Hear from Tanner, Payton and Liza – three of our newest CM alumni
I don’t know how I ended up here. That’s a good thing though because it means it was God’s plan and not mine. Five years ago, I received a pamphlet in the mail for a place called Grand Valley State University. I had never heard of it before, but out of the thousands of college letters I received, this one stuck out to me. Nothing about leaving my small town where everyone knew me, to go to school at a place where 25,000 people didn’t, should have appealed to me, but it did. Nothing about leaving a church, community, friends, and family that had loved me, supported me, and pointed me in the right direction to go to a place where I didn’t know if I would find ever find anything close to it should have made sense, but for some reason it did. Nothing about leaving a place of Christ-followers, to go to a public university where you can choose to follow whomever or whatever you want, should have drawn me here. And nothing about being 3 hours away from Mom’s home-cooking in a place that seemed to fry everything should have appealed to me, but here I am.
When I was a senior in high school I knew there was something special about Grand Valley and I knew the Lord wanted me to go here, even though I had no idea what or why that was. The Lord had spent that past four and a half years showing me what that something special was. Not a day has gone by in the past four and a half years that I have not thanked God for being here. However, many days have gone by where I have been brought to my knees because of God’s faithfulness in my life here at Grand Valley.
One of the reasons Grand Valley is such a special place is because it is where I found Campus Ministry. It was in this community and with these people that the knowledge that I had in my head from growing up in a church community and family started to spill out through my heart and my actions. I realized here that following Jesus isn’t about just being “good,” it’s about seeking and saving the lost and hurting. It’s about relying on Him when it seems there’s no one else, it’s about standing firm in your faith in the midst of temptation, and it’s about falling into the arms of God when all seems lost. I have been in all of those places during these past four and a half years. Places I haven’t been in the first 18 years of my life. The reality is I have hurt more in the past four years than I ever have, but I have also experienced a greater joy than I ever thought was possible. I really think God needed to bring me to a place where it was harder to find Him and follow, so when He did move in my life it was impossible to deny and resist Him.
That being said, I want to share three short stories of God’s provision during my time here. My time here has not been all good, all the time, but that’s ok because no good story is free of hardship and conflict.
- During my first three years at Grand Valley I had a lot of people that knew me, but no one really knew me. I was having trouble finding community outside of the well and outside of CM. I would lead and talk to hundreds of people on Sundays but would spend countless the rest of the week hanging by myself at home or feeling like I was in places I didn’t belong. Being someone who loves people, this was really, really hard and it really, really hurt. In hindsight, I know that the Lord wanted me to get to know him better before He provided me with the community I desired. If you are in this place, I would love to talk to you because it is a hard place to be, but it can be one of the most powerful. I have found the most amazing community in the past year, but it was only when I drew closer to God that he revealed the community He had for me.
- God also walked with me through one of the darkest periods of my life last year. Three weeks into winter semester last year I begin struggling with anxiety and stress. I was teacher assisting and had school on top of that and the weight of everything seemed to break me. I thought I was doing what God wanted me to do, so I was really confused by it all. The physical symptoms made day to day life really difficult and it felt like the world I had built for myself was crashing down. That was the problem. I had built the world around me. God has spent the last year breaking down all these parts of my life and replacing it with his plan. And remember, the community I talked about before. I met them just in time for me them to walk with me through this period. Almost like someone planned that… Wow, God is good!
- The third story has to do with leadership. For some reason, God thought I would be a good leader and kept putting me in leadership positions. Or maybe a bad leader so that if I did anything good, people would have no choice but to believe it was the Lord working through me. This was the case in D.C. on a Spring Break mission trip my junior year. I was leading the trip and through a series of events I managed to spread our entire group in three different spots in the city. I thought I had ruined everything, but it managed to be the moment that brought the whole trip together. It ended up being one of the best weeks of my life.
These stories are just a snapshot of God’s faithfulness in my life here at Grand Valley and I would love to share more if you ever want to talk. I realized that one of the main reasons I worship is because God knows better than I do, and he has proved it time and time again. It feels good to rest in that truth as I leave Grand Valley. God is all-powerful and He is in charge, and anyone who knows me should know it’s much better that way.
Dear Students of Campus Ministry @ GVSU,
I hope you know that you are changing lives. With each word you say, with each action you take, with each look you give, with each moment of interaction, YOU are changing lives. You are either changing them for the better or for the worse. Please change them for the better.
My life has been changed for the better by the people of CM @ GVSU.
I don’t know what college is like for you, but I know I don’t know what I’m doing. I think there are many students who come into college in search of stability. It’s easy to find your identity in many different arenas of the college life. Thankfully, God changed my heart through the work of Campus Ministry @ GVSU.
Coming in as a freshman, I thought I was doing just fine, but I wasn’t. I was isolated, I didn’t understand the value of a Christian community, and I was trying to live out my faith on my own. Fortunately, God had something better for me. A few months into college, I randomly texted a guy who had been my honors college mentor to see if I could join a Bible study he had mentioned a few months earlier. He said, “Yes.” So I went to this thing called a ‘Lifegroup’ that was part of CM @ GVSU. Here were my thoughts after my first meeting: “Wow, what a bunch of weird Christian dudes. That one guy talked too much, and half the time, no one even said anything. I’m a way cooler Christian than that.”
But I went back… week after week after week.
And guess what, now I’m a graduate, and I live with the guys from that group (including the mentor guy I mentioned), and they are my best friends, and they have changed my life for the better.
My story is just a small sliver of what is happening in Campus Ministry. I see my story happening all over the place in this community. I know countless people whose lives have been changed for the better by you people.
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you are refreshing the hearts of people.
I walked into college as a boy, and now, I will walk out as a man… a better man… because YOU are changing lives. Thank you so much.
Praise the Lord.
Well, I can finally say it, I’m an ALUMNI! Everything I’m used to doing for the past four years like going to class, writing (seemingly pointless) papers, cramming the night before a test, joining new organizations, etc. is all over. In light of this – I think that any big change like these causes someone to look back and reflect on what he or she has learned in that particular season of life.
For me, the most important and life changing lesson I am taking away from my time in college is that pursuing a relationship with God is the single most important “assignment” you can ever undertake.. I understand how trite and overdone this can sound, so hear me out here. College offers all sorts of new experiences and opportunities. Some you don’t like, some serve as a growing experiences and some you end up absolutely loving. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “the world is your oyster” at least once during your time in college? Now I am not saying there is something wrong with that phrase, I’ve probably even used it in an Instagram caption! What I am saying is that there is something even more important and life changing than anything college can offer you.
I have been a Christian my whole life, and God has been incredibly faithful to me during my time in college, even when it wasn’t reciprocated. And by the way, If you’re hearing this and you don’t know God, I would LOVE to talk with you more about that! But if you do have a personal relationship with God, here are some facts for you;
Your friend group will probably change
Your major will probably change
Your housing will probably change
YOU will most definitely change!
Facing uncertainty and unsteady ground alone can cause even the strongest person to doubt their life’s direction and purpose. I am here to tell you that we have the opportunity to press into a relationship with a God who is NEVER changing and loves you unconditionally! No matter your grades, your major, your popularity status, your internship, or your IM sports standings, you can always know that He loved you enough to send his perfect SON to die so that you can have a personal and intimate relationship with God Almighty!
I’m not saying I’ve always had it together by any means, because as we know, everyone falls short! Something I am extremely grateful for though, is that no matter how far I got from God he was never more than a prayer away from me. God will walk with you through everything, no matter how ugly or confusing or messy. God created you, which means he knows you better than anyone (even more than your mom does, which is crazy to think about!). This reminds me of a verse in James 4 that say, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” That’s not something to take lightly. God wants you to KNOW him!
Looking back on my four years of college I can confidently promise you that passionately pursuing God was the most life changing decision I made. Don’t put Him on the back burner for the next four years. Invite God into your life and watch Him turn your plans into more than you anything you could have ever expected or dreamed!
A note from CM: If you are a current student or alumni, we would love to hear your story of how God has used Campus Ministry in your life. Please consider submitting your story here.