By Mark Pomerville
Before Grace Smith ’20 attended Providence Christian College, she had very few friends who shared her hunger and thirst for learning more about God’s Word. Even though Smith had been a Christian all her life, grew up in a strong Christian family, and attended a Biblebelieving church, scripture and theology were rarely discussed among the high school students at her youth group.
“It was discouraging,” says Smith. “I had so many young people around me who professed to be Christians, but they didn’t think deeply about why they believed the gospel. Even worse, they would pick and choose parts of the Bible that made them feel comfortable, but ignored the passages about repentance, confession, and the self-denial involved in truly following Christ.”
Having peers who were not like-minded in wanting to study scripture only fueled Smith’s desire to further pursue truth in relation to God’s Word. But she knew that if she was to continue to grow spiritually, she would need a strong biblical education, as well as friends whose lives were defined by their Christian walk and who shared her same values. “Before I came to Providence, I prayed that I would find sisters in Christ on campus who truly valued the Lord and their faith in Him,” says Smith. “I needed fellow believers who made the Lord and the gospel their priority.”
In Fall 2016, Smith’s prayers were answered. While moving into her Providence campus dorm, she met her new freshmen roommates—Madison “Maddie” De Jager ’20 from Salem, Oregon and Charlotte “Char” Zuidhof ’20 from Alberta, Canada. Smith, a native of Southern California, found that she and her roommates had shared interests and similar personalities even though they were from different parts of the world.
Smith and her newfound friends became inseparable, taking spontaneous road trips to California beaches, eating at the local Denny’s and In-N-Out, and spending late-hour study sessions in their dorms.
“We became best friends from the moment we met,” says Zuidhof. “We haven’t gone on adventures without each other. Now we eat together, work out together, and wait for each other after class. It has become a no-man-left-behind type of friendship.”
While the friends initially connected on a social level, they discovered that the most important similarity they shared was their unwavering zeal for God’s Word.
“When I met Charlotte and Madison, I couldn’t believe how much they and the rest of the Providence community held the gospel in such high esteem,” recalls Smith. “Many of the students have been raised in Reformed churches, and their theology and understanding of scripture was far greater than mine, so I felt like I had a lot to learn from them.”
Over the past two semesters, De Jager and Zuidhof, who had both attended United Reformed Churches (URC) since childhood, have been sharing their love and knowledge of scripture with Smith. The three friends began attending a local Reformed church together and have edified and encouraged one another in their knowledge of God’s Word. “Grace was very open to talking and learning more about the Reformed Christian perspective,” says De Jager. “It was exciting because Char and I were able to share with Grace everything we had learned, from the Catechisms to the Confessions, and put those lessons into practice in ways that we couldn’t have imagined.”
Over the past nine months, the young women have laughed together, cried together, and spent their first year at Providence experiencing the joy of having friendships in which the gospel is foundational.
“What I love about Providence is that the students and teachers don’t limit their discussions about scripture to just a church service or a Bible study. They talk about the Bible outside of the classroom,” says Smith. “There are times when Madison, Charlotte, and I will debate theology until two o’clock in the morning, and it’s absolutely wonderful! We teach each other about the Bible and learn from each other. Christ and the gospel are the center of our friendship and our lives, and that’s what Christian friendships should look like.”
In less than four years, Smith, De Jager, and Zuidhof will conclude their studies, clean out their dorm rooms, and pursue their individual careers, as well as further their spiritual sanctification. While distance may separate them, the three young women are confident they will continue to nurture and strengthen their relationship with each other long after they depart from Providence.
“Wherever life takes us, we will still be friends,” says De Jager. Zuidhof adds, “It’s a deep friendship that is built to last because Christ is at the center.”
“As sisters in Christ, we are members of one body,” says Smith. “While I’m close with Maddie and Char here on earth, I’m excited to know that no matter where life takes us, we will ultimately worship our Savior together in heaven. Because of the friendship we have formed here at Providence, we have spiritually built a bond that will last, not just for a lifetime, but for all of eternity.”