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“I’m Not a Christian, But I Want to Be:” A Student’s Journey to Faith by God’s Grace

A Grace College student's journey to faith by God's Grace. She learned to surrender to God at Grace, a Christian College in Indiana. Schedule a Visit to learn more.

When Abi Roth thinks of God’s perfect timing, she recognizes His merciful hand in her own life. Her faith did not come easy, for hardship left her doubting God’s goodness. But, by God’s grace, this tear-stained path led her to Grace, where she placed her trust in Him for the very first time. Now, Roth walks in relationship with Him joyfully, knowing she can find hope wherever He leads her.


Finding Kindness in Suffering

Roth grew up in a Christian home as a child, but she never imagined experiencing the same kind of faith as her parents and brother. Though she attended church, she never found genuine community within it. And at school, she struggled to navigate an environment that discouraged meaningful Christian faith.

“I couldn’t understand why my parents believed,” said Roth. “Because I didn’t understand or feel faith, I didn’t believe it existed.”

During Roth’s senior year, she found a reason to shun faith entirely. Her mother saw a specialist for her digestive problems, and it brought an answer that felt like the family’s worst nightmare. The doctors had found a tumor in her colon, and they believed it was cancer. After running more tests, they had an official diagnosis.

Roth’s mother had stage 3 colon cancer.

“When I heard that, what little faith I had disappeared,” said Abi. “Just gone. My mom had been a faithful and devout Christian — a light for God. I thought, ‘This is how He repays her?’”

Roth gave up on God completely, furious with Him for what felt like a betrayal. But during this time, she noticed something unusual about her mother’s demeanor. Though Roth could only feel anger at the diagnosis, her mother possessed a kind of peace that Roth couldn’t understand. Throughout multiple surgeries and two rounds of chemo, Roth’s mother remained in a calm state of surrender to God.

“She lived out the philosophy, ‘Thy will be done,’ and it just made no sense to me,” said Roth.

While Roth’s mother underwent treatment, both her aunt and her mother’s coworker set up a meal train for the family. Friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers brought food to the Roth household, cooking enough meals to stock the fridge and freezer for weeks. Teachers at the school that Roth’s mother taught at checked on the family regularly, and her younger brother’s friends who could drive began giving him rides to sports practices. In light of everything, she couldn’t fathom the kindness that others showed her family.

“I wondered where all this generosity was coming from,” she said. “It was insane.”

Though Roth had not yet professed faith in Christ, the compassion she experienced during the last year of high school softened her heart. So when she and her mother began looking at colleges, Roth considered attending a private Christian school. During her senior year, she took an Indiana college tour. Though she liked a few schools, only one stood out to Roth among the rest. 


“I’m not a Christian, but I want to be.”

From the second Roth stepped foot on Grace’s campus, she felt an indescribable sense of belonging. She loved every minute of touring, taking pictures, and meeting with faculty. After a total of three visits, Roth knew her future was at Grace.

“I knew Grace was an environment that I wanted to be a part of, even though I didn’t fully understand why at the time,” she said. 

Roth officially deposited to Grace in November of her senior year and began to prepare for college. Over the summer, she received her roommate assignment: a communication major named Shelby Huiner.

“Meeting her was absolutely by God’s grace,” said Roth.

Even before the two had been assigned as roommates, their parents had interacted with each other on the Grace Parent Facebook page. Roth’s mother recognized Huiner’s name, and the families realized the remarkable coincidence of their assignment. And when Roth and Huiner spoke on the phone for the first time, they felt an immediate connection with each other. Their first call alone was six hours long.

Roth arrived at Grace that fall. She transitioned easily into living with Huiner, growing so close with her that others thought they had been friends for years. She enjoyed her courses, finding the lectures interesting and her professors enthusiastic. Even though Roth wasn’t a Christian, she resolved to keep an open mind throughout the first week.

And then came Friday’s chapel. 

The chapel theme for the year was “Follow Me.” The chaplain, Brent Mencarelli, shared a message that Roth immediately realized was meant for her.

“He told us that we belong here,” said Roth. “He said that God brought us to Grace for a reason. At that moment, everything lined up for me.” 

Suddenly, all the unexplainable situations in Roth’s life before college made perfect sense. Her mother’s incomprehensible peace through her cancer. The immense generosity others had shown that she couldn’t understand. Her room assignment with Huiner and their immediate bond. God stood behind all of it, and Roth knew she had to decide, once and for all, whether or not to respond to His invitation.

“After chapel, I approached my growth group leader (GGL) and said, ‘I’m not a Christian, but I want to be,” said Roth.

Roth’s GGL prayed with her and walked her through the gospel. During that conversation, she gave her life to Christ.

Roth knows now that every circumstance she experienced led to that moment. Even though she couldn’t trace God’s hand, He was working through every trial to bring Roth to Himself.

“He’s been there since the beginning,” she said. “I just didn’t understand it yet.”

Roth soon returned home and gave her mother a paper she had written about her testimony. With joyful tears, Roth’s mother told her that she had been praying for her for years. By God’s grace, her prayer was answered.


Following Him by God’s Grace

Now a Christian for two years, Roth knows her faith looks different than many other students’. She still sometimes feels intimidated when looking at lifelong Christians.

“But it’s okay that I don’t know everything,” said Roth. “Everyone’s walk is different. Sometimes I struggle with old habits and sins, but I’m slowly learning to trust God and give them to Him. He’s so forgiving and loving.”

By God’s grace, Roth lived out her faith proudly at Grace. She joined the worship team, singing on the same stage on which Mencarelli delivered that pivotal message her freshman year. She also served as a student ambassador for the admissions department, showing prospective students just what Grace is all about.

Roth anticipates following His plan beyond college. Having graduated with a digital communication degree spring of 2024, she currently works as an admissions counselor for Northwest State Community College.

Roth has grown into a different person from when she entered Grace. Since that chapel service, she follows God with joy and purpose. No matter what she experiences, she knows she can rely on her Father as an enduring hope.

“It’s okay to struggle,” said Roth. “But it’s important to think, ‘This is really hard right now, but there’s a lot of good that could come from this. There’s a lot of good happening even right now.’”

At Grace College, we believe a journey like Roth’s only happens by God’s grace. We want to be a part of your testimony, too. Learn more about applying to Grace and explore Grace’s chapel services here.

Tagged With: Christian College, Student Stories