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    Why a Christian College Is for Me

    Our essay contest winners talk about the value of a Christ-centered education.

    We asked you to send in an essay on why you want to attend a Christian college—and told you we'd reward the writers of the winning essays with money for college. The winners are: First place, Kendra Joy Edwards of Indiana; and second place, Rebecca Larson of Oregon. The winners received $250 and $100, respectively. Edited versions of the winners' essays appear here. Want to enter this year's contest? See page 8.

    First place

    Kendra Joy Edwards Having been raised on the mission field, I attended a typical Brazilian high school, and prepared with my Brazilian classmates to take the college entrance exam known as "vestibular." This test has about a five percent acceptance rate. By passing, I was accepted into a prestigious and completely free state university close to home. I could easily live at home and study for free as my older sister has done. Doing so, I'd have a job, friends and the opportunity to save money during my college years for graduate school.

    However, that's not what I chose. While financially it may not make sense, I feel called to move back to the USA and attend a Christian university. I have studied all my life in a secular school and I really feel the desire to be taught by spiritual mentors. During my high school years, I was taught by incredibly talented professors, many who even hold doctorate degrees, but their perspectives were intensely humanistic and biased against Christianity. It has been a stimulating challenge to debate with them and pick through their outlook by separating facts from opinion. Although I've learned much from this experience, I look forward to being stretched in a community that will support my intellectual, emotional and spiritual development.

    In the next four years, I will make strategic decisions concerning my future. It is also a time of transition as it marks the beginning of living on my own. During this transition period, I want to surround myself with intelligent spiritual leaders who can mentor me.

    One of my initial concerns about attending a Christian college was that I would be in a sheltered spiritual bubble. During my high school years, I've enjoyed the contact and discussions with non-Christians; it was an open ground to witness to those with different beliefs. I was unsure about what ministry opportunities I would have at a Christian college. However, the more I read about Taylor University, the more excited I got about the many ministry and growth opportunities available on and off campus. Ultimately, God can open doors to use and teach me wherever I go. But there is a bigger picture: If I invest these next few years in a Christian education, I will come out better equipped to witness to others.

    I am reminded of Paul's story in the New Testament. Soon after he became a Christian, he was intent on beginning his ministry. However, he spent many years being molded and prepared by God before his ministry would be truly effective. This is how I view these next four years in college. Because of this, I chose a Christian university.

    Editor's note: Kendra began her freshman year this fall at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.

    Second place

    Rebecca Larson

    At the beginning of my college search I felt I would have to choose between great academics and a Christian education. I have come to discover that both are possible. In fact, I discovered that the Christian education I desire really can be accompanied by a stellar communications and media program, musical opportunities, a swim team, and local and global service ministries. Most importantly, I feel I won't have to sacrifice who I am or who I may yet become in order to fit into college life.

    Though I have long been a "Christian," my faith runs much deeper than any label. I believe in a personal relationship with a living God who hears me and is with me consistently every day. Having students and faculty around me who will not only share my core beliefs, but who will push me to think more deeply about my faith and act on it, is very appealing to me.

    I want to go to a Christian college where I will be able to experience a close-knit community that is uplifting and supportive to my spiritual life. At large secular schools, faith and godly values are not always the norm and it can be difficult to find other Christians. I am not doubting that Christian students can be found anywhere, but I value the importance of an abundance of Christian friends rather than one or two. The people around us in life have the ability to affect us greatly. I want the effect that others have on me to be a spiritually enriching one.

    Over the years, I've watched some of my childhood friends run far away from God. More recently, I have watched as a friend chose a secular school confident in her ability to maintain her faith anywhere, but with compromise being the unfortunate result. As I see the paths these friends have chosen, I've become steadfast in my belief not to go in this direction. I once wished to share my faith with those at a secular college in hopes of changing their hearts. After watching others struggle, I know I could better serve others and myself by first building a stronger foundation so I may never be swayed. The rest of my life will be spent fighting for what I believe, so before taking on the rest of the world, I first want to be exposed to diverse new ideas and explore them through Christian eyes. At a Christian college, I need not forgo academic excellence in exchange for Christian ideology, but can rather experience them in conjunction to receive a holistic education that prepares me to live as a Christian in a secular world.

    Editor's note: Rebecca began her freshman year this fall at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.