University of Indianapolis Director of Social Work Program and Associate Professor Jeff Bryant shared his story about his relationship with God on March 28. The event was sponsored by the Lantz Center for Christian Vocations and Formations. The title of Bryant’s talk was “His ways are ALWAYS good.”
Bryant explained that he grew up with three siblings, and on the outside, they looked like the Brady bunch, or the perfect family. Bryant said that school for him was hard, while his older sister was very smart and always got good grades. He said he struggled, and it was hard to follow in her footsteps.
“My identity was in sports growing up,” Bryant said. “And I was also diagnosed with dyslexia.… Growing up in grade school, I thought I was just dumb. When I was diagnosed, I got help. God helped me understand that in terms of helping me get help from other places.”
Bryant went to a camp that helped him with his dyslexia. In high school, he became part of an organization called Young Life. According to its website, younglife.org, its mission is to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and to help them grow their faith with the help of Young Life leaders. Bryant said that Young Life helped him to grow his relationship with God.
“I thought I was a Christian,” he said. “But what I learned in Young Life was what the Bible talked about—having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
After high school, Bryant went to Lincoln College in Lincoln, Ill. He said he had no idea what he wanted to do, so he studied business, which was what his father wanted him to study. There, Bryant also swam for the school team. But after a year, he transferred to Purdue University to be with a girl he was dating. While at Purdue, Bryant said, he joined a frat and was eventually put on academic probation, that ended with his being flunked out of college.
“That was really bad, initially. But when I look back, that was a turning point for me,” Bryant said. “It really got me in the direction of social work.”
After flunking out of college, he worked a few jobs as a cook, waiter and racketball coach. He said he also became a Young Life leader for the next eight to 10 years, at which time he began to develop a passion for social work. It was through Young Life that he met his wife, Pam. Bryant said he had given up on dating when he met Pam. They were friends for a while, then they got to know each other better during a Young Life event. So, he said, he decided to ask her out. Bryant said six weeks after they started dating, he asked Pam to marry him.
“God really put on my heart to ask Pam to marry me,” he said. “He said, ‘You’ve got to marry her.’ There was no audible voice or anything.”
He said after he decided to marry Pam, he asked her right away and said he even forgot about a ring. They now have two children and some grandchildren. Bryant said during their marriage, Pam has helped him to become more like Christ.
“I’ve become more like Christ through my wife, more than anyone else in the world,” he said. “God uses people in your life to make you more like him. [This is] especially true for your spouse.”
By working for Young Life, Bryant said he discovered he liked social work. He worked at the Children’s Bureau and then eventually went back to college for social work. He said after finishing his bachelor’s degree in social work, he wanted to work at the Fairbanks hospital, except they said he did not have enough experience. Bryant said God helped him to get his first job there. One of the Young Life leaders they had known had a son who worked at the hospital, so the son gave Bryant a grant for one year that helped him pay for his daily expenses, so that he could work for Fairbanks hospital for free to gain experience.
After eight months of working there, a job opened up, and Bryant applied and got the job, where he stayed for 10 years. Bryant was a social worker for 20 years before he came to UIndy. He started as an adjunct professor but became a full-time professor in 2003.
In 1999 Bryant had a brain aneurysm.
“I had no idea what that was… All of a sudden I had this feeling through my head,” Bryant said. “It wasn’t painful. It just tingled through my head and neck. Then I just had the pain.”
Bryant said he was at the airport picking up his daughter when it started, and he eventually began to throw up and had an extreme headache and was light-sensitive. After picking up his daughter, they went to the emergency room, where he was told he had a brain aneurism and taken to surgery. Bryant said he was in intensive care for two-and-a-half weeks.
“When people have ruptured brain aneurysms, 30 percent die right away and 30 percent of those who are left have a physical problem,” Bryant said.
He said he has no physical problems due to the brain aneurism, although he does have a memory problem. Bryant said he ended up having a stroke, which caused him to be unable to talk.
“God is always good,” Bryant said. “I didn’t die with that. One thing that was important was walking my girls down the aisle, and God allowed me to do that.”
Bryant went to speech therapy and regained his ability to speak. Bryant said he continues to grow through Christ.
“I’m still growing,” Bryant said. “Hopefully God will keep using me in ways that are good for him, and I’ll keep going.”
Senior English and business major Amy Huang said she came for extra credit, but liked how positive Bryant was and how much he talked about his family. Huang said she liked how much he struggled with school but ended up becoming a professor.
Freshman social work major Courtney Crouch also came for extra credit, but also came to get to know Bryant.
“I haven’t gotten to know Jeff Bryant,” she said. “But I’ll be here for the next four years, and I thought it would be interesting to know more about him.”
Crouch said that what Bryant said was very inspirational. She said she struggles with religion, and she thought it was interesting to see how long a process it was for him.
Huang and Crouch both said they would be interested in attending an event like this again.
The next Sharing My Story event will be on April 18 in the Trustees Dining Room, when Christine Guyonneau, the university archivist, will share her story titled, “From Ste Therese to All Saints: An International Journey to Spirituality.”