Forest Engineer Becomes a Christian

By: Nick Langille – The Spectator

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Benjamin

“What do I want to be,” Dr. Jeff Benjamin thought to himself before high school graduation. Growing up, Jeff helped his father burn firewood and cut down trees on their properly owned woodlot. His grandfather was the co-owner of a sawmill near their hometown, Truro, Nova Scotia. Also, Jeff looked up to his mentors and leaders in boy scouts. They had some involvement with forestry, such as being a forester or working for the Department of National Resources. Jeff decided to pursue a career in forestry the following year.

However, he never took the time to weigh his options before making a final decision.

“I did not stop and think like I would now, I wonder what would God want me to do with my life,” Jeff said. “I never asked those questions because I wasn’t a Christian then.”

Born in 1974, Jeff grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia. It was a safe neighborhood where kids could play outside with others. They would ride their bicycles and play basketball or baseball. The moms would pitch in by making sandwiches for them. From 5th to 7th grade, he delivered the paper in his hometown during the afternoon. It was a great way to make some money at a young age.

Jeff had a sister, Kelly, who was 20 months older than him. He acknowledged his role as a younger brother growing up.

“I teased her mercilessly, so I was the younger brother that was a pain,” Jeff said. “I knew how to push her buttons… much more than I should have.”  

While he enjoyed going outside and getting dirty, Kelly preferred the fine arts. She learned how to play the flute and participated in band class at school. Despite having different interests, they enjoyed spending each Summer at their grandparents’ cottage in Cape Breton. They went swimming, water-skiing, and kneeboarding at the lake. In 9th grade, Jeff bought a windsurfer for himself to use. Cousins, aunts, and uncles, as well as other family members, would come to visit during the Summer.

Jeff’s experiences in early education brought back a lot of memories for him. He walked about a quarter mile every day to school. The town he lived in, Truro, didn’t have a school bus for students. Attending junior high “middle school” was an eye-opener for him. He went to a bigger school where he witnessed some fights. Jeff said he can vividly remember two girls fighting, punching and grabbing each other’s hair. So, he tried to stay out of trouble by avoiding certain groups or individuals.

Going to high school was a fun learning experience for him. At the end of 9th grade, Jeff and another classmate were recognized for an academic achievement award. They tied for the highest grade average in their class. Jeff started to gain self-confidence, which allowed him to take honor level classes. This helped him align with other students who wanted to take school seriously as well.

Jeff graduated from high school and pursued a career in forestry. He attended The University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton through a five-year program. It was a small program, which allowed him to become one of the top students in his class.  

Through a mutual friend, he met his future wife Nicky and they started to date. She was studying recreation and administration at the time. Jeff finished his college studies with a forest engineering degree from UNB. Then, he got married to Nicky and they moved to British Columbia for work.

Later on, Jeff returned to UNB for his doctorate degree. There, he engaged with others who challenged his thinking on what it meant to be a Christian. They discussed the process of evolution from a creation perspective which made him question his beliefs. After a two to three year period, Jeff became a Christian and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior.

He accepted an assistant professor job position from UMaine. Then, he got tenured by the university to work as a full-time associate professor. Jeff worked there for nine years, but he was not happy.

“It’s not that I couldn’t do the job, but something was missing and the thing that was missing was I never really asked God what he wanted me to do,” Jeff said.

He heard from his friend, Jerry Mick who was the pastor at CrossPoint Church, formally known as Bangor Baptist that there was a job opening. The Church was looking for someone to become the new headmaster at the Bangor Christian School District.

Jerry spoke with Martha Boone, the principal and guidance counselor at Bangor Christian School. They agreed that Jeff would be perfect for the job.

“He was selected due to his spiritual relationship with God and his academic background which showed he is serious about education,” Jerry said. “He is a very good writer and verbal communicator and he has a passion for spirituality and a biblical worldview which bodes well at BCS.”  

Jeff had to weigh his options because he would make less money at BCS. For three months, he prayed with his wife, Nicky, and asked for opinions from friends and co-workers. He spoke with his parents, but they were not pleased with this proposition. Eventually, Jeff decided to accept the job position at BCS. He didn’t want to regret not taking advantage of an opportunity like this one.

“My dad had cancer at the time and one of the thoughts that went through my mind was if I ever have cancer five to ten years from now, would I regret not trying this?” Jeff said. “The answer was yeah because my kids all come to the school, my wife is working here… and we would all be in the same place.”

As the headmaster of BCS, Jeff works on the school budget, admissions, recruiting, etc. He tries to create a vision or spiritual path for the school to follow.

Three years later, he was asked to lead the college and career Sunday school group. What seemed to be a one-time occasion turned into a weekly event for him. However, he said that it’s a fun group where they discuss topics, like The Top 10 Leadership Commandments. They also spend time together at the Linnehan’s place. Blake Lipton, a member of the college and career group, appreciated Jeff Benjamin and what he did in his life.

“Not only is he a teacher to me, but he’s been a close friend,” Blake said. “I couldn’t eat with my family during the holidays, so he invited me over on Christmas Day to eat dinner with his family.”

Jeff lives with his wife, Nicky and their three kids in Veazie, Maine. Kelsey, 17, is the oldest of the three and she is currently on the track and field team at BCS. Jonathan and Katherine, 11, are twins, but Jeff said they are not alike. Katherine enjoys running, while Jonathan loves to play baseball and basketball. They are all passionate about God just like their parents.

Christianity has become a major part of Jeff’s life. He joined Pastor Mick on a missions trip to Cambodia. Then, he went to Philadelphia with his daughter, Kelsey. From going on missions trips to playing crazy eights with dementia patients, he’s passionate about serving others.

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