“Every time I step on campus, it just feels like home,” said David Kabanje, Union’s new chaplain and vice president for spiritual life. “Seeing people who you love and knowing they love you back; I know this is where I need to be with my wife.” Kabanje earned that familiarity the hard way—long hours serving as student chaplain, Union for Christ Director and ASB president. Just four years after graduating, the offer to return to Union to take the reins of Campus Ministries as Rich Carlson retires “felt like a calling from God,” he said.
Pastor Kabanje—or PK, as he prefers to be called by students—grew up a preacher’s kid. At the age of seven, the family’s ministry brought Kabanje from Zambia to the United States. At Rio Lindo Academy in California, Kabanje met his future wife, Kiana Myers. Both graduated from Union College in 2017: David with a degree in theology and Kiana majored in international rescue and relief. She has since earned a master’s in public health and has served the State of Washington as disaster preparedness outreach program manager.
For the past three years, Pastor Kabanje made an impact at Auburn Adventist Academy in Washington. His students dearly love him and are sad to see him go.
“It was devastating to hear that Pastor K was leaving,” said Hannah Walker, one of his former students who was a team leader in Auburn’s Campus Ministries. They did much together, from starting clubs to hosting podcast-themed chapels. “He made me feel seen and heard and like I mattered. He wasn’t there holding my hand, he just showed me I could do things and gave me encouragement.”
Since graduating from Union, Kabanje kept in touch with Pastor Rich Carlson, occasionally coming to speak at college events. “I’ve been watching him, just like all of my team whenever I can keep track of them. I just valued his wisdom, and I just thought he’d be a really good candidate to keep things going at Union,” Carlson said. Kabanje appeared on the list of possible candidates he suggested to the hiring committee. “I am happy to help with anything I can do to support him, not so that he replicates me, but so that he can build off of me into something better.”
Kabanje is looking forward to his new role in Campus Ministries. He plans on starting a schoolwide podcast and already has three guest speakers lined up for this year. In addition, he hopes to not only continue Project Impact in the fall semester but also build a similar service program in the spring. “People still need help in the spring, and education becomes more beautiful when we give to others,” Kabanje said.
“The spirit that Union has been known for all this time is exactly what David has,” said Kim Canine, Union’s Vice President for Student Life. “He’s so aligned with Union’s mission in what he does and who he is.” Despite all the committees and responsibilities of being vice presidents, Canine and PK are dedicating at least an hour each week this semester to simply spend time in the Student Center, ready to play ping pong or just talk with the student body. They also plan to invite other college employees each week to be special guests, encouraging faculty and staff to join them in intentionally growing relationships with students.
Kabanje also plans to help cultivate Union’s relationships with all the Adventist churches in and around Lincoln. “When I look at our beautiful city of Lincoln, I see so many opportunities for connection. I’d like to see what can be,” he said. “I would love to see more collaboration with our sister churches around us when it comes to programs and ministry. We have seven diverse churches that are unified in purpose and in relationship building. We shouldn’t try to stand alone when we have this community around us.”
“I have full confidence that he is going to lead Campus Ministries and the campus to develop a stronger relationship with Christ,” said Vinita Sauder, Union’s president. “He’s a man with God’s heart for others, and you can see it when he walks around on campus. He has the Union spirit. He knows us and loves us.”
by Maria Kercher, senior communication major