Abigail Almeida began her college experience as a bio-chem major at Michigan State University, introducing her to a culture and world vastly different than home. Family had always been the closest people in her life; her siblings were her best friends, and when she moved to MSU, it introduced her to all that a secular university had to offer. Abi’s brother previously attended MSU and had connected with the local campus ministry, Adventist Student Fellowship (ASF). She arrived two weeks before school started. Since many of the ASF students were not there yet, she had two weeks to enjoy this new-found freedom. As her new friends invited her to events, she began to feel out of place and question her inherited identity. Everything began to feel very strange and unfamiliar. Then one of her brother’s friends from ASF called her and invited her to stay Friday night and go to church together. Though she wanted to say no, she knew her brother would find out.
Once at church with the other ASF students, Abi felt the familiar peace that comes from being around people who love God. Abi stated, “I remembered who I was again.” The ACF students and the University Church in East Lansing became her home away from home. She continued to attend ACF events, but struggled academically that first semester. She admitted to failing her first semester due to using her freedom to not attend class since it was not required. By the second semester, she transferred to Western Michigan University (WMU) and began commuting with her brother to classes.
Since her brother was a leader in the ACF group at WMU, Abi was able to connect with the student group there, and that became her friend group. They would study together on campus even though we were different majors. As with many students, she struggled with her major and changed to bio-med. Every year of her college experience Pastor Jermaine Gayle from CAMPUS would ask if she was interested in being part of the Missionary Training Program. She always said no because she knew her dad would not approve of her taking a year off of school. She signed up to canvass one summer, knowing that she could only canvass for part of the summer due to summer classes. Her dad was unhappy about her decision to canvass for fear it would negatively affect her studies. She completed half the summer canvassing, but was convicted she should stay the entire summer. The canvassing summer helped her grow in her faith and relationship with God. The fellowship with like-minded young people from CAMPUS inspired her. Many of her fellow canvassers had completed the CAMPUS program and encouraged her to join, but God still had to work on her and her parents another year.
The following summer, Abi canvassed again and met Miranda, who had recently been baptized as a result of the Missionary ministry at MSU. They became fast friends and Miranda encouraged Abi to apply to the Missionary Training Program. Interestingly, that was the only summer she did not receive a phone call from Pastor Jermaine about the MTP. Instead, God sent Miranda to give her the invitation while on a canvassing satellite. After dropping students off at their stops, Abi quickly filled out the application for fear she would forget to do it later. Peace came as she hit send, assuming that due to the lateness in the summer, she assumed she would not be accepted. But Pastor Jermaine called extending the invitation to join the MTP in just a few weeks.
Now she would have to tell her dad about her decision. As she reflected, all her decisions had previously been made based on another persons’ recommendation and request. From choosing her major to the university she attended, from attending church to becoming a leader in the ACF student group, each was either prompted through her parents or siblings. Attending the Missionary Training Program was a personal conviction that she believed God had given to her. She feared his disappointment in her for not attending school in the fall, especially since it would be her junior year. As she talked to her dad, her desire to follow God was apparent. She postponed her junior year to dedicate one to God.
Abi will finish her senior year the summer of 2020. Her hope is to get a job working in a lab in North Carolina. However, her long-term plan is to pursue music more seriously. She has a passion for music and especially leading God’s people in singing. During the Covid-19 stay-at-home order, she has used her gift of music to lead music via virtual worship services.
Abi’s word of advice to incoming freshmen is to take your time. She states, “I think a big fallacy in higher education is that you have to get done in four year, or that you have to go to college right after highschool.” In hindsight she believes that if she would have taken a year off before school, she would have a deeper understanding of her faith, identity and purpose. She followed up by sharing, “What matters is not necessarily the education, but it is what we are doing with our classmates and professors? Have we used every opportunity to share Christ with them?”