Mentors matter


Summer 2014

So what does a Calvin grad with a strong Dutch accent have in common with a Korean-Canadian Calvin senior who is majoring in chemical engineering? Plenty, it turns out.

Peter Buma ’58 volunteered to be a mentor through Calvin’s mentoring program and was paired with student Zion Lee from Toronto.

Lee said that his junior year presented a number of challenges that began to wear him down.

“I came out of my first summer internship, chose my concentration in engineering, said goodbye to my last family member in North America and moved off-campus with two other guys,” wrote Lee in his mentorship journal. “I experienced difficulties in how to cook, stay connected to the community and manage utility bills, ultimately causing me to fail in trusting God with my situation. Amidst all the change and ‘growing-up,’ it was so helpful to meet weekly with my mentor, Pete Buma, who had been through all this and much more.”

That “much more” for Buma were harrowing days in the Netherlands during World War II, which he has chronicled in volumes such as War Memories: World War II as I Saw It. After the war, Buma immigrated to Canada and had experiences that deeply resonated with Lee.

“He [Buma] undoubtedly had to make similar adjustments that I went through, and he has been very encouraging in our conversations,” noted Lee. “During our meetings, he would often emphasize, ‘Zion, when our lives go well, we reject God, much like how the Israelites rejected God. And when our lives go poorly, we cry out to God for help.’ He stressed that God is not far from me, but that I had the tendency to be far from God. This practical bit of wisdom helped me through a dry season where the stresses of life swamped my trust in God, causing me to feel alienation and despair.”

Buma said the learning goes both ways.

“Mentoring is a two-way street,” said Buma, “Zion has been my teacher, too.”

This kind of cross-generational sharing is what brings joy to Calvin’s mentoring coordinator, Lisa Baron Jousma ’00.

“While mentoring takes place in a variety of ways on a college campus, there are many students who do not have a nearby adult they can go to for perspective, encouragement and prayer,” said Jousma. “Our program seeks to provide those opportunities for students.”

Realizing the need for these types of mentoring relationships, former chaplain Dale Cooper and former coach Ralph Honderd organized a grass-roots mentoring program in the early 1990s. The program really took off, however, when Elsa Prince Broekhuizen ’54 gave funds to build an endowment for a mentoring scholarship program in 1995. That gift allowed for the mentoring coordinator position that Jousma holds, plus a scholarship to help students with financial need and a genuine desire to grow through a relationship with a mentor. The program started with 16 scholarship recipients, many of whom were international students. Today, 65 students are awarded the Mentoring Scholarship.

“The mentoring office is available for any student who desires to have a mentor, and the number of non-scholarship recipients has grown to far exceed the scholarship recipients. This year we had a total of 285 students participate in a mentoring relationship or group through our office, and it would be even higher if we had more mentors,” said Jousma.

Mentors include staff, faculty, alumni and friends from local churches, and the office provides training, resources and events, including an annual mentoring dessert gathering where there are testimonies of God’s faithfulness through mentoring relationships.

Jousma said she is eager to add to her mentoring community, and those interested can contact her at mentoring@calvin.edu. She is also open to try “distance mentoring” through Skype, e-mail and letter correspondence between student and mentor.

“What a unique way to pass on faith, hope and love to the next generation,” said Jousma.

Lee will never forget the lessons he has learned from Buma.

“Pete listened to a lot of struggles I had, and absorbed them with his many years of hard-earned character,” Lee wrote. “As I stressed about relationships, internship complications and heavy coursework, he was the steadfast rock that assured me God was good and that I should be humble before God in order to fully enjoy his gift of life in my community.”