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David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding

Chris Pineda: Following the Call

There are many majors in college that set you on a path to professional success. For example, if you study accounting you are most likely going to be an accountant and there are many firms in place to hire you there. If you go to law school, you’re probably going to be a lawyer and there are many jobs for you there as well. For Peacebuilders, it is a little bit different. Peacebuilders have a unique position in life where a path is not systematically set for them, they must blaze their own trail so to speak. The reason being is that often times people are not aware of what Peacebuilders can do and it is our job to show them. One such Peacebuilder is BYU-Hawaii alumnus, Chris Pineda. After developing his Peacebuilding skills in the professional world, he created a job for himself that allows him to follow the vision of David O. McKay to spread peace internationally through his own community.

What lead Chris to persevere in the professional world is that he had found his vocation or calling in life. According to John Paul Lederach vocation is “longing for a true home. Vocation is knowing and staying true to the deep voice. Vocation stirs inside, calls out to be heard, to be followed. It beckons us home.” Chris found his vocation by taking ahold of the vision of David O. McKay. What is that vision you may ask? To summarize its starts on February 12, 1955 where President McKay broke ground for the campus of BYU-Hawaii while doing so he “invoked a grand vision for the school.” He said, “You mark that word, and from this school, I’ll tell you, will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally.”

Chris started to tell me a little bit about how he was able to find this devotion to be able to establish peace in all that he did. He said:

“My experience in the Intercultural Peacebuilding Program set me up. I would not be doing what I am doing now if it hadn't had the experience I had there. What it came down to was there was a moment where I really bought in and really spiritually connected to President Mckay’s vision. When that became real to me and not just a great story. There was nothing that I wouldn't do to make sure I would be doing it for the rest of my life.”

To Chris, understanding David O. McKay’s vision was the necessary step for success, but he also recommends that students need to find out what they are good at and hone that skill to be able to make a real difference in the world. He talked about one of his friends, former classmates, and former BYU-Hawaii professor Tay Steele. He said, “Tay Steele is a great example because he really liked the idea of being a facilitator and mediator but he found out there were other ways of doing peacebuilding and he could do that through film.” By understanding our strengths, we start to understand what our vocation might be. For Chris, his vocation took his to Salem, Oregon where his job is unlike any conventional profession.

“I have a job that doesn't really exist anywhere else. Part of it is very much entrepreneurial and I have to do my own thing. But I am paid by a philanthropist. The reason why I work for the philanthropist is that I followed a sense to make a phone call. One of the first things I shared with him is President Mckay’s vision and that resonated with him. He had no idea about that vision until I shared it with him but that is what he wanted to happen in his community of Salem, Oregon.”

Chris described his job as a community leader or a community consultant. His mission is to educate the community with a common language to discuss community challenges and opportunities and how to make them better. With a common language, a deeper level of change is able to be accomplished because everyone will be working towards the same goals. One area that they are working hard in the schools of the community. They want to decrease and eradicate child homelessness and reduce foster care. They work with lots of nonprofit organizations with outward mindset training and coaching around conflict to members of the community. But again what got him to this position? His calling to establish peace internationally.

“McKay’s vision meant the world to me. It still does. It is what drives me every day. Without that, there are a lot of other things I could be doing with my life, my time, and my skill set but I really believe in McKay’s Vision and I had several experiences that helped me to see that I needed to do what President McKay saw. So if I were to give advice to students in the program I would say that that may not really tangible and out-there advice, but it is the truth, if a student really believes the vision of David O. McKay, then there are going to find a way to do it.”

Well, it looks like it may be time to brush up on our reading and review of that vision given by President David O. McKay. But I think the overall lesson we have to learn from Chris is the importance of finding our own vision and sticking to what makes us a Peacebuilder. It is through our strengths that we find our profession and what we believe in, that allows us to find our calling in life.