A home away from home: Batista's life-changing experience at Tabor College

Dre Batista & friends
Andrea Batista (g’10), bottom row & second from right

“Go here.”

Andrea ‘Dre’ Batista (g’10) walked between the Student Center and H.W. Lohrenz Administration Building in fall 2005, pondering what would lead her to Kansas from her hometown of Hagerman, N.M. As she processed, a still, small voice uttered those exact words in Batista’s ear. Seeking to walk in obedience with the Lord, the words set Batista’s sights on Tabor College.

A yearning filled Batista’s heart as she began her freshman year. It was understanding that God called her to Tabor, but also a struggle of not being at home to help her family as her mother had died two years earlier.

As she built relationships with her track & field and volleyball teammates, authentic community became something so refreshing that it defied any expectation she had before arriving as a student.

“As hard as it was culturally and learning new behaviors and relationships,” she said, “I learned a difference between religion and a relationship with God. It was as much, if not more, a spiritual shift than an academic shift in college.”

For Batista, that understanding grew out of being paired as a freshman with a senior volleyball player for Bible studies, and hearing former Head Coach Amy Ratzlaff explain how volleyball was not just a sport, but a platform for growing into a deeper relationship with God.

Andrea Batista

A decorated career, especially in track & field, became metaphoric of Batista’s time as a Bluejay.

A dynamic two-sport athlete, Batista played three years of varsity volleyball and became a do-it-all runner under Head Coach Dave Kroeker in track & field.

As the pace of a sprint, the straightaways were Batista’s hunger to grow with her peers and make sure her family was taken care of 635 miles southwest of Hillsboro. Yet the curves, much like the strenuous finishing kick of a 400-meter dash, were the trials of Batista completing her degree and conquering fears and concerns to trust her later calling to return home to New Mexico.

During her junior year, Batista had a bill due in order to stay on campus. Finances were tough at home, pushing her to lean on God’s prompting to initially bring her to Tabor. Falling to her knees in prayer, Batista was soon met with a phone call from financial aid. A gift to the college was given specifically to help students cover costs of attending Tabor.

It was down to the penny of the amount on the statement on Batista’s desk.

“It was to the point of I know the Lord wanted me to go here, but I was still struggling,” she said. “I was still learning about my faith, and I asked if the Lord was closing the door. He said, ‘This is still your place of transformation; now watch me work.’”

A “home away from home” was especially true for Batista. Delphos, Kan., the home of former teammate Audra (Atwell, g’10) Schenk, became an extension of her Tabor community. Ahead of her senior year, she remained in Kansas as a farmhand for the Atwell family.

Batista has even made a trip to the Sunflower State almost every summer since graduating. A trip to Kansas is never complete without a visit to Ratzlaff or former biology professor, Dr. Karrie Rathbone.

While just a snippet of Batista’s time at Tabor, these visits give her a reminder of the growth she experienced as a Tabor student.

She currently serves as a science teacher at Lake Arthur High School in Lake Arthur, N.M., helping students see their potential. No matter how far or near from home, she covets the opportunity for them to find their “road to Mt. Tabor.”

“Kansas was my wilderness, and the Lord took me away from home (for) that very reason,” Batista said. “He touched some very painful places in my life. He said, ‘Now that you’re to this point, you have to go back and deal with those things you’ve never dealt with.’ As I began teaching, the Lord told me, ‘These students don’t always know how to be happy and laugh. You have to show them. If you want them to be happy and laugh, you have to be happy and laugh as much and show them how to do it.’”