Michelle Velazquez-Mesnard was off script. Union’s vice president for Enrollment Services was asking for specific examples of issues Union’s life coaches help students deal with. It was Parent Orientation, and Sarah Gilbert, a life coach, was in the hot seat answering questions about the resources Union’s Student Success team provides for students. She had prepared for the pre-written questions. But not this one.
Her answer would be just one part of a much larger answer to prayer.
In the moment, she shared the story of an unnamed student with whom she had just met a few hours earlier. He had explained to her his financial situation; how he’d left last year with a balance and that without any family financial support, his summer earnings hadn’t been enough to pay it off. He had returned to campus anyway with little hope but firmly believing that Union College is where he is meant to be. His struggle weighed heavily on her heart as she sat under the spotlight looking out at an audience of parents.
“Today, I had the privilege of praying with a young man who is returning to Union, and he’s not sure how he’s going to pay for it,” she told the auditorium. “It isn’t a fun conversation to have with a student because it’s quite a bit of money, and he’s very much on his own. He was so thankful to me. He thanked me for praying with him … it really was a privilege to pray for him. I don’t know the outcome yet, but we asked for a big miracle.”
With no resolution, it felt like an odd story to tell: a strange first impression to leave with these new college parents. The program moved on, but the story that had been weighing on Gilbert touched at least one other heart that evening.
As everyone mingled after the program, one of the parents handed Gilbert a check folded in half, telling her to use it to help the student she had prayed with. Without even looking at the check, she thanked the parent. “I thought it would be for maybe $50,” she remembers. “It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I opened it up and saw ‘$10,000’ written on it.” By that time, the parent had quietly slipped away.
Gilbert couldn’t wait to tell the student. She hurried across campus to the gym where she knew he would be in basketball practice. When she told him that $10,000 had been donated for his account, he started crying tears of relief and thanksgiving. The scene attracted a bit of attention, and Drew Mekelburg, the men’s basketball coach, came over to see what was wrong. Gilbert retold the story. Mekelburg asked her for the precise amount of the check. Earlier that day, he had also prayed for the student. He’d asked God to find $10,000 so the student could continue at Union.
Ten thousand was the exact amount the student needed to pay off last year’s bill and make the first payment for this year. Gilbert hadn’t mentioned the number. There was no way the parent could have known. But God knew. All day, people around campus had been asking Him for $10,000.
At Union College, we know God walks beside us and answers prayers every minute of every day, but the results are rarely as obvious as that Thursday during orientation. Please join us in praising Him for the blessings He’s brought Union College and our students and asking for His guidance as the new academic year begins.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV).