By Jennifer Anderson

Giving Up the American Dream

Lauren had a perfect course charted as she entered Grand Valley State University (GVSU).

“I’d study accounting, apply and get into the FBI, make lots of money, live the American Dream,” she recounted. 

Lauren grew up in Metro Detroit with a good foundation. Her relationships with family and friends were strong, she was active in high school sports, and church was part of her life.

“I kind of knew who Christ was,” Lauren reflected, “but that was it.”

A few hours west of Detroit, Grand Valley, like most colleges, offers a plethora of lifestyle options. The only thing Lauren knew was that the party scene wasn't for her, but besides that, she didn't know what she wanted. 

So, Lauren went through her freshman year somewhat adrift. Then, something changed unexpectedly through her close friend Sam, who at the time didn't know Jesus or the gospel. 

A Surprising Turn

Early second semester, Sam sat in a dorm lounge when InterVarsity students walked in.

"Hey, we use this room for a Bible study. Do you want to join us?" the students asked.

Surprisingly, Sam stayed for the entire Bible study.

“When you’re away at school, don’t know anybody, and meet a nice group of people who are welcoming—well, that’s rare. Sam clung to that,” Lauren said.

But Sam did have a few misgivings. She condfided to Lauren that though the students were nice, she didn't "understand the faith thing.” 

Wanting Sam to feel comfortable, Lauren decided to go with her to the Bible study. This was just what Sam needed, and, ultimately, what Lauren needed too. 

From that first Bible study and beyond, Lauren’s life became anchored with prayer, Bible study, spiritual disciplines, and mentoring from InterVarsity GVSU Campus Staff Minister Betsy Hoisington.

“I was missing the whole relationship aspect that there is in Jesus, that Jesus is so personal, and he wanted to be my friend. Ever since I understood that, everything changed in my heart!”

Lauren continued to develop that personal relationship with Jesus throughout the rest of her time in college. She acknowledges that InterVarsity gave her the tools and the disciplines to go deeper in her faith than she had ever gone before. 

“I joined a Christian fellowship because of a non-Christian...and my life was transformed!” Lauren laughed at the irony of her faith journey (Don't worry—Sam became a believer two years later!) "When I started going to [InterVarsity] Bible study and large group, I saw my wants and desires start to change. Instead of chasing after this unrealistic American dream we've kind of put together based on TV...that's totally missing the point for me. I started realizing that the true thing I wanted to bring into the world was sharing the gospel."

Parallel Service

The relationship with Jesus Lauren built while in college was crucial when her mother was diagnosed with and later passed away from leukemia. During her mom’s hospital treatments, Lauren spent hours with her while God revealed more of his plan for her life.

Being from a military famly, each day, a chaplain came to Lauren's mother's hospital room. Lauren saw that, like InterVarsity staff ministers and students she met, chaplains were serving people in need.

This made Lauren realize that she too wanted to serve our country and serve people who needed it through becoming a military chaplain, taking all that InterVarsity taught her. She took the next step upon her 2015 graduation from Grand Valley and enrolled in a Master of Divinity in Chaplaincy program at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio to become a military chaplain candidate.

“As a chaplain I’ll get to be mobile, meaning I get to go outside church walls and minster to people exactly where they’re at,” Lauren said.

Looking back now, Lauren knows God charted her course. No longer seeking the American Dream, she can see how the tide has turned.

“Today, my heart’s desire is to serve and love God’s people. Through this collegiate ministry, InterVarsity, God sent staff and student leaders to me when I needed them. I can’t wait to do this by serving in the US Navy.”

Every day, students like Lauren graduate college to go out an. You can be a part of equipping them to use their lives to serve the God that wants a deep, personal relationship with us by giving to InterVarsity. Give so that more students like Lauren can experience and share the real hope of Jesus by clicking the button below. 


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