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the Covenant Ascent narrative

The Blue Tribune is your place to learn about all things Covenant and keep up with stories from campus and beyond. By guiding you through elements of The Covenant Ascent, we'll help you picture yourself making your Ascent.

Lasting Friendships

It goes without saying that the unique community at Covenant College sets it apart. For many students, the friendships that are made last beyond their time at Covenant. For one group, their friendships began as being roommates and hall mates, and then continued in the classroom, in studying abroad, in their involvement with student clubs, and on road trips to visit each other’s families on weekends. Now it even includes their spouses and children. 

At first, these friends were able to see one another on a semi-annual basis by attending each other's weddings. When there were no more weddings to attend, the idea of having a yearly reunion was born. For the past 20 years, they have been meeting annually, except for one or two years. They all look forward to this reunion, even the kids, as they too have made friends with one another. 

Meet the Members:
Ruth (Allison) ’02 is married to Jeremy Cox ’03. Ruth is a retired midwife, who now homeschools their five kids. She was brought into the group by Bekah who was a hall mate that pursued friendship with her. Jeremy is an Electrical Engineer that works in Controls Automation.

Jamin Scribner ’01 is married to Christina (who attended Covenant for three semesters). They live in Lexington, KY with their four children, where Jamin practices as a Nurse Practitioner and Christina as a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). Jamin was the leader of the Evangelism Club, which several of them were members of. 

Joy (Vaughn) Swanson ’03 is a speech-language pathologist and homeschool mom. She met Christina at a L'Abri Conference before she arrived at Covenant, and became friends with Rebekah through the Chattanooga Children's Ministry. Joy is married to Erik Swanson ’02. Erik is the pastor of New Life PCA in York, PA.

John Ottinger ’02 is the assistant principal of Pineapple Cove Classical Academy. He was friends with Erik and spent many Sunday afternoons at Erik’s parent's house. John is married to Valerie.

Jake Bennett ’02 is an executive pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Rebekah (Sotelo) ’03 is a stay at home mom. Jake became friends with Erik when they rode home together for holiday breaks. Rebekah met and befriended Joy Swanson at the Chattanooga Children’s club.

Curran Bishop ’02 earned an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary and a PhD in Historical Theology from Concordia Seminary and is the planting pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Milford, CT. He is married to Abby (Hudson) ’02. Abby earned an MA in Special Education from Western Carolina University. She homeschools their 4 children, and is actively involved in the life of the church plant and their local community. Abby was in the Missionary Kid Club with Ruth and Jeremy, and went to Highlands Pres Church with Jake, Curran, and Rebekah. Curran studied abroad in Israel with Erik.

Jessica (Lamb) ’01 is a stay at home mom and manages rental properties. She is married to BJ Roland, who attended Covenant Theological Seminary with Jake, Erik, and Curran . Jessica was roommates with Ruth Cox.

Chris Powers ’02 is a High School Teacher at Northumberland Christian School in Northumberland, PA. He met most of the members in the group during freshman year, several of them were his hall-mates and the others were friends he spent time with outside of class.

April (Counts) Eckstein '03 is a Human Resource Manager at Bosch REXROTH, in Charlotte, NC. She and her husband, Josh, have a son, Jedidiah. She was roommates with Rebekah (Sotelo) Bennet her freshman year and attended Highlands Church with Curran and Jake.

Mike Vendsel '00 teaches Humane Letters at Great Hearts Academy in Irving, TX. He is married to Rachel. He was hall-mates with Jamin Scribner, Chris Powers and Joel Swanson.

Joel Swanson '01, graduated from Covenant and Georgia Tech in 2003, and after 12 years as a civil engineer in Chattanooga, became an MTW missionary, first in Ukraine, and now in France. He serves along with his wife Stephanie in Paris, France. After starting Covenant with a couple common classes with Jamin, he got to know John and Jessica through common church-life at First Pres in Fort Oglethorpe, which included many Sunday afternoons shared at his parents' home. He was roommates with Chris Powers '02. Friendships with Joy Swanson, Ruth Cox, Rebekah Bennett, and Chris Powers deepened during a semester in Glasgow, Scotland.

The members shared some reflections on what this group has meant to them over the years:

“These are my people, the ones that I worked really hard to become good friends with, the ones who chose me many times over the years. They became my family away from home, as I didn't grow up with extended family nearby, and both our parents were living overseas.” Ruth Cox

“I've known them longer than everyone in my life, except family. Even though we don't get to visit frequently because of the distance, I know these people care for me and have my best interests at heart.” Jessica Roland 

"Missing the annual gathering has been one of the hardest things about missionary life overseas; joining via a video-call simply doesn't replace having a few days to eat, pray, laugh, cry, hike, play games, and share life together with friends. Having these friends with a long shared history and the common foundational commitments, in spite of the displacement of moves and geographic distance, is a precious gift. It makes me long for the emplacement of life together on the new earth." Joel Swanson

“Being able to come back over the years to a group of friends with the worldview and values instilled in me at Covenant has been a blessing and source of energy and stability in our lives.” Curran Bishop

“We share values and history and a commitment to each other that is rare and priceless. There's no one else we've cried with, fought with, and laughed with in quite the same way.” Joy Swanson 

“It's a ‘place’ you can return to, and it's like you never left. You're comfortable with people, no matter what's happened or how you've changed; you can come and still have a good time.” John Ottinger 

“We've done life together, we've done stuff together, we've been through grief together, to funerals and weddings. The gatherings emerged out of the weddings. There's a life-on-life aspect to it.” Jake Bennett

These friends have been with me through some of the best of times and some of the worst of times in my life. They have been a tangible expression of Christ’s care for me.” Chris Powers

“There's intentionality - and there was connection first, like a marriage. It's rare to find someone to connect with, but even more rare to build on that and make it work.”
BJ Roland 

“The whole family enjoys it because of that level of trust. The kids enjoy coming as much as we do.” Erik Swanson

“I ‘married in’ to the group and got to know them as wonderful, godly people, and have become very good friends with a few of the wives, distinct from my husband's overall friendship with the group. I deeply appreciate the influence and legacy that Covenant has had on this special group of people.” Valerie Ottinger

These friends have shared a lot of life together and have found their friendship to be a source of  encouragement through different circumstances and seasons of life. For example, Erik, Jake, and Curran attended Covenant Theological Seminary together. Several of the wives homeschool their children, and this group has become a space for them to share experiences and resources. They are truly thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness in bringing them all to Covenant, growing them closer as friends, and fostering their relationships over the years. 

This story is just one example of the lasting friendships made at Covenant. We would love to hear your story! Please email alumni@covenant.edu with your Covenant friends story