Laura Vellenga sees the big picture. She considers multiple sides of an issue and uses the information to make strategic plans. She honed these skills as a member of the debate team in high school. When she went to college at Michigan State University, she chose International Relations as a major. With plans to go into law or seek a government position, Laura was confident that her big picture, strategic-thinking approach would be an asset.
While at school, Laura also began to learn how to submit her life to God. She was a Christian when she came to college and quickly became involved in InterVarsity. She began to learn obedience. When God asked her to lead a small group Bible study in her dorm, she did. But she continued to pursue a career path in international relations.
During her senior year, Laura applied for a prestigious fellowship. Her written application was outstanding. She had taken all the right classes and her references spoke well of her abilities. But when it came time for Laura to present herself personally to the fellowship search committee, she did not do well. As she says, “It was a lousy interview.”
As she went over the experience with her advisor, she suggested that Laura pursue a career where her passions and personality intersected. As she thought over this advice, Laura realized that she had a passion for student ministry; and with the encouragement of the InterVarsity staff at Michigan State, Laura applied to work on campus.
Laura has had extensive experience on staff, starting as a campus staff at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. She soon moved to northern Michigan and worked with the chapters at Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan University. During these assignments she enhanced her gift of strategic thinking.
As she looked at the big picture, she could see the InterVarsity chapter that would be a witnessing community on campus—One that declares the gospel to non-believers and encourages Christians in their spiritual journeys. She could see where lack of focus or activity was hampering this goal. As she challenged the students to consider where their chapter might grow, Laura herself grew in her teaching abilities. She enjoyed mentoring the students and “watching the light bulb go off” when they understood the point she was presenting.
In 1997 Laura moved to New Jersey and worked at The College of New Jersey. In 2000 she became the area director for Central/South New Jersey. After five years as area director, she returned to the role of campus staff member and is currently the team leader for New Jersey Christian Fellowship, the InterVarsity chapter at The College of New Jersey. Here she is using her gifts as a teacher and big picture thinker. The chapter has over 200 members and is growing tremendously as God directs their strategy and planning.
When asked to consider what advice she would give to young staff, Laura made three observations.
- It takes three years to learn the role of InterVarsity staff member, so be gracious to yourself and embrace the learning curve.
- You know more than you think you know, so be bold in what you do.
- God is at work even when you are not, so take the time to rest well, knowing that he will accomplish his purposes.
As Laura looks at the big picture of her life so far, she is excited that God has brought her to the right place at the right time to accomplish his purposes in her and in his kingdom. “The work I’m doing is deeply satisfying. It’s great to be back on campus and working at a place where the opportunities for growth are so vast.”
You can make a direct financial donation to support Laura’s work with InterVarsity at The College of New Jersey by following this link.