Since the age of 2, Elizabeth Kusserow lived with her missionary family in the African country of Niger. She was home-schooled by her mom until senior year of high school, when she attended a boarding school.
“I had to do an internet search for colleges,” said Elizabeth. “We knew we wanted a Christian school in the States, and somehow Calvin got to the top. I had never heard of the college before and never saw the campus until I arrived.”
One reason for Elizabeth’s enrollment at Calvin was the Christian Missionary Scholarship (CMS) she received. Started in 1987 by the late Calvin alumnus Stanley van Reken ’52 and wife, Harriet, the CMS is now run by the next generation of van Rekens.
Last year, the Christian Missionary Scholarship provided more than $400,000 in scholarships to 117 missionary kids representing 47 countries. Calvin is one of six Christian colleges eligible for the awards and has the largest share of recipients each year.
Isaac Jeong comes from a Korean family who is ministering in China, where Isaac grew up. He was familiar with Calvin because his oldest sister attended many years earlier. The CMS helped make his enrollment at Calvin possible.
“It is a challenge being what’s called a ‘third culture student’—biologically one culture, family living in another culture and attending school in still another culture,” he said. “To be a missionary kid is to adapt every time you go to a new place. Scared, yet confident.”
Calvin’s diverse student population gave Isaac many chances to teach and to learn.
The van Rekens were inspired to start the scholarship after noting the challenge within their own extended family as relatives came home from the mission field and wondered about financing college.
The extended van Reken family sent missionaries to Africa, Asia and South America. Stanley’s son Randy is the treasurer of the CMS foundation and nephew Cal is president of the board.
“There was much mission activity in the family,” said Cal van Reken. “It was always in our consciousness and was very ecumenical in nature, which is why there are no specific denominational requirements for the scholarship.”
Now a senior majoring in elementary education with coursework in special education, Elizabeth feels ready to serve.
“I am going back to Sahel Academy in Niger after graduation, and I’ll be teaching third grade,” she said. “What I hope to do eventually is to work with missionary kids who have special needs so mission families can stay on the field.”
Isaac intends to return to China and teach kinesiology and sport at an international school.
“I have a passion for ministry,” he said, “and with sports and missions it is easy to open hearts. Sports help with communication, and that’s how one starts building community.”
This summer, like their graduating classmates, these two new Calvin alumni will be headed into the world equipped to serve—and they’re also deeply grateful for one generous family and the Christian Missionary Scholarship.