Kendra’s Story

Our God, The Rescuer

Kendra Smith


In April of 2015, God showed up for the first time in my awareness. What I mean by this is I did not actively know and seek God, growing up in a home with Christian morals, but not attending church as a child. When I came to GVSU as a freshman, I had no intention of joining a Christian group, because that was out of my comfort zone to discuss religion and challenge the way I went about my life. I started attending an investigative bible study I was introduced to by friends my second semester. After making a crazy out-of-my-comfort-zone decision to go on a week-long retreat with the group, I asked for forgiveness for my life of sin and accepted Christ as my Savior.

Fast forward to 2016: joining Campus Ministry, getting baptized, going on my first two mission trips, all of which were great experiences that challenged my comfort zone. But God still wanted to push me further. I ran a 5k shortly after I became a Christian in 2015. I do not identify myself as a runner, but God had other plans. I was introduced to Team World Vision in March by running a 6k for Water. When the half marathon and marathon were announced at the Well, I knew I had to do it. I repeatedly thought of how crazy that was and how much I really don’t enjoy running. I tried to deny the call (even four weeks into my “trial period” of training) but once again, God had this plan for me and I knew I couldn’t keep denying it. So I signed up for the half marathon. Finding the motivation to run was hard, especially in the summer heat and when the school year started settling in, but I had a great support team. I got through the 5 months of training, the race quickly approaching and I got really excited (and nervous of course).

Then, one of the roughest weeks of my life hit. 20 minutes after taking a really bad midterm exam a week and a half before race day, I found out my healthy grandma had an asthma attack and unexpectedly passed away. It came out of nowhere and I was not prepared for the loss. In the days leading up to the funeral, I tried to distract myself and keep my normal routine, so I wouldn’t fall behind in school and work. Two days after I received the news, I was on my way home from work (actually waiting to turn onto GV’s campus off of Fillmore) when I was rear-ended by a Jeep Cherokee driver, distracted by her cellphone, going approximately 55 mph. I was driving my 1998 Volkswagen Beetle, which was totaled after taking such a hard impact from a standstill. My back window blew out and my seat broke from the impact of my body hitting it. Bystanders thought I flew out the back window of my car, because I ended up in a laying down position. My seatbelt saved me from that, but most importantly, God had a protecting hand over me. There is so much evidence why I should not have walked away from the accident, but I did, which I see as evidence of God’s power. After an evening spent in the ER with x-rays, testing, and baffling the doctors, all they could diagnose was whiplash in my neck and some bruising and swelling of my leg. By grace of God, they cleared me to run the half marathon, one week after the accident, if I rested my body leading up to the race.

With the stress and pain of losing my grandma, being without a car, and trying to heal my body, I found myself in a hard place. Throughout the training process, I prayed for the kiddos my fundraising would reach, and for the exact amount to reach my goal of $1310. After a tough week, I had grown discouraged with fundraising (only having about $400). I just wanted to break $500 and get the race over with. But our God, who had already performed a miracle by rescuing me (both from my life of sin and from the accident), had more up His sleeve.  Thursday before the race, I was sitting at work when a $300 donation came in. Then an anonymous $500. Soon after $50 came in…in just 3 hours $850 was raised!! By the end of the day, I went from wanting to give up to meeting my goal (and surpassing it during race weekend)! God had answered my prayers, when I had been impatient and questioning His power.

On the same day, my mom called about my totaled car. Dealing with the insurance company in the aftermath of the accident added more stress to the situation. We assumed the insurance company would lowball us on the value of my car, because of its age. Instead, the insurance company ended up giving us $850 more than what we wanted to get out of my car if we had sold it intact! I’m not sure of the significance receiving two $850 amounts in the same day was, but I know I was blown away by God’s power and control of the situation. God showed up in big ways when all I wanted to do was worry.


Running the race marked out for me despite the adversities I had faced was empowering. Running the half, knowing 30 kiddos will receive clean water for life because of my fundraising was a major victory. Being physically to run the race after the accident at a faster pace than anticipated was also a major victory. But these victories are not mine. God’s hand was over it all and it was a victory for the Kingdom!


Nick’s Story

Nick VanderPloeg


I have been a part of Campus Ministry for ALL 5 years of my time at Grand Valley. In this time I have loved every second I have been able to be a part of what God is doing on Campus, but I never truly understood what this community meant to me until these past two weeks.

Over the past year my family walked through the very difficult journey of watching a loved one get diagnosed and eventually have their life taken by cancer. Two weeks ago I was informed that my aunt had been admitted to the hospital and would need to receive surgery to drain her lung that had been filled with fluid as result of the chemo she had been receiving. While they were performing the surgery they found a large mass in her lung. While they did remove it they said that the mass would eventually grow back, leaving my aunt with, what we thought, was going to be a few good months of life. Over the course of the next week her lungs re-filled with fluid and surgery once again, became necessary. When the doctors went to perform the surgery they found that not only did the mass grow back, but the cancer had spread so much that it had ate a whole in her esophagus. Well my aunt survived the surgery she passed away two days later on September 16 at 4AM. Needless to say this news was shocking and devastating. Eventually word got around about the loss my family had experienced.

During this time I don’t think that I ever felt more love then I did from those around me in the Campus Ministry community. Over the next few days I would be flooded with texts, emails, etc. containing prayers, condolences, and other well wishes from forming life group friends, spring break, friends, as well as other people I have made friends with through Campus Ministry. It was at this point that I truly realized how influential the Campus Ministry community that God has placed in my life, has been to me.

I don’t know how I would have made it through this period of time without my CM family. Thanks be to God for this blessing on my life!!!!!