Written by Lizbeth Rodriguez-Diep
Many students have seen Chaplain Joseph Khabbaz preach at Vespers, but they might not know him or his story. Khabbaz is the vice president for spiritual life and chaplain at Southern Adventist University. He was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, and did not always work in ministry.
Khabbaz earned a bachelor’s in accounting and worked as a chartered accountant for several years. Eventually, he was led into ministry.
Khabbaz worked as the youth and young adult pastor for Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland. He said God led him to Southern back in 2019, and he has been serving here ever since.
“No two days in a week are really the same,” Khabbaz stated in an email to the Accent, describing his average workday. “This semester includes [the President’s] Cabinet meetings, giving Bible studies, meeting with the pastoral staff at Collegedale Church [of Seventh-day Adventists], teaching the intermediate youth ministry class, spiritual counseling with students, meeting with the Office of Ministry and Missions staff, working on strategic projects and planning for Vespers.”
Some students said they have been impacted by Khabbaz, one being sophomore biology major and Vespers coordinator Emily Rojas.
Rojas works closely with Khabbaz and shares in a written response what she has learned from him:
“Pastor J has taught me that everyone is worthy of respect,” Rojas said. “I have weekly meetings with Pr. J and other individuals to discuss Vespers. The ages and roles of us range [vary], but he makes sure to listen to each one of us. He creates a great atmosphere to openly share and, through his example, encourages us to respect one another as well.”
Rojas said she most admires Khabbaz for “his willingness to listen and receive feedback from students.” One word she said she would use to describe him is “cheerful” because he leads the office with energy and encouragement despite having a time and energy-consuming job.
Similar to Rojas, John Kent, junior social work pre-med student and former Vision Trips assistant, said he has had wonderful experiences with Khabbaz.
“Pastor Joseph taught me [that] relationships are paramount in life,” he said.
Khabbaz said his aim is for each individual to experience a vibrant and meaningful relationship with God.
“[My desire for the university is] that every student, faculty and staff experience a vibrant relationship with God that leads to a greater sense of their God-given calling,” Khabbaz said. “My hope is they will discover their unique calling by connecting their vocation and faith.”