A Taste of Heaven: Abigail Gunning’s College Journey – By Carissa Arend

A Care Unlike Anywhere Else

“I’ve had people care for me when I’m in tears. Hearing people tell me I’m special––‘You’re important; we love you; you have a special place in my heart.’ From peers, I don’t think I’ve ever heard those words, or anything like them.”

Abigail Gunning’s hands gesticulated with elation and her eyes were bright with joy as she reminisced about her first semester at The Master’s University.

“I never even expected to go to college.” Gunning said, sterling silver earrings swinging as she shook her head in amazement. Now a student at Master’s, she can look back and said she sees a consistent pattern of God’s guidance in her life.

As an only child, Gunning grew up spending much time with her parents. Gunning’s mother legally became her tutor in Pennsylvania and began to homeschool her from sixth grade through the end of high school. Each summer, her dad––“Papa”–– gave her a summer challenge to complete, such as listening to all of John MacArthur’s sermons on Genesis. Though she’s been at Master’s for nearly a semester, Gunning’s relationship with her parents has remained steadfast.

“I have a bond with them that has just grown stronger since being here.”

Gunning’s journey to college was tumultuous and began when her family changed churches in 11th grade.

“I kind of heard about this guy named Jared a lot, but I didn’t quite know what was up since being at a new church. He had just come back from IBEX––He said he went to school in California, and I wondered if it was John MacArthur’s school. My friend said, ‘You should ask him,’ and I said, ‘No, no,’ because I was still super shy.”

Summer Courage

That summer, Gunning mustered up the courage to ask Jared about the college he attended.

One of my friends was talking about the body of Christ and how we have different functions and he said something like, ‘You’re the part that makes us look deeper.’

“He was in the same Sunday School room on Wednesday nights, and I asked him, since I was more confident at this point. ‘You’re the guy that goes to John MacArthur’s school?’ So we got to talking, and when he heard where I was theologically, he was like, ‘You’ve got to come to Master’s.’ I saw the passion in Jared for Christ, and I wanted that.”

Gunning was hesitant at first. “I thought, ‘California, earthquakes, no way.’”

Jared was insistent.

“I remember standing in the church parking lot, and he said, ‘I’m going to pray you come to Master’s.’”

Prayers Answered

After her summer conversation with Jared, Gunning attended a fall college expo at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. “Master’s didn’t impress me at all,” she said, chuckling. “But doctrinally, nothing compared.”

Gunning scored a 16 on the ACT test––Master’s really wanted a 21, she said. Her parents wanted to visit TMU for a View Weekend, so Gunning retook the ACT and received her second results the night they bought the plane tickets to California.

Her ACT score? 20. She was accepted soon after.

Once at TMU for View Weekend, Gunning said, “I fell in love with it.”

“My friend Jared really did pray. So when people ask me how I got here, the short version of the story is that he prayed me into here. I had thoughts, expectations, hopes and dreams. They were met and soared beyond it, basically.”

Recalling her experience, Gunning said, “It’s been like a dream. Even though I was so nervous––I didn’t even think I could come to college. I was very apprehensive the first few weeks, like ‘Can I do this?’” And now, by the grace of God, I know I can.”

 From Rejection to Friendship

Growing up, though not attending a public school, Gunning’s experience in homeschool events did not shield her from harsh cruelty. “I did homeschool soccer, volleyball. It’s just as rough––I mean, I had people rejecting me a lot.”

Gunning’s past trials gave her a greater passion for caring for others. She knows what it’s like to be rejected––She doesn’t want others to experience the same hurt she has.

“She ‘adopted’ me––it was really cute. She’s super tender-hearted, very empathetic. One time she asked me, ‘Are you okay,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah…’ She put one arm around me: ‘Are you sure?’ She’s so sweet,” said Celina Hidalgo, Gunning’s friend at Master’s.

“I’ve discovered a caring heart for others,” Gunning said. “I have a friend–––after talking to her, my heart just hurt.” Her voice cracked with emotion.

“But I wouldn’t trade that for anything. People appreciate when you care. One of my friends was talking about the body of Christ and how we have different functions and he said something like, ‘You’re the part that makes us look deeper.’”

Gunning is grateful for the rejection she experienced from peers during homeschool activities, simply because it has given her a greater perspective on her relationships at Master’s.

“I was thankful for those hard times, because they grew me and I grew closer to the Lord during those times. But I’m even more thankful for them now because my friendships here mean so much more,” she said. “It’s so nice to be liked back––to not just be rejected for being you. I know this is the real me.”

“Not negating the power of God to work anywhere else, but from a human perspective, elsewhere I would not have friends, or few, or it would have taken a while,” Gunning said, marking the contrast between other college environments and Master’s.

“It’s kind of like a taste of heaven.”

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