From PUC Treasure Hunt to the Mission Field: Sean Brizendine’s Journey to Ministry and Service

By Laura Gang on February 16, 2024

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Photo furnished by Adventist Frontier Missions

Sean Brizendine’s path toward the ministry had an unexpected beginning—a treasure hunt at Pacific Union College.

In 2007, a campus-wide email presented Sean with an intriguing challenge: "Find the Top 20 Reasons To Be a Student Missionary and Receive $20." The task was straightforward—locate all the reasons scattered around PUC's campus, then present them at the chaplain's office.

Sean wasted no time. He dashed from building to building, meticulously searching until he found all the reasons and wrote them down—ultimately clinching the prize as the first to complete the mission.

As he claimed his reward from then-PUC Chaplain Anita Davies, a question lingered in Sean’s mind. “‘You’ve kind of piqued my curiosity,’” Sean recalled saying, “What do I need to do to become a student missionary?”

Davies explained that he would need to complete a required form and be a Seventh-day Adventist.

Sean was captivated by the proposition. He was a devout Christian who believed in the seventh-day Sabbath and attended PUC, but he was not a Seventh-day Adventist.

Sean grew up in Modesto, California. His parents had Adventist backgrounds, met at Andrews University, and married in the Alpena Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, they later left the church after enduring several trials, including the loss of their first child, Julie, at a young age. Before Sean was born, they joined a non-denominational Christian church, Big Valley Grace Community Church.

Sean’s education was overseen by his mother, Elaine, who dedicated herself to homeschooling him and his sister, Kristen. He fondly remembers first accepting Christ in prayer with his mom at the age of five. His mom’s loving, immersive approach to learning brought their studies to life.

Tragically, Sean’s father, John, succumbed to a rare brain disease when he was just 12. Not long after, his beloved mother received a devastating diagnosis— bone cancer. Despite her health battle, her unwavering focus was on her children’s future. She wisely established a living trust for their education and beyond. She also arranged for a trusted couple from their church, Bruce and Cathi, who were empty nesters, to serve as guardians for Sean and his sister upon her passing.

Sean said his mother chose to anchor his faith, even as the situation seemed dire. “Sean, when or if I die. I know you’re going to be sad,” she said. “But don't sorrow like those who have no hope because we’ll see each other again when Jesus comes.”

Just a few weeks later, Sean’s mother died. At 15, he found himself grappling with profound loss, having lost both parents within a short span of just over two years.

Sean and his sister moved in with their loving guardians, Bruce and Cathi. He continued to struggle emotionally, but he kept his faith and spent time reading his father’s small, worn Bible. He completed his high school education at an academy in Utah and even took a few college courses. Sean’s extended family and friends continued to pray for him throughout this time.

Among those supportive figures was his late father’s older brother, Farrel Brizendine, who had retired with his wife Bobbi in Calistoga, California. Recognizing Sean’s need for family and support, Farrel urged him to consider attending PUC, which is just 20 minutes away. Though initially unsure, Sean applied, was accepted, and began his freshman year in 2005.

There was one caveat. Sean declared to his uncle then, “I’m not going to become a Seventh-day Adventist.”

But two years later, standing before Chaplain Davies, Sean said he could feel the Holy Spirit working steadily on his heart to reach this pivotal moment.

Seeking direction, Sean met with Tim Mitchell, his Life and Teachings professor and then-pastor of the PUC Church. He shared his story—his longstanding devotion to Jesus and faith’s central role in his life. He told Pastor Mitchell he felt a deep conviction to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Because Sean had already been baptized at age 10 in a river, Pastor Mitchell suggested formalizing his commitment through an official Profession of Faith ceremony.

Sean immediately called his uncle and aunt. “Uncle Farrel,” he exclaimed, “I’m becoming a Seventh-day Adventist tomorrow. I want you and Aunt Bobbi to be there.”

His uncle burst into tears of joy.

On March 3, 2007, Farrel and Bobbi witnessed Sean’s Profession of Faith ceremony at the PUC Church, marking his official induction into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

But this milestone merely marked the beginning of Sean’s journey.

Fueled by his commitment, Sean began fervently studying scripture. His first mission field wasn’t overseas. It was Grainger Hall.

Sean started small, posting typed-up Bible verses in visible places around the men’s dormitory. The positive reception encouraged him, and soon, he started posting the verses in other buildings as well.

Later that same year, he had a life-changing conversation. Diana Bauer, an Adventist friend of the Brizendine family, asked Sean if he’d ever considered going into ministry. Sean said he started thinking about it more and more, especially as he rollerbladed around Angwin, which he was known for at PUC.

Little did he know, the answer would come in a very unusual place: the Grainger Hall shower. Sean said he heard an unmistakable call from the Holy Spirit to become a pastor.

Sean recalled that during his Profession of Faith ceremony, Pastor Mitchell had unconventionally asked everyone to remove their shoes to symbolize being on holy ground. As he heard the question, Sean removed his shower shoes to respond to God. On Oct. 25, 2007, he accepted God’s call to become a pastor.

The very next day, Sean changed his major to theology, fully committing himself to the path of ministry.

In the following months, Sean says God was working on his character development. He helped with Hurricane Katrina disaster relief; he also did canvassing work in the summer. During that time, he was also rebaptized. Later, in 2008, while listening to a powerful sermon about the love of God, Sean said he remembered God putting Papua New Guinea on his heart. Though the significance of this experience wasn't immediately apparent, its meaning would be revealed years later.

After some experience with non-profit ministry, Sean transferred in 2011 to Andrews University, completing his undergraduate studies in 2013 and earning his Master of Divinity degree in 2015.

His first pastoral appointment came precisely seven years, seven months, and seven days after he initially felt called to be a minister. Sean served as the associate pastor at both the Greenland Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Bessemer Christ Community Church of Seventh-day Adventists in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Shortly afterward, on Nov. 19, 2016, Sean became the senior pastor of the Houghton Seventh-day Adventist Church while continuing to serve in the other two churches.

Upon the passing of Pastor C. Raymond Holmes in 2022, Sean became the head pastor of the Greenland and Bessemer congregations along with Houghton.

In 2023, during a Michigan camp meeting, Sean shared his email address with the Adventist Frontier Missions (AFM) booth representatives. It was a decision that would change the course of his life. A recruiting email he received later moved him, prompting him to apply to be a career missionary.

Given the choice between serving in the country of Georgia or Papua New Guinea, Sean recalled the stirring moment at PUC when he first felt Papua New Guinea in his heart. After meeting with AFM for orientation, he accepted the call to become a career missionary to the Ama tribe there.

The AFM website describes the small community of the Ama people. They live along a small tributary of the Upper Sepik River in a remote area accessible only by plane or days of river travel in a dugout canoe.

Sean is excited as he prepares to embark on this new chapter as a missionary. Reflecting upon his life’s journey, he sees the unmistakable hand of God. Even through the pain of loss at such a young age, he recognizes the blessings woven throughout his story. Sean is particularly grateful for those who’ve supported and prayed for him—including pastors, professors, friends, and family. He looks ahead with confidence in God, knowing that the support will continue as he answers the call to live among and minister to the Ama people.

What began with a simple treasure hunt at PUC will culminate in a heavenly treasure—a life dedicated to serving others and spreading the good news of God’s love throughout the world in the glad hope of Christ’s soon return.

To learn more about the Adventist Frontier Missions Project and the Ama people in Papua New Guinea, visit

To support Sean Brizendine’s ministry as a career missionary, visit