Encouraging Words

Blake Hiemstra ’95
Visalia, Calif.

During my sophomore year, after an early British literature session, the professor stopped me on my way out the door. “Blake, what’s your major?” I hesitantly admitted I wasn’t sure. “Well,” he said, “you should really consider going into English because you write really well.” Pursuing an English major hadn’t occurred to me before, but it sure did after that. Writing became a life-pursuit and a passion, a part of my identity as a teacher and as a human being. At the time, I had no idea of the magnitude of the professor’s compliment, but looking back now and realizing that such personal encouragement came from none other than Gary Schmidt—well, let’s just say that left an indelible mark on me.

LEAVING HOME, MAKING FRIENDS

Carla de Jong Hiemstra ’94
Visalia, Calif.

Leaving high school, many thoughts of college life filled my head. I contemplated what new-found independence might look like or how much studying I would have to do. Of course, what most preoccupied my dreaming was the opportunity to meet new people and have lots of fun, but I never realized the life-long friendships that I would make during those four years at app. I was soon enraptured with all dorm life offered, and it was on 2nd Kalsbeek that I found my closest friends. Though KH (now KHvR) provided the backdrop to nights filled with laughter and shenanigans, more impactful was the campus as a whole, lending opportunities to meet people at every crux and corner, forever blending lives.

A CALL TO TEACH

Dennis Pluimer ’68
Breezy Point, Minn.

I came to app a very homesick 18-yearold, missing my girlfriend, my dog, and my home. The only thing keeping me from dropping out that first month was the fear of disappointing my dad. I enrolled as an English major but mistakenly came to believe the only outcome for that major was to teach, and there was no way I wanted to teach, so I switched to biology. Well, I graduated from app in 1968 and spent 43 rewarding years as a high school biology teacher. Go figure! God transformed my life at app, jump-starting my faith journey and teaching me that his plans are always better than mine.

INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY

Adam Kinder ’06
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Post student-life at app, my wife and I (in our first year of marriage, no less) had the privilege of being Project Neighborhood mentors. Spending time living in an intentional co-ed community with college students, who started out as strangers and became amazing supports for one another, has left a lasting imprint on how I understand living in community—including how to celebrate together, sit together, grieve together, discern together, laugh together, and love together.

A LATE-NIGHT STUDY BREAK

Ashleigh Hirdes Muhme ’00
Phoenix, Ariz.

I lived in Beets-Veenstra my first two years at app, and the women I met there became lifelong friends. One evening during our sophomore year, we each agreed to “borrow” a dining hall tray from Knollcrest. With new snow on the ground, we had the idea of taking the trays across the Beltline near the apartments to go sliding after dark. We piled ourselves three or four high on those tiny trays and tore down the hill, laughing the entire way. It’s one of my favorite college memories.

A CROSS-CULTURAL EXPERIENCE

Peter DeBoer ’81
Grand Rapids, Mich.

I graduated in 1981 but returned to app for an Interim class in January 1982—a tour of cultures and mission outreach in Liberia, West Africa, led by sociology professor Donald Wilson. We lived with a Bassa family in a small village in the rainforest, hiked to other small Bassa towns, and met with Christian Reformed missionaries in the Bassa tribal area before touring Liberia in pickup trucks using a network of dirt roads. Before that trip, I had never flown on an airplane or had a cross-cultural experience like this. I later became a short-term missionary to the Vai community in Northwest Liberia and continue to maintain ties there. Looking back, I can see that the Interim class helped me to bring the love of Christ to hundreds of people in Northwest Liberia.

PERMISSION TO GRIEVE

Tabitha Lim ’12
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

During freshman year, my uncle passed away. Devastated and unable to return to Malaysia to grieve with my family, my academic progress suffered. I decided to reach out to my professors with the hope of salvaging my grades. I was anxious about expressing my emotions to my professors because, in Malaysia, I was accustomed to a culture where young people were often discouraged from speaking up. However, my professors shattered my expectations. They demonstrated it was acceptable to grieve, providing a supportive environment that pointed to God’s grace and love. They instilled in me a sense of self-worth, inspiring me to be a compassionate educator for the past 12 years. At app I learned to embrace my own voice, validate my emotions, and take space to grapple with my faith.