Living out Missional Faith: Christine Vanderbilt’s Story

In 2002, shortly after moving from Florida to Chicago, Christine Vanderbilt decided to accompany her husband William on a Northern Seminary campus visit.  The couple, along with their two children, had moved to the area for work, and William, having noticed Northern Seminary on his commute, was hoping to complete a Master of Divinity program.  As a result, Christine and William found themselves in the office of Karen Walker Freeburg, Dean of Academic Programs and Associate Professor of Ministry & Christian Spirituality, discussing the M.Div. program.

After a short visit and tour, it became clear to Christine that this was the right place for William.  The program was going to offer the quality training, practical experience, and flexibility that he needed; and this reassurance brought her excitement and peace.  What she did not realize, however, is that God was not just calling William to Northern Seminary.

Just before their visit was complete, Karen turned to William with a confident smile and suggested, “I think it is evident that God is calling you to Northern” and he nodded in agreement.  Then Karen turned to face Christine and boldly finished her suggestion, “but I think you need to be here too”.  In this brief moment Christine’s world was turned upside down.  Tears filled her eyes as she began to realize that Karen was speaking the truth.  Her excitement and peace had not just been meant for William, and so, miraculously, a few weeks later both Christine and William started classes at Northern.

Having spent several years in Youth Ministry, Christine assumed this was where God had called her to serve.  She quickly learned however, that God had different plans for her.  During her CPE requirement, Christine discovered a new passion for outreach.  She found, while serving as a Hospital Chaplain, that her heart was fully invested in the needs of the sick, broken, and lost, and in this discovery she decided to continue serving as chaplain after completing her M.Div. at Northern.

For 7 years, Christine joyfully met the challenges of chaplaincy and through this ministry she witnessed God’s magnificent grace day in and day out.  In both her experience at Northern and in chaplaincy, Christine learned to always expect the unexpected, and in 2012 she watched as God did something else in her life that was unexpected.

While serving as chaplain, a unique opportunity opened up for both Christine and William.  They had always considered opening up a restaurant, and having spent many years serving the kingdom through full time ministry, they were able to form a vision for ministry within restaurant management.  As a result, they purchased a Firehouse Subs franchise in Orland Park and thus began a new journey.

With this restaurant, Christine discovered that she can witness and encourage people just as she did through her chaplaincy.  This realization helped both Christine and William understand what it truly means to serve within the context of their lives.  As a result, they consider every connection with a customer an outreach, and this outreach is continuing to impact Christ’s kingdom.

Within the last year, their restaurant was able to purchase equipment for the Dixmoor Fire Department as well as donate $20,000 to the Orland Park Fire Department.  Both the equipment and the grant have provided these local fire departments with the resources to save lives.  In addition to these gifts, they have used the restaurant to support local ministries and churches in a way that few other restaurants have been able to do.  This ministry has already impacted many lives, and Christine is only just beginning to see that God is showing them how to live out His mission in everything they do.

As Christine looks to the future, she has learned and is continuing to learn what it means to trust God’s calling.  She never imagined that God would use her to impact the world through owning a restaurant, yet today, both Christine and William stand as a testament to the fact that you can serve God regardless of where you live or what you do.


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