Everything was in slow motion. No one was screaming, but the car was tumbling in the highway median.
As a 15-year-old, newly registered Erica sat behind the wheel, with her mom beside her and her younger sister in the back seat. The Kinjos were cruising along on their trip from Washington state to a homeschool camp in California. Directly in front of them, however, was an old 15-seater van bumping down the highway.
Suddenly, one of the van’s back tires broke free and flew back towards the Kinjos. Erica immediately jerked the steering wheel, and the car went out of control across the passing lane and into the grassy median where it then rolled. After a complete flip, the car lost momentum and landed upright. Erica looked around. All the airbags were deployed, but no one was injured. Outside on the median where they had rolled was a little lump of the family’s belongings that had dropped out through the sunroof during the roll. When an officer finally arrived on the scene, he was shocked to find that none of them were harmed. He remarked that an accident of this severity normally yields at least one casualty. He recalled that he had never seen such a bad accident with no fatalities and reiterated that this was truly a miracle.
For Erica, this accident was a wake-up call. She remembers reflecting on the accident and realizing how easily she, her mom, sister, or all of them could have died. She could have killed someone else, but even when she had lost control, she didn’t hit another car. Although raised in an Adventist home, Erica now began thinking about heavenly things a little more seriously; she decided to live for God.
That summer, a couple of months after the accident, Erica decided to join the Central California Conference’s Youth Rush, a “summer student literature evangelism program.”1 While in Youth Rush, she met some other young literature evangelists (canvassers) who attended Weimar Academy. And they were different. It was obvious that they loved God and had a genuine passion for witnessing.
“Come visit Weimar after this!” they coaxed her. So she thought about it. Also, Erica’s older sister Michelle had friends there. The plan had been to attend another homeschool camp right after Youth Rush, and then drive back up to Washington. So, they decided to visit Weimar Institute on the way back up to Washington. Michelle could visit her friends there, and Erica could visit her Youth Rush friends.
When the Kinjos finally got to Weimar Institute at the end of the summer, classes had been in session for two weeks already. Both Erica and Michelle visited their friends and discovered they both loved the campus environment so much that they wanted to attend school there. Michelle applied to the college while Erica applied as a junior to the academy; both sisters were accepted.
At the end of the school year, Michelle decided to continue at the college, but Erica chose to go home and attend a community college for her senior year of high school. After a year at the community college, Erica went on to attend SOULS Northwest. However, after her first year, SOULS Northwest shut down. The students were given the opportunity to switch to SOULS West or to find another college. Now Erica had a decision to make.
Meanwhile, the family made the trip down to Weimar Institute for Michelle’s graduation weekend. On graduation day, Mrs. Kinjo (Erica’s mom) played the organ, and throughout the day, staff members and faculty individually approached Mrs. Kinjo and her family and asked them if they were coming to work at the college. “I heard you’re coming to Weimar!” they would exclaim. “No, no” the Kinjos would reply with a polite smile.
However, after thinking about the job offer later, Mr. and Mrs. Kinjo decided that if Erica wanted to go to Weimar College, they would accept the job offer and move with her and their youngest daughter there. For the whole summer, with the future of the family dependent on her decision, Erica sought to find out where the Lord wanted her to be. After weighing all the options, she decided that Weimar College was the place the Lord wanted her and the family moved there trusting in God’s plan.
After attending Weimar College for three years in the business program, Erica graduated this year, May 2020, and was offered a job as the college registrar. Even though she hadn’t planned to work at Weimar Institute after her graduation, Erica accepted the position so she could give back to the school and help out when there was no one to hold the position.
She says, “It’s the people, it’s the focus, and the mission of this school that I really support…I like putting my best into things, and just knowing that all this work is going to help students and is going to help the students be able to go out and spread the gospel, that’s really cool for me.”
When asked where she sees God in this school, Erica said that she sees God working through the people she works with. She says that the staff and faculty sacrifice for and invest in their students. She believes that many of the staff and faculty could be working in other places making way more money, but they value their students more than riches or fame. “There are problems that you run into,” Erica says, but “if anything comes up, the first thing they do is pray.”
In the fleeting moments of free time she has, Erica likes to play the violin and read. She also likes to go hiking and backpacking.
Although the twists and turns that brought her to where she is now were as unexpected as that pivotal car accident when she was 15, Erica Kinjo’s journey to Weimar Institute is one for which she is and those who know her are grateful.
Perhaps your journey is leading to Weimar Institute. We’d love to explore that with you. Contact us at:
- “What is Youth Rush?” CCC Youth Rush, 2020, https://youthrushcentral.com/.