Five-Year B.A./M.Div. is a “Blessing” and “Perfect” for CIU graduate

John Dabeck prays for the troops at Fort Jackson in Columbia.
September 18, 2020

By Bob Holmes

The first graduate of Columbia International University’s 5-Year B.A./M.Div. calls the program “an absolute blessing.”

For John Dabeck, who completed his final credits over the summer, the program is the first step toward becoming a military chaplain, a goal he began to pursue as a senior in high school. That’s when he says his relationship with Christ “blossomed” while recovering in a hospital bed from a serious skateboarding accident.   

“I was called to ministry and sharing the gospel,” Dabeck said. “I heard about the five-year program and thought that was perfect.”

Dabeck currently serves as the minister of young adults at Sandhills Community Church in Columbia, while one weekend each month he is with the Army Reserves learning how to minister to the troops. His position at Sandhills is fulfilling an army requirement that he have two years of full-time ministry experience before qualifying to be a full-time army chaplain.

Dabeck is following in the footsteps of another CIU alumnus who is also an army chaplain — his father Col. Larry Dabeck who earned a bachelor’s degree from CIU in 1989 and a master’s degree in 1998.

“I was raised in the army. I’ve seen the army. I know what it’s like to be a family member amidst the hardships of the army,” the younger Dabeck said. “I know how comforting chaplains can be to family members and how important they are to the spiritual health and well-being of our nation’s warriors.”

Dabeck also credits learning to live in community at CIU as chaplaincy preparation.

“I remember specifically freshman year sitting in the hallway with 10 other guys and chatting about theology and being in an environment that facilitated conversation,” Dabeck said. “(I was at) a university that values diversity within theological thought and getting to talk to someone who didn’t see things the exact same way as I did, or didn’t come from the same background as me, challenged my beliefs and helped me grow.”

Dabeck got to know more than just the guys in the residence hall. He met Claire Byrd, the woman he would marry.  

“Finding the woman the Lord had prepared for me was certainly the highlight of the college experience,” Dabeck said. “Getting to know her and fall in love with her at CIU is certainly a treasured memory. All those years of dating and walks down The Boulevard and sitting in the caf together. That certainly takes the cake.”

Speaking of cake, Dabeck acknowledges the 5-Year B.A./M.Div. is no piece of cake, saying that it “is work, especially the final year.” But he adds, “You keep praying and working hard, asking the Lord to supply the energy to pump out those papers and do it excellently as unto Him. He got me through it.”

And Dabeck knows where the Lord and the program are taking him.

“I’ve just always had a passion in my heart for serving service members and their families,” Dabeck concludes. “The Lord has been preparing me my whole life for this.”

Where will the 5-Year B.A./M.Div. degree take you? BestColleges.com ranks Columbia International University the 2020 Best Online College in South Carolina, and CIU is #2 in the state for Best College Campus. CIU also consistently ranks among the Top Regional Universities in the South and a Best Value Regional University in the South by U.S. News & World Report. Request information on enrollment at CIU and Columbia Biblical Seminary or call (800) 777-2227, ext. 5024.