Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Impact Stories: Christian Community

This post is part of a series of stories from our Impact students. These posts are all written by students. I hope you'll enjoy a closer look at what God is doing on our local college campuses.  

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Sean is a junior at California Lutheran University majoring in Theology and Christian Leadership.

In my freshman year of college, I wrestled with my identity in Christ.  I could not figure out how a Christian was supposed to act or how to go about living a life centered on God.  I met Sarah in the beginning of my sophomore year at college and at the time I was beginning to give more of my life to God.  I grew up as a Christian but when I got to college, the temptations were endless and I did not know where to turn to for help.  Sarah introduced me to the church she worked with and as I went to it more and more, I began to really enjoy it. 

After a couple months of knowing Sarah and going to Young Life on campus, I decided I wanted to be baptized. Baptism to me was the sign that I was giving my life to Christ. I was tired of the regular college life of drinking every weekend and repeating it the next.  The ocean was the perfect place to be baptized because I was deathly afraid of the ocean.  On the ride over to the beach, we listened to Oceans by Hillsong and it was very ironic but very spiritual at the same time.

As I went on to my junior year, I was excited to see what the Lord had in store for me after I gave my life to Him last year.  In my life, friends are really important because I come from a small family. I was excited to join Impact’s College group because they shared the same interests as me and it felt like family. The Impact community has kept me focused on God and helped me to challenge my faith, which is a good thing.  I look forward to Sundays, when I am in fellowship with people my age and they are growing in their faith as well.  The Impact community has given me the tools to understand and read the Bible better which is important for any person who is trying to follow Christ.
Sean was one of the two students we baptized last spring at the beach.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Impact Stories: Finding God

This post is part of a series of stories from our Impact students. These posts are all written by students. I hope you'll enjoy a closer look at what God is doing on our local college campuses.  

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Nisha, a junior at California Lutheran University, is working towards a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Film Studies. 

Nine months ago, I signed up for a mission trip to Mexico with Young Life College, focusing more on the fact that I didn't want to be alone on Valentine's Day than the mission itself. Though I was still learning to let go of a past relationship, I had found the greatest relationship and the strongest love during the midst of my heartbreak. It wasn't until sitting down to write this testimony that I realized this: Don't search for it and it'll find you, but if you allow for it, then you'll find it. You see, I wasn't looking for God in Mexico, I was looking for a way out and yet He found me ready for Him when all my focus was on a different relationship entirely. I then allowed for God to come into my life, after watching the sunrise over the valley in Mexico, which in return allowed me to find Him and then shortly after Mexico, accept Him.

After that trip, I got involved with Impact CLU. Impact has served as my guiding light on this intrepid journey. Being part of this group has not only allowed me to familiarize myself with the Text, but evaluate what the Text means to me in my personal life. For me, it's important to go beyond what's being said and discover what's being meant. Impact allows us to interpret the content and then grow from our findings into more knowledgeable Christians. I've come to learn that it's one thing to know the stories in the Bible and another to understand the significance, recognize the deeper meanings, and connect recurring messages. For me, Impact created an environment where it was okay to be new in the faith and in disagreement with certain ideas extracted with that day's message.

Being surrounded by Christian believers instead of my typical friends who had a very stereotypical college mindset was like surrounding yourself with butterflies instead of bees. This environment was new, trusting, calm and exactly what I needed as a new believer. My faith wouldn't be nearly as strong if it hadn't been for lessons taught at Impact and the butterflies who were there to help clarify my doubts.

Nisha brings lots of joy and laughter to our Dinner and Discussion nights.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Impact Stories: Transitioning to College Life

This post is part of a series of stories from our Impact students. These posts are all written by students. I hope you'll enjoy a closer look at what God is doing on our local college campuses. 

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Jacob, a freshman at Moorpark College, is taking general studies classes to prepare to transfer to a Christian school to study youth ministry. 

When I entered my senior year of high school, I was mildly concerned that this would be my last year of a ministry group at Christian Church of Thousand Oaks. Up to that point, there had been a college group, but they met very inconsistently and only a couple people would come each time. Then, Sarah Koutz came with Impact and the change that happened was very clear, the college group had life in it and I couldn't wait to join the group.

Once I actually left high school and the youth group that went along with it, I was able to join Impact, but I didn't know how much it was going to change my life and help me transition into college. I was able to be surrounded by other college believers that could help me by telling me what they have done as well as haven't done throughout their college life. I'm also blessed to have Sarah who has been very open to talking whenever you want. She has counseled me in my schooling, in my church life, as well as just my day-to-day life. These two different aspects, being able to talk to other college students, as well as the Impact Leader, Sarah, really helped my transition into the wide range of the college world.
Jacob, the current Impact Pencil Game record holder, teaches one of the CCTO elders how to play the pencil game.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Restoring Faith in the Church

I shared in my last post that one of the greatest challenges of this school year was dealing with some past wounds. I thought I would share one of the painful wounds in my life where God has brought a tremendous amount of healing in the last year. I’ve been hesitant to write about this because I don’t want people to get the wrong idea so let me make this disclaimer:

There are absolutely no ill feelings toward any specific churches or individuals. I grew up in a wonderful church and have been a part of some great congregations. I am well aware that I have hurt and wounded people, just as people and circumstances have hurt and wounded me.

Okay, now that I’ve made that clear, let’s get on with the story. 


As I look back at my life of growing up in the Church, most of the picture is beautiful full of amazing role models and giants of the faith that have had a tremendous influence in my life. But scattered throughout that picture are several dark scars that at some point overshadowed the beauty of the rest of the painting. Those scars are the voice of those who told me I didn’t look the part. Voices of those who told me I asked too many questions. Disapproving looks as I speak truth boldly when my “role” was to be silent. They are scars from losing jobs or not being hired because I don’t have the right body parts. 

Soon after I graduated from college, I reached my breaking point. I was done with the Church. I kept attending a local congregation because the Text says so much about community and being together, but I wasn’t invested. I just showed up. It didn’t take long before some good friends surrounded me and started to get me plugged into our local church. But even after getting involved and serving for several years, I didn’t trust the Church. I was skeptical. 

When I started working for Impact any healing that had come was about to be tested. All of those voices I mentioned earlier were back and they were louder than ever. I quit counting how many times I was told I was a sinner or going to Hell because I was woman devoting my life to doing ministry or because I wasn’t getting married and having babies. The hardest part was that some of those voices were of close, trusted friends. 

I’ll be completely honest. The last several years have been incredibly difficult. I accepted a new position that would require me to work even more directly with a church than I already was. I confess I was not happy about this, but I was confident of what God was asking me to do. Here is the great thing about following God’s lead: no matter how hard it is, it is always worth it.

I came to California super guarded. I was greeted with open arms, tons of acceptance and a Church that was eager to follow God’s leading. I came having lost sight of that Church. My perspective had been skewed. As I’ve dropped my defenses, allowed the people of the Church to be the Body and sat at the feet of some great teachers, I’ve rediscovered what God’s Church is. I’ve regained trust in Church. I have a deeper love for the Church than I have in years. 

The voices are still present, but I’m choosing not to focus my eyes on the scars but rather on the beautiful picture that is the Body of Christ. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Resurfacing Monsters

After my last post and confessing my love of control, you can imagine how I feel about change. Like conversations, I like to prepare myself for as many aspect of a transition as I can. I did exactly that as I prepared to move to California. Now that I’ve been here for nine months and completed my first school year, it is interesting to look back and see how I handled the transition, the things I was prepared for and what I was not.

I expected the transition to be very difficult, while it has had its challenges, it really hasn’t been as hard as I expected. I knew there would be times when I missed family and friends. I did not expect to make such great friends here as quickly as I have. I did not expect to be welcomed accepted by the church staff like family from day one. For the most part, this move has far exceeded my expectations and been an incredible blessing, except for one thing.

I was not ready to have past hurts and insecurities resurface like waves crash into the rocks at the coast as the tide comes in. This has most definitely been the single most challenging thing about coming to California. Not long into the spring semester I started having horrible nightmares. I wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t eating well. Focusing was a challenge. Internally, all of those hurts and insecurities were like roaring monsters that I could not silence. I knew I had a choice. I could allow these monsters to silence me or I could allow God to do more healing.

I’ve decided this is a hidden gift that comes with the chaos of change and transition. There seems to be something about the shaking up of our “normal” that reminds us of our own monsters. The sudden awaking of our awareness makes way for another layer of healing and growth. I’m discovering when I allow that to happen, the insecurities fade away and the hurts have less control over me.

Now I’m not saying I’m a fan of change, but I’m learning to embrace it in new ways. And before anyone starts worrying: I am sleeping well, eating probably too well, and concentrating just fine.