Cody’s Story

Déye mon, gen món.”

Cody Zuiderveen – CM Alumni 2013

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(Cody with his wife, Jessica, and their son, Hudson).

The Lord has always been faithful, good, and gracious to me. As I sit here thinking about my story—and how I want to tell it—I can’t help but think that, if nothing else, I want you to know that the Lord is faithful, good, and gracious.

Thanks to the Lord, I am a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ. As his disciple, he invited me to follow him many years ago. I knew that following Christ would mean being willing to give up people and places that I love dearly. It would mean being willing to give up anything that I love for the One that I love more than all of it—Christ himself. It would mean following him to places that I maybe wouldn’t otherwise go, whether those places were as near as the local retirement home or as far away as West Africa.

And so I went. Especially during my four years with Campus Ministry where I worshiped on the praise team and “worked” as an office intern, I had awesome opportunities to go and help others do the same. In each of those places we went, Christ proved himself to be good in his care and provision for me and for those around me. In light of that goodness, I continue to go, which has led me to where I am today—serving as a missionary in Haiti, dwelling on the thought that the Lord has been and continues to be faithful, gracious, and good to me.

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(CM office interns Cody, Emily Bandfield [Emily Hoffman] and Rachel Goddard – taken during the annual downtown scavenger hunt, where Cody and Rachel were hiding as an elderly couple).

I think that is the theme of my story because I am in terrible need of a reminder myself. During my years at Grand Valley, the call of Christ was clear and exciting. The Posts, Pam Bush, Scott Stark, Chris Pieters and others affirmed my calling and encouraged me forward to the work set before me. Praise the Lord that they did! Campus Ministry was a tremendous mountain-top experience, but the work the Lord has called me to is vast and difficult. I work as a church and leadership developer, which means that I meet with and encourage pastors, train deacons, support Christian education, develop youth ministry, and serve as the academic dean of the Reformed Seminary of Haiti, where I teach systematic theology. I am being asked to contribute in ways I don’t know how, to do what I feel incapable of doing, and to fix brokenness even as I, too, feel broken. As you can imagine, I am inadequate.

Déye mon, gen món.” This is possibly the most popular Haitian proverb and it simply means, “behind mountains, there are mountains.” That is to say, if it is not one thing, it is another. One challenge, one obstacle, one struggle is followed by the next. Déye mon, gen món. If you know anything about Haiti, you know that this is a very fitting proverb for this island. As far as I can tell, if there was ever a mountainous, challenging place—a place that needed to hold on to the faithfulness, goodness, and graciousness of God—it is Haiti. It is in this place that I sit, facing the mountains before me, certain that there are more mountains yet to come. I am sure many of you are facing your own mountains. As you do, remember that when we lift up our eyes to the hills before us, we know where our help comes from. Our help comes from the Lord (Ps. 121), who if faithful, good, and gracious.

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(CM worship/productions team Christmas Party 2010).

Click here to follow Cody’s personal blog and keep up on God’s work through his ministry in Haiti! 

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Zack’s Story

Trusting God’s Choices for My Life

Zack Phelps

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Growing up, I was a very quiet guy and preferred to keep to myself. My plan was to stay home and get my bachelors degree through a program ran by Siena Heights University where I would be able to take classes at Kellogg Community College and get my bachelors degree. I could stay home, get my bachelors degree, and save a lot of money if I participated in this program. All of a sudden, I had this urge where I desired to meet more new people. I knew I wouldn’t get a great opportunity doing that if I went through with this plan. I talked to my parents about it and they were totally supportive of my decision to look elsewhere. I began looking at different schools and doing research on all of them. Everyone in my area typically goes to Western Michigan University. I, however, felt like that wasn’t where I was supposed to go so I kept looking.

I came across Grand Valley and something just clicked. I toured the campus and afterwards told my parents that this was where I wanted to go. A good friend of mine was planning on going here as well, so I figured that I’d at least know one person. Later on, he backed out at the last second and ended up going to Western. So, I ended up going to Grand Valley not knowing a single person. During my first week at school, a girl that I talked to all summer and went out with ended up getting back together with her ex, which I found out about when he messaged me to stop talking to her. I was heartbroken! It was a really rough start at Grand Valley. I was all on my own and had nobody to help comfort me in any other fashion other than over the phone. I fell into a really bad depression for the entire semester. I never seriously thought about suicide only because I knew God was still there for me. If He wasn’t a part of my life, only He knows what I would’ve done. I questioned God asking, “Why did you bring me here, I have no place being here.”

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Winter semester rolled around and I wasn’t looking forward to going back at all. I seriously considered transferring after the winter semester if nothing changed. I went to The Well once fall semester, but I didn’t meet anyone and I was really intimidated by the large crowd. I went to the first Well of winter semester just to give it another shot and I ended up meeting someone this time. I got to sit next to him and talk with him and his friends. He got my number and he texted me every week to see if I was going to The Well. I went every week ever since then. He invited me to even hangout regularly and treated me like a real friend, which is all I wanted since coming here. Later on, he convinced me to go on a spring break mission trip even though I said no multiple times. It ended up being one of the greatest trips I’ve ever been on and I met even more people!

Things just got better and better ever since I started getting involved with Campus Ministry! I didn’t understand why God brought me here, but now I don’t know where I’d be if He didn’t. God doesn’t just forget us or leave us somewhere, He uses us and our experiences to help others who struggle with similar things in their daily lives. My dad just passed away last July out of nowhere and my family and I are having to deal with the struggles of that. I don’t know why God allowed him to pass away this soon, but I can only think that maybe I’m supposed to go through this struggle so I can help somebody else that’s going through the same thing or something similar. I know God loves and cares for me so much and He only wants the best for me! This is why I worship.

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Marissa’s Story

Detours Don’t Last Forever

Marissa Mead

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On September 24th, four years ago, it was homecoming week of my junior year. I was sitting in 3rd period English (dressed as hulk) when I got called down to the office for my grandpa to tell me, “Everyone is okay… Your house is on fire.” That flipped my world. About a million thoughts went through my head while I watched it burn, but before I went back to school to get the few belongings I still had, my last thought was, “This happened for a reason.” Amongst all the chaos I felt, He had to know what He was doing.

The days, months and even years my family spent trying to recover was the hardest I’ve experienced. The stress of the process of rebuilding, the financial struggle we all of a sudden faced, and the emotional reality that I lost everything weighed so heavy. I didn’t understand how a tragedy that affected my entire family could be experienced in so many individual ways, which ultimately made me feel alone.

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My younger brother was just young enough to not quite understand and my older brother was in his first year of college here at GV. So there I was, understanding what was going on, listening to my parents stress and knowing there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it, except do my best to act like I was okay and not put any extra burden on my family. My closest friends growing up knew I wasn’t a very emotional person. They never experienced being around me where I wasn’t okay. So my worries were less toward the struggles I was going through, and more toward making sure those around me understood that I was still okay so they wouldn’t be uncomfortable around me.

A couple hours after my house burnt, I drove to the store to get new volleyball gear because I had a game that night and I needed to play because I was the captain of my team. They wouldn’t have known what to do if I all of a sudden wasn’t okay. I played in the game because I knew those people were depending on me. And that’s how it went, for the last two years of high school and even into college. I did what I needed to do for the people around me, and bottled up the pain and stresses of my crashing world so that no one around me felt uncomfortable. I was broken, and that didn’t change in college. I felt numb. I went through the motions and by the end of my freshman year and going into my sophomore year, I was so unhappy. I didn’t have the right kind of friends, I was putting energy into all the wrong people and things, and it wasn’t until I joined a life group that it started to change.

My faith journey is new and there’s so much more to learn, but feeling the love of God made every bit of numbness go away in the last year. I’ve made huge strides in my faith by letting go of the negative people in my life, getting involved with events through CM, the Passion conference being a really big one, and now this year joining the Care Team. I feel like myself again, and I feel like I don’t need to hide my brokenness anymore. That’s the most incredible feeling. I found happiness here, from my life group girls, from Ben Post listening to me cry for a good hour the first time he met me, and from this wonderful community.

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Andrea’s Story

Andrea Pattison

CM Alumni 2016

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Shortly after this year’s leadership retreat for Campus Ministry happened, I saw some pictures on social media from friends and right away had this feeling that I wished that I was there, experiencing it and getting ready for another school year at Grand Valley and being involved with CM. After taking some time to think about it, I realized that although my years being involved in CM were amazing and a time of growing in my faith, that’s not where God has called me to be for forever, although sometimes I wish it was. While involved in CM, there were individuals who came alongside me and were a disciple to me. I ended up being able to do that same thing for some girls as well. I was able to lead a life group, be a part of the care team, go on spring break mission trips, participate in activities and events, and go to Israel, all throughout my time in CM. God worked in amazing ways to show me what can happen when you surround yourself with an intentional community. When it was time for me to leave CM and Grand Valley in December 2016, I was fearful of how my faith would continue grow without CM, but I knew through it all, God would provide because He has in the past.

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In January 2017, I started a long-term subbing position and I found out that one of the teachers had just started a women’s Bible study that I ended up joining, loving and eventually felt called to share my testimony with the teachers. I also got asked by my church’s youth pastor to start being a youth group leader in January. I willingly joined and felt that God had opened such an awesome opportunity to connect to high school kids. In February, I attended the IF Gathering and felt God calling me to start a summer Bible study. So I got together once a week with girls from my youth group and a few other friends and had a Bible study. I used old life group study notes as my guide for leading it and I was able to share some things from Israel that I saw and learned as well. God was so faithful with multiple opportunities to grow in community and my faith.

So when I saw the retreat photos and wished that I was there, my thinking quickly turned to realize that God had used CM for 4.5 years in my life to give me the confidence, leadership, courage and the tools to go out into the world and live out my faith and share it with others. I wasn’t meant to stay in CM forever, but God was working in me while I was involved to prepare me for where He was calling me next.

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Sylvia’s Story

Broken Doesn’t Mean Out of Use

Sylvia Knight

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I used to believe that in order for God to use me I first had to be good enough for God. Honestly, I still think that a lot of the time. 

This past summer, I lived and studied in Nicaragua for 3 months. In July I got really, really sick and for about a week my greatest excursion was leaving my bed to go to the kitchen and try to eat. Eating was another battle of it’s own. I was weak and altogether broken. Once I started to feel better, I scheduled a tour guide to take me on a hike up an extinct volcano to a big cross on the mountain top, because I was getting better and once I was good enough and strong enough, I was going to celebrate by hiking up a volcano! I got better. I felt good again and it was awesome. Just to be safe and confident that I would in fact be strong enough, I scheduled the hike for the following week. Just a few days before my celebratory adventure, I got an awful migraine headache that lasted a couple of days. Simply put, I was sick and weak (AGAIN). I knew I should reschedule the hike for when I would be strong enough for it, but I was leaving the city at the end of the week. It became a choice between trying to do it in my fatigued, sick state or not at all. 

Being a logical person who understands that our human bodies have their limits, I chose to do what any woman with a sound mind would do. I hiked up the volcano. Really though, I didn’t do very much and God did a lot. Just the day before I was unable to even walk down the street without feeling exhausted, but God literally lead me to the cross. 

There wasn’t a trophy or ice cream at the top, no one applauded me (except for Joseph, my tour guide, was happy for me). Honestly though, there was no WOW moment, no moment that I said, “This was 110% worth the pain.” Because of that, I then believe that as a broken person, I can’t be used by God, the weak simply don’t get applauded. But, isn’t that sometimes life? I think as humans we often look for praise and approval for every little thing and we forget who is really DOING the work. 

Looking back, I learned that if God can make use of a very sick Sylvia and bring her to the top of a mountain, I cannot imagine what else He can do with me. I am still so broken, so tired, so weak and I will never be strong enough or good enough. Thankfully, I have a God who is always more than enough. He can and will always make use of me in whatever condition I’m in.

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Hailey’s Story

Hailey Ciesluk

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My whole childhood, I was told to believe in the power of God and trust in Him. That was always a great message, but hard to believe when you’re a small kid with no real proof of your own. So growing up, I didn’t put much of my faith in God though I still considered myself a Christian. I don’t demote myself for this too much, I was just a kid, after all. And it takes more than just sitting through service and praying at dinner to truly understand the power of religion.
And unfortunately, I didn’t feel the power of religion anytime soon after. My parent’s got divorced when I was around the age of 12. To me, this wasn’t too big of a deal because I’d seen parents splitting all over the place. Sadly, it seemed rather normal to me. So I kept how I felt about the situation bottled up inside. If I knew that keeping things internally plugged like that would lead to a downward spiral of severe panic and anxiety for years to come, I may have reconsidered. But I didn’t, so for my entire middle school and high school experience I panicked about everything. I let fear destroy me from the inside out and let other people influence my emotions because I didn’t know what it meant to truly feel free. I was scared and alone and trapped. And I struggled to stay positive throughout high school.
Then I came to college. It was fine, I had good friends, but I still wasn’t completely myself. I still felt the panic tearing at my heart and I couldn’t get away from it. That is, until I went to a meeting for a dance club I’m in and noticed someone wearing a Campus Ministry shirt. Being the art student that I am, I thought it looked aesthetic so I asked where it was from. Enthusiastically, she told me it was from GVSU’s Campus Ministry and asked if I wanted to attend a service.
Naturally, I was wary about attending. God hadn’t exactly been there for me the past few years, but thought I’d give it a go. So I went to the third Well of the year, and while there, I experienced something I hadn’t experienced in what felt like ever. All of my anxiety lifted away from me for the time of the service. I did not have a fear in the world; for the first time, I was listening to God speak to me and He was there to lift my fears from me. I was in disbelief that such a small miracle could occur in my life that I decided to sign up for a spring break trip with CM. I ended up going to New Orleans and can say that the experience lifted my faith in God so much more. A wise man on the trip who worked at a rehab facility explained to us that, in his eyes, there was a special place in every person’s heart for God. Sometimes, people are afraid to let God in, and fill that hole with distractions like drugs and alcohol, or for me, anxiety. I am proud to say that I am now filling that hole in my heart with what belongs to be there: God. My anxiety may not be completely be gone, I may still be working on becoming a better Christian, and it may take a while for all of that to work out. But I am becoming such a better version of myself; something that can only be a miracle of God. Now I am so blessed that I have God and Campus Ministry in my life.

Evan’s Story

Evan James

Easter Baptism Story!

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Well, I guess I’ll start off by saying that I’ve always grown up in a Christian home. My parents always took me to church, and I’ve always felt very blessed to have such a supportive family. I was saved when I was in the fifth grade, never baptized (Until recently that is, my parents wanted that to be my decision to make), kept going to church and attended youth group until about high school.

My high school years were pretty good. I’d found a small group of great friends which was great, since if you know who I am, I realize I can come off quite shy and awkward. However, as I look back it was during my high school years that I sort of drifted from God. I mean, I didn’t take up any bad habits, but I guess I just wasn’t as close as I should have been. My prayer life and my spending time in the Word lacked quite a bit and I guess I could’ve been labeled quite the “lukewarm Christian.” I still called myself a Christian and honestly believed in God, Jesus and what He’s done for me, but I just wasn’t as firm in my faith.

I eventually chose to go to Grand Valley, mainly because it was close by (I’m a commuter), but I’d also heard good things about the school. My first couple of years went pretty well, I was passing my classes, getting closer to my history degree (which I’m still conflicted about what I’m going to do with). I’m not sure if those who live on campus could understand, but being a commuter, full-time student, then rushing back home to work whatever hours I had left over really didn’t leave much time to socialize. My faith was still a little shaky, as I hadn’t heard of CM yet, and I just sort of felt alone.

But then I went to Campus Life Night my junior year, and stumbled across Campus Ministry! And to be honest, ever since I’ve been going to the Well regularly, joining a life group (which is made up of some of the coolest guys I’ve ever met!), and above all going on my first mission trip ever during spring break to DC, I feel like my life has made a complete 180*! I’ve met some amazing people who have encouraged me, been there for me and built me up in my faith. I’m proud to say that my relationship with God is better than it’s ever been, and I honestly think it was God that led me to stumble upon that CM booth. I know the phrase “on fire for God” gets thrown around quite a bit, but growing up as a “lukewarm Christian,” I feel that I can proudly say that I now am!