How Three Regent Alumni Overcame Their Biggest
Battles To Achieve Their Greatest Successes
Cancer. Domestic abuse. An eating disorder.
These were the enemies that nearly took the lives of Edward Logan (RSG ’02), Rae Pearson Benn (SBL ’16), and Juliana Lesher (SBL ’16). In some ways, they were a modern-day Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: the prognosis for their survival was not good as they faced seemingly insurmountable odds.
But then God showed up, miraculously rescuing them from their fiery circumstances and helping each one find redemption and purpose through the pain.
Paving the Way for Filipino-Americans
Edward Logan and fellow Regent alum Sue Yoon-Logan (LAW ’00) met as students at Regent while Edward was completing his Master of Public Administration degree. After his graduation, they married, and Sue became an immigration attorney. At the same time, Edward went on to work as an executive director for an investigation and litigation services group. He helped procure more than $1 billion in federal contracts, winning multimillion-dollar litigation support services for government clients.
“My Regent experience strengthened the skill set that I needed to navigate the complex process of federal policymaking,” says Edward. “It also allowed me to be mentored by strong Christian professors who encouraged me to use my God-given talents to help affect changes around the globe.”
But a crisis was about to hit home for Edward.
In October of 2015, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer—acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Over the next year, he fought for his life, miraculously surviving sepsis, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, pneumonia, and a blood clot in the brain.
With each victory, Edward clung deeply to his faith.
“I felt God’s love and grace through all the firsthand miracles I experienced,” he shares. One of those miracles: a successful stem cell transplant from his brother in the Philippines, whom he had not seen in 25 years.
Today, Edward is five years cancer-free, but his fight continues. He’s battling graft vs. host disease (GVHD), a transplant
side effect caused by his brother’s cells attacking his immune system, as well as side effects from ongoing chemo maintenance. Yet through it all, he’s never questioned the difficult journey.
“My pain has a purpose,” he says. In part, it led him to co-found Filipino American Cancer Care (FACC), a nonprofit serving Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia area who are impacted by cancer.
Edward felt there was a gap that needed filling when addressing the growing cancer challenges unique to the Filipino-American community.
FACC’s vision is to provide collective outreach programs for the community, advocate for more comprehensive cancer care, be a research tool for those in need of financial assistance, and educate on cancer prevention, early detection, screening, and treatment options.
Additionally, they’re working to raise awareness on the need for stem cell donors within the Filipino and Filipino-American community through the Be the Match campaign. The chances of finding a
donor match in the U.S. are less than 50% for someone of Asian descent compared to other ethnicities—something Edward experienced personally as his brother in the Philippines was only a half-match.
Most recently, Edward and his team at FACC have been recognized by the Office of the President in the Philippines for community outreach programs in rural cities that provide meals to underprivileged children with cancer. Stateside, they’ve taken on COVID-19 by making masks for cancer patients and healthcare workers serving on the frontlines. They’ve sewn and donated more than 500 masks, along with 1,000 earpiece extenders, to oncology departments and cancer centers in six major hospitals.
“Cancer does not stop due to COVID,” shares Edward. “I know firsthand as a cancer patient how critical this moment is for survival. God laid it on our hearts that even amid difficult circumstances, we can still do something.”
From Victim to Overcomer
Two decades ago, Rae Pearson Benn dragged herself to her friend’s house, following a domestic dispute with a boyfriend. As she examined her assault injuries that resulted in a displaced hip and crushed pharynx, she never imagined she would one day add an Emmy Award nominee to her list of accomplishments.
The city of Virginia Beach media and communications coordinator, author, speaker, and host of Our Issues Hampton Roads regularly calls on her faith and personal journey to share with others that they, too, can move from victim to survivor to overcomer. On this platform, she wrote and produced a 30-second empowerment public service announcement (PSA) on domestic violence for the commonwealth attorney’s office in early 2019.
“I want people to know what I didn’t,” Rae says, “You are not alone.”
Rae describes the subtle shift in her boyfriend’s abuse from critiquing how
she “governed herself,” to policing her right to speak her opinion. As her confidence diminished, his threats escalated to physical attacks.
“Anything could trigger an outburst, and I felt weak, powerless,” she explains.
In a fateful altercation one evening, Rae’s boyfriend began verbally attacking her for a past break-up attempt. He then flung her onto the couch and placed his knee into her chest using his full body weight. Eventually, he dragged her to the front door and slammed her into the cement.
Mustering the strength to escape, Rae made a three-block drive to her girlfriend’s house—a moment she calls “miraculous and providential.” This experience and interaction with the police, close friends, and mother convinced her to press charges.
Afterward, Rae began the hard work of rebuilding her life: taking a self-defense class, immersing herself in her career, and renewing her relationship with her family and with God. Years later, at a friend’s wedding, she was introduced to her now-husband, Terence. Together, they have two children.
“I like to share that part of my story, so others know there is life after abuse,” Rae explains. “If I can stand toe to toe with a man more than 100 pounds heavier than me, be slammed to the ground and left broken inside and out, and then walk through a very real journey of redemption and healing, I know others can find that inner strength too,” she says.
Another piece of Rae’s redemptive story was graduating from Regent’s School of Business & Leadership in 2016 with an M.A. in Organizational Leadership. As a working professional over 40 with a toddler and a baby, she said she wanted to give up more than once.
“Was it hard? Yes. Did I question if I had what it took? Yes. But I found that I just needed someone to tell me who I was and whose I was. Regent did that.”
All that hard work led Rae to where she is today and the tremendous impact her advocacy efforts are making.
Her domestic violence PSA played on local news channels and in local theaters during a 10-week spring and summer 2019 campaign. It was seen by 264,000 moviegoers and inspired open conversations surrounding public perceptions linked to intimate partner violence, earning powerful feedback from community advocates/survivors, and increasing the number of complaints and cases.
In Spring 2020, the PSA was nominated for an Emmy, but Rae’s real win had already happened.
“Years ago, I was drowning, and God rescued me. I don’t need a statue to remind me of the goodness that I am living in. Salvation and grace—that’s what I want others to experience.”
Called to Minister
From the age of four, Juliana Lesher knew what she wanted to do with her life: share the love of Jesus with hurting people. What she didn’t realize was how hard she would have to fight to do it.
Currently, Chaplain Lesher leads our Nation’s Veterans and more than 800 chaplains as the National Director of Chaplain Service for the Department of Veterans Affairs—a promotion she earned three years after completing her Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership at Regent University.
But the journey to get there was anything but easy.
“As a female, I was told that I could not minister in the church. With a steel rod from my neck to my tailbone and a complete spinal fusion, I was told that I could not serve as an active-duty military chaplain. When I wanted to enroll in pre-seminary studies for my undergraduate degree, I was told to major in something more practical,” shares Juliana.
She pursued the ministry again to serve as a missionary but was denied because she was a single woman. That was the final blow.
“When the doors closed for a foreign mission assignment, I believed there was no reason for me to live because my purpose in life to be in ministry was denied with every attempt.”
Having battled with anorexia since she was a child, Juliana sought to end her life through starvation. She was in her early 20s and weighed a staggering 49 pounds when she collapsed.
Others began to fight for her, including the paramedic’s team who saved her life and the prayers of friends, family, and even strangers.
“I would not be here today if it were not for God’s incredible grace, the prayers of countless people, and the medical teams,” says Juliana.
With a second chance and a renewed sense of purpose, Juliana earned a Master of Divinity degree and began her pastoral career, starting as a Pennsylvania prison chaplain.
Over the last 20 years, she has fulfilled her childhood dream by working as a chaplain in prisons, healthcare facilities and veteran affairs medical centers. But things took an interesting turn about halfway through
“I began to pray about pursuing Ph.D. studies,” explains Juliana. “In the course of my exploration and soul-searching, I was captivated by leadership principles that called for self-emptying and Divine empowerment as the basis of being a leader. I then looked into Regent’s School of Business & Leadership and knew that God was calling me to complete a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership.”
That degree helped pave the way for her current role serving our nation’s veterans.
“Regent provided me with a greater understanding of true leadership and seeking to serve as Christ did. It is my sacred honor to serve our veterans,” adds Juliana.
It’s an honor that might never have happened had her own life been cut short. Juliana went from a life of possibly ministering to no one, to today providing spiritual leadership and impact to a network of more than 9 million veterans.
“Not a day goes by when I do not thank God for life,” she says. “I find that as I continually acknowledge how my life is not my own, God faithfully reveals His purposeful plans.”