Mu Kappa: a taste of Heaven

We sat around the pot of fufu, a handful of sisters. First we wet our fingers in our bowls of homemade peanut soup. Then, protected from sticky base we were about to share, we reached into the communal pot to tear off a piece of the doughy circle of boiled flour. Next we dipped the fufu in our peanut soup and placed it in our watering mouths. Oh satisfying West African food. We savored our first bites, remarkably silent for a brief moment before we continued our chatting and laughing, inquisitive and alive, together.

Meet Mu Kappa, summer edition: a group of brothers and sisters in Christ, making hilarious memories every Sunday evening. We’re joined primarily and ironically by the fact that we have such diverse experiences as third culture kids.

An extension of a group that meets during the school year, our Sunday dinner fellowship this summer was composed of missionary kids with bursting passports, biracial college students with double citizenship and a residence outside the United States and friends whose parents who do business overseas.

I’m an American from Connecticut, but with a belief in the connectedness of people, an interest in the world and all its beautiful and diverse cultures and a leading to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I love spending time with these welcoming friends.

I am most filled with joy and laughter when I am with friends from Mu Kappa. I’m humbled by their open arms. We also support each other through celebrations and suffering. When we’re not laughing, snacking or going off on adventures, we share in each others’ struggles and lift each other up to our Heavenly Father. Last fall, we held prayer vigils for a friend whose family needed the Holy Spirit’s intervention. More recently, my Mu Kappa friends have distracted me when I was in physical pain. They also helped me with cooking and cleaning each week that I hosted the group. We’re family.

Mu Kappa is an extension of the global church. We come from Pacific islands most people have never heard of, South American jungles, Chinese cities, spiritually parched Europe and the 10-40 window. Korean Americans from Africa and China and the Middle East, Indians from Eastern Europe, European Americans from every region of the world—representing all corners of the earth, we come together to feast and share our stories. We worship and praise our marvelous Creator. We ask each other questions and care for each other deeply. We are the Body of Christ from around the world, a joyful and tight community composed of all nations, coming together at college to glorify God through our shared lives.

I’ve seen a sneak peak of Heaven.

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What does it mean to be White in the United States? A personal account.

How often do you think about the color of your skin? How often do you notice the ways it affects how people treat you? I am White, and I try to think about this every day.

I surely do not have to think about my Whiteness. I didn’t realize it until about a year and a half ago, but now I choose to recognize it. I choose to examine the privilege I receive because of that as well. I also consider basic interactions with people of other colors and other white people.

Because I’m White, achieving status in the United States is much easier for me than my darker-skinned counter parts. (The hurtles and ceilings I encounter would have to do with my gender rather than my race, but I won’t get into that here.)

Because I’m White, I could ignore the traumatic news around me about black and brown people dying, black churches being burned, black and brown people being kicked out of their neighborhoods because they’re being gentrified. I wouldn’t be personally affected.

Because I’m White, other white people assume I can read and speak English well without making me take special tests before I enter a specific setting. (This happened to one of my half-White, half-Latina friends even though she speaks and reads English perfectly, and I’m sure she’s not the only one.)

Because I’m White, I’m not the butt of insensitive jokes about blending in with the night, and people don’t ask if I’m wearing a wig or a weave.

Despite this, I choose to recognize my own Whiteness yet engage with people of color and the issues pertaining to them.

Though I am White, I intentionally befriend people of color and other nationalities at my workplaces. I want to learn about the world and operate outside of the sphere that’s filled with a lot of people who look like me.

Though I am White, I engage with the traumatic news around me about black and brown people dying, black churches being burned, black and brown people being kicked out of their neighborhoods because they’re being gentrified. While my person is not affected, the body of Christ is, and thus I am. My friends are affected, thus I am. My neighbors are affected, thus I am.

Though I am White, I recognize the value of knowing multiple languages and consider the complexity that language and culture provoke. I also know that even in the United States, not all white people speak English and not all non-white people speak their language of descent. We must get to know people before we judge them.

Since I am White and was socialized in the suburbs where most other people were White as well, I need to be especially careful to think before I speak. I need to recognize the differences between culture and avoid insensitive comments or questions but not be afraid to ask good ones. This is easiest and most effective in the safety of good friends of color who know my heart.

I do not write this to emphasize my (limited) awareness of race relations but because I believe my old church’s motto that “people are significant and Jesus is more valuable than anything else.” No matter how racially homogenous our homes may seem, we all impact each other (at a structural level if nothing else, but I really doubt it’s nothing else).

As an aspect of my humanity, being White is complex. Hey, I’m beautifully and intricately made by God! And hey, sin messed up stuff too, like the ways we relate to each other based on outward appearances. Thus, today I challenge you to begin recognizing your Whiteness in all it means.

I’m calling us to a greater awareness of how God made our bodies, where he placed us in this world and how that impacts others. (For me sociologically, I’m a White, lower-middle class, American female. That’s a lot to process!)

When we understand who we are and our standing in this world in comparison to others, we can love others well, considering them better than ourselves, treating them as we’d like to be treated. Whatever our race, we all have privilege and some form of power. How will we use that to serve our neighbors, as Jesus commanded? If you’re White, how does that affect your daily life?

Five things I learned from my science-major friends

This summer, I became friends with a group of students taking Organic Chemistry. We began to hang out every weekend, and we had tons of fun, but they also stretched me and caused me to grow. Here are a few things I learned in the past month or so:

1. I operate in a very different world than they do. I didn’t understand anything they said when they talked about A-Chem, P-Chem, O-Chem, professors, tests or assignments. I’m used to debating which sociology professor is better, not which lab to take. I’m accustomed to being online doing social media all day and reading articles about race, not studying intricate scientific formulas. I understand journalistic jargon, not bio patois. When I was one of the few non-hard-science majors present, if not the only one, I felt a bit lost and left out, but I understood that this was only natural since I was the only non-hard-science major. I was glad to see their shared passion although I did not comprehend their vocabulary.

I also realized that other people might feel this way around me and my closer friends who operate in more social science/ humanity and writing or even international circles. As a journalist, working in a discipline created for the people, I should be especially careful to speak in terms that everyone can understand in an attempt to make everyone feel included.

Despite our different academic interests, my science major friends excelled at making me feel welcome by inviting me to hang out each weekend, giving me rides and always smiling and listening as good friends do. Of their own will, they went out of their way to include me. And as I grew to know them better, I discovered (as I had glimpsed from the start) that they were way more than super-smart science nerds.

2. People can love biology or chemistry yet also have other passions and places to which God has called them. Some of my summer friends are concerned with social issues such as race in the United States and the genocide of Native Americans as well as the human body and marine biology. As humans we all have passions, dreams and maybe even a draw to specific locations placed in our hearts. Christians may feel this calling more acutely because God wants us to live out his will in specific ways. Needless to say (yet apparently not obvious to me at first), God calls bio, chem and physics majors too.

3. Science majors work crazy hard, but they also have crazy fun. And they can be crazy weird. Together we traipsed through Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and Naperville this summer watching fireworks; belting Christmas carols; chasing each other on the starlit playground like school children; creating a sand octopus that strangled one friend; eating Korean, Indian, French and Italian food; participating in a surprise birthday party and performing incredibly realistic chicken sounds. (The chicken imitation was the weirdest part, and it got even weirder when three of my friends were doing it in a parking garage on the way to the birthday party, suddenly ceasing when other people appeared to claim their car. However, we still have plans to make a larger impression this school year. Stay tuned to campus news, Wheaton College. 😉 )

wheaton fireworks 2015 o-chem friends photo by falecia sanchez

Photo Credit: Falecia Sanchez

4. God is powerful and deserves to be sought. This past week I heard about my friends’ student-led Bible study and attended the last night with the O-Chem students present. I listened as one of my friends, having sought the wisdom of a professor, explained 1 John 5:26. We all wrestled with that Scripture together. We discussed the power of prayer, and they encouraged me in my missionary endeavors to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The way they sought God reminded me of the passionate college students I’d admired in Connecticut.

God used these students to teach me more about himself though regular interactions as well.

5. The diversity of our Messiah’s Body goes beyond race and ethnicity. Most people in this group of amazing men and women were white Americans and thus appeared homogenous. However, we came from varied backgrounds such as the suburban Midwest, SoCal and the “boonies” of Minnesota. I do not intend to demean the significance skin color and ethnic culture plays in our lives and the lives of those around us. However, I was surprised at the cultural diversity within the group despite our shared skin color, and I’m grateful that God showed me how amazing my white skinfolk can be! I needed to learn that lesson. We learned from each other, compared cultural differences we noticed and tried to understand how our cultures influenced us.

Our dreams also varied: One friend has already been accepted into optometry school, and a couple friends are anticipating their upcoming marriage and future children. Yet another is looking forward to working in a Boston lab before potentially going overseas to India. These friends are so welcoming, humble, and inspiring!

You would think that I’d already know all these points, having lived with two hard-science-turned-other-major students this past year. (Common sense is a thing, too, but I’ve always been a little lacking in that area.) I had to be in a group composed of bio, chem and physics nerds in order to learn these five lessons.

These friends have loved me and welcomed me into their circles, offered me generous hospitality and extended warm hugs of friendship. They remained their weird selves in front of me, and they welcomed me with my own quirks and interests and unsightly allergies that make me cry uncontrollably once the pollen builds up each evening. These gracious, intelligent, godly and fun friends filled my June weekends with laughter.

The Organic Chemistry class finishes this Friday, and I won’t see some of my new friends again until school resumes in August. I will miss them! Here’s a shout out to the friends who are leaving for the month: I thank you for loving me. Thanks for teaching me about God and the joyful, vibrant life he’s given us. Thank you for stretching me in unexpected ways!

Photos by Falecia Sanchez

Why Today Is the Greatest Day of My Life: Celebrating Faith

Today is the anniversary of the most life-changing day I’ve lived, and I hope you’ll allow me to tell you about it. Gather around, dear friends. Make yourselves comfortable, and brace yourselves for my testimony.

Fourteen years ago I was preparing to enter Kindergarten. I was a short, curly haired thing much like I am today, but I was a beaming child back, so I was a little shorter. I already loved words, and I was excited to go to school.

Fourteen years ago it was summer—July 2, 2001, to be precise. The sky by my house was its clear, summery self, and I stood underneath it, toeing the edge of our paved driveway. The glory of God was about to be manifest.

Fourteen years ago and 20 minutes away, my grandpa was in a coma in his house in Southington. It was the eve of his entrance into eternity.

Fourteen years ago my mom told me about eternity.

Fourteen years ago, having heard about Heaven and Hell and knowing I needed Jesus to save me from my sin, I gave my life to him. To put it succinctly, I became a Christian. The angels rejoiced in Heaven, and I ran to tell my parents about my newfound hope and joy—a continuing joy.

Why I’m Still A Christian

Fourteen years later, my faith hasn’t changed. I’ve been a Christian for 14 of my 19 years, nearly 75% of my life. That’s crazy! And it’s awesome! Let me tell you why:

  • I’ve seen God’s faithfulness at work as He continually provides the basic necessities in life for my family and me—practically literal daily bread. For example, just yesterday my financial aid package came though, and I was awarded an extra grant that will help enable me to keep attending college. Praise the Lord!
  • He has brought healing to my relationships and to my scarred heart, and I’ve seen him work forgiveness in fellow believers as well. I could write books about these stories if I could find the emotional energy, time, and proper words to capture them.
  • God has revealed his love, glory and power through people I know and people I’ve only just met. He’s given me peace through the prayers of my faith-full friends such as Magda this Tuesday, and He’s shown me his glory through people who don’t know him such as the man I met at the library last week. I want everyone to know God!
  • He has let me glimpse his justice, holiness, joy and Kingdom through my friends. I call to mind the Asian/Asian-American group at my college.
  • He has continually drawn me to him through his Word in the Bible and to me in person. He’s also directed my future in this manner. Y’all know I’m going to DRC soon. That’s all because God has prepared good works for me to do there for His glory. 🙂

God has used music and nature, people and stillness, to reveal himself to me. God is here, and I can’t even begin to explain how awesome He is. I’m eternally grateful to be the LORD’s—and I can say that completely honestly because I will dwell in his house forever. I have been reborn and adopted into his family! I will rejoice in Him always and keep pressing towards him.

Doesn’t he sound amazing?! Don’t stop reading, please. Let me share just a little more about my God!

Gains and Losses

We need God. To understate our situation, we’re a hot mess without him. We’re actually damned. We’re so broken that all the money, sex, music, social media, TV, friends, volunteering, time spent at work, success, awards, good grades, food, caffeine, sleeping pills, alcohol and weed can’t fix us. We’re not good enough for God. The only thing we are good for is Hell, which, by the way, is not the same as this earth. Hell is worse. There isn’t even any water to refresh the parched mouths there. Yet we deserve to die. We’re not good enough for God, so without him to save us, we have to be separated from him forever and placed in Hell.

Thankfully, God is merciful and loving, and he calls all of us broken, sinful, wicked and mediocre people to him. (Every one of us is all of those things without Christ, even the best of us.) We’re the tax collector that extorted money from the people. We’re the woman who couldn’t stay married or the one who slept around. We’re also the average-Joe destined to work a blue-collar job our whole lives. We’re all those people and more—the nobodies, really—but God looked at us and said, “Hey, I want you. I want you, Jared. I want you, Hala. I want you, Jessica and Donna and Ron. I’ll make a way for you to be with me, because you are my priceless treasure.”

Thus he sent Jesus Christ, prophesied as the Messiah called Immanuel, “God with us.” Jesus is God in flesh. He’s everything we’re not but can aim to imitate. He’s the ultimate example of humility and love, and we don’t deserve to know him, but he pursues us so hard that we can’t run away. His Spirit will work on those God has called until we’re so wrapped in God’s love that we can’t escape it. He’ll renew our spirits and change our hearts. He’ll give us hope and purpose both now and forever. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life, and we’ll lose ourselves and find God as we sing his praises with the angels someday: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

I’m so glad to be able to worship God now, and I’m elated to be with all my brothers and sisters in Christ someday. What a choir that will be! What a God I serve! He’s the most forgiving being I could ever know, and I’m so humbled by him.

I want you to know him too. I want you to rest in his love, to be sucked into his justice and mercy, to be awed by his righteousness, to be his. If you don’t know him yet, I pray that this day will mark an anniversary for you, too—the day God redeemed you from the pit and sealed you with his Spirit.

Feel free to contact me here if you want to chat about this or share your story.

Jesus is coming back soon, and while I’m thrilled for that day, my heart is breaking for those of you who aren’t. I want to go to Heaven with you; I don’t want you to live apart from him. I want to praise God with you; God deserves it. He’s worthy of all the praise he can get. Will you surrender your praise to Jesus today?