Connections: Mark Grantham
July 6, 2014
Let God Use You
Mark Grantham serves as commuter services director at Evangel University (Assemblies of God) in Springfield, Mo. Grantham seeks to connect with the more than 400 commuter students attending the university and ensure their best possible experience at Evangel. Grantham spoke recently with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor.
evangel: Commuter students sometimes feel like second-class members of a campus. How do you combat that perception?
MARK GRANTHAM: I started in this position in the summer of 2011. My focus is our traditional undergrad commuters, so I don’t interact with distance-learners or those pursuing a master’s degree. Addressing social as well as spiritual needs, I work within both a group context and in individual mentoring.
I was a commuter student when I attended Evangel myself, so I understand the challenges of commuting to a residence institution. You can feel like an asterisk, the add-on. But by reinforcing an alternate perspective, I hope to turn that around.
As much as possible, I don’t even reference our students as “commuters.” I’ve been developing a program called 417 Hall (417 is our area code), and I want our students who come and go at Evangel to feel just as entrenched in our community as if they were in one of our residence halls.
In fact, if our students were in an actual residence hall it would be the largest on campus. Our retention rate for this segment of our student body continues to climb, which is exciting.
evangel: You experienced a life-changing injury in 2008.
GRANTHAM: I was serving as a lifeguard at a swimming pool. I got on a slide next to the pool. It collapsed, and my head hit the side of the pool, breaking the fifth vertebra in my neck. I was put on a life-flight back to Springfield, where I was stabilized. After three months of intensive therapy in Colorado, I came home and continued pursuing my life dreams, but now had to factor in paralysis from my chest down.
evangel: Your own challenges give you a unique perspective when helping the students you serve come to grips with life reversals.
GRANTHAM: Absolutely. I can say to a student dealing with a crisis, “God brought me through a crisis. He continues to bring me through. You’re going to make it.”
I had been on the job a few months when I was asked to speak in our campus chapel. I wanted to make it clear to every student that if they had not encountered a major challenge in their lives yet, at some point they absolutely would meet such a challenge.
When crises arise, we have a decision to make. We need to determine (1) whether the crisis will affect who we are fundamentally, and (2) whether that experience will affect our relationship with God.
We live in an imperfect world. Differing levels of negative experiences happen to us every single day. I can’t say I’ve navigated every one of those perfectly. However, when we truly believe God is able to shape what we go through to make us better, that foundational faith in His wisdom will preserve our sense of gratitude.
evangel: Is there a Scripture passage or biblical narrative that undergirds your approach to life?
GRANTHAM: I gain a lot of help from the story of Joseph in Genesis. He was just 17 when his brothers sold him into slavery. For the next 13 years, he was a slave and a prisoner. He certainly dealt with some tough questions during that time, but he never lost his faith in and commitment to God. I’ve definitely had some hard times, but I never want to stop letting God use me.