Christine Koester grew up in a toxic, dysfunctional family, constantly exposed to gangs, drugs, organized crime, and illegal activities. She thought that kind of life was normal. “I was going down a treacherous path, looking for love, drugs, and destruction,” she said. Dropping out of high school, she then spent six years in and out of jail.
Jail was a scary place for Christine, and she learned to ask to be placed in the “Christian Unit” each time she was arrested. It was the safest place to be. But every time she was released, she would slip back into the same destructive lifestyle. “I knew I needed to change, so after one eight-month jail time, I decided to go into a year-long discipleship program at a local church, and that’s where I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ,” Christine said.
“I was going down a treacherous path, looking for love, drugs, and destruction.”
With her history, Christine never imagined that she would be graduating from Trinity International University this spring with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Christian Ministries. “I earned my GED, but I was afraid to go back to school,” Christine said. “I really wanted to go to TIU-Florida, but I didn’t think I would be accepted at a university. I had never written an academic paper in my life!”
Through TIU-Florida’s Community/Church Partnership Program, Christine received a discount on tuition and even became a scholarship recipient.
“I am so grateful for the way God moves in the hearts of his people to help students who want to help others,” Christine said. Through that scholarship, she was reminded of God’s faithfulness. “When I began this journey of working on a degree,” says Christian, “I prayed to the Lord and asked that if he wanted me to go to school and earn this degree, then he would provide the funds for me to attend TIU-Florida. I knew I would receive the biblical integration in psychology that I would need to be successful at helping the community around me find healing, truth, and redemption.” Thanks to faithful donors, Christine is now finishing her degree and already helping those suffering from addictions and mental health issues.
“I am so grateful for the way God moves in the hearts of his people to help students.”
Today, Christine works in a drug treatment program at her church as a recovery vision team leader. After graduation, she has ambitions of going on to earn a master’s degree in Social Work, and she wants to continue to help people in situations like hers find healing and hope.
“Psychology and theology together blend the knowledge of why we do what we do with the beauty of learning how God intended us to live as image-bearers for him. And we have his power to overcome,” Christine said about her classes at TIU-Florida. “The professors have challenged us. Interacting with the other students has been great, especially in the group dynamics. We’ve learned about brain chemistry and how to better understand ourselves and the things we have gone through in life—why we’re triggered a certain way, why we’re crying, and why we’re angry. Then we can turn to the word of God; that integration of faith and learning is vital.”
“We can turn to the word of God; that integration of faith and learning is vital.”
On this journey from jail to resurrection in Christ, Christine says God has given her a huge heart for advocacy—to connect people with resources and influence policy change in a system that needs reform. “Whatever God has called you to, he will get you through,” Christine said. “Trinity taught us how to be good students, and that’s how we can continue on this journey without being discouraged.”
Her vision for the future? “I would love to earn a master’s degree and then run a biblical, clinical community center—involved with divorce care, support groups, grief care, and an outreach to the community. That’s very important to me,” she said.
Christine Koester is a changed woman through Jesus Christ and is focused on making a difference in this world as a soon-to-be graduate of TIU-Florida.
Learn more about TIU-Florida’s BA in Psychology and MA in Mental Health Counseling: