By Lloyd Gestoso, Dean of Social Work at Cairn University
My Christian lineage begins with my Filipino Grandmother. She encountered Jesus as she laundered the clothes of missionaries serving in the Philippines in the 1940’s. My parents also embraced the Gospel. When they immigrated to the United States in the late 1960’s to escape the poverty, political instability, and martial law that characterized that time, they brought their love of Christ with them. They also brought a love for their extended family and as so many immigrants do, they left their home in the Philippines not simply for their own benefit, but out of a desire to help the rest of the family.
So my story is in part that of an only child of immigrant parents struggling to carve out a place in a new country. For many reasons I also struggled academically but my parents had little ability to help me. My mother did not have the skills to help me academically and my father, new to emergency medicine, was busy working 12 hour shifts to support our family.
God used Christian Service Brigade in a significant way to help me make the transition into a culture unfamiliar to my parents and to help me make the transition into a mature man of God. God did something through my Brigade leaders that they probably didn’t realize was even going on. They stepped in where my parents couldn’t, to help me thrive in a new place. Because my mother couldn’t drive and my dad was working really long hours to provide, it was my Brigade leaders who would pick me up and take me home. They taught me the Bible and took me on backpacking trips, teaching me not just how to navigate the Bible, but how to navigate the beautiful world he’d placed me in.
As I reflect back on it I can also see how Brigade really impacted me by exposing me to the dynamic of Christian manhood and leadership that I may not have experienced otherwise. It was through the encouragement of the men in Brigade that I found that God had given me gifts I could use in His service, especially in the area of interpersonal relationships, leadership, and teaching. Most importantly, however, God showed me as a teenager that I could embrace my brokenness and trust in Christ.
Because of this, I eventually made the choice to pursue a vocation in social work. The commands of God to love our neighbor resonated deeply with me. Because of this deep desire to love like Jesus did I found myself pursuing work within diverse populations in need as I worked to finally graduate with a Bible and Social Work degrees. My master of Social Work is where I met my first heroin addicts, which led to meeting my first AIDS patients, which led to working in several Philadelphia hospitals and a home for people living with AIDS. I came to realize that Christians had to a great extent abandoned those with AIDS and other outcasts which motivated me to teach a new generation about how powerful the grace of God is.
I now work at Cairn University as the Dean of Social Work, teaching students to balance caring for the most vulnerable people in society with living out a transformational gospel which truly changes lives for eternity. Interestingly, I learned many years later that my Battalion Captain was a graduate of the very bachelor of social work program that I studied in and now lead as Dean. But it all began as those early opportunities in Brigade taught me what it meant to be a leader passionate to apply the gospel with an attitude of service especially toward the weakest people in our world. Because of this I look forward to my own son experiencing the impact of Brigade just like I did!
About Lloyd: In addition to serving as Dean at Cairn University, Lloyd is married to Amy, also a social worker, and they are blessed with two children, Zoe and Elijah. He serves as the chair of the board at Lakeside Educational Network and also serves on the board at SIM, an international mission organization.