For Career Development for the English Major class (ENG-2020) in spring 2022, Dr. Kevin Heath asked students to form groups and choose an entrepreneurial project to aid the community, the campus, or the major. Four students collected testimonies from faculty and staff at Cedarville University to be included in a booklet intended to encourage faith conversations on campus and affirm Cedarville’s faith ideals to its broader audience (including alumni, parents, and incoming students).
Over this past semester, I had the opportunity through a class project to hear Prof. Jay Kinsinger’s testimony. As an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, Prof. Kinsinger splits his time between teaching and running his custom-made wooden bicycle company, Sojourner Bicycles.
Despite his humble presentation, Prof. Kinsinger is a talented man whose heart for the Lord shines through in his teaching and his daily life. He goes above and beyond what is necessary to educate his students and prepare them for life –– notably how to drive stick and tie a bowline knot. He’s laid back and personable, engaging with his students in and out of the classroom. Although I don’t know him personally, I can attest that Prof. Kinsinger’s interactions with his students reveal his heart for the Gospel and his dedication to preparing his students to live as godly men and women in the engineering world.
I’m an accidental academic. More accurately, in Christianese I would be a providential academic but accidental has a better ring to it. In high school, I was in the 50% of the class that made the top 50% possible. I was passionate about making things and motorsports, and besides shop and art classes, I felt like high school was a waste of time. I was not on the college track. I worked in a bicycle shop through high school and my first full-time gig was as a Tool and Die Apprentice. I worked in a shop with about 30 other machinists, and I was warned early on about Jim the Jesus Freak. Despite the warnings, I developed a friendship with Jim. It was hard not to. Jim was a prankster, and I am a prankster, and we had this epic pranking war between us. I call it pranking evangelism, and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it worked for me.
Not only did Jim have a sense of humor but I knew he had a better life than the rest of us. He had a joy about him, and he didn’t come in on Monday hung over from the weekend. Jim would read his Bible during his lunch break, and I eventually started asking questions of a spiritual nature. My heart and eyes opened to the fact that Jesus died for me, personally. So, it wasn’t an alter call or throwing a stick in the fire at church camp. Instead, it was contemplating and praying in a dirty machine shop when I received Christ as my Savior.
I had a 2 Corinthians 5:17 life transformation, and I looked around my environment and decided that maybe education wasn’t such a bad idea. I started taking classes at a local community college in the evenings and eventually earned an associate degree in mechanical engineering technology. After graduation, I took a summer off to pedal the Bikecentennial Transamerica bicycle route with my kid brother, Jack. That gave me the bicycle touring bug, which led to more trips in North America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. After that first bike trip, I took a job as a jet engine test technician for General Electric. My favorite test was the FAA bird strike where we would use a compressed air cannon to fire chickens (not live and not frozen) into a jet engine. Big explosion of feathers, the smell of burnt protein. It was my job to disassemble the engine and inspect the damage.
As exciting as that job was, I wanted to do more (What does your daddy do? “Oh, he purees chickens with a jet engine.”). I accepted a job as the senior lab technician for the engineering departments of the University of Dayton. A fringe benefit was free tuition, so I took one class per semester and eventually parlayed my associate degree into a Bachelor of Science. My first engineering job was as a research engineer for a company called Ohio Willow Wood (OWW), manufacturers of lower extremity prosthetic components. Despite the archaic name dating back to the end of the Civil War when they made prosthetic legs out of willow wood, OWW is a very high-tech company. Modern prosthetics are made of space-age materials like carbon fiber and titanium. OWW was an early adopter of three-dimensional, computer aided design (CAD). I received comprehensive 3D CAD training and used it every day. It was during that time that we built a home in Cedarville and started attending Grace Baptist Church. Cedarville College just launched the engineering program, and several of the new faculty were part of our Sunday school class. I was asked to help with the transition from 2D to 3D CAD, something that I had extensive experience with at OWW. I started out as an adjunct faculty, teaching engineering graphics (CAD). Eventually, I was asked to quit my day job and become full-time faculty upon completion of my Master of Science degree in biomedical engineering.
Advice I’d offer is that you’ll have opportunities in life to share God’s love in environments in ways that no one else will. Be aware! Like “Jesus Freak” Jim was for me. I arranged to take one of my classes to OWW for a tour a couple years after my departure. I saw one of my old friends Bubba (Tommy), working on the line and I broke from the tour to greet him. I extended my hand and he rushed right past it and embraced me with a big hug and said, “Jay, I got saved.” If I was to rank order the likelihood of Bubba being saved, I’d rank Bubba dead last out of the 200 people that worked at OWW. I spent many, many hours on the line side-by-side with Bubba when I was developing a carbon fiber prosthetic foot. We talked a lot, told jokes, shared common interests like raising kids and hunting. I don’t remember ever verbalizing the Gospel. Yet Bubba knew, and God somehow used me to plant some seeds.