KANSAS CITY – “If our friends from college saw us now, they wouldn’t even recognize us,” says Samantha D’Silva of herself and her husband, Chris. The couple, who married in May, rode a tumultuous relationship roller coaster during their college years. God intervened by connecting them with a college ministry, setting them on a path of redemption instead of a path of destruction.
Chris grew up in a traditionally Catholic family, but faith wasn’t something he thought about on his own. When he began college at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, religious devotion held little appeal next to the allure of the typical college life – partying, drinking, hanging out with friends, meeting a girl.
Samantha grew up in a Protestant family where church attendance and Bible knowledge were important, but faith wasn’t discussed on a personal level at home. In high school, she started praying and reading the Bible on her own, but she still felt like something was missing. “God wasn’t the main part of my life,” she says.
As a freshman at Rockhurst University, Samantha found college unexpectedly lonely. Like many freshmen college students, loneliness outweighed her best intentions to avoid party life. She joined a sorority and soon found herself participating in the college scene. Feelings of guilt and the nagging fear that God was disappointed in her plagued her.
When Chris and Samantha met at a sorority dance, they quickly became romantically – and physically – involved, furthering the feelings of guilt and shame that consumed Samantha. Chris didn’t grasp her turmoil. “I was always confused,” he says. “I thought what we were doing was normal. I didn’t think about what God would be wanting me to do.” Because he cared about her, he’d agree to slow things down, but it never worked for long, and Samantha’s guilt mounted.
Halfway through her college life, Samantha and Chris connected with an MBC college ministry, Impact, and its affiliated church. For Samantha, this connection with campus missionary Travis Hamm and his wife became a lifeline. “It was huge for me, having Britney to talk through how I was living every day,” she says. “I saw how they loved Jesus and (how) that impacted every single day. It reminded me of Bible times – people discipling others. I’d never seen that before.” Slowly, God began to transform her thinking about her faith and her life. She stopped going to parties. She began pursuing God again. She started talking to her friends about faith, even bringing them with her to discipleship group.
At first, Chris felt uncomfortable with this group of Jesus followers. But he went anyway. He began to understand what a relationship with God meant. “I would sit and hear about how a relationship with God is more than a ritualistic say-a-creed thing. I wasn’t used to thinking I should know who God is or have a relationship with Him. I was curious about what it was and what that meant.”
Despite the seeds of transformation taking place in them both, the couple’s relationship continued to be marked by unhealthy patterns they couldn’t seem to break. Convinced they could not be together and honor God at the same time, Samantha broke up with Chris – this time, seemingly for good.
Samantha pursued God with new freedom. “Before, all my energy was consumed by the roller coaster of our relationship. Once that was removed, He showed me so much more about who He was,” she says. Realizing what had been missing, she embraced the grace and forgiveness of Jesus and centered her life around Him. “The more I grew spiritually, the more I realized God loved me. I started finding happiness in Him instead of different things. I went from feeling guilty all the time to feeling loved.”
Surrounded by the community of Jesus-loving people she had found through Impact, God’s love poured out of her onto others in increasing measure. After graduating from Rockhurst, God moved her home to Joplin for a season. Over the next eighteen months at home, God worked miracles in her family, using her as a voice of truth and hope to her family members. She saw her brother’s marriage restored, her brother and his wife saved and baptized, her younger sister baptized, and her family opening up about their faith in a new way. “We started doing Bible studies, my whole family coming together to talk about what God was doing…we’d go door to door and tell people about Jesus. It was an amazing time.”
Meanwhile, Chris remained in Kansas City after graduating while applying to medical school. The painful breakup marked a turning point in his relationship with God. “I had been pursuing God out of a pursuit of her,” he says. When Samantha was no long in the picture as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, “it forced me to seek after God for the sake of seeking after God.” He continued attending ministry gatherings and meeting with Travis periodically, but he also began reading the Bible and praying on his own.
As Samantha was watching God transform lives in Joplin, Chris was seeing his own heart begin to change. “I actually have a relationship with God now,” he says. “The knowledge of what Jesus did was there because I’d heard it in church, but the understanding wasn’t. It’s good to have knowledge, but it doesn’t change your life.”
This new relationship with God not only changed Chris’s life but the trajectory of his future with Samantha. God began to draw their hearts back to one another, and Samantha saw the transformation in Chris. When they started dating again, things were starkly different. They now shared a pursuit of God and a mutual desire to honor Him and each other in their relationship. That made all the difference. Rooted in Christ, their relationship bloomed into something beautiful. Months later, when Chris proposed, Samantha said “yes” without hesitation.
As the young couple begins their marriage, they look forward to a future with God at the center. They are actively involved in their church, an MBC church plant in Kansas City. Both are in graduate school – Chris for medicine and Samantha for physical therapy – where they are seeking to reach their school friends with the love of Christ. They are prayerfully considering how God can use them as a married couple, perhaps even through medical missions in the future. With a baby arriving in March, God “has blessed us with that responsibility, too,” says Chris. We’ll be raising up another person to hopefully follow after Him – that’s pretty cool.”