“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?" - Matthew 18:12
Two summers ago, I was a lost sheep.
At that point of my life, years of decline in my spirituality and discontent with my church had finally come to a head. I was decidedly no longer a Christian.
But it wasn’t always that way.
In middle school, I loved being a Christian. At the center of my Christian experience was my youth pastor––the “cool adult” in my life. Every week, I looked forward to whatever fun game he had planned for us and to the hilarious anecdotes that filled his Sunday sermons. But in 2013, my beloved youth pastor stepped down, and for years, my church struggled to find his replacement. Along with school demanding more of my attention, the excitement I once had for church diminished into apathy.
Friends I grew up with in the church also grew apathetic and, one by one, they stopped coming. And though I wanted to do the same, my parents would not allow it. We fought constantly over the issue, and I started seeing Christianity as a waste of time that I was unfairly forced into.
By the time I was 16, I started lying to my parents about going to youth service, instead sneaking out to the old, unused Sunday school classrooms where nobody ever found me, and I could “play hooky” in peace. I spent the end of my high school years in these dark and dusty corners, hiding from Jesus. I thought that less of him was what I needed. But God knew better.
He Did Not Give Up on Me
After I graduated high school, I flew 2,000 miles south to attend college at The University of Texas at Austin. In a new state with no friends, at a school where everybody seemed to know somebody, I became incredibly lonely. As time passed, I missed the community I had in my home state of Oregon, and my loneliness turned into homesickness. I wondered, What am I doing here? Why did I even decide to come to this place?
Though I had long given up on God, he met me in my loneliness. Unexpectedly, he guided me to my first encounter with InterVarsity, which would not only transform my college experience, but my faith as well.
God Found Me
It started with a text message. Out of the blue, somebody I met online back in July asked if I wanted to attend an event with her. She showed me a flyer. “Connect: with Free Milk Tea!” it read, “Sponsored by InterVarsity Asian American Campus Ministry!”
I was apprehensive about entering a Christian space again, but Taiwanese milk tea spoke loud and clear to my stomach, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to finally make friends either. We agreed to meet at the event that night.
But when the time came, she was nowhere to be found.
“I’m so sorry. I’m going to be late!” she texted. So, I waited and waited, until half an hour passed and there was still no sign of her.
At this point, I contemplated leaving without her (and without my milk tea). Coolers of the sweet beverage sat across the patio from me, a large crowd of ministry members and event attendees standing between us. So close yet so far away. But fear of embarrassing myself in front of these strangers paralyzed me from even approaching them.
Then, someone stepped out of the crowd and came up to me.
“Hi. You look lost,” he said. “I’m Joseph! What’s your name?”
Talking to Joseph, I learned about Asian American Campus Ministry (AACM) and InterVarsity. I learned that he actually wasn’t a student, but a staff minister who had dedicated his career to helping students like me find God. With Joseph, I also had the first conversation about my faith in years. I had grown accustomed to hearing, “You need to go to church! You have to!” But Joseph dug deeper.
“Where are you in your relationship with God?” he asked.
Joseph then took me into the crowd of students, introducing me to members of the ministry. Everyone I met was so vibrant, so interesting, and so friendly. I still wasn’t completely on board with getting involved with Christianity again, but I knew I wanted to become friends with these people regardless. I found myself attending the rest of AACM’s new student outreach events, through which I was convinced that I wanted to stay a part of this organization.
During AACM’s new student outreach, a sophomore I had met at Connect asked me to join her small group Bible study. I was already in love with the AACM community, but Bible study led me to fall in love with their God too. I rediscovered the awe-inspiring glory of Jesus, and how I could be a part of that glory as an Asian American college student. Jesus provided me with the hope and wonder I was lacking for so long.
Later that semester, I decided to recommit my life to Christ. Though I originally sought to distance myself from God, he pulled me, his lost sheep, back into his infinitely welcome embrace through InterVarsity.
Today, I’m entering a second year on AACM’s core team as a team coordinator for student outreach. It is an honor for me to serve by running this chapter’s milk tea event, and to have the opportunity to invite other lost sheep to meet their Father, as I once did. Now, I can’t imagine my life without him.
How You Can Help Lost Sheep
In my story, and for countless other students across the country, campus staff ministers like Joseph have played a crucial role in our faith journeys, leaving the 99 to love on the lost sheep. Staff ministers are student heroes.
But these heroes need heroes too. Staff ministers rely on the generous gifts of their ministry partners to fund their dedicated work on campus.
If my testimony resonated with you, would you consider becoming a hero’s hero and partnering with our campus staff ministers today? Your help creates real impact for students like me.
With dark brown skin, a welcoming smile, and a cup of bubble tea in hand, the image titled Boba Jesus has prompted some unusual questions. And wherever Stephan Teng has set up this cardboard cutout on Cornell University’s campus, students have been quick to follow.