A Bold Journey from a Public University to a Christian College
How does one go from a long, apathetic year at a public university to thriving at the best Christian college?
Lauren Aten was going through the motions, commuting to a large state school to get a degree in Hospitality Management. She wanted to be at home and found it easier to stay within her comfort zone. She never had high expectations for the school she was attending, but as she began her second semester, she was shocked by the unprofessional language that the professors used and began to consider that maybe God had a different plan for her.
Lauren still wanted to study Hospitality Management, but it wasn’t a common major. She wasn’t sure where to start looking, so she decided to check out Grace College, a top Christian college in Indiana that one of her high school friends attended. (That seemed more promising than googling “Christian College Near Me.”) Grace not only had a Facility and Event Management major — which was nearly the same as her current major — but her visit on campus was “night and day” compared to her college experience thus far.
On her visit, Lauren noticed that Grace professors spent time praying and doing devotions before class. They were committed to building relationships with their students and it was obvious to Lauren that the faculty genuinely cared. “That day, I could already tell that this was an entirely different environment than what I was used to,” Lauren said.
Throughout her second semester at her public university, God continued stirring in her heart and prompting her to go to Grace. Although it was unlike her to leave her home state of Ohio, Lauren started at Grace the next fall.
As soon as she finished unpacking her things in Westminster Hall, Lauren was overwhelmed by the transition. In a panic, she called her parents who immediately contacted a professor who had given them his number months before. That night, support showed up at Lauren’s door — faculty and students came alongside her to pray for her and comfort her as she started afresh at this new and unknown place.
“As classes started, every day got a tiny bit better,” she said. By the end of her first year, she had changed her major to Marketing, had grown to love Grace, and was excited to return for her final year.
Then tragedy struck in her life.
That summer, Lauren’s best friend died. It left her shocked and numb and she found herself wanting to leave her hometown to return to Grace. As God began to work through the pain, Lauren expressed that his timing was a key factor in this trial: “If I hadn’t gone to Grace, I wouldn’t have made new friends and been established somewhere else,” she said.
Going back to school in the fall made a big difference for Lauren — she was able to grieve with the support and guidance of the Health and Counseling Center and grow with her closest friends and a community of Christians surrounding her.
One of Lauren’s best friends at Grace, Hannah Delp, watched her transform through the trial: “Throughout her years at Grace, I watched her bloom into the beautiful person she is today. She radiates joy, and it is evident that the Lord lives within her. He took her through hell and high water, but she saw it through to the other side. I am so proud to know her and so honored to call her one of my closest friends,” said Hannah.
After graduating from Grace, Lauren loved Warsaw/Winona Lake so much that she wanted to stay in the area, but God’s plan for her wasn’t what she expected.
She asked God for a neon green sign in the direction he wanted her to go. The company that she had worked for in high school, ForeverLawn, offered her a job. But she didn’t want to go back to her hometown where all the memories of her best friend were stronger and deeper. When an opportunity arose, Lauren moved to Indianapolis with some of her college friends in hopes of getting a job there, but the very next morning, she found a text from ForeverLawn reoffering her the position. She remembered something God had taught her at the beginning of her journey:
“Every time God pushes me out of my comfort zone, it ends up being one of the best things to ever happen to me.”
While she had hoped that Indianapolis was the new place God was leading her, He made it clear that He wanted her back in her hometown. So she accepted the position at ForeverLawn and moved back home to start the job.
“It was my Abraham and Isaac moment of preparing my altar and giving it to God,” she said. “I absolutely love ForeverLawn, and I couldn’t ask for a better job. It’s so evident that God has me here.”
Looking back, Lauren realized that God’s hands were in the decision all along: “I prayed for that neon green sign and when I look back, our ForeverLawn logo is written in green,” she laughed.
From drudging through classes at a local public university to taking courageous steps to Grace College and beyond, Lauren Aten learned what was valuable to her: “I didn’t go to Grace for just a degree,” she said, “I went for so much more, and the degree was an added bonus.”
This is the value of a Christian college.
To learn more about why Christian education is worth the investment, read this article.