Published on June 17, 2024 by Neal Embry  

After graduating from Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in April 2023, Jason Rice found he had a lot of energy, time and some extra money.

It didn’t take long to find something to do with it.

“I had a camera for maybe a year before,” Rice said. “I took one Milky Way picture, sort of by happenstance, and it really intrigued me.”

A few months later, Rice bought more equipment specifically designed for wide-field landscape astrophotography, which involves landscapes and scenery in wide shots of the stars and sky.

“It’s been a really healthy hobby for me,” Rice said.

Rice said while most people are asleep when he’s taking his pictures, he’s been able to have Gospel-centered conversations with those he runs into.

“It easily comes up when you’re already in awe of what’s in front of you, when you’re in awe of creation. Conversations about creation and about the Creator naturally come up,” Rice said.

One of the photos Jason Rice has taken during his time under the stars.

Rice, who serves as worship leader at Bellview Baptist Church in McCalla, Alabama, has a testimony of the Creator’s faithfulness and grace when he talks to people gathered under the stars.

While he began his undergraduate studies at Samford, Rice failed out his last year due to a growing addiction to drugs and alcohol. For 10 years, he battled addiction, was in and out of jail and rehabs and was unable to hold down a job.

In 2013, he went to Bethel Colony, a Christian transformation ministry based in New Orleans, Louisiana, for those struggling with addiction. After completing the rehabilitation program, nearby professors at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) encouraged him to finish his collegiate studies and get back on a path to ministry, one he first felt called to in high school before falling into addiction.

“People around me reaffirmed the call. God’s call is still active in your life. Just because you got away from the path doesn’t mean you can’t come right back to Him,” Rice said. “He rescued me out of that terrible pit of addiction. I didn’t want to do anything else except devote my life and ministry to God.”

In his ministry now, Rice said he finds himself helping church members who have loved ones struggling with addiction, using what was a painful past to help others come to know the Lord and overcome their own addictions.

“God never wastes a hurt,” Rice said. “Any kind of pain, any kind of suffering you go through, He can transform it and use it for His glory to help someone else. Only He can do that.”

One of the photos Jason Rice has taken during his time under the stars.

Rice graduated from Leavell College, the undergraduate school at NOBTS, before coming to Beeson in fall 2020. While at Leavell, he met his wife, Dakota, who just completed her first year as a Beeson student and serves Samford as university communication manager.

Beeson prepared Rice to sharpen his God-given gifts of leading worship, as well as preparing him to preach and teach the Bible.

“Beeson gave me the language of faith,” Rice said. “It gave me the ability to articulate the faith that I never had before.”

Seeing her husband enjoy and benefit from his Beeson education inspired Dakota to begin her studies, she said. Serving as a Bible teacher and with an active writing ministry, Rice said she’s already benefited from Beeson.

“I’ve written my own Bible curriculum for a while and I’ve seen it get better and better,” she said. “It’s been very encouraging that I’m using what I’m learning.”

One of the photos Jason Rice has taken during his time under the stars.

Being able to travel for his astrophotography has allowed Rice to see some “amazingly beautiful” places, he said, and has deepened his walk with the Lord.

“It’s definitely an incredible experience,” Rice said. “I’ve thought about, ‘What is beauty?’ I’m always thinking about the Gospel as it relates to night-sky photography. There are so many parallels: light and darkness, the beauty of the night sky, beauty that is inherent in the Gospel. The love of God is such a beautiful, mysterious thing. The vastness of space, the universe, reminds me of the vastness of God’s love.”

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.