Last month, I had the privilege of interviewing two InterVarsity alumni at a Bay Area event. Both are engaged in very different — but mutually amazing — vocational activities.
After being active in our Yale chapter, Jimmy pursued a dual PhD and MD at Johns Hopkins. In his spare time, he co-created the Rare Genomics Institute (RGI), a non-profit that serves victims of diseases so unusual that no research is being done on their behalf.
Post-graduation, he moved to St. Louis where he served on the faculty of Washington University. Last year, he decided to pursue RGI full time.
In his leadership role, he partners with 18 of the top medical institutions in the world — including Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford. For more of Jimmy’s incredible story, read the profile in Johns Hopkins magazine, his Ted Fellows profile, or our own InterVarsity profile from 2011.
As he earned a double major in pre-med and engineering at UC-Irvine, Dennis was the pride of his extended family. They presumed he would become a doctor. However, after spending a summer with kids from gang-infested neighborhoods in East Los Angeles, Dennis realized that his heart belonged to them, not medicine.
For the past three decades, he has poured himself into Lincoln Heights, once the most crime-ridden neighborhood in L.A. His ministry — a tutorial based, life-on-life effort — has proven so effective that the City of LA has asked him to open similar programs in five other locations. You can read more about his work in reports from a foundation and a faith-based group, as well as our own InterVarsity profile from 2006.
At first, the interview felt like an odd juxtaposition of compassionate social worker (Dennis) and brilliant scientist (Jimmy). What could these two men possibly have in common?
True, both are entrepreneurs who love risk. Both are healers who care deeply for others. Both are engaged in careers far different than they had ever expected in college. And, both are former InterVarsity staff.
But by far the most significant commonality between Jimmy and Dennis is their shared definition of Christ’s lordship. Each has sacrificed family approval, career advancement, and worldly success in order to obey Jesus. Each continues to die to self. Each daily lives out John 12:24: “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
As a result of their convictions, they step willingly into others’ pain. How many young people are alive today — and thriving — due to Dennis’ investment in Lincoln Heights? How many children are cured today — and will be in the future — due to Jimmy’s advocacy and research?
As the evening ended, I was simultaneously humbled and proud. Humbled because I had just engaged two of the most remarkable saints I’ve ever met. Proud because each exemplifies the best of InterVarsity’s vision — “to see world changers developed.”
The room held 175 participants — and it was full.
Thanks to our Hosts
Two of our trustees — one past (Ken Perez) and one current (Larry Langdon) — hosted the event. It was a great privilege to be in John Ortberg’s church, Menlo Park Presbyterian, once again.