Nykerk 2023 — An even year victory

During Homecoming Weekend, Hope College held its annual Nykerk Competition. Odd and Even Year compete for the Nykerk Silver Cup. This year, Even Year was triumphant! Nykerk has three portions; Song, Play, and Oration. This year’s Even year Oration was performed by Abby Stoy(‘26).

Abby Stoy is a sophomore studying Social Work at Hope College. From Frederick, Maryland, Abby found her way to Hope by way of her high school alumni.

This was Abby’s first year participating in Nykerk. Because of this, she didn’t know many people in Nykerk going into it; however, this didn’t bother her, as Abby said community was not the reason she chose to audition for Oration. Abby says “Even though it is terrifying, there is something inside of me that is drawn to public speaking – {it’s} something that I feel strongly about”. She felt as if she had a powerful story to share with people who were ready and willing to listen. Abby had done some public speaking in her life, but never in the context of Nykerk. Abby says that watching last year’s Orators, Maya Favors, and Megan Barta, she felt inspired to “share the story that I have been given”. Although the process was stressful and intimidating, Abby was determined to at least audition; and she got the part.

The Oration portion of Nykerk is a roughly 8 minute memorized speech. Coached by two Even Year Oration upperclassmen, Abby rehearsed at least two hours every night for three weeks straight. Her coaches helped her draft her speech and practice her speaking in preparation for October 14th.

For our readers who were unable to attend Nykerk this year, the topic of Abby’s Oration was the Conflicting Powers of joy and suffering. While at first glance these emotions don’t seem like they could coexist, they do. Abby highlighted the fact that there are some levels of joy that are only able to be experienced in suffering, you simply need to have the right frame of mind. She then dove into her personal experience with these conflicting emotions. Abby explained that when she was a child, she was in  a car accident that the Doctors were astonished she survived. They predicted she would never walk again since she shouldn’t have even woken up. She stated, “Instead of dwelling on their perceived reality of my condition, I began to choose joy. With each day, I learned to take one step, and then another. Instead of focusing on how little I could walk, I reminded myself that there was a time when I couldn’t walk at all.” 

She used the metaphor of the stars in the darkness to explain her situation. In the dark nights, the stars can be seen the best. However, when it’s cloudy the stars cannot be seen, even though they are still there. Abby explained that the stars were like joy, and darkness was like suffering. We must keep our eyes on the stars when in this darkness. Though when life got cloudy, Abby found herself not focusing on joy but instead focusing on her struggles. Abby says, “I convinced myself that I wasn’t enough because I was different. Whether people left me out or I isolated myself, I really don’t know, but I struggled a lot in high school with feeling like I was less than because of my limp and therefore not worthy of being included”.

However, things changed when she left for college. Entering a new community and having a chance to look at things from a different perspective gave Abby a unique opportunity. She no longer lets herself be defined by her limp. “I am human because I am created in the image of God not because of how I look”.

Abby decided that she could use her disability to show others that they can experience joy no matter the circumstance. Abby wanted to speak on her experience because it helped her learn an important lesson; life is difficult and rarely goes how we expect it to. However, there is also a joy to be found in the struggle and purpose found in pain. For Abby, she used Nykerk to bring glory to God.

When asked how she felt after winning, Abby was neutral. She said she was excited, but that she would’ve been content no matter what happened. 

In a final statement, Abby says, “I am grateful for the way that I was challenged and stretched to become a more skilled writer and public speaker. God is good and to Him be the glory!”

Abby will have the honor of coaching next year’s Even Orator alongside Maya Favors (‘26), the Even Year Orator from last year. Abby has invested her time, energy, and life story into crafting a beautiful performance. If you see her around, stop and say congratulations!

Photo credit: Abby Stoy

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