Winsome for Jesus

How one NYU student named Zella is leaving God’s mark.

When New York University named NYU Navigators student leader Zella Christenson as one of the “Top Ten Most Influential Students of 2018,” Navigators New York City Director Peter Trautmann was thrilled. More than 50,000 students call NYU home, and this honor has given Zella an unprecedented opportunity to point that community to Jesus.

“The student newspaper wrote a profile piece and created a stunning video—both of which show Zella’s faith infusing a winsomely-lived life,” Peter says. “In 16 years of serving at NYU, I am not sure I’ve seen one of our Navigator students gain such a wide platform, and then use it to be a witness to so many people.”

Zella Christenson NYU Navigators Collegiate Ministry
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That authenticity flows from Zella’s life as she throws heart and soul into all she does!

“As I have grown these past four years at NYU, I have realized my identity in Christ is not just a segment but rather the center from which all other parts of me stem,” Zella says. “I try to make my whole life a testimony to the work God is doing.”

In a city known for its often-brutal race to success, Zella strives to spread grace and peace to every avenue.

“I love how driven and passionate New York is, but with all the constant striving and forward motion comes a lot of anxiety,” Zella says. “I hope to walk alongside others here and to let them know they are valuable, apart from their work—that they are loved, apart from their status. That is a pretty radical idea here, yet it is a beautiful entry into an understanding of God’s unconditional love.”

The Navigators has played a huge role in modeling and teaching Zella about that kind of love.

“I am so thankful for the NYU Navs community,” Zella says. “Navigator staff Leann Sebald, in particular, has been a wonderful light in my life. She has stretched my vulnerability, encouraging me to open up in my relationships as well as helping me to understand God’s grace more deeply.”

Leann echoes Peter’s excitement as they watch God move through Zella’s life.

“Zella truly has a profound witness on campus,” Leann says. “We were blown away by how the article exemplified our faith and community. Not only did Zella beautifully articulate a Biblical perspective, but the authentic, loving, and grace-oriented culture of our community of believers really came through in the video and article. Praise God for the unique opportunity He has given Zella and our Navs community to be a light at NYU!”

Pray that Zella’s story would make a deep impact within NYU campus culture. Pray for Zella as she continues to invest in those around her, and for her future decisions as she graduates this May. Pray for college students all over the world to come to know Christ and to be a light for Him.

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