Grace College Legacy Students Follow the Friendship of Their Fathers
Of Grace College’s 465 new students this year, 40 of them are legacy students, meaning at least one of their parents attended Grace. But of these 40 names familiar to the registrar, seeing the last names Raasch and Strother together is a flashback to 27 years ago.
Mike Raasch and Zach Strother arrived at Grace in the fall of 1996. Without any existing connections on campus, the two Beta Hall residents became close friends.
Zach grew up in Chicago. He heard about Grace College through alumnus Clive Craigen, whom he met at Inner City Impact, a Christian ministry for children in urban neighborhoods. Craigen, who was mentoring Zach, strongly encouraged him to attend Grace to get his degree in education, and that he did.
Mike was technically a transfer to Grace. After a short stint at community college, Mike attended New Tribes Bible Institute (now Ethnos360) in Waukesha, Wisconsin. After finishing the program, he knew he wanted more education to pursue ministry. He first heard about Grace College through a college fair in the area.
“I had never heard of Warsaw, let alone Winona Lake,” said Mike. But thanks to the fact Grace accepted many of his credits, he ended up at Grace as a biblical studies major with a minor in Greek.
As Mike and Zach reminisce on their college days, they are quick to name the men who invested in their lives and education, men like Dr. Dave Plaster, Dr. Bickel, Jack Rantz and Dr. Skip Forbes. Mike speaks fondly of his time as a baseball player at Grace, and Zach is sure to mention the intramural basketball game in which he put up 56 points. But they both agree that the friendships they formed with the guys on their hall — and with each other — trump all else.
“What really sticks out is the friendships that were made,” said Mike. “Those friendships that were formed back then still continue to this day and were founded upon our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s one of the biggest blessings that Grace College has given me.”
After graduating in 2000, Mike continued his education, pursuing his M.Div. in pastoral studies at Grace Seminary. In 2002, he stepped into the lead pastor role at Living Gospel Church in Nappanee, Indiana, where he still faithfully pastors to this day.
Zach returned to Chicago in 2000 and received his Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute while also teaching in the Chicago public schools. After a few years, he began teaching in private schools.
Ten years later, Zach pivoted in his career and pursued law enforcement. He became an officer for the Chicago Police Department, which opened to his eyes to a need for mentorship in the neighborhoods of Chicago. As a result, Zach founded the Brotherhood Program, a mentoring network through Legacy Disciple, that operates in churches across Chicago for 6th-12th grade boys. The program supports young men in their character development and instills the values of perseverance, leadership and integrity.
Through the ups and downs of the past 23 years, Mike and Zach have remained close friends.
“Even when we left Grace, we remained connected,” said Zach. “Because life hits you. And when life hits you, you need friends — you need people who are praying for you. As I navigated adulthood, the Lord used authentic friendships in my life, and I’m so thankful he gave me that at Grace.”
“One of the things that drew me to Zach was his ability to love the Lord Jesus even in the midst of loss,” Mike added. “Our family’s journey has not been the easiest either. In the midst of my wife’s seven-year battle with cancer, I could call Zach and be real and raw with him. He would give me encouragement in the Lord, and I knew his words were not vain or hollow because of what he had been through.”
As a result of their ongoing friendship, Mike and Zach’s sons, Ian and Daniel, have known each other since they were young. They have memories of the two families meeting in Chicago or Indiana throughout their childhoods.
A stand-out basketball player for NorthWood High School, in Nappanee, Indiana, towering at 6 feet 6 inches tall, Ian now plays wing for the Grace Lancers.
“I knew I wanted to play ball in college, so wherever I got recruited would be an option for me, and I also knew I wanted to stay close to home,” said Ian. “Because my dad went to Grace and loved it here, I’ve always thought of it as a good school. So when they offered me a basketball scholarship, I knew that I wanted to come here.”
Ian is studying business management and plans to get his MBA through the school’s accelerated bachelor’s and master’s dual degree program.
Daniel was reluctant to apply to Grace at first, but after being accepted, his dad encouraged him to schedule a campus visit. Even though he had been on campus several times with his dad, this time was different.
“I just fell in love with the campus,” said Daniel. “It was small. It was beautiful. I liked how it wasn’t secluded but a part of an up-and-coming town. I loved everything about it, so I pursued Grace.”
Daniel didn’t learn that Ian was coming to Grace until he attended one of Ian’s state basketball games last spring. According to Daniel, it brought him comfort knowing that he would have someone he knew on campus.
Daniel hasn’t decided on a major yet, but he knows his ultimate goal is to be a police officer like his father. He enjoys competing in intramural sports, participating in events hosted by the Council for Diversity and Inclusion and living in Beta Hall. But when asked about his favorite aspect of college, his answer sounds much like his father’s.
“My favorite thing about Grace is the community,” said Daniel. “I love how everyone is so inclusive. I knew there was a place for me at Grace, and I really like it here.”
To learn more about the Christ-centered community at Grace College, visit grace.edu.
Photo above:(Left to right): Zach Strother, Daniel Strother, Ian Raasch and Mike Raasch reunite on Beta field.