Published on April 30, 2024 by Neal Embry  

As he walked around the Samford University quad a few days before graduating from Beeson Divinity School on April 26, memories flooded Josh Hedrick’s mind.

He remembered his wife, Effie, bringing him dinner during a late-night study session. There were precious moments of seeing their daughter, Eliyanah, run up to give daddy a hug, or memories of having picnics on the quad.

Beeson has been a place of flourishing, not just for him, but for the entire Hedrick family.

“I think part of what made me doing seminary as a married man and as a father so rich and so full and so rewarding was how deeply Effie invested in the community at Beeson,” Hedrick said.

In addition to playing violin during chapel services, Effie spent time with the Beeson Wives Fellowship and built relationships with other students. She also took time to make flash cards and study guides for her husband as he pursued his degree.

“There’s really no way in which I would have made it through Beeson the way that I have without her,” Hedrick said.

And six-year-old Eliyanah has played her part too, he said.

“The degree to which the Lord has shown me His love through Eliyanah in these seminary years…there have been so many times where I have been tired and not sure how I was going to do the next assignment,” Hedrick said. “And the Lord would put it on Eliyanah’s heart to speak some word of encouragement to me or pray for me. It’s the Holy Spirit’s work in her life.”

Josh Hedrick and his wife, Effie, and daughter, Eliyanah.

Hedrick grew up in a Christian home in Virginia and knew from an early age he was called to be a pastor, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who he said played a “huge” role in his preparation for ministry. In 1998, he met Effie when he was six years old at a campground when their families happened to camp beside one another. Years later, the Lord in His providence brought them together.

“Effie’s role, both in my growth in the Lord and … in sensing that draw to Beeson was tremendous,” Hedrick said.

After getting married in 2016, Hedrick learned about Beeson through a church connection in Virginia and began searching for more information online. While he loved everything he saw about the school, the thought of uprooting his family from their home in Virginia was overwhelming, Hedrick said.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to move online, the family visited for a preview day, and was instantly struck by the way in which they were welcomed.

“(We) felt pretty much immediately that we weren’t just numbers, not just an applicant on a page, but that we were people that these folks were really interested in knowing and getting to know,” Hedrick said.

Encouraged by the chapel message on that day, delivered by Charlie Dates and titled, “The Enduring Word in a Fading World,” Hedrick realized how much Beeson treasured and prioritized God’s Word. As the day went on, it became obvious what the next step was for the Hedricks.

“We’re walking down the stairs outside of Beeson’s chapel and were looking at each other. Effie said, ‘Josh, if you go anywhere for seminary, this is where you’ve got to go,’” Hedrick said.

Hedrick went back home to Virginia and spent the next few months wrapping things up with his job at a church near his home and applied to Beeson in November. By fall 2021, the family had relocated so he could pursue his Master of Divinity, and while they knew it was God’s will, the move was a challenge.

“We knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that Beeson was where God wanted us to be,” Hedrick said. “But we had a wonderful little house in Salem with a beautiful vegetable garden that we all loved caring for as a family. Our family on both sides all lived close by. We had put down pretty hard roots. So, the feeling of being uprooted and transplanted just hurt.”

While leaving home stung, the family followed the Lord and found at Beeson a community that embraced and helped them during their time here.

After Hedrick’s first year at Beeson, Effie planned a surprise birthday party for him over the summer. The family went to a park in Homewood where Hedrick thought he was just spending time with his girls. As he played with Eliyanah, all of a sudden, he heard a loud noise as people ran across the lawn behind him and started shouting, “Happy Birthday, Josh!”

“I had never experienced anything quite like that, and it was telling of the kinds of relationships we were starting to form in this place,” Hedrick said.

In his second year, as Effie went through some health struggles, the Beeson community wrapped its arms around Hedrick and his family.

“We learned at that time what it is to suffer in community with other people,” Hedrick said. “I also experienced the gift of a few key friends who knew me well enough to be able to tell me during that season, ‘Josh, it’s okay for you to prioritize your wife right now instead of your school.’ It took people knowing me to tell me that.”

Hedrick said his time at Beeson allowed him to gain a “real language for communicating the Gospel to others” and to go deeper into the truth that Jesus has been given for him and for others.

“It’s been more than I thought it would be,” Hedrick said. “It’s been better. I’ve been pursued by the Lord in this place in so many specific ways. Through professors who have not only taught me but loved me, prayed for me and shepherded me. Through brothers and sisters who have walked alongside me on good and hard days and have showed me what walking in the way of the cross looks like. All have manifested the love of the Father and the outworking of the gospel in everyday life.”

In his last year, Hedrick was named Beeson’s Most Distinguished Student, and also served as SGA president at the school.

“It’s incredibly humbling. I just really sensed the Lord pursuing me in His love through His people with that award because of the ways it directly spoke to my own life and my own story,” Hedrick said. “I have received so much at Beeson. As SGA president, it’s been a real joy to minister to others out of the abundance of what I have received. It’s given even greater joy to co-labor alongside a team of really gifted and talented people who truly value the care of souls. It enriched my own time at Beeson and helped nurture the pastoral calling the Lord has been cultivating here.”

Hedrick is pursuing ordination in the North American Lutheran Church and hoping to secure a denominational internship in Birmingham for the next year. During that year, he hopes to meet the requirements for ordination as his family prays about where the Lord might take them next.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.