Angie (Powell) Bymaster lives in a 1,000-square-foot home in the heart of an impoverished San Jose neighborhood, but not because she has to. An M.D. married to an electrical engineer, Angie and her family of six could be living in a luxurious, roomy home in the suburbs.
Instead she chooses to live among the poor and make a transformative difference with her life.
At one time, devoting her profession to caring for the poor would have seemed an unlikely vocational choice for Angie, a 2000 George Fox graduate. All that changed after she enrolled at George Fox.
Angie initially had no intention of attending George Fox, the school her mother chose. “I had experienced church, and I really did not want to be in an environment that was closed – where you could not ask questions,” she says. “I thought a Christian college would be narrow and limiting.”
But George Fox pursued her. Coach Wes Cook recruited her, sending postcards and calling her on the phone. An admissions officer even came by her home in Roseburg, Ore., to help her fill out the application. Reluctantly, Angie visited campus and sensed something special. The community was welcoming and friendly – more than other places. She decided that she could get the same education at George Fox as anywhere, and she already knew the people were great.
She enrolled, double-majoring in chemistry and writing/literature and joining track. She enjoyed connecting with other students in small groups and spending time with professors outside of the classroom, even over dinner or just hanging out.
Angie’s professors became her mentors. Several science professors – Carlisle Chambers, Dwight Kimberly, and especially Paul Chamberlain – discussed the connection of faith and science with her. Less expected, perhaps, literature professors Bill Jolliff and Ed Higgins challenged some of her simplistic ways of thinking about God.
“I did not think a Christian place would allow that to happen,” Angie says. “I was surprised at the various perspectives that were alive at George Fox. Because George Fox was committed to the pursuit of truth within a community that loved God, it was a safe place to have very complex conversations.”
The mentoring did not stop at reexamining theology. Through other mentors, Angie also discovered a deep commitment to integrating faith with action, which translated into caring for the poor. She joined in with other students who, through Urban Ministries, went to downtown Portland on Friday nights to serve and hang out with homeless people. “We got into this habit, and God convicted my heart that this should be a normal part of my life,” she says.
It was at George Fox that Angie experienced the freedom to seek truth in a community of grace. She felt safe evaluating her positions and exploring new ideas as never before. She learned that when you are in an environment where faith is taken seriously, you can “step outside” the boundaries at times.
“George Fox helped me get away from concrete, black-and-white thinking,” she says. “God is big enough to allow us to talk about important and difficult things. If I was at a secular institution, I would have felt limited.”
After graduating, Angie went on to medical school at the University of Iowa and soon married her husband Brett, an electrical engineer. The two met during a Mission Year experience in Oakland, Calif.
Today, Angie works for the county of Santa Clara serving the poor and homeless as a doctor for those without access to medical care. The couple lives with their four children (three of whom were adopted from Sudan), in a high-crime area that is ethnically diverse.
“We live and serve among the poor,” she says.
Why did Angie choose this type of job when she could be making a significant income serving a suburban group?
“I have a really interesting job where I make a difference,” she explains. “God called me into this. I have had to learn the ‘gospel of enough’ – be satisfied with what we have. When I take care of wealthy people, I have improved their health only a little. When I serve the poor, I make a transformative difference in the health of each person I serve.”
Angie said she and her husband intended to move into their low-income neighborhood to minister to others, but in actuality, they found that the community teaches them how to live.
“Why do I deserve more when the people around me suffer with less? Just being in this neighborhood made me realize I have way more than enough.”