Callie’s Story

Callie Opper

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To say that God has been faithful in my life is an understatement. Throughout my faith journey, He has proved himself to me time and time again. When I was fifteen years old, my mom passed away and for a big portion of my life, inwardly, I did a great deal of running from God. I let bitterness and discontentment reign in my heart and spent a good portion of my life running from my pain, shoving the burdens of my heart deeper and deeper down and refused to accept God’s plan for my life and my family’s with contentment. God brought me to a breaking point one summer in China, when he gave me exactly what I had asked for: joy. He showed me that joy is deep rooted contentment in His plan, knowing that it is good no matter what. I learned that joy is different from happiness – it acknowledges that no matter what happens He is sovereign. I have faced mountains and valleys in my life, and this past year, if I’m honest, has been one of the most challenging I have faced. I have made poor choices, struggled emotionally and have had to face this new season that God has brought me into. God has allowed things to be uprooted in my life that I never expected to change. I’ve had to learn that I am weak and I am broken and have had to learn to be okay with it. For so long I believed that wrestling with God, doubting His plan or questioning what He allowed in my life was wrong. It wasn’t until I read John 11, through suggestion of my counselor, that my perspective shifted: the way I saw God, wrestling and the tragedies that happen in life drastically changed. Through the story of the death of Lazarus, God opened my eyes to the truth that He meets us where we are at, no matter how ugly or how dirty it may be. Nothing is too far from His redemption and He will chase after us and pursue our hearts. He will get into the ugliest places with us, to prove Himself and to remind us of our desperate need for Him. I have learned more in the past few months about God, myself and what it looks like to fully surrender myself to Him and depend on Him for everything in my life. The waves that He has allowed to splash up against my boat the past six months have been difficult, challenging and at times unbearable. But I have learned that God never gives up on His children and can take any mess, any chaos and bring it to order. I’ve learned that wrestling with Him is beautiful, because He will always, always, prove Himself faithful. In the past couple of months I’ve learned that the more I admit my weaknesses, my shortcomings and my brokenness the more I am relinquishing control and giving my all to God. The more I come to God weak, broken down and in need of Him the more I depend on Him, and the more I depend on Him, the more I am giving up control, and when I give Him control, it radically points to His glory.
I am a broken human being, in constant need of being rebuilt and remade by a Savior who has given me more grace in my journey then I ever deserve. I believe in a God that doesn’t just glue our broken pieces back together, but He takes each piece and remakes it, redeems it, restores it and makes it new, for His glory, so that His name might be praised after it all – through every heartache, every tragedy and every moment we face in this life.

Kimmy’s Story

 

Kimmy Berry

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Don’t you love when everything goes according to plan? Don’t you hate when it doesn’t?
When I first stepped foot on Grand Valley’s campus as a freshman, I finally experienced a taste of freedom that was totally new to me. There were so many new opportunities to take advantage of, people to meet, and responsibilities to take on- and I wanted to do it all.
See, I was so ready to get out of my house. Nearly every relationship in my family is strained by a past that is littered with emotional deprecation. Refusal to see eye to eye or give respect to each other’s opinions and feelings created an environment of negativity and hatred.
So, it makes sense that as soon as I was set free from that enslaving environment that I felt the need to take advantage of every opportunity just because I could. The ability to do things without the fear of judgement or backlash was freeing and addicting.
What I didn’t expect was the feeling that came over me with all of these new things. With every new organization I joined or team I was on, I convinced myself that I had be the best. I had to be successful. I had to be the kid from my family that went and did things with their life- and I didn’t need anyone else’s help to do it. I had to do it on my own. Why? To prove that I could.
I prayed about the things that I did, yes, but I always prayed for success. My arrogance was only fueled by God’s grace to grant me many successes. Until he didn’t.
Let’s take a trip to Spring Break sign ups. I was a one year veteran of this, so I had a plan. I had a list of top 5 trips that I would like to go on, but we all know that all I wanted was my number one choice. When my number was called, there were still openings on my trip and I was confident that I was about to go on my first-choice trip. Except someone took the last spot just before I got there. I was crushed, disoriented, confused, and frantic. Hold onto that thought.
Now let’s talk about some of the other organizations I got involved in. I became heavily involved in the residence life community here at Grand Valley this year. And when I say heavily, I mean that I took on just about every role that I could. I am on the E-Board for the National Residence Hall Honorary and Laker Village Community Council and am an active member of the Residence Housing Association. Not to mention that I helped plan the regional conference this year. So, when I applied to be an RA, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be granted the position. Everyone told me that they were rooting for me, my application was flawless and my interview was effortless. But, from the way this story is sounding, you may be able to tell what happened next. A few days ago, I received an email that I was not selected. I was again crushed, disoriented, confused, and frantic.
Now let’s go back to our Spring Break situation. Once I finally accepted that I was not going to my first choice trip, I looked at my list and reluctantly walked to the table of my second choice. As I was filling out the contact information, something came over me that I still can’t explain. Something beyond my control prompted me, mid-signature, to look up from the paper and ask the trip leader, “Do you actually know if there are any spots open on the Cuba trip?” After the words came out, I was mortified. I couldn’t go to Cuba. It was far too expensive. Cuba wasn’t even on my list. I told myself that this year I would trust God with the funds, but Cuba? That trip is almost twice as much as the next most expensive trip. I didn’t have a plan for this. Well God did, and here I stand today with my trip paid for in abundance by his grace.
For the Spring Break situation, God’s answer was not only direct, but I believe he took complete control of me. There was no time for me to think about my fears and hesitations. For the RA position, it is a little less clear. What is going to happen now? What will I do in the fall? While I don’t know the answer to this, I do know one thing for certain. God is in control. But guess what? That is okay. That is okay because his plan, as he has proven time and time again, is far greater than anything that I could imagine.

Chris’ Story

From this Valley

Chris Lemoine

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Going to college is a lot like climbing a mountain. We all start as a freshman at the bottom and pick our own paths to get to graduation. We do our best to prepare ourselves for the journey: we plan what classes we are going to take and where we want to spend our extra time without stretching ourselves too thin carefully placing one foot in front of the other. However, amidst our greatest efforts in preparing, what are we supposed to do when we are knocked off our path by an avalanche? What do we do when after the snow has cleared and we realize that it’s impossible to get back to the path we were originally on? On January 10th, I met with my advisor to discuss the process of applying to the nursing program. Within 1 minute of sitting down in her office, I was informed that I would not be able to apply to the nursing program because my GPA was not sufficient. So, here I am. I’m back at the bottom of the mountain with no hope of applying to any sort of traditional nursing program. I know that It would be easy for me to be frustrated. It would even be easy for me to blame God for my hardships. But, this is the thing about the God we serve:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know that plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Jesus Christ, this amazing, all powerful savior of the world is no less holy and no less magnificent. He has a plan for my life and His plan is perfect. So, I will praise HIM not just from the mountaintop but also from this valley and although one door has just been shut. I will dance in the hallway and praise Him until He opens a new door.

THIS IS WHY I WORSHIP.

Rylie’s Story

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Rylie Leete

Let me tell you a little something about the girl I used to be. She was lost, insecure, seeking acceptance and love in all the wrong places. She was well known, and well liked (this is debatable), and she thought she knew was she was doing, but boy was she wrong. Guys, I was a hot mess, and not in the attractive kind of way. My identity was built on the acceptance of boys and my ability to throw back shots. I know, it wasn’t the greatest skill set, but it was what I thought I was. I want to tell you a bit about her story.

Not having a firm foundation or understanding of my identity as a daughter of the King of the Universe lead me down a dark road in high school. I quickly got myself immersed in the party scene and thought I really enjoyed living my life in a constant blur. It was fun. I had a lot of silly moments, and this was what being young was all about, right? Over and over I was met with the reality of my sin– the guilt, shame, self-hatred, and not feeling like I was enough was killing me. But, I squashed those feelings down and continued on in my quest for fulfillment in this way for four years.

When college rolled around, I had decided that I wanted to turn over a new leaf. My reputation was garbage and my dignity had gotten lost along the way. I didn’t want to live ashamed anymore. I decided to move fourteen hours away to a large southern school and begin this new life as the real Rylie. Unfortunately, the only Rylie I had known was the Rylie that was four shots deep and trying to gain the attention of a hottie across the room. My soul was thirsting for more, but I had no idea how to satisfy it. I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t know who I wanted to be, so my fail-proof plan led me back down the path I had always walked. I decided to rush a sorority.  I didn’t know it at the time, but God was about to show me who I really was through this new life.

As I began to try and fit into this new lifestyle, I found myself out with my new sisters one night a bar. It was like any other night at first, until I found that the girls I had come with had left. Here I was in the middle of a bar chatting with a young man I had just met, intoxicated and on my own. He said he would walk me home when my panic became visible and so I gathered my things and we left. I was assaulted that night. I found myself drowning in loneliness, shame, and I felt like it had all happened because I was just too broken of a person for anything else to have been the end result of a reckless night out. In the midst of that moment, I was hopeless.

One of my new sorority sisters must have recognized that in me, because she went out of her way to invite me to something she called “Fam time”. I had no reason to tell her no, so I went. I walked into her house for the first time and was confronted with warm smiles and bibles. To be honest, I hadn’t ever really considered the word to be an answer to anything before and didn’t understand why people prayed when they were hurting, but that day, that moment, opened my eyes to pure love. Those girls truly and deeply loved one another, which in and of itself was a crazy thing to me. I didn’t know friendships could look and sound like that where they genuinely cared for one another.

They opened up the Word and began to read. I don’t remember what they said. I don’t remember what we were even reading. I do, however, remember this message filling my head: You deserve so much more than what you are giving yourself. You’ve been searching and searching for love, and I’m the only one that can give it to you. You are cherished and you are my daughter. He told me that I was perfect to him, and that he died for all of that. He said that this was why he had come, and to stop letting my mistakes own me. He told me he had more for me if I would only trust him. I know this sounds crazy, but it felt so right. My heart reached for him in that moment. My soul came to life. God’s hand had been extended toward me for so long, and I was finally reaching back.

My life changed that day. I wasn’t immediately healed from the hurt that had piled up over the years, and the heaviness I felt didn’t all of a sudden disappear, but I finally felt something real and I wasn’t going to miss out on it. I started making life changes that felt necessary and watched as God blessed my obedience.  He met me in my darkest hour and shone his light more brightly than I had ever seen. He walked with me through the hurt, and reminded me I wasn’t alone. From the beginning, God looked at me as his beautiful daughter, capable of far more than I could imagine and lovable beyond measure. Since letting Him in, I have grown to love who I am. I have embraced my identity and stopped filling my life with garbage. I have become proud of who I am, and the only person I have to thank for that is Him. God saved me from myself, from my past, from being overcome by the world, and he wants to do just that for you as well. Trust him. I promise it’s the best decision you will ever make.

Nikki’s Story

What is my Witness?

Nikki Rakestraw

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Last year God convicted me on The Great Commission, to go into the world and make disciples. I started to feel this deep sense of urgency to share my faith and Christ’s love with others. This was a wonderful and necessary conviction. However, instead of completely trusting God to simply use me to execute his plan, I went head first into self condemnation. The question, “What is my witness?” almost seemed to haunt me. I was burdened by an ungodly guilt that I was not doing enough to be a witness of Christ. I was weighed down by shame at how I struggled to openly share my faith. How I would shy away from seemingly perfect opportunities to tell someone about who Jesus is to me because I would get caught up in fear.

This all going on in my heart entering the second semester of my freshman year. A couple weeks into the semester this girl joined my history class late and the only spot left was next to me. She was really quiet at first but soon she warmed up to me and we ended up becoming friends. Every morning I would walk into class and say a big “Gooooood Morningggggg!!!” to her and I think she thought that I was a little silly. The more we got to talking through the semester, I started to feel the same urgency I mentioned earlier to share my faith with her, but I had no idea how to start that conversation because I was afraid of making her uncomfortable.

It was that same week that #LakersAllIn was happening and I had posted my own video on Facebook, sharing some of my testimony and what God means to me. So one day after kicking myself for not taking yet another good opportunity I had for sharing my faith with my friend from class, I offhandedly prayed, “Hey God, wouldn’t it be neat if she saw my video on Facebook?” And then I realized that I didn’t even remember what her name was so there would be no way for me to find her on Facebook. Thus, I admitted defeat on that front. But low and behold, within the next ten minutes, I had a friend request from none other than my friend. Later that night she messaged me saying she saw my video and was wondering what it was about. She asked me about CM and then asked me how I am so happy and confident all the time, so I told her about Jesus and the identity I have in him. She told me how I wasn’t like other Christian’s she had encountered in the past and that maybe she’ll giving this “church thing” another try.

This story itself is pretty cool. I mean God answered what I thought was a far fetched prayer in less than 10 minutes, which was incredible and mind blowing to me. But more than that, God told me, “I got this.” He gave the the conviction to be his witness, but he never told me I had to do it on my own. I took the conviction he gave me and tried to take control of operation. I burdened myself with the expectations of what I thought I needed to do to witness to others. But in doing so I wasn’t letting God have control of the situation. I was mad at myself for being human and not living up to the expectations I had set for myself. I wasn’t letting God be God. This story is a reminder that God has complete and utter control when I do not. All the missed opportunities I kicked myself over, he used to ensure his perfect timing to write the story that will bring him the most glory.

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Sabrina’s Story

When God Flipped my World

Sabrina Piper
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In October of 2015 the Campus Ministry Israel Study trip was announced, and God placed it on my heart to embark on this once in a lifetime journey. It was difficult listening to God on this decision because the trip cost was 4,000 dollars. And lets be real, being a broke a college student does not really enable me to have that amount of money in my bank account. However, through lots of prayer and endless late nights of sewing mittens to sell, I ended up in the Holy Land of Israel.

Getting to be in the place where creation began was one of the most incredible experiences that I have ever gotten the chance to be apart of. Seeing places such as the Elah Valley where the story of David and Goliath took place or the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on water will forever be engrained in my mind. The stories that I grew up reading began to take on a larger range of meaning once I got to see them first hand.

The first place that we visited when we got to Israel was in the city of Tel-Aviv called the Shafala. This site gave us the chance to view an overlook that displayed all the separate parts of Israel. While at this site Stacie gave a talk on listening to the call of God, and she asked, “Why did God call you to come to Israel?” This question hit home with me because I truly had no idea why I was on this trip. All I knew was that God had called me to come and here I was. No recollection of why, but I was hoping it would unfold throughout the two weeks that we were going to be there. However, days went by and I still did not know why I was there. Do not get me wrong yes, it was an awesome experience, and I was seeing God is so many amazing places. Nonetheless, the problem was nothing was sticking with me, and I was becoming frustrated. How was it that I was walking where Jesus walked yet could not comprehend why in the world I was on this trip.

It is crazy to look back and to see God’s plan for my life evolve. I ended up figuring out why I was called to go to Israel a short time after getting back home to the United States. My church was doing a message series called “Plan B”. Through this message series the topics revolved around how my plan B for my life could be Gods plan A. It opened my eyes to what God had been calling me to do for so long, but I had kept putting to the back burner. This idea was Seminary.

Okay let me just give you a few insights to what my college career looked like before entering into this school year. I was going into my senior year of college studying elementary education. Seminary was not in the game plan for my life. I was going to graduate from college, and start my life as a teacher. There was no need to get more of an education because I had already spent so many years paying/studying my way through this one. I bet through all of this God was just laughing. He knew all along what he intended for my life, and I was just too stubborn to open my eyes to see it.

After many other God moments I decided that I needed to let down my barriers, and trust in the plan that God had in store for my life. As of now I have changed my major to Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Family and Children Services. After I graduate in the spring I plan to attend seminary to obtain my masters in counseling degree. It is wild to look back over the last four months and see how God flip my world 180 degrees. I would have never thought that I would be embarking on the journey of seminary, but God knew all along. All along God knew that was why I had to go to Israel.