Tania’s Story
Tania Russell

Tania’s Story

Tania's Story

For Tania Russell ’18, the most important lesson she learned after working as a student chaplain for the Willis D. Weatherford, Jr. Campus Christian Center, was that by serving and mentoring others, she bears the image of God for them.

The idea has biblical roots, that all people are made in God’s image, and in longstanding Christian theologies that people of faith are the hands and feet of Christ on earth. Russell may have had a basic understanding of this principle, growing up the granddaughter of a minister in Birmingham, Ala., but the concept truly fleshed out while the psychology major was at Berea.

“I worked for the Campus Christian Center for three years,” she said. “That helped blossom my spirituality. I felt like I was getting into the Word and sharing that with people. It became a lifestyle for me. Before I came to Berea, it was just a routine.”

Russell applied what she learned in psychology classes by serving as a mentor and counselor to other students, who were of various faiths and faith expressions. Combined with the Berea ethos that all humans share a kinship throughGod, she grew into an acceptance of others regardless of their faith.

“I learned God loves everyone the same,” she said. “Even if they’re of another religion, I still see them as someone who bears the image of God. Even though I’m a Christian, I can still have a Muslim friend, and we can have conversations about God. It’s beautiful. That wouldn’t have been possible where I grew up.”

Russell has taken these values with her since graduating, working with people struggling with pain at a Lexington pain clinic while she considers graduate school. At church in Lexington, and sometimes at her home church in Birmingham, Russell has begun leading youth workshops and encouraging young people to express their spiritual sides through artistic mediums like poetry and dancing. She brings into focus other issues, like body image, and helps youth work through them.

“We don’t ever talk about body image in church,” she said. “When are we going to talk about that? The core of it is not just accepting your body. It’s about accepting yourself as an image of God. The poetry brings it back to being the image-bearer. It brings you back to the truth of the Gospel.”

These are lessons Russell takes with her into the world after Berea, which taught her to be comfortable with herself as she extends herself to others. “The most important lesson I’m taking with me is how to share my faith in a practical way and how to serve and minister to others,” she said. “It’s important to bring your faith to the table and just be who you are while you say, ‘Here I am. How can I show up for my neighbor?’”

Russell recently launched a podcast, “Element Agape,” on Anchor and Spotify.