“This is What It Means to Be Greek and Christian!” – Abby’s Story
One internship. One sabbatical. And in between them, the start of one new InterVarsity ministry.
Abby Smolek enrolled at Hope College in 2020 and, in her search for community during COVID, rushed a sorority and quickly became integrated into the Greek system on campus. However, in the fun and partying of Greek culture, Abby slowly began to lose her footing when it came to her faith. “[I thought] that nothing could deter me from my values. But I was wrong,” Abby said. “I definitely got caught up in what you would [stereotypically] think of as Greek life.”
Abby was still going to church on Sundays with her roommate and still pursuing her faith, but knew deep down that her life didn’t reflect it. At the same time, she loved her sorority community, saw the unique gifts of Greek culture, and didn’t want to leave that behind. That’s when she met Tracy.
Tracy was an InterVarsity staff who had been trying to plant a Greek chapter at Hope College for several years. When she and Abby met in the fall of 2021, Tracy pitched her the vision of starting a Greek Bible study, and Abby agreed. Abby adjusted her life to begin putting her faith first, and she began leading that Bible study.
Later that semester, Tracy also invited Abby to attend Greek Conference. “That’s when everything clicked into place for me, [that] this is what it looks like to be Greek and Christian,” she said. “The Lord ignited my passion for bridging those two things together and helping others to do the same thing.”
Just as Abby was catching a vision for planting Greek IV at Hope College, Tracy was preparing for a sabbatical and wondering who, if anyone, could keep her work going while she was gone. Her mind immediately went to Abby. Tracy asked Abby if she would be interested in an internship.
Abby said yes. And that’s when things got wild.
Ministry Takes Off
Abby hit the ground running that summer, putting her business background and entrepreneurial gifts to work. She doubled her fundraising goal and quickly networked with the campus chaplain and all the Greek students she knew. She built a leadership team, launched a social media account (with a complete brand kit), and held a meeting for prospective small group leaders.
She also planned a launch event that packed her sorority house’s tiny backyard with people. “We were so nervous [about the Faith Night] because we just didn’t know what was going to happen,” Abby said. “We had only bought a few dozen doughnuts. But at 7 o’clock, 70 people flooded into the backyard.”
At that event, Abby took a risk and spoke to the crowd. “I felt convicted to be bold. So I got out there and, after we did a game and hung out a little bit, I spoke about how hard it is to be in Greek life and be a Christian. [I told them that] God loves us too much to keep us in the dark places that we can find in Greek life. And so many people afterwards were like ‘Wow that was so real, thank you for that.’”
In the fall of 2022, within the first week of school, six consistent Bible studies were running in sorority houses thanks to Abby’s relentless summer networking. The social media account she set up garnered thousands of clicks and hundreds of new followers. Her “one-time” event turned into a regular meeting that drew 40 to 50 people each time it met during the semester. All told, that semester Greek InterVarsity at Hope College reached nearly 230 students. Many students who had pain from previous church experiences began to reconnect with Jesus and his heart of love for them.
“I Feel Absolutely Humbled.”
After Christmas, Tracy returned from sabbatical and Abby stepped back, returning to the life of a “normal” student and InterVarsity chapter leader. But the ministry continued to thrive, and Abby eagerly anticipates the impact InterVarsity might have this year as hundreds of new freshmen arrive on campus and explore becoming a part of Greek life at Hope. Even more, God has given her a deep sense of gratitude for letting her partner with him.
“Listening to the personal stories of how Greek InterVarsity and the Lord met people, [I realized] this was all worth it if this just changed one person’s life,” Abby said. “God met me in a spot where I was broken and called me to this. I feel absolutely humbled that God chose me.”
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