A Community of Grace: Elyssa Edwards’s Story
I was pretty much the poster child to go to Patrick Henry College.
I wanted to attend there since I was 11 years old, my parents are on the state homeschool board, and I competed in the NCFCA – all classic characteristics of a standard PHC student.
PHC is a place like any other: it has its struggles, its difficulties, and its joys. As a rising sophomore, I don’t have a ton of experience with the school. But I do know this: the college is probably the most loving and accepting place I have ever seen.
Of course, PHC has its problems. In my opinion, the mandatory chapel five days a week can encourage stagnation in one’s own personal spiritual life. There is a serious problem with the amount of gossip on campus. There is way too much focus on romantic relationships. But of course, every place has its failings, and we can’t be too quick to judge a place based on of its failures alone.
Yet in spite of all these seeming failures, I left PHC after my first year with a renewed sense of hope. My first year in school was probably the hardest year of my life. I didn’t struggle with being homesick, and I didn’t struggle with the difficulty of the academic rigor of PHC. In fact, I found the work easier than I was expecting.
Rather, during my first year of college, my family dynamics completely changed while I was far away, so I didn’t know how to relate to my family. I injured myself more severely than I ever had before. My grandma passed away near the beginning of my second semester. There were several personal issues that I was dealing with. I was internalizing all this, and building up a huge emotional load that was breaking me. In addition to all this, I was taking 18 credits and working full time.
The students at PHC were amazing.
They ministered to me in ways that were unfathomable to me before I went to school. My RA took time out of her insanely busy schedule to listen to me and pray with me. My friends constantly made me do crazy things to try and cheer me up. During Sunday night worship, people would gather around and pray for people just generally, but it spoke to my heart. People would stop me on the sidewalk and ask me how I was, except they really actually wanted to know. My physics teacher taught us physics, but he also went beyond and showed us the interworkings of our world and just how much God actually cares for us. My US History professor just randomly commented to me one day, “In the 26 years I have been a Christian, God has never failed me yet.”
The people at PHC are human, yes. They make mistakes. But many of them truly want to be God’s hands and feet in our world.
And they do an amazing job of it, for they make Patrick Henry College a community of grace.