After being selected as the new Vice President for Spiritual Life at Southern Adventist University, Joseph Khabbaz has spent the last few weeks settling into his new home and position. In this question and answer, Khabbaz explores what it is like to be in new surroundings, his initial and long term goals and what he is passionate about for the students here on campus.
What has the transition been like to your new job here at Southern?
It has been a very smooth transition, and I have certainly experienced the warmth of Southern hospitality being here. I can see why they call this place “Happy Valley.”
What are your primary goals for your first school year?
My primary goal this first year is to take time to listen to the spiritual needs of students, faculty and staff on campus. I want to truly understand the challenges, contexts, and realities they experience every day that either builds their faith and/or causes barriers to their faith.
What are your long-term goals for campus?
That every student, faculty, and staff experiences a vibrant relationship with God that leads to a greater sense of their God-given calling. We live in a challenging world where many graduates are seeking to discover how church and faith are relevant to their everyday lives. My prayer is that every student will leave Southern with a love for God and desire to serve in the world in their context.
What do you hope to provide for students while here?
I want to provide students at Southern with a spiritually vibrant campus and a relevant faith where students experience God’s presence in their everyday lives. I hope that students will be excited about the mission of the Church and will know that the Church needs them and what they have to offer.
What services do you and your office offer to students?
The Office of Ministry provides spiritual care for the university, including preparation for baptism, spiritual coaching, counseling, spiritual retreats, mission trip opportunities and campus-wide spiritual programs.
What are you passionate about?
I’m excited to serve young adults as they matriculate through Southern. This is a time of life where young adults will be making critical decisions that will set their future direction in areas of their career, finances, friendships and spirituality. As faculty and staff go through life alongside students, I pray that both we and the students will be transformed through a vibrant relationship with God. My desire is that every student will find their identity and value in God by encountering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The world is getting more complicated; and as students seek to embrace opportunities to shape the environment around them, my hope is they will discover their unique calling by connecting their vocation and faith.
What is your favorite color and why?
My favorite color is blue because it reminds me of the incredible beaches in Australia.
What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
I have many, but one of my favorites is Philippians 4:6-7. It reminds me to let go and give God all my circumstances that are beyond my control – which includes most things.
What personality traits do you possess that make you a good fit for the position?
I love connecting with others and hearing people’s stories. I have a heart for students and value helping them find meaning by seeing strengths and qualities they possess yet may not see within themselves. I have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. I love to pick up and absorb information quickly and to challenge myself. I’m a strong proponent of continual learning at every stage of life. It keeps you on the cutting edge.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that would be important for campus to know about you and/or your position here at Southern?
I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. Before going into the ministry, I earned a bachelor’s in accounting and worked as a chartered accountant for several years.