Faye Lopez, Miriam Patterson and Terry Pettit find their callings at BJU

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Faye Lopez, Miriam Patterson and Terry Pettit find their callings at BJU

Mrs. Lopez sitting by the piano in her office. Greenville, SC, BJU, February 25th, 2020, Andrew Pledger

Women serving God at BJU find their own unique paths to accomplish God’s will for their lives. Three BJU women who came to their ministries from different perspectives, expectations and backgrounds have found their callings to be family- and God-centered—whether in music, language or ministry.

Most of us know her from her regular appearance as the chapel pianist. Faye Lopez, faculty member in the Division of Music, started playing piano in junior church by the time she was 8 years old. At 12 she was working with her siblings to help a young couple start a church by teaching Sunday school and playing music, and in high school she got a job playing music for a Christian organization.

 “It’s always a joy to help people sing more thoughtfully, to get their minds pointed to the text of the songs by the way you play,” Lopez said. “I want to inspire people to worship more effectively in the way they think about what they’re doing.” 

When she began to pursue college degrees in music ministry, someone shared concerns with her that she would not be able to make a living. 

Lopez said that people in many artistic fields have this concern, but part of being image-bearers is reflecting God’s life and beauty in us. She said the problem of financial stability can be helped by finding a second source of income. “If this is God’s calling and this is our passion, we can follow that, even if we have to work extra hard at something else,” Lopez said.

After she graduated from BJU with an undergrad degree in church music and a master’s in piano performance, she and her husband traveled for 12 years with musicians Mac and Beth Lynch on the Wilds Evangelistic Team led by evangelist Dr. Tom Farrell.

Lopez also helped them begin The Wilds’ successful publishing ministry by writing music and compiling songbooks, Christmas programs and choral music.

After playing in a couple of churches and teaching piano students while raising her kids, Lopez returned to BJU where she has now been teaching and playing piano at Bob Jones University for 18 years.

Lopez is not the only alumna to return to BJU as faculty. Although Dr. Miriam Patterson, a faculty member teaching Spanish, thought she would return to her home in Mexico once she graduated from BJU, she found God calling her to stay at BJU with her future husband and pursue her passion for language. 

When she graduated with an undergrad in French and a master’s in personnel services, she took a teaching position at BJU while her future husband Jeremy Patterson finished his master’s degree. He then took a teaching position as well. The couple has worked in the Division of Modern Language and Literature together for the last 15 years.

About five years into their marriage, her husband, after receiving his own doctorate, encouraged her to get her own. She acquired her doctorate soon after giving birth to her second of three children—one could even say during it. 

She had almost finished her dissertation draft by the time she was in the hospital in the beginning stages of labor, and the doctor asked if they could bring her anything to make her more comfortable. “I said, ‘A computer, please,’” Patterson said. “They were like, ‘What?’ and I said, ‘I just need to complete this, forget about it and have the baby.’”

So they brought her laptop, she finished and submitted her draft and gave birth.

Patterson said she balances her family and work with her keys. “When I come here to work, I open the door [with my keys], and I concentrate: this is work,” Patterson said, “As soon as my day is done, I close the office, and I forget about work and go home.” 

Patterson and her husband decided to immerse their children in the languages they love and work in. Only Spanish and French are spoken in the home, and English is used at school. The Pattersons also bring their children with them to almost every University Language Association event, including foreign film showings.

Patterson said as much as she admires the role models she has in her life, her family with her husband and kids cannot be copy-and-paste. “We are our own culture now, we’re forming what works for us as a family,” Patterson said, “And that’s [true] for every single family; you take on things you learn from other people, but ultimately you do what feels right for you.” 

Terry Pettit said she and BJU President Steve Pettit also have a certain way they operate as a couple, and everty couple is going to be unique. “I think it’s highly individual,” Pettit said. 

She said she chooses to serve the Lord by supporting her husband, even if that means choosing to forfeit something she might want in order to make him successful.

“God always makes up for what you lose, and sometimes it’s a timing issue,” Pettit said. “Often God will allow you to do it later; often it’s a ‘later’ thing more than a ‘never’ thing.”

Pettit said she dedicated her life at a young age through the loss of someone significant to her. “I told God, no matter what, I would serve Him,” Pettit said. 

Pettit said she did not grow up in a Christian home and that coming from a worldly environment contributed to her insecurity and stage-fright type of innate fear. 

Pettit said she thanks God for bringing circumstances into her life that have forced the issue of trusting Him and not being afraid. Over time, she learned to trust God through difficult circumstances and ongoing health issues. “I think He has built my view of who He is and that God is bigger,” Pettit said. “When people struggle, I often think they don’t see God as very big in their lives.” 

To handle daily pressure and fears, Pettit said she surrenders them to the Lord and daily seeks to release them to God’s care.