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Life at CU is pushing him to trust God more

Sergeant Major Mike Burke came to Calvary in 2018, after serving 26 years in the Marine Corps. Burke joined the Marines shortly after high school, following in his father’s footsteps. “Growing up, I was pretty much led to believe the Marines were the Knights of the Round Table, and that’s what I wanted to do: go on adventures, travel, fight the forces of evil.”

Looking at how his time in the Marines shaped him, Burke said, “One of the things the Marines does as an institution is it tries to develop this warrior identity in its Marines. And that’s one of the things I started pursuing, ‘What’s my identity?’ …It forced me to start developing who I wanted to be.” The Marine Corps gave Burke strong ideas on leadership, integrity, and influence. “Probably the biggest thing [my time in the Marines] brought out was my thoughts on how to influence those around me. That all of us have a sphere of influence, and that we can be a positive influence of leadership.”

After retiring, Burke came to Calvary to push himself in a different direction. “One of the things about Calvary is it would force me to study the Bible more and I wanted to do that. I couldn’t graduate without specifically studying and writing, and there’s accountability there that I don’t have in the military anymore.” He had looked around at several different university options when his father-in-law, an alumnus of Calvary, suggested he apply. “The doors were just flying open, and I said, ‘Okay, Jesus, I’ll go.”

Calvary supports military members as a Military Friendly Institution, and accepts federal military and veteran’s benefits, including the GI Bill. Burke recognized the work Calvary is doing “to help veterans and let them know that [Calvary is] here… I didn’t set out with a specific goal in mind other than, ‘Here’s my majors and I want to use my GI Bill.” He is pursuing an interdisciplinary degree in Creative Writing and Theatre Arts, “And I’m loving it; I’m having a blast.”

As Burke studies Scripture and theology, he has found lessons from the military reflected in biblical teaching. “There are traits that Paul calls on us to emulate, and one of those are soldierly virtues… In the service, it’s about the guy to my left and right and not me. And I think that’s a hard thing everyone has to learn. If you define humility as not making something about yourself, that’s something the service teaches you.”

Burke compared his time at Calvary to his Japanese battlefield training. “I trained in a Japanese martial battlefield system, and they have this idea called, ‘naru,’ that means ‘becoming.’ The idea is, you should never stop learning or honing yourself or getting better, because you become stagnant and run out of things to offer other people.” He said life at Calvary is pushing him to trust God more “because I have no control or authority anymore. So frankly, I have to spend more time studying the Bible and seeking God’s guidance through prayer, because… I have to trust. I can’t lean on myself.” This need creates an accentuated reliance on God. “It forces me to examine what my relationship [with God] is and who I’m supposed to be.”

Burke served in the Marine Corps for 26 years.

Burke sits on a panel of student directors holding auditions for WinterShorts.