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Encountering the Only God with Scars: Grace Alumnus Pursues Clinical Psychology

Do you want to study clinical psychology in a Christ-centered environment? Learn more about Grace College’s psychology degree and apply today!

“It was a moonlit evening in the spring semester of my junior year. 

During weeks of heartache, reeling at the loss of an idolatrous relationship, I would customarily seek solitude by walking and gazing into the immense cosmos. Some evenings, my heart quickened at an unexpected encounter with a deer, and other nights, I wondered if the mystery of a shooting star burned with meaning I could not comprehend. But this night was different. This night, alone and weeping on the lawn of the Morgan Library, I meditated upon the incomprehensible loneliness and suffering Christ endured. 

Since I was a boy, my life was marked by sexual trauma. I sought healing in a human relationship and came to Grace College clinging desperately to this inadequate remedy for the deep malady of my heart. I fixed both my identity and worth to the relationship and desperately longed for it to fill a void in my heart. Abruptly, the relationship was stripped away. An existential ache entered my young life, unlike anything I previously experienced. 

Broken-hearted, gazing through teary eyes into the cosmos and kneeling in the grass that spring evening, everything changed for me when I encountered the only God with scars.”

Do you want to study clinical psychology in a Christ-centered environment? Learn more about Grace College’s psychology degree and apply today!

The Hope of Healing 

Dr. Adam Dell (BS 06, MA 08) grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He and his family attended a Grace Brethren church there, and he participated in Operation Barnabas, a high school ministry training through CE National (now Momentum Ministry Partners). Through CE, he learned about the opportunity to compete for Grace College scholarships at the Brethren National Youth Conference. Despite a low GPA in high school, Dell possessed raw skills as a speaker. 

“I remember being in awe of this young man’s strength, humility, innate leadership potential and desire to impact others,” said Collette (Lehman BS 90) Olson, a member of the scholarship interview committee in 2002. “While there were numerous outstanding applicants, the decision to select Adam for the full-tuition scholarship was unanimous.” 

Looking back now, Dell’s perception of the scholarship is quite different. “There was almost no chance I would have gone to college if it weren’t for that scholarship,” said Dell. “I was not deserving of it, but I believe that the Lord used the panelists’ compassion to pave the way for me to go to Grace. Contrasted with other finalists, my selection seemed illogical — but it seems to reflect the scandalous love of God.”

Dell began his education at Grace as a double major in youth ministry and special education, as scholarship recipients were expected to train for vocational ministry. However, Dell admits he begrudgingly endured chapel services and theological classes, fundamentally opposed to their teachings. The trauma he endured as a boy rendered him skeptical of faith and people of faith despite a growing knowledge of theology. 

“I was frankly such a mess as an undergrad that I was eventually required to meet with Dr. David Plaster (BA 71, MDiv 74, ThM 84) weekly because I would get in regular verbal and even physical altercations with guys in Beta after decrying the hypocrisy of their faith,” said Dell. “I was miserable, conflict-seeking, still clinging to my own idols and desperate to point out the specks in my brothers’ eyes. Dr. Plaster knew my internal turmoil and granted me permission to pivot away from a ministry degree. However, he often warmly affirmed I had a shepherd’s heart.”

Everything changed for Dell after his encounter on the Morgan Library lawn. 

After that night, Dell found the courage to schedule a counseling appointment with Carol (Fern BS 00, MA 02) Yauger through Grace’s counseling services. It marked a heart-deep turning point at Grace. 

“I was finally less concerned with censorious fault-finding for others and more concerned with the plank in my own eye,” said Dell. 

In his first session, Dell recalls pouring everything out for 50 minutes, so filled with shame he did not dare make eye contact with Yauger. 

“When I finally looked up, Carol had tears rolling down her cheeks,” said Dell. “It was another upward gaze away from myself and towards hope. In her wordless, tearful response, I felt heard, validated and loved in a way I never had before, and I knew it had something to do with this outrageous love of Jesus — the only God with scars. I don’t recall a single word she said to me in that appointment, yet I will never forget the way she accompanied me and embodied the tears of God.” 

Additional therapy sessions with Yauger propelled him toward a counseling degree. As his faith became increasingly important, he knew he wanted to understand clinical psychology through a theological lens.

“Throughout the Gospels, Jesus talks about the human heart in profound ways, and I was eager to study clinical psychology to gain insight,” said Dell. “It was a unique privilege to learn from the lives and teachings of Christian professors.” 

Dell credits Dr. Tammy Schultz, Dr. Kevin Roberts (BS 93, MA 96), Dr. Tom Edgington (BA 79, MABC 83, MDiv 85) and the late Dr. Mike Grill (BA 67) with teaching him what it looks like to come alongside other broken people while bringing the hope of healing. 

Do you want to study clinical psychology in a Christ-centered environment? Learn more about Grace College’s psychology degree and apply today!
Front row (left to right): Heather (Butler) Rollefson, Amanda (Wolfert BA 97) Smith, Deb (Musser BA 89, MA 00) McEvoy, Andrea Pancoast Back row (left to right): Rob Knight, Dr. Aaron Crabtree (BA 99), Adam Dell (BS 06, MA 08), Janine (Champoux MA 07) Dell

‘Unequivocally, Yes!’ 

As Dell’s love for Christ grew as an upperclassman, he knew his time at Grace was not yet complete. After graduation, he applied and was selected as an assistant resident director of Indiana Hall and enrolled in Grace Theological Seminary. 

On the eve of Welcome Weekend, Dell was consumed with being underqualified as an ARD. He asked God for a sign he was in the right role — that someone would approach him on move-in day and ask him about Christ. 

The following day, he met hundreds of freshmen and family members. Not a single person approached him in this way. That evening, after all the welcome activities concluded, Dell took another tearful walk under a starry night. Alone on a park bench, he cried to God in prayer and song. 

“With my eyes closed, I must have jumped a foot off that bench when a man unexpectedly touched my shoulder,” Dell reflected. “He said he heard me singing to Jesus in the darkness, and he shared about some recent suffering in his life. He asked me about Christ, and he asked for prayer.” 

Once again, Dell prayed and wept to the only God with scars; but this time, he wasn’t alone. Two lost men were found under the stars that evening. 

During his season as an ARD, God continued to send the right people into Dell’s life. He recounts the impact of Kondo Simfukwe (BA 00, MDiv 04) and James Joiner (BS 98, MA 04), who modeled deep thoughtfulness and compassionate hearts. 

Dell also began working at the Bowen Center Inpatient Unit, where he witnessed the burden of mental illness and various forms of treatment in clinical psychology. He eventually transitioned from seminary classes to graduate counseling courses and earned an MA in interpersonal relationships at Grace. 

During this time, he met Janine (Champoux MA 07). Dell says of all the unexpected doors God opened in this world, he was least deserving of the door to Janine’s heart. The two were married in 2007, and she became the resident director of Alpha Hall. 

After eating in Alpha Dining for seven consecutive years and making Grace College home, Dell was ready to further his education. As he prepared for the transition, several questions occupied his mind. 

“Am I really prepared? Will my training measure up? Will I be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with people who attended Ivy League and state schools?” 

“And I will tell you now, by the grace of God and based on the spiritual formation and academic foundation from my years at Grace College: Unequivocally, yes!” 

Captain Dell atop a F-15 Strike Eagle while deployed.

Humble and Hungry

In his search for a doctoral degree, Dell came across a doctoral program in clinical psychology at Indiana State University (ISU). He met with Roberts and Schultz to review the program’s courses. 

“I was ignorant about what constituted a ‘good program,’” Dell confessed. But both advisors agreed — this clinical psychology program was high caliber in training and clinical opportunities. 

So Dell donned a poor-fitting suit and tie and drove to ISU. He recalls sitting in the room with dozens of other people competing for one of the ten spots in the program. Dell quickly realized he was an outlier, as this was his one and only interview. 

“As I sat there, I reflected on the many ways God provided a way for me when there seemed no possible way,” said Dell. “My entire higher-ed trajectory was a signpost to His grace.” 

A few weeks later, he received a call from ISU’s clinical psychology director. She let him know that all of the primary selections had been made, but he would be kept on a list of alternates should a first-choice student decline the offer. 

“I wasn’t surprised, yet I was disappointed,” Dell recalled. 

A few weeks later, Dell received a second phone call from the director; there was a spot open for him if he wanted it. He felt as though God had allowed him to win the lottery. 

Dell began the program in the fall of 2009 and made it his mission to honor the Lord and prove he belonged there — to remain “humble and hungry.” 

Dell was not only the first in his ISU cohort to finish his dissertation, but he also landed a top-tier internship at the nation’s largest clinical psychology residency program at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The opportunity offered unrivaled training in clinical psychology and empirically supported treatments. 

In the internship, Dell’s peers came from institutions like The Ohio State University and the University of Texas. Neither peers nor supervisors were familiar with Grace College. 

Even so, the Lackland faculty named Dell the chief resident. He graduated with the earned respect of his peers by channeling the constructs he recalls hearing Grace President Dr. Ron Manahan (MDiv 70, ThM 77, ThD 82) preach from the chapel stage: character, competence and service. 

Dell served in the Air Force for nearly seven years, including one overseas deployment to the Middle East. In 2016, he was named the U.S. Air Force Psychologist of the Year. 

Dell's daughters: Adelyn Grace (4) and Amelia Joy (1).

New Life and New Possibilities in Clinical Psychology

In 2019, after a decade-long struggle with infertility, during which time physicians told the Dells the likelihood of pregnancy was “as close to 0% as possible,” Janine became pregnant and gave birth to Adelyn Grace. 

“We both agreed the costs associated with future deployments and military service were too great as we prepared to step into the sacred privilege of being Adelyn’s parents,” said Dell. 

Dell left the U.S. Air Force later that year and returned to Indiana. He became the Director of Emotional Wellbeing at the University of Notre Dame, where he still serves today. In his position, Dell leads a multidisciplinary department that provides clinical interventions for the institution’s faculty and staff. As a board-certified clinical psychologist, Dell serves many at Notre Dame: librarians and landscapers, deans and dining hall staff, police officers and priests. 

Since returning to Indiana, the Dells had another miraculous pregnancy, and Janine gave birth to a second daughter, Amelia Joy, in 2023. Dell also channeled his passion for teaching. Since 2010, he has served as a part-time faculty member at five institutions and currently teaches with Schultz for Wheaton College’s Trauma Certificate program. 

Dell launched a speaking career in 2023, providing seminars for businesses, hospitals, schools and faith communities, including several speaking engagements at Grace. His visits to campus reassure Dell that the path that led him to Winona Lake was no mistake. 

“My life changed forever after I became transfixed with a suffering Savior who alone can relate to our brokenness. Due to the healing influence of so many at Grace, I seek to emulate Carol Yauger’s example as a clinician — to be a signpost to authentic compassion and hope as I bear witness to the hell of people’s histories and point them to hope.” 

It all began when one spring night, the scandalous love of God found a broken and traumatized young man and set him loose for the work of the Kingdom.

Do you want to study clinical psychology in a Christ-centered environment? Learn more about Grace’s psychology degree with a concentration in clinical and integrative health.

Tagged With: Alumni, Psychology, School of Behavioral Science