Gertrude’s Story

August 12 2010

Gertrude’s Story

I hugged my mother goodbye, assured her that I was OK, and sorrowfully watched her walk out of my dorm room. I was completely alone, away from anything that was familiar to me, and at a loss for what to do. Before this moment, I had always had the comfort of a support system at less than an arm’s length away. You must understand, I come from a huge, boistrous family, so silence and loneliness were foreign elements; and there I sat, in silence, alone and afraid, and wondering “now what?”
I did not know my way around the VT campus – anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I am directionally challenged – so exploring the campus seemed like a dangerous route to take. But in lieu of hiding in my dorm room, I mustered some bravado and ventured out, just to see what others moving in were up to. About ten minutes later, after each building and archway in (what I would later discover as) lower-quad began to run into each other, and I discovered that I couldn’t find my way back to Newman Hall, panic set in. I did however keep my head long enough to call my brother (did I mention that my brother was a student at VT during my first two years?) to explain my situation, and condemn myself for not waiting for the tour he had promised me. Fifteen minutes after that phone call, my brother found me seated in front of D2, led me back to Newman, ordered me some food, and the following day, gave me a tour that allowed me to “map” out a route from my dorm room to my classes.
From that day, my schoolwork and I became great friends. Despite urgings from my brother to break from my eat-sleep-class-study routine, I was relentless. Weeks into the semester, I had formed no connections, and apart from emerging to attend class, or buy food, remained perpetually sequestered in my room. It was on one of these “ordinary” days that I heard a knock on my door (note here that my door was closed, rather than open; I would later learn that open doors invite people to pop their heads randomly into your room and comment on its size, or your wall hangings…comments from which you can begin a conversation…anyway, I digress). I opened the door to a very bubbly hall-mate – I had met her during my first week on campus, and knew that she was an exchange student, “Hi! I’m Prina! This is Marie. Do you want to come to Chi Alpha with us?!” She was so enthusiastic, and I was so taken aback, wondering why she would want to invite me to a fraternity, and at the same time formulating my refusal, “Sorry, but I’m not interested in joining a fraternity. But thanks anyway”.
“Oh no, Chi Alpha is not a fraternity. It’s a Christian group, and tonight is free food Friday”. I’m unclear about the details from here. But I know that somehow I ended up at the Chi Alpha house, meeting the most unusual mix of people – personalities that would have clashed in any setting, here, fit snugly together, like the pieces of a patchwork quilt – vibrant, lively, boisterous, with its beauty stemming from its medley of people.
The following Monday after my Free Food experience, I visited Prina’s “small group” (bible study, core group…), and about a week later, I was on my way to fall retreat ( a trip that Chi Alpha sponsored, because I couldn’t afford it). Chi Alpha was anything but dull, and though I must have come to my first Free Food out of intrigue, I came back because of how warmly I was received, and stayed because it was impossible to return to my pre-XA days.
Three years later, I am still a “Chi Alphan”. It is impossible to describe just how much God has used this community of believers to stretch me in my walk with Him. He became even more persistent in the weeks leading up to our missions trip to the Atlanta Dream Center. And you know how people talk about encountering God in a way that makes you re-think how you’ve been approaching this whole relationship thing? Well, this is exactly what happened to me in Atlanta; and for a girl who loves to keep a tight hold on the reigns, learning to give control to God and trust that He knows what He’s doing is making things very interesting.
And I’ll tell you why if you come and ask me…I’ll be the one bouncing of the walls with enthusiasm!

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