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Asian American InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (AAIV) is a fellowship at the University of Washington. We look to empower Asian Americans to transform the campus.

#peopleofaaiv

MEET SELINA

AAIV UW

I’m so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to serve as your creative coordinator this year. It’s been a crazy experience exploring the intersection of faith and creativity. And while I still don’t know exactly what that means, I do know that when creativity is exercised well, it encourages and empowers others.

There were so many times this year where I would work on projects for AAIV and be so caught up with the final outcome that I made things about me or my craft, instead of focusing on what message the project should be communicating about God. But through each project this year, I learned that the process is just as important, if not more important, than the final outcome itself because that’s where the learning happens. While ideating, refining and failing over and over again may not always be the best part about the creative process, going through these steps is necessary to come to a beautiful solution. I believe that this was something God wanted to remind me of as well, that I too must go through series of refinements, both big and small, so that I can be perfected in His love and extend it to others.

So, for those of you who are still struggling to find your place in this community, consider reflecting on the attitude of your heart. It really wasn’t until I stopped asking “what does this fellowship have to offer me?” which was placing a lot of expectations on imperfect people to meet my needs, and started asking “what do I have to offer this fellowship?” that God began to reveal the ways He wanted to work through me. I strongly encourage you to find what you’re really passionate about and pursue that in this community because what is there to lose? This community has truly been a safe space for me to experiment with how to use my gifts to serve others, and I hope it can be the same for you too. Even if I did fail and fall short along the way (too many times to count), I knew I would always be met with so much grace and love.

Once again, I just want to thank you all for joining me this year and engaging in my creative endeavors, whether big or small. I truly appreciate all the encouragement and support that has been extended to me this year! Peace out! 

MEET VIVIAN

AAIV UW

I think the biggest thing that God has taught me throughout college is about His genuine and pure love.

Coming into college, my idea of love was very self-centered, conditional, and expectant. I thought it was easy to love people, but only because I would receive something in return. I have always placed my value in peoples’ opinions about me and cared about being well liked. So I think I loved only because I wanted to be loved in return. However, throughout college, God has shown me that there is so much brokenness in this idea of love. We get hurt and disappointed when we expect people to be able to fill that gap in our heart.

Instead, God offers a love that is steadfast, fulfilling, and whole. God freely loves us without expectations that we love Him back. He constantly pursues us no matter how many times we hurt Him or reject Him. He draws in closer when we pull away more. This Godly love is so much more beautiful and sustainable than my ideas of earthly love.

Through this, God has really challenged me to love with this kind of pure and selfless love. He has shown me that maybe love shouldn’t be easy or comfortable all the time. I am still learning every single day how to actively choose to love people. When I get tired and burnt out, I know that I haven’t been turning to God as my source. So He reminds me to come back to Him and He renews my heart for people. The more I understand God’s love, the more I want to show it so that others would know His love too. We have so much to offer the world when we seek to reflect God’s unconditional love. I hope that as a community, we can encourage each other to love freely & genuinely!

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” — Ephesians 3:17-18

MEET VICTOR

AAIV UW

Fear regret more than failure.

As the school year has been coming to a close, the one question I’ve been constantly asked is “what has been your biggest regret in college?” When I was first asked this question, a lot of different thoughts started popping up in my head like “why didn’t I study more for that last test?” or “I should not have stayed up so late last night,” but honestly, it was pretty hard for me to think of something over these last four years that stuck out to me as my “biggest regret.” Everything that I thought of resulted in a short-term disappointment and was ultimately pretty inconsequential when I think about my entire time here at UW.

Regret is a feeling of sadness or disappointment over something that has happened or been done. I think that it has been difficult for me to come up with a response to the question because I truly believe that without all of the experiences I have been through—the successes and the failures—I would not have learned the things that I have, grown in the ways that I have, and be at this stage of my life that God has led me to. Personally, I believe that the feeling of regret stems from two different but interconnected situations: the failure to do something and the unwillingness to learn from failure.

I definitely don’t even have all of this figured out for myself yet, but I guess here is the advice I have for you all: Don’t live in fear of failure and seek discomfort. In your faith, Jesus never said that following Him would be easy. God places us through times of hardship so that we would trust in Him and press into Him more (check out James 1:1-13!!). In your community, seek to love on one another and build genuine relationships. Be real with each other and have the hard conversations. And in your current position as a college student/soon to be graduate, do not constrain yourself to society’s timetable for “success” and trust in God’s timetable. Take the time to figure out the things you are truly passionate about and GO FOR IT.

MEET JULIE

AAIV UW

As the year comes to an end, something God’s teaching me is how all good things are entirely FROM and IN God. It’s so funny how simple truths about God are sometimes not a blast to learn in the moment because it can take seeing and uprooting our inside ISH!! While I was exposed to some really ugly parts of myself this year—how I’m so judgmental, fearful, selfish but also self-hating, controlling, prideful (to cover up my insecurities), and desperate for others to like me—God was working in the lives of those I was trying but failing to love, and was loving them way better (surprise haha). My brokenness couldn't even try to produce God-level goodness because it’s PERFECT and GOD’S!! And instead of demanding more from me, that I get rid of the ugly stuff and get more holy, God’s been asking me to just be with Him, because He just wants to be with me? It makes no sense… but it does... because apart from God we can do nothing, and He loves us no matter what!!

I feel like that's how God’s been answering my questions—“Just be with me.” If I wanna see AAIV change? Have peace about the future? Overcome sin? Step out of comfort? Be part of His justice and restoration? Hear His voice? First prioritize being with God, then LISTEN and OBEY. It’s simple but even as I’m writing this I know I'm occupied by other things. Dedicating actual time to Jesus each day, time that no one else knows about or recognizes you for, is a radical way to live. And doesn’t make things easier—God still asks us to do hard and uncomfortable things as we chase after him and take up our cross. But where I’m distracted, empty, or blind, God’s love and goodness are overflowing. I’ve spent so much time trying to escape the “AAIV bubble” and sulking in the shortcomings of community, I haven’t been celebrating how this community has produced good fruit and ultimately brought me closer to God. There’s so much goodness to thank God for!! My hope is that resting in God and being secure in this goodness will bring us out of our comfort zones and into places of challenge, growth, and deeper love. TRULY our God gives GOOD gifts. If you’re reading this YOU ARE A GOOD GIFT FROM GOD!! ILY AAIV <3

MEET RYAN

AAIV UW

One of the biggest things I consistently struggle with in my faith is the lack of being constantly in awe of God. I think growing up in church and being a “Christian” for so much of my life has made so much of my spiritual life feel very normal or mundane, even though nothing about being a follower of Christ is normal.

Take prayer for example; prayer is literally the act of speaking and listening to God. Being in the presence of, and being able to communicate with, the creator of the universe anywhere, at any time. Through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, I, a sinful human being, have direct access to the Holiest and most Powerful Being ever and when I pray, I usually just casually ask him for help in school and thank Him for food (lol) without even thinking twice about it.

Back in the Old Testament, Moses used to meet with God in a tent and the ENTIRE NATION would rise and worship every single time while they spoke (Exodus 33:7). When Isaiah sees the Lord in Chapter 6, he is in such awe of the holiness of the Lord that he thinks he is going to die for being a sinful man in a sinful nation. During the transfiguration in Matthew certain disciples got to see the Father talk to Jesus and it says that they were TERRIFIED.

In all three situations, these people understood God’s glory and what a privilege it was to witness and communicate with the living God. That is something I always need to be reminded of because it’s so easy for me to get too comfortable in my spiritual walk. So I guess the advice I have for people, and myself, is to never stop being amazed by God, by His Power, by His Holiness, and by His Love. The Christian life isn’t meant to be mundane, it should be the most exhilarating, amazing, and challenging life anyone could ever live.

MEET LENA

AAIV UW

TBH I joined AAIV because I heard of the good community it had from my older sister, who was very involved (aka a leader). Then when I joined AAIV I met a lot of people who knew my sister and I was afraid that they might be disappointed because I was different. But even if people didn’t compare me, I would do it to myself.

Growing up, I would compare myself to my friends, my siblings, and to everyone around me. It was an insecurity that I had, and I felt like this insecurity made me unsure of who I was as an individual. The world would always whisper lies—telling me that I was not good enough, kind enough, funny enough, smart enough, and etc. And I didn’t know what it meant to really be 'me,' because I was so busy trying to fit the standards and molds of others. I saw the “good traits” of others and I would try to make them mine. But in actuality, it just hurt me as I felt like no one would like me for who I really was because I didn’t even know who 'I' was.

Today, I am a much more different individual. I can confidently say that I know my identity as not only a child of God, but also as someone who generally isn't seeking to fit an image. I wouldn’t say that I am 100% invulnerable to this image-seeking because I am imperfect like everyone, but I definitely don’t allow it to hold its power over me and that is partly because of the community that I found within AAIV, and also the space AAIV provided to learn more about God and my identity through Him.

Although the AAIV community is imperfect, there are still people within who will be vulnerable to you, compassionate, loving, and enable you as a friend or fellow member to challenge your spiritual and individual growth. I can’t promise that everyone will be your friend, because that’s actually impossible, but at least be willing to get to know people and their stories. And for those who struggle with finding a community or understanding who they are, I encourage you to be prayerful and surround yourself with those who want to grow and not stay comfortable, because you may find yourself joining them on that journey.

MEET WYIETAH

AAIV UW

AYO WE OUT HERE PRAISING THE LIVING GOD HOMIES!!!

Just wanted you to know that God loves you UNCONDITIONALLY! There is nothing you did do, can do, or will do that will make God stop loving you.

To have unconditional love is to have no conditions for loving. If you think about it, Jesus died for us in that same way. That means, He loved us despite what has happened, He loves us despite what’s happening, and He even loves us despite what will happen, good or bad. If this is what love is, then we ought to do the same for our brothers and sisters all around us if we want to see this love be poured out unto all.

Mark 12:29-31 (I am paraphrasing) love the Lord God and love others as yourself. But how we suppose to know how to love if we do not receive that ourselves? Do we know that we need God’s love? Do we know that we are lost without Him? Mark 2:17, “it is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.”

Long intro, so let me get to my point! What I suggest is that we are all the same. We are all the same in that we are all sick with sin and we all need that healing from God’s love. But will you go to the doctor if you do not think you are sick? Hell nah, I ain’t paying that price; but is it worth it in the end? Hell yes, so I can get better! Will it come at a cost? Yeah, it is the sacrifice of pride, of security, and even of knowing that you have no control over your own life.

But God’s love heals you of sin. There is no doubt that God is going to take care of you despite whatever happens. And because of His great love for us, we are called to love other people… But how do you do that? If you want a friend to see a doctor, are you going to say “you are stupid for not seeing a doctor when you are hella sick,” hell nah. Do you think it would be better if you told them how this doctor healed you of your sickness? Hell yes. *cough cough vulnerability* (smiling while shrugging)

MEET KATRINA

AAIV UW

I’ve never been the type of person who is itching to graduate, I don’t have a countdown to summer, I’m not “so ready to be done.” The last few weeks, actually, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of fear about this chapter of my life ending. To be honest, it’s kind of paralyzing at times wondering what Jesus has for me after this. Not just in my career, or relationships, but even the things He will call me to do and places He will ask me to follow Him in this life. It’s terrifying to me. Because what if at the end of the day I don’t want to go where He's going?

I think the idea of graduating in general has revealed to me deeper strongholds and fears I have about changing seasons and trusting in Jesus. It is so hard being a Jesus follower when you are resistant to moving forward into the unknown. Because that’s always where He is, going before us and guiding us near. But I often find myself choosing to stay stuck somewhere despite knowing that it isn't the best I will have or repeating cycles that aren't even good simply because they are known and I grasp for the known.

But there’s the passage in the Bible where Jesus turns water into wine (John 2:1-11) and the master of the banquet says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, but you have saved the best for last.” In the midst of debilitating fear, Jesus reminds me this; He has saved the best for last. That doesn't mean what came before wasn't good or even great. But it was never his intention for us to stay in the "good old days." His fruitfulness, his abundance, his goodness, it has never been more full than it will be. There’s more and there’s always more. As doors close and I am forced into a new season of life, I want to be more committed to the unknown than the known. And trust that it is well no matter what has gone or what comes.

MEET ALEC

AAIV UW

To be honest, this year I have been much less involved/engaged with the AAIV community (which is why some of you, especially newer students, probably don't know me lol) and some of that came from a place of frustration/apathy towards the fellowship—the structure, people, conferences, repetitiveness, organization—and since I've already been around for a while and met some solid friends, it's been really easy for me to stay in my little bubble and disengage myself from the community and not reach out to new students or be involved with a lot of things within the fellowship unless it's convenient for me. It was easy as a senior to look forward to the next chapter of my life rather than continue to invest into a community that has poured so much into me for the past 4 years. I grew apathetic towards AAIV and to be honest towards God as well.

It wasn't until very recently that I had a conversation with one of my friends who was very honest about my (lack of) engagement with new students in AAIV. I think God was trying to convict me to continue to love His people in AAIV even if it didn't seem easy or worth it. I know there are only a few more weeks, but I'm hopeful that God can still use me to show people in this community the love Christ.

So that's me, but I think some of this was supposed to be advice? I'm not very good at that... BUT here's my one piece of advice that I didn't do enough of, take advantage of your time in AAIV and invest in GENUINE relationships with people inside AND outside of the fellowship. I truly believe that your relationship with God's people in your life is strongly correlated to your relationship with Him. It's like a 2 for 1!! Amazing!!

I still remember my very first large group in Bagley, an insane amount of people, Matt Sekijima's beautiful voice and more passionate worship that I had ever seen before. I had no idea that AAIV would be such an important part of my years in college, but God truly BLESSED me with such an amazing community; and here I am 4 years later about to graduate and leave AAIV... CRAZY.

MEET CLEO

AAIV UW

For those who have gotten a chance to hear my testimony will know that I didn’t grow up in a Christian household. You might have also heard about my non-Christian parents.

My dad and I have never had a great relationship, and even to this day I find it extremely difficult to love him. I lived in constant fear of him. It seemed like he was always unhappy about my performance or even the way I looked. I was abused by him mentally and physically but I assumed that was just how parents disciplined their children.

Then I met God. Over the past 9 years of getting to know Him, He brought deep, transformative healing into my life and was softening this angry and broken heart of mine. Over the last 9 years I fell in love with this perfect, spiritual Father who tells me I’m adored by Him—but I still couldn’t come to love my earthly father.

At Mark Camp this year there was one particular day that we discussed about how Jesus loves the poor and the needy. That same week I was doing a devotional that was urging me to love the poor. I knew this meant something and prayed, “Father, who is the poor and the needy that you want me to love?” God wanted me to love my earthly dad. My dad, who is poor and in need of the Father’s love.

Over this past year I put in more effort to be more outward with how I was showing him love, even when it was uncomfortable or awkward. I began to see God working in my family and showing me He was near. At times I became extremely hopeful when I started seeing small changes in my dad, and other times I quickly became discouraged to see that he hasn’t changed much. But I put my hope in an all powerful, all mighty God. I know that He loves each and every one of His children, and He certainly hasn’t forgotten about my dad. Now more than ever I need to love my dad and pray earnestly for him. This is my prayer request: that my dad would come to know Christ. 

MEET PETER

AAIV UW

Peter.jpg

I know that God loves me unconditionally, but there are times I just don’t feel loved.

It’s been hard for me to accept that God is sovereign over all my pain and yet allows the thorn in my flesh to remain. Why does He allow my thoughts to torment me day and night when I cry out for help? Why does my heart feel crushed with sorrow and anguish when I seek for peace? Why does my soul feel so weary and restless?

Where are you God? Why is it that whenever I try to seek Your presence, You keep telling me to trust you without giving me an answer? You are my refuge and strength, yet You stay silent as my enemies wage war and crumble my world apart. I feel tired, I feel frustrated, I feel overwhelmed.

But regardless of how I feel, what You keep doing for me surprises me every day.

The more that I want to give up and let go, the tighter that Your grace holds onto me. It amazes me that after all these years, You are STILL chasing after all me. You don’t expect perfection from me in the slightest. You see all my flaws and shortcomings and you STILL want me. All that I have to offer to You is a broken heart, and yet You hold each piece so tenderly in your hands. You eagerly embrace my pain and brokenness with open arms, wanting nothing more than to make me whole again.

You’ve never once given up on me, so I’m not going to give up on you either. Even if I can’t always feel Your presence nearby, I know that you’re fighting my battles for me. There is nothing in this world that can stop Your love, and I know that You’re going to set me free one day. I am YOUR child, and there is no brokenness, no sin, no darkness that could separate me from the love that you have for me. You have called me by name, you have redeemed me, and you have given me hope for a future that the world could never give.

MEET CLAUDIA

AAIV UW

What has God shown you over the course of this past year?

This year, God’s really revealed his love for WOMEN to me. Over the summer, I studied all of Jesus’s interactions with women, which was so powerful. We all know that Jesus loves everyone and had a very special relationship with his disciples, but we tend to gloss over the tender, unique, and beautiful interactions he had with women. Time and time again, Jesus went to broken women: women who were adulterous, prostitutes, foreign, bleeding, cheating, hurting etc. and he EMPOWERED them. He set them apart, called them by name, and offered them something so much greater than what the world and man had given them. He offered them a place in HIS kingdom, where there would be no room for brokenness and tears. When a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, Jesus states that what SHE did will be remembered when the gospel is preached throughout the world. When the disciples peaced out after Jesus got arrested, the women stayed, and watched as the horrible crucifixion of their King took place. They never left His side. And when He rose again, they were the first people in the world to receive the GOOD news that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and were commissioned to GO.

THIS is the kind of woman I want to be and what I want to push the powerful women in my life towards. I want to be so close to the heart of Jesus. Being able to learn that Jesus loves and empowers me so uniquely in who He’s created me to be has been so healing to the brokenness in my life. I put so much of my self-worth and identity in what others think of me, and hide my insecurities and past hurts so deep that I don’t think anyone will notice. I think I’m way stronger than I actually am and I continuously get wrecked when God calls me to give up my own fake strength and allow Him to empower me with His spirit. The more I walk with Jesus and realize that I’m seriously scum and so undeserving of His love, the more He affirms me in my identity as His beloved daughter, and that’s SO crazy hahaha.

MEET SHERRY

AAIV UW

Sherry.jpg

I have always struggled with understanding God’s love.

I knew how great and how amazing His love was for me, but for some reason my heart and my head never matched up. It wasn’t until recently, I was constantly reminded that God is SO REAL and that He has been purposefully placing people into my life.

This quarter, I have constantly been praying about how I can use the gifts that He has given me to help reconnect people with God. However, I was stuck and I was afraid. I did not grow up in a Christian household, and I felt like I was not knowledgeable enough to be mentoring someone else. I had no experience with worship, yet I felt God calling me to serve there. It was not until after church one day, I felt compelled to go up to the Pastor and say hi to him. We greeted each other, but instead of asking me how I was doing, or how my day was going, he started talking about an analogy.

He said, “Imagine yourself flying a kite. When you fly a kite, you have to control and make sure the kite is a certain distance away from you, right? That’s you right now, but that’s not what God wants. You are afraid of letting go and you keep a safe distance away from Him. Instead, think of yourself as a child holding a bundle of balloons. Like a child thinking that they can float if they jump with the balloons, YOU need to just jump." 

Right there and then, this heaviness in me that has been built up over time was lifted and I felt God’s presence. I think we all need a reminder sometimes of how unwavering and unconditional His love is for us. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says “Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits."

So at the end of the day, what is there really to fear, when you know that you have Him by your side?

MEET MICHELLE

AAIV UW

Growing up, I have always struggled with being vulnerable. I found it difficult to open up to people, and I felt like I had put up walls around myself to protect myself from being hurt and judged by others. I often dealt with my emotions and struggles on my own and avoided talking about them as a way of having control over my life. However, these walls that I built up were barriers preventing me from becoming closer to God and others on a deep level. By closing myself off, I struggled to give God control over my life and accept myself for who He made me to be.

The weekend before spring conference, the girls in my accountability group did a listening prayer for me. One of the images that stood out was of me sitting chained to a chair, alone in a dark room with a single ray of light. At the time I did not understand what this image meant; however, at conference I was reminded of this image as I reflected, and I realized that like in this image, I was chained down by invulnerability and trapped in a dark place because of the walls I put up around myself, and the light was my hope for a way out. At conference I learned that I did have a way out – through vulnerability. By opening up to my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, I can face my struggles head on and seek them for prayer, support, and mentorship. By being vulnerable in front of God, I can lay down everything – my worries, insecurities, and brokenness. I can give Him control over my life and trust in His plan for me. Being vulnerable is definitely not easy and is an ongoing learning process, but I want to challenge all of us to be more vulnerable with God and with each other, because we will be able to grow in so many ways and build deep and meaningful relationships with the people in this community.

MEET JEREMY

AAIV UW

I feel like I’ve known God for most of my life. I guess He’s just been one of those constants that’s been there since I was young, like grape-flavored Hi-Chews, ice-cold Yakults, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and my parents slapping me with a rice paddle as a punishment.

But there was something missing. I believed that God was there looking out for me, but it felt like I couldn’t see Him. It was like being in a dark and endless room playing Marco Polo.

Whenever I would ask for a sign, I’d expect like a huge, once-in-a-lifetime moment where the sun would shine directly on me. Choirs would sing as God would reach out. That never happened.

I can’t specifically name a specific turning point, but I will name a passage. 1 Kings 19:9-12

I scarily related to Elijah: a man scared and outcast from the world, looking for God. But here’s what really struck me. Elijah knew where God was. It wasn’t in the big storms or earthquakes, but instead He was in the soft whisper.

I feel like I’ve been looking in the wrong places for God. I’ve been looking at the heavens when God is here with us. Sure, God works in the big things like miracles and life-changing experiences to call us. But I feel like we forget that God is personal and works in small ways as well.

When I experience the love of people during worship, the laughs I get with the friends, and the compassion and sacrifice that many of my friends and family give to help me, I see God in all of it.

It’s not easy to see God in today’s world with all of the chaos we go through, and it’s so easy to get caught up in it. We ask to see God’s glory in the world, but where are we looking for it?

Take a look at your life, and not just your past but on your daily life. Look past the bad and look at what you have to be thankful for. Did you smile? Did you laugh? Did you somehow manage to do all 50 pushups during small group? I’m happy to bet that God is somewhere in there.

MEET ANDREW

AAIV UW

Humility is the catalyst in which we become discipled as followers of Christ.
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Pride is a spiritual cancer that prevents us from recognizing God amidst our lives. Author and theologian, C.S. Lewis even goes to the extreme of saying “As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people, and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Pride and humility are dichotomous and can’t be present at the same time. The battle between the two is a silent one that rages within one’s own mind. While humility acknowledges and lives out who we are and who God is, pride sings of its own righteousness and glory over others. Pride claims achievements as purely its own and fails to see the grace God has poured out.

With this all being said, I struggle with pride. It is said that God humbles the proud and exalts the humble. In my own experience, the humbling part has happened way more often. At Mark Camp, with the people, scriptures, and conversations, in His providence, God humbled me, breaking apart my hard heart. I couldn’t help but resonate with the Pharisees and their hard hearts and how they heard and saw, but couldn’t perceive. Long story short, God softened my heart during Mark Camp and compelled me to want to lead a small group next year, something I never expected.

But what do I know about pride? My battle isn’t quite over, it’s a daily one. I aim to submit daily, recognize the grace I have been apportioned and carry my cross daily, not perfectly, but with faith that Jesus grants me humility.

MEET JI UN

AAIV UW

Reflecting on my time in college, I recently realized that for a long period of time, I wasn’t doing okay. Even now, I feel like I’m constantly being hit with feelings of loneliness, unworthiness, and dissatisfaction with how I was created to be. However, God has faithfully been pouring out truths to replace those lies. I wish I could say that this is the happy ending to the story, and that my walk with God will be filled with constant rainbows and sunshine, but we can all agree that our temporary lives here on earth will bring on more trials and tribulations. We can also agree that enduring these difficult times can be SO painful.

Earlier in the week, I was asking God why He was making my time here in college so difficult and painful, and why I always feel sad and unsatisfied. I was reminded of the passage in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 that says “…I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest of me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in hardships, in difficulties for when I am weak, then I am made strong.”

It blows my mind that God allows pain, and that He purposefully doesn’t take it away at times. Reading this passage made me realize how selfish I was in my walk with God, and how I forgot that when I gave my life to Him, it meant that my life really isn’t mine anymore, including my pain. My life doesn’t exist for my glory, but His. Obviously, this is easier said than done, and even now I am struggling with accepting this as truth in my heart. However, I want to encourage everyone including myself to take heart and keep on fighting the good fight! It is in our weaknesses that God’s strength is made perfect, and that same strength dwells in us.

MEET MICHELLE

AAIV UW

What is a barrier that hinders you from fully surrendering your life to God?

A lot of times I'm afraid people will slow me down. I'll choose to study by myself or eat a meal by myself because I want to move on to the next thing as quickly as possible without distractions. I believe it’s important to have some alone time, but I think this mentality to do things by myself negatively manifested in my relationship with God. Instead of inviting him into my thoughts and decisions, I began striving for my academic and professional goals with my own hands. I was studying the values of companies more than the values in the Bible to make sure my cover letter was just right.
Recently, I scheduled QT with one of my accountability partners. I remember right before our meetup I felt really stressed about meeting an application deadline and was tempted to call it off. I went anyway, and felt God speak to me through 1 Peter 1. In verse 13, God calls us to have "minds that are alert and fully sober”. To me, that means preparing myself by learning more about the Bible every day so that I can defend my faith and know why I believe what I believe. It means having a mind clear from distractions, ready to listen and follow where God leads. It means making time for Him even when it feels like there is none. In verse 17, God says to "live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear". When I think of being a foreigner here on earth, I think of being a guest in someone else's home. There is a politeness and carefulness when moving around in a home that’s not yours. In the same way, I think that it’s important to remember that the dream job, the degree, the cute pair of shoes—all these things are of this world and not our own. I’m reminded to be grateful with what God has given to me and remember that my visit is short. 
Let’s continue to push each other to be faithful ambassadors of Him and not get too comfortable because this is not our home. Greater things have yet to come!

MEET SARA

AAIV UW

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What is a barrier that you wrestle with that keeps you from being fully confident in who God made you to be?

Throughout my entire life, I have never doubted God’s existence, but I have often questioned His intentions while creating me. Growing up, my self-image held me back from being fully confident in who God made me to be & believing that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

From middle school to even college, I was constantly ridiculed and shamed for my body. Guys would tell me (both in-person and over the internet) things like “Sara, why are you so flat?”, “If my future wife had your body, I would make her get plastic surgery”, and “No guy would ever want to f*ck you”. But several of those same guys would also try to physically take advantage of me.

This created so much conflict, shame, and confusion for me that still impacts me to this day. The same body I was being degraded for was the same one being lusted over. I never understood why people felt the need to say or do these things to me. There were far too many nights when I would simply cry and ask God, “Why did you make me like this? Why can’t I just be beautiful? Why do people have to hurt me like this?”

But the more I cried out to him, the more strongly He told me that I AM beautiful and that I don’t need to seek anyone else’s validation when HE is the one who created me. How could I possibly think that God, who creates the most detailed and beautiful art in this world, didn’t give me the same care when He formed my body?

Since then, my self-image issues have resurfaced at times, but they’re short-lived. I cast out any lies that the enemy is trying to hurt me with and instead proclaim my identity as God’s beloved daughter. I have accepted that while beauty is fleeting, my legacy will remain. So, I don’t want to be remembered for superficial things anymore. I realize that God has given me specific gifts and that I am called to be someone who expands His kingdom. Knowing that I will forever be loved and pursued by the LORD is the only identity I will hold onto.

MEET ALLIEY

AAIV UW

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What are things you wish people knew about mental illness?

One little-known aspect of mental illness is that it affects more on a scale than a switch. There are days I feel great, and there are also days when the only thing I can bring myself to do is get out of bed to pee. But most days the thought of a panic attack haunts me in the back of my mind, or I can feel the depression weighing on my shoulders.

However, while there are many different ways that people receive support for their mental health, the most important way people have supported me is through consistency. If people want to be involved in my life, plan on staying involved. Feeling abandoned by people who have promised to stand by me is amplified during depressive episodes or anxiety attacks, making me feel even more alone. Another important way people have supported me is by validation. When you’re listening to someone, don’t give them advice (unless they ask for it) and don’t try to excuse their feelings. They feel what they feel and it’s real to them.

How did you overcome mental illness?

I don’t think that people ever overcome mental illness. Healing is a long journey and I’m definitely still in the process of finding the best ways for me to cope and heal. I know that these feelings will be present my entire life, but it’s how I choose to cope that’s important. I started to see a counselor last year. Being able to talk about my mental health with someone whose job is to listen and help without judgment was so freeing. It’s extremely hard and I’m always nervous before my appointments, but my counselor is always understanding and willing to listen. Counseling has a stigma that needs to be broken down. It’s not for “fixing problems” – it’s a place for talking without judgment, and processing through life and all its challenges in a healthy way. 

I just want everyone to know that it’s okay to feel what you feel, and that you don’t have to go through it alone. Talk to a trusted friend, your small group leader, a counselor. You are lucky to be surrounded by a community embodied by Christ’s love. And if all else fails or if you just have questions, talk to me! I’d love to talk and help in any way I can.