Use Your Knowledge for Good: Erick Horrmann '03 on the Intersection of Transracial Adoption and Ministry
Campus Minister, Cru
University of Minnesota
I realized: God created me in this way; I'm either going to steward it or, or I'm going to waste it.
I pastor college students. At my previous school, UW Eau Claire (my alma mater), I helped pioneer Epic, which is the Asian American outreach arm of Cru.
What It Looks Like
Early on it was just hanging out in the multicultural resource center where I connected with a Jesus follower and a guy who was interested in Jesus. We started a Bible study, which grew into a student ministry. At UW Stevens Point, we did something similar. That grew to 60 Asian-Americans meeting weekly to grow in faith. Eventually I came alongside other students to help them launch Destino (for Latinx students) and Impact (for Black students) on that campus.
The Struggle to Get There
As an adoptee I've often struggled with feeling like an imposter, both in majority culture and minority culture worlds. Like there was no place I fit. But my ability to have a foot in both worlds to some extent is what has opened doors for me to do outreach in spaces majority culture individuals haven't been able to.
Q. Have you always wanted to be in ministry?
My involvement in Cru during college was really the launching point for me to transition to ministry. I was studying psychology and thinking that maybe I would become a school guidance counselor or find a job that would have a similar mentorship aspect to it. As I got more connected with Cru I realized how those desires to walk alongside others could happen in a gospel-centric job like campus ministry, and it just made sense for me.
Q. Were there any barriers or challenges to making the shift towards ministry?
My girlfriend at the time (Courtney) wasn’t sure ministry through Cru was going to be the right fit for her. But while at Eau Claire we both signed up for missions trips to separate countries; I went to East Asia and she went to the Middle East. During those six weeks we didn’t communicate with each other. We both had separate, transformative experiences that really impacted us: For me, it confirmed my call to ministry through Cru. For her, it initiated that call. Eventually we married and worked as a team in ministry.
Q. What was your initial reaction when your Cru leader suggested you pioneer an Epic group at Eau Claire?
No. No way, I do not want to do that.
Q. Can you share a little about that hesitancy?
I'm adopted from Korea. I've always felt a little bit of a disconnect between who God made me to be visually and my cultural upbringing in a German-Norwegian household. Before transferring to Minnehaha in sixth grade most of my Asian American friends were Hmong. Then I went to Minnehaha in the 90’s where most of the Asian American students were also adopted...for the first time, I really felt like I fit.
Q. But then came college. I sought out Asian American spaces on campus but I couldn’t seem to find my spot:
I have the experience of being seen as a minority, with all of the assumptions that come along with that when someone interacts with you for the first time. But I wasn’t from an immigrant family, and I didn’t have these years and generations of cultural influence as part of my natural make up.
Really I didn’t belong anywhere…not in majority culture spaces or minority culture spaces.
Even as I resisted the idea of re-entering the Asian American community on campus, God kept working on my heart. Eventually I couldn’t get away from the idea.
Q. So if these were spaces you didn’t feel fully comfortable in, how did you come to minister there?
I was still a student, so I just went to the places I knew the Asian American students hung out and ate my lunch and tried to get to know some guys. It was actually really easy. Pretty early on I met a guy who was a Christian and another guy who was curious about our faith, so the three of us started a Bible study. From there, more students got involved and the first Epic chapter on campus was formed.
Q. What about this experience changed your own view on reaching out to Asian American students?
Later on I found out that Cru staff had been trying for years to connect with the Asian American students on campus but the openness among the students was really low. When I heard that I thought, OK, maybe God has made me in this unique way where I can come from a majority culture world and enter into these ethnic minority spaces in a different way from a Caucasian person. So now I have a decision: I can either steward this or I can waste it.
I was really struck during that season by the parable of the talents and the servant who buries what he has. I thought, am I going to bury this because it’s scary or hard to step out and do this, or am I going to invest it?
Q. So you decided to invest what you had, but the next door that opened wasn’t exactly what you had in mind. What happened?
My wife and I really wanted to go to a big school, like UW Madison, UMN, or Milwaukee or something like that. But Cru put us in Stevens Point, a town I had never even heard of. I remember thinking, what is God doing?
Looking back now I can see what was happening. That space was so ripe and ready for this type of ministry, it just needed some help getting it off the ground.
When we arrived, there was a group of around a dozen students meeting. It had been started by a student who was graduating, and there was no one to take it over.
Courtney and I were able to mentor the students and eventually the group grew to around 60, which was one of the largest Epic groups around the nation, even though we were at such a small school without a huge Asian American population. From there we supported students in launching Destino (the Cru ministry to Latin American students) and Impact (ministry to Black students).
One of the things you felt was really impactful for minority students was a regional conference that you and other Cru ministers decided to start. What is special about this conference?
We realized that on many campuses there were only a handful of students wanting to start these groups, and they often felt isolated and weren’t even sure what this could look like. At these conferences we both brought students from thriving groups so they could interact and inspire each other. We also brought in speakers who were minorities and also people of faith living that out in the marketplace. It kind of gives the students a vision for what life could look like after college for them.
Q. So after ten years at Stevens Point you stepped into another transition. Where are you today?
Today we are at the University of Minnesota. A portion of my time is spent ministering to students and a portion is focused on helping nationwide Cru staff who are transitioning to new locations get the details worked out. As we do this interview, I’m on a mission trip with our students in South Carolina.
Q. What do you think you have learned from this process of starting Epic and stepping into minority spaces?
I think that I’ve been realizing the power of entering into a space and asking: how can I be most helpful here? Also, it’s important to realize that each space we enter has its own culture…even among people of a similar culture or my own culture there are different family cultures and dynamics that mean we can’t assume things. It’s entering that space and not thinking that I know the right way or the best way to do everything, but listening and working to hear another’s perspective. This is important not just for relationships but also for sharing the Gospel in a way that recognizes where another person is coming from, instead of just using language and examples that make sense to the dominant culture. Ultimately, it’s about having an attitude of openness.
Interested in knowing more about Erick and his work with college students? You can check his blog and ministry site here.
- Distinctively Christian