Although she was only on staff for three years, Grace Koch played a key role in the early days of InterVarsity. After she left staff to marry Lorne Belden, her ministry focused largely on the churches where her husband pastored. But her connection to InterVarsity continued right up until her death on January 23, 2010. She was 93.
In an interview for a 2007 article, Grace told how she first met Stacey Woods as a student at Swarthmore College in Philadephia in 1937. Two years later she was hired by Stacey to become InterVarsity’s first eastern director.
Not an Easy Job
InterVarsity, like most ministries at that time, had mostly male leadership. InterVarsity differed from most ministries in that it was inter-denominational, not a part of any denomination. These were both challenges that sometimes complicated her work, but Grace pressed on. She was inspired by the vision of providing Christian fellowship and discipleship training for college students. (At Swarthmore she had not met another Christian on campus until her junior year.)
Grace traveled extensively and helped initiate InterVarsity chapters on many campuses, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins. She trained students in Bible study and discipleship. She planned and organized conferences. Her initiative opened the door for ministry to several generations of college students, ministry that has continued for 70 years on many of those campuses.
Grateful for her Prayers
InterVarsity’s New England regional director Chris Nichols recalled meeting Grace when he moved to San Diego in 1988.
"She was part of prayer group that had been meeting for at least a decade before I arrived. They gathered monthly to pray for the ministry of InterVarsity and its staff in San Diego County. She and her husband Lorne were a consistent and constant encouragement to me as I dreamed of and worked for a ministry that would put conversion at the center of our work on campus.
Grace was a wonderful source of stories of what it was like to take buses and trains to begin the work of establishing InterVarsity throughout the Northeast. I was always inspired by her unflagging enthusiasm for students and the campus. Over the years, Grace not only prayed but generously invested in our work with students.
I never imagined that I would be the direct recipient of her sacrifice both in prayer in San Diego but in following her so many years later in New England. I will be forever grateful for Grace, for all she did for me personally, and for her investment in the ministry of InterVarsity in San Diego and New England. It is an honor to have known her."
InterVarsity’s campus ministry depends on many people like Grace, who understand that transformations on campus through Jesus Christ can change the world.
photo: Grace Koch Belden (left) is pictured during her time on staff with InterVarsity.