for a campus visit,” Martinez remembered. “When I first saw the stained glass, I loved it,” he said of the Chapel. “It was definitely very moving.”
Martinez said he felt at home on Valpo’s campus and immediately made the decision to attend. Burkholder suggested he get involved in the Chapel his freshman year, and that’s where Martinez has been ever since.
“I started out doing little things like setting up and serving at Sunday services,” he said. “Second semester of freshman year, I was hired, and then sophomore year I became the head sacristan.”
As head sacristan, Martinez is in charge of making sure Chapel services run smoothly — setting up chairs and pews and leading rehearsals. He is studying theology and international service and hopes one day to work for a humanitarian organization. He’s particularly interested, he said, in working “with people who are immigrants or refugees who become marginalized.”
Martinez feels that working in the Chapel has prepared him for working with people from a variety of backgrounds. “The Chapel is open to all people of all walks of life of all beliefs or unbelief,” he shared. “The Chapel is a safe place for people who have questions about faith or who want a place to worship.”
Martinez also enjoys how easily his faith connects to so many other aspects of campus life. At Valpo, he’s found a community that encourages a common pursuit of truth — rather than the pursuit of a common truth.
“I’ve encountered a lot of people from different faiths, different countries, different religious traditions,” he said. “I’ve been challenged by their beliefs and seeing them live out their faith as I try to live mine.”
Now when Martinez looks at the journey that started the day he walked into Burkholder’s church, he gets excited about sharing his gifts with others.
“My baptismal calling and being a child of God liberates me to be who God is calling me to be,” he said. “It’s empowering to be a follower of God. That means a lot of different things, but to me that means to serve others.”