Walking into Cyneatha Millsaps’ room in Newcomer 10, there is a sense of comfort – plants in different corners of the room, marble-like rugs and soft chairs, all in the color green.Millsaps’ story begins with a choice made outside the walls of Goshen College: she applied to Indiana University of South Bend (IUSB) and a seminary at the same time.
In the mid-1990s, Millsaps started her career running a nonprofit agency, Family Services of Elkhart County, as well as the Elkhart County Women’s Shelter.
“My plan was to go to get my Master’s in Public Administration and keep doing that line of work,” Millsaps said. “But, I also went to church and really struggled with the messaging, especially around gender.”
“I said [to myself], whichever one comes through, whichever one works out, that’s the direction I will go,” she said. “I heard back from the seminary in a couple of weeks and to this day, I never got an acceptance or denial by IUSB. I don’t know if my papers got lost.”
Her quick acceptance to the seminary helped her make the decision to pursue a religious career path.
Millsaps attended the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary to receive her Master of Divinity degree from 2002 to 2007 after graduating from Bethel College in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology.
Millsaps started at GC in April 2022, working part time as the outreach director for the city of Elkhart. In January 2023, she was asked to serve as the Executive Director of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE).
The CCE aims to get students and faculty connected with community partners.
“We try to provide ways for us to get to know our community and, in turn, help our community know us,” she said.
Millsaps added that a specific issue which “needs tending to” is the divide between the Black community and GC, but she noted the CCE is an excellent place to “bridge those gaps.”
The most rewarding aspect of Millsaps’ job is working with a team of people who “support each other” while getting to know students.
Although she hasn’t worked on campus as long as other colleagues, students have noted her impact.
“Even though Cyneatha hasn’t been at GC very long, I feel like she’s a safe place for POC students [to go to] because she’s one of the few people on this campus that fights for us,” said Nakiyah Kilpatrick, senior American Sign Language interpreting major.
“Cyneatha has been a light to many students on campus. Her joy and love for us shines through in her advocacy … on campus,” added Isis Espinoza, a junior TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) education major.
Alongside advocating for students, Millsaps has also worked as a pastor for 17 years, having been ordained by the Mennonite church.
“Pastoral ministry is the best job in the world,” she said. “I am always amazed that people allow me into their lives. I walk with people from birth to death and it’s an honor.”
Millsaps explained that pastoral work can be challenging because “the church … operates by rules created by men based on how they interpreted the scripture.”
“For generations we have followed the scriptures interpreted through colonizers’ minds,” she added. “As we seek to reclaim the word of God for everyone, the pushback is great.”
To escape the demands of her job, Millsaps describes herself as an avid golfer, crafter, traveler and moviegoer.
“Oh, I absolutely love golf! I am a quilter. I do all kinds of … crafty stuff – knitting and crocheting. My hands are always trying something new,” she said.
Millsaps encourages people to open their minds and faith: “Everyone should read scripture with fresh new eyes in diverse communities. The challenge is trying to help people engage the scriptures for themselves.”