Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

A life of submission and surrender: Elzinga and the interim presidency


Interim President Gregory Elzinga has seen God show up. From the time he graduated from Calvin in ‘90 with an undergraduate degree in communication, to today as he leads the institution as interim president, he said, “God has used each chapter of my experience…to prepare me for what he’s going to call me to do next.”

In hindsight, God’s preparation is obvious, but in the moment, stepping out in faith without knowledge of the future was challenging. “I’m almost embarrassed to say — because I was 38 at the time — that I truly took a step of faith, not knowing,” Elzinga told Chimes

After graduating from Calvin, he and his girlfriend, Jackie, married and moved to her home state of Florida. In Florida, Elzinga started his career in telecommunications while Jackie worked as a Christian school teacher. They spent 12 years in Florida, during which their first two kids were born. In 2003, they moved back to Michigan when Elzinga took a job in sales with FedEx. 

At age 38 and about three and a half years into his work with FedEx, he was offered a job with a Christian non-profit called Partners Worldwide, which aims to help people out of poverty through small business growth and job creation

The role paid significantly less than his corporate position. 

“I remember very clearly when I got the job offer from Partners Worldwide, I did the math and I thought, ‘Okay, this is how much I’m gonna take home in pay.’ It was less money than what I needed to stay in our house and to keep my three kids in Christian school,” Elzinga said.

His wife still planned to be at home with his youngest child, who was only 2; her return to work was not in their plan. But the couple felt the switch was something God was calling them to do. He took the job. “I needed God to show up in a very tangible way to make this work,” Elzinga said. 

A month and a half later, Jackie was offered a part-time job working at Grand Rapids Christian School for the exact amount of time and money necessary to make Elzinga’s new position sustainable.

“It was just amazing that God showed up and just said, ‘You’re gonna take a step of faith; I’m gonna be there with you each step of the way,’” Elzinga told Chimes. “Being a follower of Christ is a life of submission and surrender.”

Stepping into the presidency

Elzinga recently surrendered and stepped out in faith into the role of interim president, assuming the position after former President Wiebe Boer resigned. 

This path to the presidency was “unexpected in many ways,” he said. 

He began as a regional gifts officer with Calvin’s development office in 2018 and eventually became vice president for advancement in 2021. His experience working with business owners and developers overseas during his time with Partners Worldwide equipped him for advancement work, and he was passionate about growing Christian education, especially at Calvin. 

Even in my role — before I came to Calvin — at Partners Worldwide, I would go to East Africa, or South Asia, India, or the Philippines, and I would meet people who knew of Calvin alums in those cities or countries,” Elzinga said. “Everywhere I went…they always told me stories of how Calvin people are making a difference in their area of work.” 

Throughout his time at Calvin, watching both alumni and current students live out the transformational nature of their callings as agents of renewal has been inspiring

“I tend to be oftentimes in front of groups, given the nature of the work, but it’s the one-on-one connection where you really get to hear somebody’s story,” Elzinga said. That intentional one-on-one time is “one of the best parts of this job.”

At a named scholarship dinner last year, he talked to a student from Mongolia, who told him her story and about her time at Calvin thus far. “In a short time, she felt comfortable enough with me to be transparent about what were the joys and what were some of the challenges,” Elzinga told Chimes, “And there was beauty in that.” 

This outward-facing role Elzinga had as he worked with alumni and donors as vice president for advancement, as well as his involvement with leadership decisions as a member of cabinet, meant he was uniquely qualified to become interim president. 

If I try to think too much about the magnitude of what I’ve stepped into, it can be overwhelming,” Elzinga said, but the support of the experienced leadership team around him as well as the “hundreds of people that are praying every day” for the entire Calvin community allows him to “honestly tell [people], I’m doing well.”

Moving forward

Elzinga has spent time over the last number of weeks engaging with students, alumni and donors, and he continues to approach the role “with the spirit of listening, of empathy [and] of learning,” to best serve students, faculty and the broader campus community, he said. 

Ultimately, Calvin is bigger than “whoever is the particular leader of the institution,” and so he is optimistic about the building momentum behind the strategic plan implementation.  “Our best days are ahead of us, I think, in many ways,” he said.

Elzinga attributes Calvin’s ability to move through the next few years to a few different things: the fact that a sovereign God guides the institution, that we have an “army” of people praying for Calvin, that there is “mission alignment” and finally, that “hundreds of people…show up here every day to do amazing work.”  

“When you love what you do, and you love why you do what you do, and you love the people you work with, you can get through anything,” he said. 

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