If he had had it his way, Marques Rodriguez would have spent this past winter playing power forward for William Jessup University’s men’s basketball team.

Rodriguez played sparingly for the varsity squad as a junior, and was hoping to play himself into a bigger role as a senior.

But Rodriguez suffered a serious back injury just months before the season began and was forced to live without basketball for the first time since his childhood.

As some would say, God works in mysterious ways.

Had Rodriguez not sat out his senior year, the 21-year-old likely never would have found himself in Hermiston this past week, accepting the position of ministry director at Campus Life.

Roriguez’s injury led to free time, and free time led to an internship at Campus Life in Sacramento. It was through the internship that he found out about the opening Hermiston.

“It was definitely because of the injury that I got involved with Campus Life,” Rodriguez said. “I’m definitely blessed that situation did happen, and I thank God it happened for a reason.”

Rodriguez, who grew up in Brawley, Calif., will begin his tenure with Campus Life when he moves from California on July 7.

Campus Life, which is part of the national organization “Youth For Christ,” is a non-denominational Christian organization for middle- and high-schoolers. Rodriguez’s responsibilities will include running middle and high school club meetings, leading small groups and finding and training student and adult leaders, among other things.

Rod Bragato, who founded Campus Life in Hermiston in 1980, said the board that hired Rodriguez was sold by his accolades and his “bubbly personality.”

“He’s outgoing, he’s joyful, he gave short, deep answers,” Bragato said. “And his work with Campus Life in Sacramento was impressive, because Sacramento has one of the strongest Campus Life programs in the country.”

Rodriguez became a believer when he was 16 — “God was of no value to me before that,” he said — and graduated from William Jessup in May with a degree in youth ministry. He credited his youth pastor for leading him in this particular direction.

“My youth pastor had a huge impact on my life, and the way he impacted me I wanted to do to other people,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez knew he wanted to go into ministry after graduating from Brawley Union High School in 2008, so he sent basketball game film to several small Christian schools in California.

William Jessup, a Division II NAIA school in Rocklin, Calif., pursued him the hardest.

After redshirting as a freshman and playing primarily for the JV squad as a sophomore and junior, he chose to leave the program entirely after suffering the back injury.

“I had a lot of free time, and I found out about Campus Life so I contacted (youth ministry director) Rob Maxey and he kind of took a chance on me,” Rodriguez said. “It kind of blossomed from there.”

Rodriguez adds that he would like to play college basketball again some day — he still has two years of eligibility remaining — but that doesn’t necessarily mean his stay in Hermiston will be a short one.

“I’ll go wherever God leads me,” Rodriguez said. “If that’s to stay here for 30 years, then that’s great.”

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