May 31, 2016

My Testimony of Faith

Recently I was baptized, which as a Christian, is a public declaration of faith. The physical act of baptism symbolizes the change that has taken place in our hearts and minds when we accept Jesus Christ into our lives. We were dead in our sin, but with Christ we are made alive and new. I am sharing my story with the hope that it will encourage others: 

Over the last few months through sermons, a bible study by Matt Chandler, and baptism classes I’ve been reminded of a lot of very true things, and I’ll be sharing some of these things in my testimony. But let me start with my childhood– although I’ve lived in Winnipeg for nearly 10 years, I grew up in Boissevain, MB – a small town of about 1500 people.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian family – however I never believed this put me at a disadvantage spiritually. Although Christian support was not a part of my upbringing, God provided me with an encouraging Christian community outside of home. Growing up in a small town allowed me to develop long-standing friendships with believers my age. These Christian friends and their parents would invite me to come to Vacation Bible School and Girl’s Club, and encouraged my parents to let me join in these communities.

So at a young age I began to learn about Jesus at these Christ-centered activities. But I had a very inquisitive mind and I would question and wonder about God and who He was. As I grew older, with these friends by my side, I found positive and fulfilling experiences in these Christian communities. I didn’t attend church, but I went to Junior and Senior Youth Group throughout school, and began to build a relationship with Jesus, learning about Him and seeing His character reflected in my friends and other mature Christians.

It wasn’t until I was 14 years old and attending a teen week at Gospel Light Bible Camp when I would say I became a follower of Christ. After Chapel, our camp pastor invited us to stay and talk, or pray, if we felt led. I noticed others were staying back so I stayed as well. I spoke with the Pastor and as we were talking about Jesus, I had this revelation wash over me. It became clear to me that I wanted Christ to take the throne in my life and live in my heart. So the pastor prayed with me – I asked for forgiveness of my sins, and I surrendered my life to Jesus. Making that choice was a life-changing decision – I was now free to serve and love God.

When I moved to Winnipeg after graduation I lost a lot of immediate Christian contacts.
I made new friends, but many of them didn’t share my convictions and I was slowly drifting away from God. But God was faithful. He has placed fellow Christians in my life during university, in my jobs, and in college throughout the years. I can look back now and see that God has woven some very special people into my life. God provided community for me, because we were never meant to walk this faith journey alone.

This past year has been an especially challenging year, with 2 close family members struggling in their health at the same time. Any of you who have had an illness in the family understands what an indescribable burden it can be. My family has been presented with very trying times in the past while, and I’ve been stressed and broken to the point where going to sleep was the only refuge my mind seemed to have. But throughout this year, God has been faithful – to my parents, he has provided amazingly supportive friends.

To me, I have been recently reminded of some very comforting truths through a sermon by Pastor Darryl at McDiarmid Alliance Church in Brandon and the Matt Chandler bible study. That is, God can redeem all the pain and suffering we endure for His greater purpose and will (Romans 8:28). How amazing is that? That every hardship we face could mean something, because God works all things, not just some things, but ALL things for the good of those who love Him. Sometimes in difficult times we ask “why me?” – well I ask “why not me?” – In our study, Matt pointed out the humbling truth that God doesn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t owe me a job, good health, a husband, or any of the earthly things we tend to overvalue. But God is with me and cares for me, and He is enough. My human mind is limited – I don’t know how the trials and tribulations of this world will work out, but God does. As Proverbs 3:5-6 states, instead of leaning on my own understanding, I should simply acknowledge God in all of my ways, and trust Him.

Psalm 9, verse 10 reads: “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Today, I still make lots of mistakes, I’m still pretty selfish, and sometimes I believe the enemy’s lies, but I know that God continues to work in me. I don’t always know what God wants me to do, or where He wants me to go, but I want to be willing to push aside earthly things and selfish ambition to pursue Him and serve Him. I believe a life devoted to glorifying God is the most meaningful life possible and God will equip us with all we need to do so. I chose to get baptized because I was encouraged by Pastor Tony’s sermon earlier this year, and simply because God has commanded us to do so when we believe, as an act of faithful obedience to Him for others to see. We are saved by faith, not by acts, but these acts can serve a purpose.

God chose to redeem me when I was an unworthy sinner. There is nothing I can do that could earn the grace and love He gave me so freely, and there is nothing that can separate me from His love. I look forward to experiencing what God has planned for me as I press on through the highs and lows of this life. I think it amazing that God can go before me and also walk beside me at the same time- and together we’re going to walk, with purpose and hope towards the unimaginable glory that is yet to come.

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I encourage you to turn to God in spite of all that life throws at us. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7). Here are a couple of resources that have really resonated with me:

The Village Church (Matt Chandler is the lead pastor - he is honest yet encouraging, practical, and his messages aim straight at your heart). I heard about The Village Church many years ago and follow them on social media. Matt has my utmost respect, and a powerful testimony as well. TVC has many resources online including sermons. Matt's "To Live is Christ To Die is Gain" bible study is particularly good.

Beth Moore is an amazing woman of God and hilarious as well. Her Esther bible study provides a very enlightening study of scripture. I'm sure they are all very good though. God is definitely at work in her women's ministry, and any ladies out there should definitely check her studies out and follow her on Twitter! @BethMooreLPM










May 18, 2013

Tokyo: Almost Going Back to Where I Came From

"I hate Vietnam!"
If you watch Modern Family, there's an episode where Mitch and Cam decide to show their adopted daughter Lily more about her heritage (she is Vietnamese) by taking her to a Vietnamese restaurant. Lily doesn't have a good time and voices her opinion immediately. To mitigate the tension that begins to occur, Cam  announces that he thinks, "everyone should go back to where they came from." He means this in an educational way but it was poorly timed and delivered. This scene used humour to highlight the potential issues around reconnecting with our ethnic backgrounds and the role they play in our lives today.

So what does this have to do with my first trip to Asia? Well, if you know me, you'll know that I've never been to China and my only experience with Asians have been in Canada. And to be honest, I always distanced myself from stereotypical Asian culture. I loathed Hello Kitty and I would sabotage my own math exams (kidding about the exams). I grew up in a small farming community and none of my friends were Chinese. I would forget I was different because everyone around me was mostly Caucasian. Then I'd bring out one of the lotus leaf wrapped sticky rices my mom had packed for me at school and think to myself, "oh right, I AM different."

So what does this monologue have to do with my trip to Tokyo? Everything, because I came back with a renewed perspective. No I didn't go to China, but I went to a country related to my homeland, and it was a wonderful experience. This is what I learned:

- Dang Japanese people have got it together. Everyone knows what they're doing and everyone does it. For example, no one talks on the subway system. People just nod off in their suits and keep to themselves. No one eats while walking on the streets. They're never rushed or pushy, but always keeping their cool everywhere they go.
- The Japanese are collectively the most hospitable group of people I have ever come across. Whenever my friend and I were lost, people would drop what they were doing and help us graciously and bow numerous times while giving us directions. Sometimes they would walk us there. This was SO refreshing because people were never too busy to brush us off and they were genuinely helpful. Strangers would stop to help us just because we looked lost (which was often).
- The architecture was so beautiful and creative, like wow, and presentation mattered in everything.
- I only saw Toyotas and Hondas on the streets and man were they quiet. Not a peep at night. There were quite a few motorcycles and scooters too, and zero noise pollution. Which really surprised me given that Tokyo is one of three largest global cities in the world. Maybe everything is electric there, or at least a hybrid.
- You're going to have a hard time finding a trashcan. We never understood where the locals stored their street trash because the streets were spotless, but we found a bunch in bicycle baskets once. Oh, there are also a million bicycles everywhere, which is cool - and you can bike on the sidewalk because they're built twice as wide out there.
- By the way, men wear suits and ride bicycles. Which is something I wish I saw here. We would see it at like 10 pm.
- The language barrier was a bit challenging, but you end up finding things through miming and bowing. Oh and lots of pointing, and making an X with your fingers to cancel something... or that's what I thought that meant. Hopefully I wasn't offending anyone.
- There is no shortage of shopping in Tokyo. Everywhere you go there are malls. There are malls within malls - the inception of consumerism.
- The fashion was so different but so great. The Japanese are reserved and conservative, which was very refreshing to see.  Every girl wore a skirt, and every other girl wore heels, khaki, navy, bows, blazers and had copper dyed hair.
- Crepes were amazing. You can get this Oreo cheesecake crepe with whipped cream and cookie crumbs. Ah I miss them.
Maybe I'm just new to crepes...
- Even though the temperature was in the mid-twenties and quite hot, everyone wore long sleeves and held brochures up to their heads to shield the sun. Not sure if they were just acclimatized, or wanted to avoid sun exposure. And then there was me: baring my shoulders, laying on a bench sunning myself. (We had a really long winter this year).
- Toilets: These are the super advanced Japanese toilets you have only heard of. If you watch New Girl, Jess gets sprayed uncontrollably by one. These toilets have SO many features: multiple bidets so toilet paper is unnecessary, heated seats, music, and a host of other things I didn't try out. I also avoided traditional Japanese toilets at all costs because squatting intimidates me.

I appreciate Canada for what it is, but I really miss the warmth of Japan. I've never felt safer and I never felt judged for being a visitor. I was treated with so much graciousness and respect, I felt terrible for not speaking Kanji. All I had was this Lonely Planet pocket dictionary that I would pull out and point to words with. I think as a society we could learn a lot from Japan - I know I came back with a humbled perspective. So if you ever get a chance to visit this fabulous country, I definitely recommend it. Arigato gozaimasu for reading!