Impact Story: Terence Gadsden

Terence Zaire Gadsden is a husband, a father, a pastor, hip-hop DJ, and a student at Northern.

“I am a redeemed hip-hopper who loves my roots,” says Terence of himself.

Gadsden was raised by Christian parents in Tinton Falls, NJ and Charleston, SC. He came to faith in Christ by watching a Billy Graham sermon on TV. He was a star athlete in high school, but lost his focus on his faith during those years. “My relationship with God took a major back seat. I got caught up in the notoriety of being a local, popular, prep athlete,” he said. “By my senior year in high school, I rededicated my life to the Lord and re-gained my focus. I told the Lord that I was not concerned about going to a big D-1 college or university, but wherever he wanted me go.”

He attended a Christian school, Milligan College in Tennessee, on a cross-country athletic scholarship. After he graduated in 2003, he came to Chicago to become the full-time youth pastor at Lawndale Christian Community Church. “I first enrolled at Northern in 2005 in the Master’s in Youth Ministry program,” he said. “The following year I got married and took some time off from school. In 2009, I transferred to Eastern University’s long distant urban ministry program in Pennsylvania.”

He continued in his youth minister role at Lawndale Christian Community Church for a decade before becoming the church’s worship pastor. The father of two found himself back at Northern in 2010 after the school announced Dr. John Perkins would be co-creating a M.Div. program with an emphasis on Christian community development. “I felt that I was living out Christian Community Development in church and neighborhood, and the program would only help grow personally and in ministry.”

Gadsden has cherished the diversity of the student body and faculty. “Since I have been here at Northern, I have had seven professors of color. Now to some that may be a minor thing but for me that is major. From kindergarten to college I have only had two teachers of color. I have enjoyed learning from my professors, and their life experiences in ministry. When you have diversity, it reflects the Kingdom of God.”

He brings his love for God and his seminary education into hip-hop culture. “I am a redeemed hip-hopper who loves my hip-hop roots,” he said. “I have been a hip-hop DJ since 2001. There are so many people who look like me that will never have the opportunity to enter seminary and I feel very blessed and honored be able to take all that I have learned and gain back to my diverse culture to reach inspire, unite, and teach especially those who call themselves hip-hoppers. One love!”

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