One of the hidden wonders of the Campus Ministry Team is working behind the scenes, organizing and perfecting the events students attend weekly or sometimes even daily. Tanya Vaas isn’t just known for her work, but also for her relational spirit.
Born and raised in Orange City, Vaas wanted to branch out from the small-town life. After attending Morningside College with special education and elementary education majors and an endorsement in Title 1 reading, she and her husband planned on moving to Arizona. They stayed right where she grew up.
“The Lord landed us both jobs in Orange City in the same week,” Vaas said, “so we were obedient and stayed. It was not easy as we were so ready to get out of Orange City.”
After teaching for several years and then running her own daycare, her sense of purpose was starting to fade away. A friend of hers recommended she apply at Northwestern for a campus ministry job. She wasn’t sure that this was the path for her, but after surrendering to God’s plan and receiving much support from her family, she chose to apply. Bill Minnick from the Career Development Center became a good friend as he helped tidy up her resume, and she accepted the job soon after.
Ever since she got the job as the campus ministry administrative assistant in January of 2016, her days have been packed full. Currently, she’s been working on preparing Discipleship Group Leader applications for Barb Dewald, associate director of spiritual formation, and is also getting ready to send out the Campus Ministry Team placement letters for next year’s team. Along with working with the Campus Ministry Team, Vaas makes sure everything flows well during different events on campus and makes sure everyone knows how and when things are happening.
For chapel requirements, she and her awesome student workers are the ones keeping track of all the colorful cards and entering the chapel credits, along with finalizing the speaker’s travel plans and making sure they get paid in a timely manner. She admitted she loves to see how God works through different people and events, including through the diverse chapel speakers and the challenges given by chapel speakers and worship.
Vaas also works with the Spring Service Partnerships and Summer of Service donations and funding, which led her to participate in an SSP to Lyndale, Texas, two years ago. Since she was a leader for the trip, she had many opportunities to witness the students’ growth throughout the trip.
Vaas spoke about one particular student whose faith stuck out during that trip.
“I saw him fully surrender his life to Christ and allow vulnerability,” Vaas said. “He actively became involved in d-groups and Bible studies when he got back.”
She explained how he was very intentional about doing life with others through getting lunch with them, playing late night board game, meeting with a men’s small accountability group weekly and being willing to serve on campus where he could.
This wasn’t the first time Vaas has seen transformation in NW students. She’s constantly interacting with students throughout her day as they stop by her desk to chat with her or set up appointments to have deep talks about life and receive advice about faith, relationships and family issues. She reminds them how life is about building healthy relationships with others.
“I love listening to people’s stories. They are a great invitation and opportunity for me to learn and ask questions. I also have the freedom to speak truth and love to them, so they know they can do the same to me,” she said.
Vaas enjoys developing relationships with the students and continuously reaches out to many of them. She constantly reminds students of her openness as she invites them to coffee, walks or even to FaceTime. To show her support for students, she attends many sports games, plays and events like RUSH. Vaas also invites students to her house for meals, birthday celebrations, pick-up basketball games and some TV watching.
Vaas has plenty of work on her plate and has five student workers helping her throughout her week.
“They are my saving grace and what keep me sane. I appreciate them so much.”
She’s intentional with them and tries to make time outside of work to get to know them more.
Even her student workers recognize her relational spirit. “I didn’t realize how much she does for campus ministry until I started working there. She never complains about any of it. I think what sets her apart is that she is willing to stop whatever she is doing if someone needs to talk,” Emilee Hulsing, one of Vaas’ student workers said.
Vaas’s work, while at times behind the scenes, doesn’t go unnoticed, just like her welcoming and open heart that is so evident to the NW community.