By Mark Pomerville

photo by Madison Vujnov

As a child, Maddie Silva felt torn between two worlds. Influenced both by her father’s Mexican heritage and by her mother’s German-English ancestry,  she wondered whether she truly belonged in either culture.

“In middle school I felt like I didn’t connect with the white culture around me,” says Silva. “At the same time, I didn’t speak Spanish fluently, so I wasn’t completely comfortable with Hispanic culture either. I didn’t feel like I belonged in either world.”

Originally from Whittier, California, Silva grew up in a Christian family in a quiet suburb of the Inland Empire. Growing up in a predominantly white community proved difficult for her in spite of a wonderful home life with close friends and family.

“When I was in first grade, I remember wanting to fit in with the other kids. I wanted blonde hair and blue eyes like all the other girls in the Disney movies,” says Silva. “There were some kids at school who would make cruel remarks about my Mexican heritage. I wanted to feel like I fit in.”

Hoping to connect with a more diverse community, Silva dreamed of attending a large city college after high school. In early 2013, she applied for California State University, Los Angeles. Her parents had their sights on a different school—Providence Christian College.

“My mom used to work on the Providence campus and helped the school during its infancy. She and my dad had their hearts set on me attending because they knew the people behind the school and how devoted it was to the reformed faith. But I was resistant,” admits Silva. “I had attended Christian schools where many of my classmates weren’t really Christians, which only made me feel more alone. I begrudgingly agreed to give Providence a chance, but I wanted my college decision to be my choice.”

In March 2013, Silva’s resistance to attending suddenly changed. “The day I visited the campus was a historic day for the college,” says Silva. “It just so happened that when I sat in on a chapel service, it was the same day that Providence had officially become accredited. Mrs. Dirksen, the vice president for finance and operations, made the announcement to the whole school, and immediately the entire student body jumped up and cheered! All the students—young people from all social and cultural backgrounds—were crying and hugging each other. I had never seen a place where people were so passionate about their community and Christian education. After that moment I knew I wanted to be at Providence.”

In August 2013 Silva enrolled as a freshman. From the moment she stepped on campus, she felt welcomed in ways that she had never experienced as a younger student. “One of the main reasons that Providence immediately worked so well for me is not only because it embraced my cultural heritage, but my classmates and I can share similar struggles and peaks in the Reformed faith. Our shared Christian backgrounds and passion for learning unite us in spite of our different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.”

In addition to being embraced for her unique heritage, Silva deepened her relationship with Christ. “Even in my first class, I noticed that Providence encourages students to examine their own faith and presuppositions,” claims Silva. “Even though I’ve been learning the same reformed doctrines I was familiar with, the professors here are masterful at showing the origins of our beliefs and theology. I’m beginning to see how the gospel spans across both the Old and New Testaments, and I’m constantly being challenged to defend my faith.”

Maddie’s photo has been on the website, magazine and newspaper ads, and college promotional materials during her time at Providence as a result of her participation in a professional photo shoot on campus during her sophomore year.

Silva has actively absorbed herself in her new community. Over the last three years she has helped organize student-led events, served as president of the school’s film club, and worked as a resident assistant. In every setting, she is growing in her Christian walk. “Providence has taught me to rely on God’s sovereignty and control in my life,” says Silva. “In chapel one morning I thought to myself about how the Heidelberg Catechism states, ‘not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.’ Before I came to Providence, I depended too much on myself. I need to give my life and my identity up to God. I know that His plans are perfect. I have to acknowledge my own powerlessness and acknowledge His sovereignty.”

In May 2017 Silva plans to graduate from Providence, pursue a master’s degree, and use her critical thinking skills, understanding of God’s word, and personal experiences to pursue higher learning. “Providence has helped me see who I am as a Christian and recognize God’s hand in my life,” says Silva. “I have a richer understanding of the scriptures and why I believe what I believe in the reformed faith. I’ll be sad to leave Providence because it’s the spiritually challenging community of believers that I had always been searching for. However, I am also excited for what’s next. I have high hopes for the future because Providence has prepared me for whatever is in store.”