Zack’s Story

Trusting God’s Choices for My Life

Zack Phelps


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.”


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.



Meredith’s Story

Seeing God’s Purpose Through the Pain

Meredith Filter


“The Lord is my strength and song; He has given me the victory.” Exodus 15:2

I started my freshman year like many other people: I thought my roommate was going to be my best friend, making friends would be easy, and everything would fall into place; but God has a way of throwing expectations aside and replacing them with His plan. My first night at Grand Valley, my three roommates and I were driving around, trying to get to know each other. They talked about partying and asked what I liked to drink. I responded by saying that I don’t drink and I don’t party. My roommate replied, “That makes me uncomfortable that you don’t party.” It was that moment that I knew my big plans for the rest of my college career were not going to be what I imagined. The first few weeks of being at college were some of the toughest of my life. There were many nights filled with loneliness, tears, and questioning. Looking back however, God replaced the people I thought were going to be in my life with people I needed in my life.

I went to the first Well of the year and heard Ben Post preach about God’s plan for our lives. It seemed as if he was reading my mind and the entire service, I wept. I felt God’s presence and comfort. While the rest of the semester was incredibly challenging, God used those challenges to build my relationship with Him. I struggled almost every day between my expectations andGod’s plan. My life group leaders, thankfully, poured into me every week. One week, one of my leaders said, “God sometimes has to empty us before He can fill us up again”. That statement completely summarized my story. I had to release all of my dependence on earthly things so I could truly be filled with the Holy Spirit. God changed my perception of myself. I once was a small, scared girl trying to find her way through college. I know who I am now—I am a strong, victorious woman of Christ.


Marissa’s Story

Detours Don’t Last Forever

Marissa Mead


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.


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.


Andrea’s Story

Andrea Pattison

CM Alumni 2016


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.


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.



Sylvia’s Story

Broken Doesn’t Mean Out of Use

Sylvia Knight


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.


Hailey’s Story

Hailey Ciesluk


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.

Sarah’s Story

Sarah Coutts

Easter Baptism Story!


Looking back at the last few years of college, God has completely redirected my life by bringing joy and hope that used to seem so impossible. I grew up lacking a relationship with Jesus, which resulted in a faulty foundation. In high school my parents decided to divorce and I was unable to handle that amount of change that accompanied. God met me at my lowest point and provided me with every opportunity to come and follow Him. He led me to Grand Valley and I left behind my past filled with depression, anger, and a broken family. I came to college and found myself in a new community, one who fosters my faith and God shines so brightly through. During my struggles before college, I was lost and hopeless. Once Jesus shined His light through my closest friends, I knew a relationship with Him is what I had been searching for all along. God has placed countless faithful servants in my life that have supported me, encouraged me to take numerous leaps of faith, and displayed what a servant’s heart truly looks like. I am forever thankful for the friendships that God had waiting for me at Grand Valley. Their boldness, vulnerability, and invitation to come and follow alongside them has impacted my faith tremendously. Jesus has been evident by leading me to go on mission trips, to sign up for leadership, and to serve kids as a teacher. He has transformed my heart, grown my passion to serve, and has shown me what it looks like to live and love with passion. God has continuously shown me that he is my hope, my guide, my redeemer, and my joy. He provides comfort in the deepest of valleys and brings light to every situation. He calls us by name to shine his light on the lives of those around us and play a role in his perfect plan. Jesus has laid a new foundation for my life that is built on his unwavering love. All of this has been God’s way of encouraging me to take the next step in my faith to be baptized and commit my life to following Jesus.