2017 CST Graduates

This year, we have 13 students graduating from Cornerstone School of Theology with a Masters degree. CST combines the vitality and experience of a thriving church with the academic rigors of accredited theological training. Our passion is to see God’s church strengthen and multiply, whether in central Iowa or to the nations a hemisphere away.



Hannah De Cleene

I am originally from Iowa, but I moved a decent amount in my life as my parents faithfully served in ministry. My favorite place by far was living in Ecuador! I love to travel and have had opportunities over the years to teach English and Spanish to American and Ecuadorian students before I joined the staff at Cornerstone.

As I consider my life and ministry, one thing that I am taking away from CST is that scripture is precious, full of sweet encouragements and deep truths about who God really is. My time in the CST program has expanded my understanding of God’s character in ways that make me want to keep studying. I feel as if I have just begun to see how the Gospel message is woven throughout the entire Bible. The lessons I have learned pour over into all my relationships, whether with those I am mentoring or my closest family and friends. Regardless of where God has me serving next, this time has fostered a greater love for God and living in gospel-centered community.

One of the greatest gifts of this program has been the opportunity to study alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ. We didn’t just read books and take tests together (although we did do that), but we wrestled through hard questions, affirmed growth in one another, and prayed with each other when the hard days of ministry seemed overwhelming. Without a doubt, I know Jesus better because of everyone who taught me, whether professor or classmate.

Gabe Freeman

My wife, Kamala, and I were born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. We moved to Ames in 2015 for Kamala to finish her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine and God opened a door for me to join the CST program. I have spent the last two years leading worship for the youth ministries at Cornerstone. Music has always been a passion, and it has been an absolute honor to worship with the ministries of Escape22 and 180.

The knowledge and understanding from CST will continue to shape every part of my life and ministry. One of the greatest benefits from this program is the combination of educational and practical ministry training. There are many skills that I have learned from simply working with such great leadership examples. Yet, I have also seen the need for solid theology to influence the direction of both my personal life and ministry.

My favorite CST memories will revolve around the relationships that have been built in the workplace, cohorts, and church body. ESPECIALLY being a part of the Escape/180 youth staff has created friendships that are full of constant encouragement. The cohorts are always one of my favorite parts of each class because you get to benefit from every participant and all of the different experiences.  

Steven Greig

I am from the Des Moines area and graduated from Iowa State in 2014 with a Math and Psychology degree – which I realize is an odd combo. I am passionate about traveling with my beautiful wife, Laura, and sharing my love for learning and education with anyone I can. Laura and I also enjoy being outside whenever possible, gardening, and doing any and all crosswords we can get our hands on.

CST has shaped me in so many ways on top of the incredible knowledge I gained. It challenged me to think openly about not only my beliefs, but others’ as well, meeting them where they are at and pointing them forward towards Christ. I am especially excited about teaching in public schools and creatively combining my love and knowledge of Christ to low-income areas.

In the moment, it was “no bueno”, but, looking back, I highly appreciated every one of my small group cohorts that met throughout the semesters.  One in particularly was with Alex “crackin jokes” Van Gundy, Tyler “deep as that one ocean trench” Hinders, and Jesse “you’re still taking CST classes?” Antelman. We met at 6:00 in the morning and it usually ended up being an hour and a half of trying really hard to focus and wake up!

Matthew Hoffert

I’m married to my amazing wife Emily, and we have five kids (Madison, Eliott, Taylor, Lyla, and Ethan) – so life is both fun and crazy at times. We enjoy the outdoors, being active, and spending time doing everyday things as a family. From a ministry standpoint, I’m the Director of Leadership and also an elder at Candeo Church in Cedar Falls. Although we are a relatively new church, we are experiencing growth and seeing people come to life in Christ.

My favorite thing about CST is the integration of knowledge and learning with ministry. The more you know, the more effective you can be. However, if you don’t have a platform to practice what you are learning, the newly acquired knowledge might not do you much good. CST allows you to immediately implement what you are learning into an actual ministry context. It benefits you as a ministry practitioner as well as those you are ministering to.

I really appreciated the seminars with chances to learn from Biblically-sound teachers. With that said, my favorite CST memory was our two week trip to Turkey and Greece as we followed the path of one of Paul’s missionary journeys. It really helped much of the New Testament come to life as we were able to see the places Paul ministered and better understand the context of his ministry. As I read through Acts and much of the epistles, I am actually able to visually picture what was happening.

Kaylee Hunting

I came to ISU in 2010 from New Hampton and immediately got involved in the Salt Company. Salt was incredibly influential in my faith as I learned how to walk with Jesus in a community of believers. After getting married to Dave and graduating from ISU, I began working for the Salt Company. We have enjoyed investing in college students over the course of three years of marriage. Before we move to Minneapolis to help with the Salt City Church plant, we are looking forward to backpacking the Grand Canyon to celebrate the end of CST!

I am so thankful for men like Jeff Dodge, Alex Tuckness, Tom Niehof, and Shane Kelley who so value theological training and raising up new leaders. They have helped me shape my theological perspective and it is so neat that I got to do that in the context of a local church while serving in the church. Cornerstone is so blessed to have their leadership and this program! I hope that I can continue to convey the value of guarding sound theological doctrine to every person I invest in, based on the examples that have been set for me.

I loved getting the opportunity to travel to Turkey and Greece to see the sites of the early church for my New Testament class. It made reading the Bible come alive, as now when I read Philippians, or Corinthians, (along with the entire New Testament) I picture myself standing at that place. We were always blown away by Dr. Tom Niehof’s extensive knowledge on the trip. His incredibly insightful statements were soon named “Tom Bombs” and we still talk about them to this day!

Jen Marks

I grew up in Parkersburg and went to Northwestern College for my undergrad. I got plugged into Cornerstone Church while working full-time as a software engineer. I have enjoyed serving with the high school ministry and currently with Cottage Grove Church. In my free time, I enjoy running, hiking, enjoying God’s creation, and exploring new places and cultures.

As I took 3.5 years to complete this program, I’ve had plenty of time to apply what I’m learning as I go, whether that be in youth ministry, small group co-leading, work, or life in general. I appreciate that I’ve had to put my theology into writing and decide what I truly believe. The hardest thing that I have been forced to think through is my theodicy, my beliefs on suffering. Everyone experiences suffering and at some point will come to the point of decision in this area. I’ve been blessed to be guided into a holistic, biblical response.

My favorite CST memory was during a Monday night class, a storm rolled into town, so strong that the church lost electricity, leaving us sitting in the dark. After a while, we began class again despite not having lights. Dr. Tom proceeded to lead with a small phone’s flashlight. Ironically, we were discussing Isaiah 9:2, which says “On them has light shone.” As we sat in darkness, the story became reality as the light shone from the front podium. A little light can open your eyes to a whole new world that can finally be visible.

Jesse Reyes

I currently work at Workiva as a Senior Customer Success Manager, and am pursuing an MBA through the University of Iowa. In my free time I love to spend time with my wife Jess, be active outside, and hang out with all sorts of people. I am currently a member of Cottage Grove Church in Des Moines, where I serve as a Connection Group Leader and as an Elder.

The knowledge and understanding that I gained through CST is invaluable. Not only in regards to my personal relationship with Jesus, but in all other spheres of life as well; marriage, connection group, work, church leadership, etc. CST increased my awareness of the INCREDIBLE riches of God’s Word, and how easily I take it for granted. I know that the amount of sacrifice and effort that went into completing CST will continue to yield abundant fruit for the rest of my life.

My favorite memory from CST was burning all of my required textbooks after graduation… I’M KIDDING!!! It has been extremely humbling and encouraging to see my CST classmates go on to assume greater responsibility in church leadership, plant churches, and literally take the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Let’s keep making gospel-centered memories until He comes again!

Dillon Rhea

Growing up in a military family, I lived all over the world but God led me to Ames, Iowa for the last two years. During my time attending college at the University of Arkansas, I gained a huge heart for ministry and specifically college ministry. When the opportunity to become theologically equipped while also doing college ministry presented itself, I didn’t hesitate to apply to the CST Residency. Following finishing my undergrad in 2014, I moved up to join staff at Cornerstone. The next step is another move to Cedar Rapids where I will join staff at Veritas Church as their Men’s Ministry Leader for Salt Company.

This might come as a surprise to those who know me, but I’m not the most academically driven guy. Yet, going through CST has shown me the value of striving to learn more to be better equipped in ministry. CST has not only made me a better minister of God’s Word but an overall better man of God.

My favorite memory from CST was any time Jeff Dodge invited us residents over to his house. Back porch, sunlight shining through the windows, scolding hot bitter coffee, nothing made feel more valuable than having my pastor/professor check in on us residents and ask us questions that revealed how valuable we were to this church movement.

Kent Spray

I am originally from Maple Grove, Minnesota, and came to Iowa State for undergrad where I got involved with The Salt Company and Cornerstone Church. I currently work at John Deere as a Manufacturing Engineer and live in Ankeny with my wife, Lydia, and 8-month old son, Theo. I am a member of Keystone Church in Ankeny and am serving as a Connection Group Leader.

CST has been enriching for my walk with Jesus in immeasurable ways. It has given me a new perspective on the depths of God’s word, and the knowledge and tools to search those depths as a thinking Christian. CST has also helped me to take those principles from scripture, and apply them in the marketplace of ideas where varied worldviews are constantly clamoring for our adherence. The rigorous study required in CST has actually given me a love for reading that I hope will continue far past my coursework.

My favorite memories have been sitting under the leadership and teaching of the professors in CST. It has been incredible to have the opportunity to learn from and be challenged by these men who have committed their lives to thinking deeply about the things of God. Also, the relationships I’ve developed through cohorts have been life giving, and have challenged me in my own understanding of the material.

Alex Van Gundy

Both my wife Carly and I are originally from Des Moines but moved to Ames to attend Iowa State. After I interned with Salt Company here in Ames, I accepted a residency with youth ministry in 180. Carly and I have been married for almost 3 years and are excited to plant our feet in Ames as I have accepted the 180 ministry leader position. We love middle school students and know that this is exactly where God wants us right now.

CST has been such a great experience for me. It has really stretched my thinking and faith in incredible ways. My love and appreciation for the Bible has really grown since I first started CST. What I will take away from CST most is how to dig into the Bible with groups of people. Theology is meant to be learned in the community of believers and CST taught me how to do that.

Austin Ward

My wife, Lauren, and I recently moved from Cedar Falls to help start Anthem Church in Columbia, Missouri. We love inviting college students and young couples into our home, playing games, and learning together in our walks with the Lord. As a ministry leader with Salt Company, I equip student leaders and love discipling individual students.

CST was a great way for me to develop in character, time management, and theology. The direct and indirect lessons that I learned during this season of life are ones that I continue to pass on to those that I am discipling. My biggest takeaway was that I should continue to bring others into what I’m learning and walking through because our current walk with the Lord is often the best thing we can share.

It’s hard to pick just one favorite memory but I enjoyed the opportunity to engage in cohort discussions, build relationships with others in the network, and learn from strong biblical teachers. With those noted, it’s hard to top the number of gyros eaten, laughs shared, and the experience of walking through the missionary journey of Paul in Turkey and Greece.

Brett Wiuff

I am married with four kids and a fifth on the way. We are currently in the process of moving and starting a new ministry opportunity at Twin Lakes Bible Camp. We have lived on both coasts and now in Iowa for the last six years. We enjoy traveling and making memories with our kids, particularly in the beauty of the outdoors. My family was very patient and accommodating as I pursued CST for the last two years.

I definitely have a deeper understanding of the scripture and how to apply it to everyday life, however, I’m humbled by how much I still have to learn. Through this ministry and education experience I’ve discovered: 1) you make time and money available for what is important to you, 2) with a little discipline and intention you can accomplish much more than you think you can, and 3) you learn way more about God and yourself then you’d ever imagine.

One of the most valuable parts of CST was the unexpected deep relationships that formed with like-minded people. Carpooling to and from class and meeting as a cohort provided for deep conversations about personal life and ministry. Those opportunities provided a much needed community of brothers that I didn’t even know I needed. They were truly times of “iron sharpening iron” (Prov. 27:17).

Matt Yoder

I am married to my beautiful wife, Heather, and have two kids, Joy and Brandon. We live in Boone, Iowa and I have served as the lead pastor of Stonebridge Church, a plant of Cornerstone, for the last two years. I enjoy tennis and disc golf and just generally being outside.  

CST helped me grow in my knowledge and love for God and His church as I simultaneously led a church. I couldn’t imagine a better setting than Cornerstone with pastors and elders as my professors helping me grow in my ability to lead a local church while I was living it. My ministry and the life of our church will continue to be shaped by what I learned in CST for years to come!

By far my favorite part of CST was the relationships formed with my classmates and teachers through open dialogue in and out of class. Learning always happens better in community. I also really enjoyed the class when Jeff Dodge was compared to Ezra, Troy Nesbitt to Nehemiah, and then Mark Vance to Ruth! That really made those books come to life to me, especially Ruth. 😉