Three Siblings, Three Stories, One Grace
“Just one day at a time.” This was Scott and Julie Aten’s mantra during their children’s college search. They knew that having three kids in three and a half years would make this season a crazy one. It would require a lot of visits, a lot of money and most importantly, a lot of prayers.
“We always thought it would be neat for them to have a Christian college experience because we always sort of wished we had had that,” said Scott and Julie, who both attended secular universities. But Christian college never seemed like a realistic option. Scott, a teacher, and Julie, a stay-at-home mom, did everything they could leading up to their kids being in college. Regardless of how much they prepared, they knew that it would have to be God who opened the doors to get their kids through without acquiring debt, something they had a strong conviction against.
Getting three kids through college would be a challenge. But getting three kids through Christian college seemed nearly impossible.
When it came time for Scott and Julie’s oldest daughter, Lauren Aten (BS 19), to choose a school, she selected Kent State University. A self-proclaimed homebody, she was perfectly content to stay home with her parents and commute to class. But after the syllabus day of her second semester, Lauren felt the Lord start to nudge her in a different direction.
“Multiple professors were cussing, and I was just really turned away by that,” says Lauren. “I went to a public high school, so it’s not like I’ve never been in the world. Looking back, I know that God must have been moving in my heart.”
She began searching online for other schools that offered her major and Grace College popped up. She knew of Grace through her high school friend, Spencer Mason (BA 20, MDiv 21), who loved his experience there. She wasn’t sold on going four hours away from home, but she was willing to try a campus visit.
“People on campus opened doors for me and said ‘hi’ to me,” reflected Lauren. “It was just so different from what I had experienced. I was surprised by how much I loved it.”
God affirmed that Grace was where she needed to be in big ways and small that day. Alpha Dining served grilled cheese, Lauren’s favorite food, and one of the business professors even gave Scott his card in case Lauren needed anything.
“Everyone went above and beyond what we expected,” said Julie. “It was just so confirming to us as parents that we were doing the right thing.”
Lauren moved onto Grace’s campus that following fall. Although the first few weeks of being away from home were even harder than she expected, Lauren knows now that Grace was absolutely where she needed to be.
The summer after her first year, Lauren’s best friend from home unexpectedly passed away.
“I remember Lauren saying that she just couldn’t wait to get back to Grace that fall because that’s where her support system was,” said Julie. “That was very telling.”
Now, a few years removed from Grace, Lauren still can’t say enough good things about her time there.
“I just loved my experience. Through counseling, chapels and all that Grace offered as support, this was the time in my life when my faith really became my own. Grace gave me tools to add to my belt each year that helped me grow more and more. I would recommend Grace to everyone because it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Next up was Kali Aten (BA 22). Kali found the idea of looking for colleges overwhelming, so she limited her options to what she knew: Kent State University and Grace College. But the decision was made easy after a visit to see her older sister over Sibs Weekend.
“I really got to experience the Grace culture on that visit,” said Kali. “The culture is why I chose Grace.”
Kali’s experience at Grace was what all college freshmen hope for. During her first week on the hall, she met her three best friends: Maddie Paris, Shelby Nees and Brooklyn Long (BS 22). “I remember thinking it was just so cool that while we were just getting to know each other, we could be so open about our faith and pray together,” said Kali.
The Christ-centered curriculum was also something Kali thoroughly enjoyed.
“Grace was my first opportunity to sit down in a classroom and formally study the Bible. I loved classes like Exploring the Bible and Essential Doctrinal Themes. These classes not only taught me about Scripture but also made me think about how to apply the concepts to my major.”
This was especially meaningful to Kali, a visual communication design student, who has always had a heart for missions and service. She wasn’t sure how exactly, but she knew she wanted to combine the two. In hopes to find out, she attended the Conference on Mission and approached every single mission booth asking them if they had a need for a graphic designer. Every single one said, “Yes!” It was eye-opening for her to realize the role she could play using her gifts.
“I am so thankful that Grace provided those resources,” says Kali, a May 2022 graduate, who looks forward to seeing how God will use this intersection in her life in the future.
Kyle Aten, the youngest of the family, had one priority in his college search: he wanted to play baseball. So he got started relatively early, attending a double-digit number of prospect camps to get in front of as many college coaches as possible. Grace was one of the schools in the mix, but his dream was to play Division I baseball at Liberty University.
After throwing a personal record on his Liberty visit, and still not getting a look from the coach, Kyle started to realize that God had other plans for him. He began praying that God would provide a very specific scholarship amount to come in the form of a baseball offer.
“I asked boldly for a big number,” says Kyle. “But I didn’t think that I would ever really get it.”
At that point, Kyle had narrowed his options down to Grace and Mt. Vernon. To his great surprise, Grace offered Kyle the precise number he had prayed for. And even more shocking – Mt. Vernon offered him the equivalent amount.
“I took that as God saying, ‘Here. Both are right. Both are in my will. You pick,’” said Kyle. “This was one of the first big God moments of my life, at 18, being able to really have an understanding of what I perceive the Lord’s will is,” he said.
Kyle followed in his sister’s footsteps and chose Grace, where he is studying business management and starting his MBA this summer. According to him, learning business principles through a Christian worldview makes all the difference.
“There is a way to do things that is profitable, but with an eternal perspective,” says Kyle. “The way we are taught at Grace is so Christ-centered that it changes the way you treat people. Business becomes about so much more than just the bottom line. It becomes about representing Christ.”
Three Siblings, Three Stories, One Grace
Each of the Aten siblings came to Grace in their own way. They all studied different majors, made their own friends and got involved in different things. Through each of their stories, the Lord, in His perfect plan, met their needs, blessed their prayers and ultimately strengthened their faith. Grace was a place where they came to know Christ in deeper and more personal ways.
“As hard as it is sometimes to let your kids make their own decisions, college is the first decision that they will make as an adult,” says Scott. “All you can do is pray about it as a family and hope that you’ve instilled enough in them that they will make a godly decision. If you keep taking it to the Lord in prayer and allowing Him to guide you, it’s not going to be a wrong decision.”
Through the testimony of each of their kids, the Atens will tell you that God made the seemingly impossible, possible – all three of them received a Christ-centered education debt-free.
“The Lord completely opened doors, because I have no idea how we got all three through college owing nothing,” says Julie. “It’s a good reminder that we have to let the Lord be big and do what He does.”