It’s a sunny morning and the paths are full of people heading the same direction: to worship God. Chapel attendance shouldn’t be the only measure of the vibrancy of the spiritual lives of students, but it is something to see—students in break from classes, engaged in reading scripture, singing hymns, and listening to preaching.
One of those students is Amber Pocuca. She transferred to Calvin in the fall of 2020 because she wanted to be intentional about deepening her Christian faith.
“I was a passive Christian,” she said. “I would shy away from doing the right thing, and I didn’t really have a depth of understanding about my own beliefs.”
Pocuca’s life has changed. It’s easy to see the expected markers in Pocuca’s life—she and her roommate go to chapel three times a week, and she attends church each Sunday. But there’s something deeper going on.
Through her classes, interaction with peers, and mentoring, God has led Pocuca to a fuller understanding, which has changed the desires of her heart. “My life has more meaning than before. God has led me to a deeper understanding of what he is calling me to,” she said.
Pocuca wrote an essay for her English class about why she chooses to study at Calvin. “I’ve seen how my views at work and with friends and even toward my career choices have been more easily able to factor in my faith,” Pocuca wrote.
Cultivating a rich environment for Christian faith formation takes a lot of prayer, planning, and intention. “There are the practical programs that we administer, but so much of campus ministry is being present with students— eating with them, worshiping with them, having the door to your office open so they can just stop by. Lots of fruitful re- lationships and conversations come from those providential encounters,” said Mary Hulst ’91, university pastor.
“Being a worship apprentice gave me a way to intentionally put myself in a position that would nudge me closer to God.” CAASI TICA, WORSHIP APPRENTICE
Campus Ministries is continually modifying programming to meet the spiritual needs of students and respond to shifts in the university’s resources. For example, instead of a weekly Sunday evening service, students can attend a monthly campuswide commu- nion service on Sunday evenings.
“We found that students were becoming engaged in their local churches, which delighted us, so we pivoted to offer a communion service once a month where students, faculty and staff, and their families come together for song, sermon, and sacrament. It’s powerful for faculty members to serve the sacrament to their students,” said Hulst.
LIVING AND LEARNING
A focus on relationships is also key for the residence life staff. “Students are at various places in their faith development when they arrive at Calvin,” said Hennie Hultink Schoon ’95, area coordinator for several residence halls.
“Our role is to equip students to become agents of renewal—to guide them in that process,” said Schoon. “And a lot of that guiding happens in the context of personal relationships. Students are looking for a Christian faith that’s congruent with their lives. We can’t hand that faith to them, but we can provide a context and relation- ships that will guide them to make that faith their own.”
“I learned about God’s timing and how my life doesn’t happen solely because of me.”
As a worship apprentice, I help point people to God. Worship apprentices are a group of students who study and apply the intentionalities behind worship planning, mainly for daily chapel services.
Being a worship apprentice gave me a way to intentionally put myself in a position that would nudge me closer to God. Since the pandemic hit, it became difficult for me to find time to do my daily devotions and to perform spiritual practices. Being a worship apprentice became one of the paths I took to become more focused on serving God and others. I learned about God’s timing and how my life doesn’t happen solely because of me. Every- thing is within God’s reach.
In addition, multicultural worship be- came real for me. As an international student, it can be hard to find pockets of home in a place that is predomi- nantly white. It has been a privilege to be able to lead multicultural worship, like the first-ever Sounds of Filipino Worship chapel service.
Caasi Tica ’23, Quezon City, Philippines
“I have a closer relationship with God because of my on-campus job.”
I love Calvin, so I knew working in admissions would be a good fit for me. What I didn’t expect is to find people who really understand me and inspire me to grow in my faith. I have a closer relationship with God because of my job on campus in admissions.
My boss Kim Schellenberg has really taught me that you can glorify God through work. She shows me this every day—by praying with me and for me, bringing a Christ-like attitude to tough challenges, and believing in me when I have ideas. For example, my friend Sam and I came up with an idea to host a YouTube show for prospective students. It would have been easy for Kim to say “no,” but she encouraged us to pursue this idea and plan to make it successful.
She trusted us to be image-bearers of the Lord and represent Calvin well. Now I work with a budget and a staff—in high school, I would never have dreamed of being blessed with this opportunity! The encouragement and love from the admissions office has given me such a firm foundation in my faith that has helped me grow every day.
Joey Snella ’23, Elmhurst, Illinois
“Those conversations sparked a fire in me to love God and serve him with all that I am.”
My dad is a pastor, and I was in church every Sunday. But I was what some people would call a lukewarm Christian. My first year at Calvin, my roommate started a Bible study on our floor. I had honestly never been to a Bible study before. We started talking about how God was moving in our lives. Those conversations sparked a fire in me to love God and serve him with all that I am.
Now I’m a senior. And as a RA [resi- dent assistant], my role is to empower the guys that live on my floor to live for Christ. This happens in a million little ways. I have the freedom to be creative, and we can respond to what we think the floor needs for spiritual development.
T.J. Williams ’22, Muskegon Heights, Mich.
“My vocation as a Christian doesn’t start and end at the front doors of my church.”
Public health can be a discouraging field. Professor Kristen Alford knows this well. But rather than turning a blind eye to the brokenness of our world, she encourages her students to lean in and look for opportunities for renewal. That’s exactly what I found in my public health capstone course with her last year. It would be easy in this class to feel overwhelmed by the gravity of the topics we discuss—from health inequity to health care policy to mental health, but Professor Alford is a solution-oriented individual. Our discussions never stopped at merely identifying the problem. Instead, every topic was followed up by one primary question: What can I do as a Christian to bring renewal and shalom to this area?
In considering this question, I realized that my vocation as a Christian doesn’t start and end at the front doors of my church. Rather, it expands to every facet of my life, including my profession. My Calvin education has made me acutely aware of the broken- ness of our world, but it has also left me confident in my divine calling to restore shalom wherever I find myself, whether it be the sanctuary or the CDC. I take great comfort in knowing that Calvin faculty and staff, like Professor Alford, have already paved the way for me to do just that.
Anna Christiansen ’23, Anchorage, Alaska
“My coach exemplifies what it looks like to walk with Jesus in every step of your life.”
Between large nursing classes and the volleyball team, I have had the chance to witness numerous miracles and walk through tough battles with a wide variety of people. It is moments like this—when believers lean on each other and pour the spirit into one an- other—that have ultimately changed my life.
My coach exemplifies what it looks like to walk with Jesus in every step of your life. More specifically, Coach Amber Warners has encouraged me to take the step of boldly proclaiming my faith to those around me by choosing to pray out loud over the team and creating conversations during which I ask for prayer requests.
Madelyn Hall ’22, Hudsonville, Michigan
“I became more aware of other viewpoints, while also growing deeper in my own beliefs.”
I have found myself growing spiritually through classes covering anything from biblical studies to geography. My first year, first semester, I took Philosophy 153 with Professor [Kevin] Corcoran. He covered various phil- osophical issues from the existence of God to a discussion of hell. What I appreciated about this class and what helped me in my faith was the way in which he taught it: He would describe multiple viewpoints, bring up the pros, cons, and struggles with every viewpoint, and then encourage us to choose our belief concerning it. This could involve more research if need be. I became more aware of other view- points, while also growing deeper in my own beliefs.
Joey Tuttle ’23, Byron Center, Michigan
“Students are hungry to learn what it means to live in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ.”
I see change coming at Calvin. I’ve seen so many of my close friends captivated by Jesus, wanting to live in a deep relationship with him. I didn’t necessarily see that my first year, but the Holy Spirit is moving on campus and in Grand Rapids. Students are hungry to learn what it means to live in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ.
I’ve had a few watershed moments at Calvin. One would be a Gospel Choir concert a few years ago. I was there as a spectator and wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect to see the spirit of God moving on that stage, but that is what happened. I knew I had to be part of it.
Since then, I’ve joined the Gospel Choir—not for me, I joined to send the praises up to God. That’s what my whole life is about, that one singular goal of living a lifestyle of worship. When I started to live like that, it changed my desires and what I wanted out of life.
Christian Swaim ’23, Whitinsville, Mass