Meet Them Where They Are

August 17, 2023

by Justin Walker

Pat Bray’s path to Baylor University has been filled with twists and turns, but he knows God has been with him every step of the way.

Bray was born in Chicago and moved to Alabama at the age of 8. At that time, his father was not around as much and his mother was taking care of him and his brother. After moving to Alabama, his mom also cared for her mother. He knows it was hard on her, but he also recognizes how great she was during that time.

“She was very comforting,” he said. “She was always helping us and pushing us in the right direction.”

Bray’s mother made sure he was involved in sports and other activities growing up. He played baseball most of his life, and then picked up basketball in junior high. He enjoyed basketball a lot and even told his mom he would be go pro one day.

“I’m grateful for my mom introducing me to sports,” he said. “Even though she was busy with work and everything she had going on, she still took time to go to my games and take me to practices. She was always there.”

While he didn’t make the professional level, Bray was able to play college basketball at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. While at Trinity, Bray studied Recreation and Sport Management. But his path started to change around his junior year.

After having one of the greatest seasons of his life, Bray had to have surgery on his shoulder. While rehabbing, Bray felt God placing a new call on his heart: ministry.

“I didn’t have a huge desire to go into ministry because I did not want to be a pastor or anything like that,” he said. “But I started to feel my identity shifting from being an athlete.”

It became more and more clear through prayer that ministry was his calling. After visiting with his coach about the matter in March of 2020, Bray recognized his identity in basketball would not carry him through life. Soon after, he stepped away from the team and added a second major—Christian Ministry.

Bray graduated from Trinity in May 2022 and thoughts of grad school started to creep into his mind.

“I knew I wanted to do seminary, but I also had several different opportunities I could do, like working with youth ministry or other ministries in Chicago,” he said.

One thing he knew he wanted to do was pursue how his passion for God and love for sports could intersect. But Bray wasn’t sure where that would be. A family member connected him with Charlie Dates, the pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, who walked Bray through potential seminaries, including Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

As Bray looked into Baylor, he discovered that Truett houses the Faith and Sports Institute (FSI). It was exactly what Bray was looking for. He felt as though God was telling him to pursue this opportunity.

“I applied very late in the process, exactly on the deadline,” he said. “I was able to come take a visit in June. It was my first time in Texas and seeing Baylor and I absolutely loved it. I loved how people were supportive and communal. You could see that they really care for who you are and who you are going to be.”

Bray enrolled at Truett and began classes in the fall of 2022. He knew before he arrived that he would need to get a job to help get him through school, so he decided to search through job postings on Baylor’s website. There he saw an opening for a resident chaplain position at the Hankamer School of Business (HSB). Bray was interested in what the Business School was looking for in a candidate and thought it would be a great opportunity.

“I thought of it as a growth opportunity for me in terms of how to relate to people in ministry and meet people where they are at,” he said.

Meeting the students where they were quickly became Bray’s motto. He entered the role starting in August 2022 with the goal of making connections with students, hearing their stories and walking with them on their journey. He also works with HSB faculty in the Faith and Business Chapel, assisting students as they understand how to integrate faith and business in their professional lives.

Many of his interactions with students are on a one-on-one basis, where they can visit about whatever they want, from the struggles of coursework or relationships to hobbies such as sports and reality television. He wants students to feel comfortable talking to him about anything they are going through.

“I want to provide this space for them to rest, be still and not think about all of the external things going on around them,” he said. “Hopefully that brings a lot of peace to them as well.”

Bray’s passion for meeting people where they are stems from the Genesis story of Hagar. He remembers how Hagar is expecting Abraham’s child and she feels a great sense of inadequacy in the situation which leads her to run away.

“She feels like she can’t really carry the weight of what is going on around her,” he said. “She realizes she’s at the end of herself and God just meets her where she is and loves her, despite the wrong that was done to her. It’s a call to return back to Him.”

Bray wants students to know that no matter what they are facing in life, that God sees them, He hears them and He loves them.

“I want students to remember that despite getting declined from a job or not having the perfect resume, that God sees you,” he said. “It’s not based off an application or a job or a career, but off His Son and based off who He has called you to be which is a son and a daughter in Christ.”