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Christian Union
July 9, 2018
The Lord set Alanna Staffin on the fast-track to spiritual growth since joining Cornell Christian Union the second semester of her freshman year. Now as she begins her senior year, she intends to give back in the ways she knows how: dairy and mentorship.

When you first meet Alanna Staffin, you will likely notice 3 things about her. First, she appears really happy. Yet as you carefully observe and listen to her, you wonder whether the word happiness can adequately define her cheerful, refreshing energy. Alanna is also enthusiastic about dairy. One question from you and you have launched her into a passionate and stimulating explanation of the subject, prompting you to nod your head, inspired. Your final, most resounding takeaway from conversing with Alanna is Jesus. Alanna loves Jesus.

Alanna’s faith in Christ was first inspired by her family. Having been raised by a Christian mother and Jewish father, she grew up Christian but with a strong appreciation for Christ’s Jewish heritage. However, when she began at Cornell she originally chose to place her relationship with Christ on the backburner until after graduation. One rough semester later, she found herself at Christian Union’s Leadership Lecture Series searching for what her studies could not provide: satisfaction and purpose. That was when she met Anna.

“Underneath that freshman’s soft demeanor and generous smile lay a tenacious hunger for God and the courage to face her need for Him with honesty,” Anna Shea, Cornell’s former Ministry Fellow, recalls. Following their first meeting, the two women began pouring into the Bible and reflecting on D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story together. They soon connected every Friday, often losing track of time as they prayed and searched for answers to Alanna’s life-inspired questions. Besides growing tremendously in her faith, Alanna established a strong sisterhood with Anna, who despite moving to California last year still continues their Friday fellowship tradition through phone calls.

To Alanna, Anna is her “mentor,” “big sister,” and “close friend.” Now—two years after the ladies’ monumental introduction—others are using the same words to describe Alanna. Her leadership roles as Christian Union Bible study leader, chaplain for her co-ed agricultural fraternity, and French horn player in worship ensembles highlight the efforts she has taken to blend her interests and faith to build meaningful relationships while glorifying her Maker.

Even with Alanna’s renewed faith and accelerated Christian leadership, she admits that living as a believer at Cornell is anything but easy. Her fraternity, whose members freely express and share their agricultural interests, often prefers that religious sentiments be declared privately. Alanna remarks, “There are definitely times when I feel alone as one of the only Christians in my house, but I also have such an opportunity to create positive change.”

Being the house chaplain officially involves leading prayer before formal dinners and reading scripture for designated events. Nevertheless, Alanna more so views herself as the house’s go-to person for spiritual direction and has taken members to church, provided a member with a Bible, and answered many religiously motivated questions. As she starts her senior year, she seeks to increase the chaplaincy’s influence in a way that balances her longing to share the gospel with the recognition that most members are uneasy about pursuing relationships with Christ.

A challenge of a more personal nature for Alanna has been her health. “It can be quite frustrating when my spirit has a desire to serve in a number of ways but my flesh limits what I can do,” she acknowledges. Anna has noticed that Alanna’s spiritual “growth spurts” have come through trials such as this. She asserts, “Alanna describes to God in prayer what her problem is, asks Him to reveal His heart to her through it, and then the great ‘treasure hunt’ in Scripture begins. She digs through Scripture as long as it takes, even sacrificing study time or sleep, until God has spoken.”

To bring her Cornell tribulations to an end, Alanna will graduate next year with an Animal Science degree. She then plans to work toward a dairy professorship by pursuing a PhD program. Remembering her favorite prayer, “Let them see You in me,” her long-term ambition is to do campus ministry volunteering alongside her professional work. “Campus ministry has changed my life and given me a place to make my faith my own, and I am very passionate about giving these opportunities to future students,” Alanna explains. “Christian Union gave me a chance to grow in faith, dive deep in Scripture, and build lasting friendships within the Christian community.”

Happy, crazy about dairy, and fixated on Christ, Alanna Staffin has used her Cornell and Christian Union experience to grow spiritually and share with others the lasting fulfillment God provides. As she prepares to turn a new leaf, “Let them see you in me” should become a motivational prayer for us all.  
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