The Difference You Make

Grace Emery

For Junior Grace Emery, donor scholarships were a vital part of God’s plan for her life. A teacher education major, raised in Bunnell, Florida, she comes from a Christian family which provided a solid background for her faith.

Her journey to CIU began with the gap-year program Impact 360 where she met CIU alumna Bekah McDonald. Bekah became an important mentor in her life - God worked through her to reach Grace in a new way and transform her faith. As she puts it, “By breaking my heart, and bringing Ezekiel 36:33-36 to my attention through Bekah, God showed me He was capable of making the desolate and dry places of my heart like a garden again.”

Along with a revitalized faith came a calling from God to be a teacher. “The Lord made it very clear He wanted me to teach, and when CIU's teacher education RAMP UP program was brought to my attention, I couldn't turn it down.”

The biggest hurdle she had to overcome in attending CIU was tuition cost. On the impact of scholarships Grace says, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for scholarships and donors. Their willingness to contribute to our education isn’t only a financial burden lifted, but an encouragement to people they don’t even know, and an answer to prayer.”

When asked if there is anything she’d like to say to donors, Grace responds, “I hope you know that one day, hundreds of young children will be able to have a teacher who is not only solidly educated, but also solid in her faith. That is all because you were willing to be used by the Lord for the betterment of someone else. Thank you so, so much.”

After graduation, Grace says she plans on “teaching wherever the Lord gives me an opportunity. I eventually want to make a change in education policy for the better.” She is currently considering teaching overseas, or working with Teach for America in low income and literacy rate areas.

Jennifer Wan

Jennifer Wan’s story is one of God reaching out to someone who wasn’t even aware He existed. Raised in an atheistic family, her parents sent her to study at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland. There she was invited to church. Although she initially refused the invitation, she eventually consented to attend a service. Her English was not very good at the time so she couldn’t understand the preaching, or words they sang, yet she experienced great peace and even cried during the worship. Over time, she received a Chinese Bible from a woman in the congregation, and began to listen to sermons in Chinese. One sermon especially spoke to her to the point that she wanted a relationship with Jesus Christ. She then persistently sought to be baptized, but realized she had much to learn about what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. God orchestrated things so that Jennifer also earned her master’s degree in Ireland leading to an internship with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and later a job in TV broadcasting in China.

After working five years as a reporter she sensed God calling her to ministry instead. She applied to a Christian college, but was repeatedly blocked from enrollment. Jennifer admits this was highly frustrating and determined if God did not make a way, she would continue in her broadcasting career. CIU had not been on Jennifer’s radar at all, yet several people in her life recommended it to her. Subsequently, she applied to CIU and the process went flawlessly. She says, “God opened the doors wide open for me; I got everything settled in one month!” God’s provision was evident in the donor scholarship process. Without this assistance she would not have been able to afford to study at CIU. In reflecting on her journey, Jennifer notes, “God is such a faithful God. He has led me step by step.” God has placed a burden on Jennifer’s heart for Muslims and Syrian refugees. She currently works with a local church’s Syrian refugee ministry. While not entirely sure what her future holds, she says “I know I will follow God's guidance; wherever He sends me, I will follow.”

Guillermo and Augie Arce-Ruiz

Guillermo and Augie Arce-Ruiz

For Guillermo and Augie Arce-Ruiz, donor scholarships changed their lives. The brothers are originally from Mendoza, Argentina but their U.S. hometown is Beaufort, SC. Both graduated in 2017 with a degree in business and organizational leadership as well as Bible.

Augie was the first to attend CIU as a freshman. As he puts it, “I wasn’t originally looking into CIU… However, God put this opportunity before me due to my situation… everything fell into place and it was amazing.” It was the life-changing experience CIU offers at work in Augie’s life that later influenced Guillermo to attend CIU as well.

Due to their immigrant status they were both ineligible for federal scholarships. “It was huge,” said Guillermo, speaking of receiving donor scholarships. “It was the only way we could come.”

The brothers both played soccer for the CIU Rams under coach James Whitaker and Guillermo is especially thankful for him being a role model and mentor in his life. Guillermo works for Grow Financial Credit Union, seeking to help others with financial matters. He has received several promotions during his time there. Augie has worked his way into the professional soccer world and is the Performance Analyst for the MLS Nashville Soccer Club.

The brothers are immensely grateful for the generosity of donors. Augie says, “For CIU donors all I can say is that I am beyond thankful for their financial support. I look forward to beginning my career and being a donor in the future. I will forever be thankful of the amazing opportunity that was given to me at CIU.” Guillermo added that he wants donors to know that “Every donation makes a difference!”

David and Michelle Mallard

David and Michelle Mallard remember the day their son received a phone call from the Columbia International University Financial Aid Office informing him that a significant institutional scholarship was available to help pay for Daniel’s education.

“Daniel put his head down on a desk in our sitting room and tears filled his eyes,” said Michelle. “He was overwhelmed that God would be so good to provide that for him.”

As part of the very first soccer team ever fielded by Columbia International University, Daniel would go down in the record books as the first CIU athlete to score a goal. Daniel earned his bachelor’s degree in Teacher Education in 2016, and is currently at CIU working on a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Meanwhile, David and Michelle’s daughter Esther was the recipient of the 2015 CIU McQuilkin Event where dozens of eligible high school seniors compete for a full-tuition scholarship.

“It’s neat to know that the school would want someone like Esther,” David said. “Esther is very much a behind-the-scenes leader. Her faith is deep. She is very mature for her age. Yet she does not promote herself.”

David Mallard adds, “We couldn’t have done it without these scholarships.” Their thanks goes out to every CIU scholarship donor. Michelle said. “It made the difference in (our children’s) ability to attend CIU.”

Sam and Flynn Senseney

Brothers Flynn and Sam Senseney are extremely grateful for the help of donors. “We have had a financial burden on us because of my mom passing away and now my dad passing,” Flynn said. “Scholarships have not only helped, but have also been a source of encouragement. They have caused me to rely more on God.”

Sam Senseney, a freshmen at CIU, is thankful that his professors want to know him. “They want to get deep,” Sam said.

That is what Sam has needed from those around him at CIU after his back was broken in an interstate traffic accident in South Carolina in 2015 — the accident that took the life of his father and injured his older brother Flynn, now a senior at CIU. The accident came about a year after their mother’s death. Even though Sam has healed from his injuries, he still has a lot of “why?” questions for God.

As for his older brother Flynn, a senior, life’s hurdles could have blocked him from continuing at CIU, but he returned and looks forward to graduation and serving the Lord with his life.

Sam expressed his gratitude in this way, “I don’t know if ‘Thank you’ would do justice. I don’t have a dad looking out for me right now for finances. You’ve helped me out, and I appreciate it.”

Lydia (Lorenson) Ellis

Lydia (Lorenson) Ellis

Lydia Ellis’ spiritual guide died of cancer when Lydia was 12 years old. That guide was her mother.

“In middle school and all through high school, I was just wandering, living in a world ruled by addiction and not seeking God,” said the CIU alumni from Maryland. But during her senior year in high school, God intervened when relatives invited her to church, Ellis said. “That’s when Jesus started to turn my life around.”

With a new life in Christ, she needed new direction. Relatives who were CIU alumni recommended she enroll at their alma mater. “I saw that CIU had a Psychology major, which I was really drawn to because I was interested in learning about the complexity of human nature through the lens of Scripture.” Ellis said. The four-year education at CIU provided Ellis with Christ-centered discipleship, and helped her process through and heal from trauma she experienced and better understand the world around her.

“The opportunities I had at CIU and the life-changing experience I had there would not have been possible if God did not intervene at the perfect time in my life, nor if He did not provide financial support,” Ellis said. “I did not need to take out any loans my junior year at CIU.”

To the scholarship donors, Ellis adds, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. A hundred times, thank you.” Today, Lydia resides in St. Louis, MO with her husband Kolten who is completing a JD at Washington University. Together they serve at their local church, Central West End Church. Lydia works remotely for a Columbia-based company, The Cason Group, which seeks to be a light of the gospel in the insurance industry.

Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm Campbell

When Malcolm Campbell’s mother drove him from their home in Chicago to enroll at Columbia International University, she was making a huge sacrifice. The single mother of 13 children believed so much in her seventh child getting a CIU education that she scraped together $7,000 to get him started at the school he strongly wanted to attend.

“She really wanted to make that sacrifice for me,” Malcolm said referring to both the money and the willingness to drop off her son hundreds of miles from home. “It was hard for her. She always told me and my siblings that she wanted us to make our own decisions and live with them, even if that scares her. So she took that risk, she really did.”

Because learning disabilities brought challenges for Malcolm, he had to work hard his first couple of semesters to bring up his grades to qualify for certain scholarships, which he did. He also earned money working in the Dining Hall, and somehow found time to play on the CIU Rams men’s basketball team.

Consequently, Malcolm is grateful for scholarships funded by CIU donors that has freed up some of his time, as he works toward completing his bachelor’s degree in Church Ministry.

“That’s a lot of stress and pressure off my mom and it took a lot of pressure off of me, and it really renewed my trust in people who care and want to support you,” Malcolm said. “If it wasn’t for my scholarships, I would not be in school.”

Malcolm is engaged to be married, and after completing his undergraduate work, plans to study for a master of divinity degree in CIU Seminary & School of Ministry. Then he says he wants to go back to Chicago and plant churches and youth centers to help children “who are not blessed with the resources I have been blessed with.”

“The need for strong Christian leaders in Chicago is great,” Malcolm continues, noting the city’s deadly crime rate and corruption. “The city is plagued with immorality, brokenness, and death. But the Lord can redeem any situation, He truly can.”

Flynn Senseney

Flynn Senseney grew up in a broken home. That was hard enough. But then his mother passed away in April, 2014. In July of 2015, Flynn, his two brothers and his father were traveling in a car on Interstate 26 in South Carolina, when they were involved in an accident. Flynn’s father was killed and his brothers were seriously hurt.

He admits that life’s hurdles could have blocked him from enrolling, and continuing at Columbia International University, but instead he says, “The Lord has guided me to CIU.”

“We have had a financial burden on us because of my mom passing away and now my dad passing,” he said. “Because money is tight and focused on my brothers’ medical attention, scholarships have not only helped, but also been a source of encouragement. It has caused me to rely more on God.”

Flynn has a message for the scholarship donors that are helping him stay at CIU.

“To all the donors, I say ‘many, many thanks.’ I am greatly appreciative and will strive more and more to do better than I did before.”

As for the future, Flynn’s plans are to possibly go to seminary, with the end goal of becoming a missionary pilot to help serve other missionaries and most importantly, the Lord.