Physics and Faith: Q&A with Valor Alum Ben Lorden (’13)

What was your favorite class at Valor?

I’m pretty technically minded, so I really loved math and physics classes. My favorite class was with Mr. Spicer who has since gone on to work at United. He is an amazing man who served in the Air Force Academy for a long time—a test pilot and all kinds of cool stuff.

He really inspired me with fun physics experiments. One of them was a compressed air launcher. We did a lot of calculations first, and then we got to go out on the football field and shoot a bunch of tennis balls to check our calculations.

Fast-forward to where you are now. What are you doing?

I’m graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in mechanical engineering. I’ve been really involved around campus, really engaged in the community.

I serve in several different roles at CSU—one as an engineering ambassador, giving tours to prospective engineering students. I’m also a Presidential Ambassador, one of fourteen students selected to work in the President’s office and represent the university at donor and alumni events. I’ve gotten to know the leadership of the university and really connect with them. That’s been one of the highlights of my CSU experience.

I’m also incredibly involved at Mill City Church. I lead a Bible study for college-aged guys—reading through Timothy and James, and discussing the qualities of those godly men. I am also involved in the kids’ church, so I hang out with preschoolers a couple times a month and let my inner-child come out again.

A lot of college freshmen find it a challenge to connect to a local church. How did you go about finding a church and what kind of priority did you place on that?

I spent the first maybe three months looking at different churches in the area. It’s an exhausting process. You don’t really feel plugged in, so it’s tough to get an accurate picture of what the church looks like. I definitely struggled in my faith that first semester, not having that community.

I was thrown into the whole college world of a state school and all the challenges that go along with that. I’m very thankful that the Lord brought people around me, friends to support me and keep me from the major pitfalls.

After a few months, I decided, you know what, I really like the people at Mill City. If I jump in and make it my own, then that’s what it will be.

What made you decide to study engineering at CSU? Was it related to the physics experiments?

My knack for the hard sciences and math contributed for sure. But honestly, a big part of why I went into engineering was my Valor Discovery experience in Kenya. That’s where I gave my life to Christ and also where I saw the need for clean water and infrastructure. There were so many needs that were fairly basic that an engineer could easily solve.

What I saw in Kenya is not an isolated case. More than half of the world is in a similar place. That knowledge was really convicting to me. I hope to develop my career in such a way that I could spend time in developing countries to be able to impact the communities there.

Tell us more about your Discovery experience in Kenya and how it influenced you.

Before the trip, I was a super nerd. I was stressed in school all the time and didn’t really have time for people. I was striving to find value and purpose in my school work. I was really awkward and shy.

In Kenya, I saw such a stark contrast between the materialistic American view I had grown up with and the joyful perspective of the people there. They had absolutely nothing in terms of possessions, but they had so much more joy than I had.

After that trip, there wasn’t a moment where the clouds opened up and I saw the truth. But over time, I realized that my joy was not dependent upon my material possessions. Instead, it was based on who I am in Christ. That’s really when I made my faith my own. I’d grown up in a Christian home, but faith had always been something my family did and never something that I wanted.

After making that decision, I did a crazy 180-degree turn. I became super outgoing. I still did well in class but it no longer held first place on my to-do sheet. I knew I was called to go and make disciples and be a light the community that I was a part of. I became more people-centric.

What was one of the most challenging things that happened to you at Valor?

The biggest challenge I faced was after making the decision give my life to Christ. You don’t have to be a Christian to go to Valor. There’s certainly an active population that is not living out a Christian lifestyle at the school. I got some pushback from my friends and people around me. But the teachers supported me 100 percent and cheered me on. Their support gave me the confidence to be bold in my faith.

Speaking of faith, how would you compare who you are today to your freshman year at Valor?

Freshman year I knew all the Sunday school answers. I could quote you several verses. I could talk to you about what I believed but it didn’t necessarily reflect how I lived. It’s not that I lived a terribly rebellious life but I wasn’t living passionately for Christ.

By the end of high school, I was inviting 20 people to church on a Sunday evening. We’d all go to dinner afterward and have a great discussion about whatever the message was.

Here at CSU, I was an RA for two years in an environment that is very not okay with Christianity. But I was able to talk about my faith in meetings. I would say, “I went to church this week. I learned this and it was really cool”—or whatever the case may be. I’d get some funny looks but I didn’t really care.

Imagine that the person you are today could talk to the person you were on your first day at Valor. What advice would you give yourself?

First off, don’t roll your eyes at what Valor is trying to do. I think it’s easy to have a jaded perspective and think that you know it all. Believe it or not, you don’t. So go in with a good attitude. There’s so much offered that it’s up to you take hold of it and to go after it.

Second would be to build relationships with the teachers. The teachers are incredible—their heart for the students, their heart for the Lord, their wisdom in general.

Then thirdly, I’d say do something that you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing. It’s an opportunity to pick up something new, whether it’s drawing, or some kind of a choir or band, or playing a sport.

What did you gain by putting yourself out there in something new?

I jumped in and played basketball my senior year even though I hadn’t played the two years before that. During tryouts, I looked awful. Coach recognized that, but he saw that I was going to dive for the ball and give it everything that I had.

That season I developed as a basketball player. I was able to get into the starting lineup, not because I was the most skilled—I probably scored four points a game—but because I was the one who was going to pump up the team.

We got to play in the State Championship and were runners up in the state that season. It was super fun to be a part of that—to be on a team that was good and also to be a leader on that team. That was really cool.

This story was originally published in March 2017.