Summer Project Participant Finds Greater Freedom

Wisconsin college student faces her struggles head-on while away from home

  • by Becky Hill
Photo Courtesy of Courtney Condon

Ellie Koenitzer thought she'd put her eating disorder struggles behind her when she arrived in North Myrtle Beach for the summer.

She was participating in a summer mission project with Cru to help students grow in their faith and learn to tell others about Christ.

But at first, Ellie focused on her job at a local restaurant, and on running.

"I went running every day, even when it was really hot," she says. She was surprised that thoughts about eating and body image continued to haunt her.

Finding Freedom in Helping Others

As she talked with a Cru staff member, she began to learn more about letting the Holy Spirit direct her life. "My attitude and thoughts were still a problem," says the senior from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She began praying for God to control her thoughts, and one day felt like God was asking her to give up running for a week and instead spend the time talking with others about Christ.

She was hesitant at first, but eventually put running aside. That first day on the beach, Ellie talked with 3 high-school students, and all of them wanted to invite Christ into their lives. Later, 3 more girls accepted Christ, and at the end of the week, Erin, one of Ellie's co-workers, became a Christian.

"I've never seen someone get so excited," Ellie recalls. "Erin came in one day and said she'd stayed up until 3 a.m. talking with her boyfriend about grace."

Returning to a New Normal

At the end of the week, Ellie picked up running again, but with a different perspective. "If it was too hot, I wouldn't go, and that was okay."

"Ellie and I have talked about body image and not over-working out," says staff member Lisa Kaufman, "so this is a significant step of faith for her, and a small glimpse of how students are growing in Christ on the project."