How 25-year-old Grace alumna Laura Hoke built a school for children in poverty
Coming to Grace
Laura Hoke (BA 15) would be remiss if this story of grace started anywhere else.
When she is asked the question, “Why? What moved you to build a $29,000 school in Tanzania?” Her answer is simple: “At such a young age, Jesus gave himself to me to give me peace with God. I give out of response to that.”
Her upbringing reinforced this idea, as she watched her parents give faithfully to sponsor a child through Compassion International.
And her college experience cemented the concept. Laura chose Grace College because she was looking for a place she could nurture her faith. On top of the thriving orthopedic industry in town that won over her dad, she was drawn to the opportunity to major in Marketing, to live in the quaint town of Winona Lake, and to room with a Korean foreign exchange student. Chris Kim was her name.
Although Chris was from Korea, her parents were missionaries to Tanzania. The culture there, heavily Muslim, was a risky place for Christians to reside. And beyond the safety issues, the Kims had to make countless familial sacrifices living in such a remote place.
“She hardly ever got to see her parents in college. It makes me tear up just thinking about the sacrifice they’re making for the gospel,” said Laura.
A Redeemed “Mistake”
In December of Laura’s sophomore year, she was gearing up to spend the next semester abroad in Korea. She had all of her ducks in a row.
Health Approval: Check
$500 Deposit: Uh-oh
Laura stood in the Global Initiatives Office stunned that the money she thought should be in her account, just wasn’t there. She called her parents instantly to figure out what happened. And they began resolving the situation, realizing that within two weeks everything should be smoothed out, and Laura would be off to Korea!
Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t actually a mistake–God had another plan in mind.
A few days later Laura received a mass email notification from the Grace College School of Business. The email alerted students that there was a co-op with a FORTUNE 500 orthopaedic company in town and encouraged students to apply. Laura’s application entry led to an interview the next week. The hopeful interview led Laura to resign her study abroad application.
Shortly after, Laura was accepted for the position– a role she would fill for two years.
“To be one of the students who was offered a co-op in orthopaedics is awesome, and that’s only offered here in Winona. How do you get a small town and corporate America in the same place!” Laura exclaimed. “It’s pretty sweet, and looking back, that internship rounded out the college experience–getting to meet people off campus and obtaining valuable practice on the job.”
This position would bring her so much more than she knew at the time.
Two Decembers later, Laura was at a work conference with one last exam to take before claiming the title of “Grace College Graduate.” She had been passionately praying that God would give her a job before graduation. And she applied for countless positions: one of them with her current company.
That night at the conference, the hiring manager for the hoped-for position approached her and said, “I want you to know that I’m trying to make you an offer right now. The reason why the paperwork is taking so long is that HR came to me already with a formal proposal and I pushed back so that your salary is $3,000 more.”
In that instant, Laura heard God speak to her, “God had given me these resources that I never could have negotiated for myself. I literally sensed him directing me to build a school in Tanzania.”
A Perfect Match
Laura stockpiled her $3,000 for three years. Little did Laura know, her company had a top-notch employee match program that would triple her donations. When she realized her stockpile of $9,000 would become nearly $30,000, she gave Compassion International a call.
To her amazement, Laura found that her stockpiled amount and her calling to build in Tanzania met a present need exactly. The project cost was $29,000 to build a school with four classrooms to serve 233 kids. It was confirmation that this was the right project at the right time.
“I honestly thought I would be doing this when I was in my forties,” she said amazed. “It was cool that God put the timing together where the amount matched the need. I always wanted to do something great–but God multiplied what I had and opened a lot of doors for this to actually happen so soon. It should have taken me three times as long.”
Laura cannot tell her story without crying to this day.
But her story isn’t finished yet.
In October, Compassion invited Laura to go on a Vision Trip to Nicaragua. During this time, she sought God and asked Him, what’s next? The conclusion she came to in Nicaragua was this: “ I want to continue to pour into the center in Tanzania or centers close around it. The potential for me to continue to work with, effect, and bless the same people in the same area of the world is very high. God wants to relieve poverty through his church.”
The church and the match are Laura’s “WHY” when coming to work. When things get hard or stressful, it is the motivation she keeps at the forefront of her mind.
At the end of her story, Laura’s eyes widened and a smile stretched across her face as she laughed with joy and said, “I need to call Compassion again!”
Do you want to live a meaningful life like Laura? Come to Grace — where our graduates lead lives of purpose!
Watch WNDU’s coverage of Laura’s story below!