May 2020—Struggles & Blessings
Annabelle’s laughter filled the room. “Poly, poly, weeee!” she sang as loud as she could. Before the song had fully finished, Annabelle was already rewinding the recording to replay it.
Christine Loesser, InterVarsity’s Area Ministry Director for Central and South New Jersey, smiled at her five-and-a-half-year-old. Virtual learning hadn’t been the easiest of seasons, having to balance working from home and parenting three small children between her and her husband, Chris, a Regional Alumni Coordinator for InterVarsity.
But Christine often found herself grateful for the teachers and administrators putting in extra hours to make online learning happen. That her daughter, Annabelle, had developed a special connection with her new kindergarten music teacher, Miss B, through her online lessons was another unexpected blessing.
“Mom,” Annabelle tugged on Christine’s sleeve, jumping up and down, “can I pleeease watch Miss B on the computer again?”
“Actually,” Christine gave a playful nod, “I have something even better.”
Moments later a full-size Miss B popped up across the TV. Annabelle had the biggest grin as she sang along with her teacher, “Poly, poly, weeeee!”
Christine couldn’t help but grin too. But the more she heard and saw Miss B, there was something familiar about this student teacher, like they’d met before.
Christine’s laptop chimed. Time for her next video call. Filing the question away, Christine switched back into Area Director mode.
November 2019—A Bright Future
Doing exit interviews with graduating seniors had been bittersweet for Liane. For the last three years, she’d volunteered as the Campus Minister for Westminster Choir College—in addition to being a full-time third grade teacher. But she just didn’t have the time anymore, not with pursuing a master’s degree and expecting her first child.
Liane had first heard about this volunteering opportunity from Christine Loesser, her old campus minister, during her time as a student at The College of New Jersey. Volunteering had been a blessing for Liane: staying involved with InterVarsity, helping mentor future worship leaders, and growing in her own leadership skills.
Her next talk was with Madi, who was about to start teaching music at an elementary school as a student teacher. Due to her limited schedule, Liane hadn’t had much time to get to know Madi. But it didn’t take long for them to establish a connection.
“Full of enthusiasm and life. Really positive, friendly, kind, and welcoming,” Liane described her. “She’s one of those people that when you talk to them, you feel like you’re the only person in the world.”
As they began the exit interview, Madi shared about her experience with InterVarsity. She’d come into college wanting to grow deeper in her faith, and through some friends and a prayer lunch, she’d discovered InterVarsity.
Madi shared later, “I feel like through InterVarsity and through what Liane had done through our chapter (even though I had never truly connected personally with her), I learned so much about God and my relationship with him, and it’s so much stronger already.”
The more they talked, Liane couldn’t help getting excited, imagining what a blessing Madi would be to her students.
April 2020—Unexpected Challenges
Madi slumped at her desk in front of her computer at home. Student teaching was nothing like she’d imagined, at least not since the coronavirus hit.
She missed her students. She missed their questions and feedback that deeply shaped her lessons, that made them more relevant, fun, and meaningful. She missed seeing how music made some kids come alive. She missed the many little voices calling out, “Miss B, Miss B.”
Since the shift to online learning, Madi had pivoted to developing music lessons for every kindergartner and first grader in the school district. “It was very telling about how much in-person classes really mean to music,” she said. “I had a lot of teaching videos where I would sing a line and expect my students to sing back. And, of course, [they didn’t]. . . . I kind of felt like Dora the Explorer.”
Madi did her best to help students feel like they were part of a community and burn off some of their pent-up energy from being inside all day. But still it wasn’t easy. She had no idea how students were responding to her lessons, or if they even knew how to access them.
As she struggled to finish her final assessments for student teaching, Madi knew she was at a crossroads. After graduation in May, she could either focus on vocal performance or look for a job as a music teacher—something she’d been thinking about ever since she’d visited her mom’s music classroom when she was little. But since the pandemic had broken out, Madi wasn’t quite so sure anymore.
May 2020—The Grander Story
The question was still sitting there in the back of Christine’s mind: how did she know Miss B? She never expected the answer to literally pop up in her Instagram feed.
“What?!” Christine shouted and started to laugh. Right in front of her was a picture of Miss B. Christine’s colleague, Alyssa, had just posted it, celebrating Madi’s graduation along with the rest of InterVarsity’s graduating seniors in the region.
The closer she looked at the photo, Christine realized she’d even met Madi once during a visit to see Liane and the chapter at Westminster. “I gave thanks to God, the One who so beautifully wove this story together and who allowed my daughter to be a recipient of Madi’s ministry as a student teacher!” Christine said later. “It felt like God had pulled back the curtains on the grander story a bit, and I saw in a new way, and from a different seat as a mom, the impact of the world changers we have the privilege of developing through InterVarsity.”
After hearing how God had connected Madi and Annabelle, Liane reflected, “For Madi to be able to make this connection with Christine’s daughter in an environment where connections are very limited, sometimes quite literally was truly a spiritual thing. It’s like God was saying to Christine and [other InterVarsity] ministers, ‘Look, I’m carrying what you’ve done and taking it further, and you can reap the fruit of your hard work. Your children will benefit from the impact that you’ve had, planting these small seeds and raising up leaders.’”
Knowing that this all was far from coincidence—and having been a student teacher herself—Christine knew she needed to reach out to Madi. So together with Annabelle, Christine recorded a thank you video and passed it along to Liane.
Madi was still struggling to finish up her schoolwork and questioning her teaching abilities when she received Christine’s message from Liane. As she watched Annabelle share how much she loved the lessons, Madi felt a weight lift off her shoulders.
“That made me feel really good and cemented the fact that, ‘Okay, I can do this. I can keep doing this virtual stuff. I’m doing alright. The kids are enjoying it,’” she said. “It amazes me how much God works through everyone without us even realizing it until he puts it in front of us.”
Liane was also stunned by the layers of divine connections: from Christine mentoring her as a student to how she’d volunteered at Madi’s chapter to how Madi had blessed Christine’s daughter through the hard season of virtual learning and the pandemic. She reflected, “Through Madi’s story, we learn that God always has intentions to work through us. It’s not a question of if God will use [you] after college but how. And as students graduate with that mindset, they will recognize that they’ve been equipped with tools through their time with InterVarsity that will be lifelong tools that they will continue to use wherever the Lord leads them moving forward, secular or not.”