Cedarville Students Reflect on Grandparents’ Impact

Students share the stories that shaped their lives.

By Breanna Beers

On Nov. 1, Cedarville University celebrated Grandparents Day. Several students, including both those who participated in the campus activities and those whose grandparents were unable to visit, took the opportunity to reflect on how their grandparents’ influence has shaped their lives.

Ethan Doerstling – Freshman

Doerstling’s grandmother escaped East Germany over the Berlin Wall in 1951 when she was 22 years old. After meeting her husband in West Germany, they moved together to the United States. In Chicago, they came to know the Lord and decided to move back to Germany as missionaries. They planted churches that remain in existence to this day.

“They showed me what a devotion to the cause of Christ is by their heart for ministry and prayer,” Doerstling said.

Ethan Doerstling’s grandparents, Lothar and Lisolette Doerstling in 2014. [Photo provided by Ethan Doerstling]

David Isenhower – Freshman

Isenhower’s grandparents taught him what it means to be dedicated to reaching a community for Christ. They used to take Isenhower and his siblings to help at a food pantry and deliver supplies to retirement homes, rehabilitation centers and trailer parks.

“It was not very exciting, but it gave us the opportunity to help the local community in a way that also allowed us to invite people to the church and make a difference in their lives,” Isenhower said.

Even as his grandmother was in her final weeks of her battle with cancer, she was giving money to those in need as her husband continued to pick up donations for the food pantry.

“It was inspiring to see them helping others, even when it was them that needed help,” Isenhower said. “I always assumed that once your body started to fail, you would be unburdened in a way. Seeing them like that made me realize that until you die, you were responsible for loving and caring for your neighbors without expecting anything in return.”

David Isenhower (top right) with his grandparents, Edward and Sharon Hornsby, and brother, Jackson Isenhower. [Photo provided by David Isenhower]

David Abraham – Freshman

Abraham described how despite never knowing either of his grandfathers, both of whom passed away before he was born, their legacy has shaped his life. He has seen their influence lived out in  his parents. Abraham’s father passed on the lessons of his own father, giving Abraham a window into his paternal grandfather’s leadership and wisdom. And growing up without a father, he said, made his mom “the hardest working lady I have ever known.”

“I am who I am now because of them,” Abraham said.

Christopher Clark – Sophomore

Clark’s grandparents died during a time when he was questioning his faith, leading him to feel anger and even hatred towards God.

“I couldn’t see in my mind how they being good people could die so soon in my life,” Clark said. “I had forgotten prayer and repentance and had begun to be destructive to myself.”

However, this summer, he had the chance to meet several people dealing with serious financial struggles who still trusted in the Lord. This reminded him yet again of his grandparents’ love for the Lord, and their faithfulness to Him even through the challenges of the Great Depression. It was their legacy that really drew Clark back to the Lord at Cedarville University’s Fall Bible Conference in October.

“It is heartbreaking that I didn’t return to God sooner, but He has begun to finally fill the hole I was tearing wider for so long,” Clark said. “I began to see that Christianity was a religion that wasn’t just followed in the good parts of life, but in the bad parts, too.”

Lauren Atienza – Junior

Atienza’s family came to the United States thanks to the hard work of her grandmother, Asuncion Barbosa Atienza. She was born to a lower-income family in the Philippines but worked hard through school and eventually became a doctor. After marrying and having children, she eventually moved to the United States alone and began sending money back so she could bring her family to join her. Shortly after they did, however, her husband died from a heart attack, leaving her to raise their four children alone. Five years later, she met a widower who began to invite her family to church. She and her children eventually became believers, and she married the man Atienza knows as her grandfather.

“Her actions and hard work gave all of her kids a chance,” Atienza said. “She has taught me to work hard for my loved ones and she has sacrificed so much and still completely depends on God. I will always remember her every Thanksgiving and Christmas — working hard, cooking all the food, serving everyone, and loving every minute of it.”

Lauren Atienza with her grandmother, Asuncion Barbosa Atienza in 2017. [Photo provided by Lauren Atienza]

Kora Ostrowski – Freshman

Ostrowski expressed her thankfulness for how her grandparents continue to impact her life with their love and kindness even while she is away at Cedarville.

“My grandpa has written to me at least once a week during my first two months here at Cedarville,” she said. “I have been so encouraged by the words and pieces of Scripture that he has sent to me.”

Similarly, she said, her grandmother has been a constant source of Scripture-filled advice and wisdom as she has navigated these first few months of college.

“My grandma has always been the closest person to me in my life,” Ostrowski said. “I can go to her about anything and everything, and know that the advice I will receive will be based on what the Bible says.”

Kora Ostrowski with her grandmother in 2016. [Photo provided by Kora Ostrowski]

JoAnn Su – Senior

Su’s grandfather fled communist China in his early 20s to Taiwan where he worked hard to build a better life for his family. Despite having only a kindergarten-level education, he became a successful journalist. Su said his bravery in leaving his entire family to start over in Taiwan was passed down to Su’s mother and to Su herself.

“I think I would love people very differently had I not experienced the love of my grandparents,” Su said.

JoAnn Su with her grandfather, Zhi Cheng Tang in 2018. [Photo provided by JoAnn Su]

Abbey Salomon – Sophomore

Salomon has grown up with the example of her grandparents’ faithful love for one another and service to the Lord. Through her grandfather’s service in Vietnam, his cancer contracted as a result of exposure to Agent Orange while abroad, and his later battle with Parkinson’s disease, Salomon said she never saw her grandmother’s devotion to him falter.

In October 2019, Salomon’s grandfather died. Her grandmother’s care for him in his final years, Salomon said, demonstrated what it looks like to choose joy in the face of frustration, difficulties and grief.

“Something that I learned from my grandparents was pure, genuine joy,” Salomon said. “My grandmother holds true to this even to this day. Even now, she is … still choosing joy over fear.”

Abigail Adams – Freshman

Watching both her grandmothers battle and overcome breast cancer multiple times was an inspiration to Adams. After seeing them go through chemotherapy, she began to grow out her hair to donate to cancer patients. So far, she has donated twice, a length of 22 inches overall. Adams is currently growing her hair out to donate again.

“It is such a simple act, yet so meaningful,” Adams said. “Something Nana tells me every time I hug her goodbye is, ‘Walk with the King and be a blessing,’” Adams said. “I remember those eight words daily.”

Adams said her grandparents’ hospitality and joy in the Lord have shaped her own care for others. Watching her maternal grandfather care for her grandmother as she goes through the stages of Alzheimer’s has taught Adams what it really means to love someone well.

“He is probably the kindest person I know,” Adams said.

Abigail Adams with her maternal grandparents, William and Patricia Thomas, and her brother Zach. [Photo provided by Abigail Adams]

Julia Sadik – Freshman

Sadik’s Jiddo, or grandfather, came to the United States from Lebanon in his late teens.

“He loves his country so much and shared so much of it with me,” Sadik said.

Sadik remembered going to her grandparents’ house to make Lebanese food, hear Jiddo’s stories of Lebanon, and learn Dabke, a traditional Lebanese folk dance. Jiddo also loved the ocean; Sadik described how he used to pretend he was a crab to amuse his grandchildren, pinching their toes as they laughed together.

“Jiddo had such unique laughter,” Sadik said. “I wish so badly just to receive one last scruffy kiss.”

Julia Sadik with her grandparents, Betty and Fuad Sadik in 2019. [Photo provided by Julia Sadik]

Breanna Beers is a junior Molecular and Cellular Biology major and the campus news editor for Cedars. She loves exercising curiosity, hiking new trails, and quoting “The Princess Bride” whether it’s relevant or not.

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