I’m so excited to introduce a new series for Pure Disciple, Called. The blog is called Pure Disciple, so I realized I had better start delivering on that! :p The whole point is to highlight the lives of ordinary people called to partner with God in extraordinary work. (Note – ordinary means like you and me. No degrees, certificates, special C.V. needed to follow God’s calling in your life. We’re all normal folks over here.)
I first met Sarah circa 2008 while we were students at UC Santa Barbara. She’s been an awesome friend to me over the years and I have been so blessed to witness how God is working in her life. And boy, is he ever! Today, she works full time with a Campus Crusade for Christ ministry in Los Angeles called Destino. She was nice enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to let me interview her. (Thanks so much Sarah!!) So it is with great joy that I present this interview with a real life disciple of Jesus.
What do you do for a living?
I work with a College Student Ministry called Destino. I work on campus with students at USC, UCLA, and a few surrounding community colleges.
What is the goal of your ministry?
Our vision in Destino is to reach the campus, and ultimately the world for Christ THROUGH Latino college students. We do this through a three-fold strategy we call Winning, Building, and Sending. We want to Win students to Christ, or basically help them understand what it means to start a relationship with Him. Once students have started their walk with Jesus, we build them up in their faith through bible studies, weekly discipleship, leadership opportunities and teaching them to share their faith. We also want to send our students out ready and equipped to know how to help others come to know Christ and grow in their relationships with Christ. We send them out to their peers on campus, their families, and ultimately the world. We are a Cru ministry, so holistically, we want to help every college student on every college campus around the world know Christ and make Christ known. In Destino, we also believe God has given us our ethnicity and culture to glorify Him, and so, we also want to help students grow and mature in their understanding of ethnic identity and how to be stewards of their culture and ethnicity for Christ.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up more or less in Southern California (LA/OC area). I have moved a lot throughout my life growing up. I went to high school in New Jersey then came home to California for college and have been here since.
What was the role of faith as a kid?
I think I always believe in God. And I think I maybe have heard that Jesus had died for my sins, but I didn’t really understand what the implications of that were until college. I only really starting going to church when I moved to New Jersey when I was 13. My mom and I joined the Catholic church. It did become an important part of my life, but it was pretty separate from all other areas of my life until college, when I would say I gained a better understanding of what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ.
What’s the first encounter with God you remember having?
When I walked into a weekly meeting of the Cru ministry in college for the first time my freshman year. I walked in while they were having a musical worship time. I remember being really overwhelmed by the presence of God in that meeting during the second set of worship after the meeting. I was sobbing because I knew God was real, and there with me, but I was so afraid of what that all meant. And it was still a good few months before I really put my faith in Christ.
When did you first come to faith?
I would say I surrendered my life to Christ fully in October 2008, when I was a second year college student. In August, I had started to attend the Cru weekly meetings and Bible Studies to learn more about what it meant to have a day to day relationship with God. It wasn’t until the fall retreat that I finally came to the point where I realized I had to offer myself fully to God in order to really follow Jesus and have a relationship with Him. I also think I felt, in some ways, not good enough to truly follow Him. I think I wrongly assumed that all these “perfect Christians” hadn’t done anything all that bad, but I had. I remember hearing a friend’s testimony of how they had come to know God that week, and his story was similar to mine. Understanding that God’s grace really did cover all my sins by hearing other’s stories of experiencing grace, really helped me feel free to finally come to Him with all I am.
How did you come to work for Destino?
I became a Christian when I was in college through the ministry of Cru. After I graduated I did a two-year internship with Cru at my school. During that internship I began I started to work with the Destino movement on campus for the first time. I learned so much about God’s heart for all people groups and the necessity of learning how to cross-cultures for the sake of the Gospel. After my second year of interning with Cru, I decided to join staff with Destino because I had seen God working so clearly within Latino community in the U.S. and I wanted God to continue teaching me about what it means to minister cross-culturally.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
I love learning about the difference of how we perceive and understand relationships and the world around us depending on our cultural lenses. I learn a lot about what my cultural values are because I’m working so often with students that come from a different culture than I do. It’s a constant learning experience and humbling process, realizing the way I do things is not necessarily right or wrong and vice versa. It’s just different. And God can be glorified in those different ways of doing things.
What is the most difficult part?
I would say the most difficult part is actually the same as my favorite part. It is sometimes hard for me to understand at first the value that comes from someone thinking and valuing things differently than me. There are so many instances where I think something is a great idea for a student to do or a way for them to grow, but maybe it doesn’t pan out the way I had hoped or they don’t see it the same way. Sometimes its hard for me to figure out how i can encourage and exhort our students Biblically vs. culturally. My culture is not the right culture, so I constantly am trying to figure out if I’m trying to get them to adapt to my cultural ways of doing things or if its something God commands us to do.
What’s one lesson God has taught you in your career so far?
He has taught me the necessity of listening and getting to know people’s individual stories. It is so important. And to do so with a humble heart. I think when we are trying to cross cultures, we can easily make over generalizations and not realize how that is incorrect and hurtful. Every person in this world is so different. And not every student from a similar culture has a similar experience. So it’s so imperative that we just genuinely get to know one another and not assume things about them just because they are in a particular culture or setting.
What do you think might be on the horizon for you?
I’m not sure exactly. I love my job so much! Over this last year, God has been showing me a lot more of the brokenness and suffering in the lives of people around me (with our students, my friends, and in my own family) and I feel the need to learn how to better walk through suffering and hardship with people. I have thought of maybe returning to school to get a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy to pursue becoming a counselor. But I am not sure if that’s where God is leading me just yet. I’m currently just trying to learn more about what it looks like to care for people well in the midst of the pain and brokenness of life. And maybe I’m supposed to just continue to grow in these skills and remain with these wonderful students! We will see! =)
Want to know more about what people like Sarah are doing around the world?
Commonplace stock phrases like “follow your heart” are so prevalent in our culture that e don’t think twice when we see them plastered on greeting cards, posters, and children’s clothing. They sure sound positive, upright and true, but Jesus says something different. The sins that defile us, actually start with your heart.
“Out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness” (Mark 7:20-22).
The heart loves comfort & convenience above all
In school I had a friend whose parents were divorced, but had agreed to live together until the kids graduated. From where I was standing, they loathed each other and the air inside the house was fraught with tension. Their reasoning was that it was easier than having to deal with custody and cheaper than living apart. It may have seemed to work on the surface, but the arrangement still left deep wounds on the whole family. The heart does not want to be challenged or disturbed, and that shuts out any possibility for redemptive, albeit painful, work to be done.
The heart can be blind to its own sin
Jeremiah 17:9 calls the human heart the most deceitful of all. Jesus talks about this too, in Luke 18:9-14 when he tells the parable about 2 men who prayed at the Temple. One, a Pharisee, proudly stood in a place of importance and prayed like this: “God, thank you that I am not a sinner like everyone else. I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I fast twice a week, and I tithe 10%.” The other man was a despised tax collector. He prayed with eyes glued to the ground and beating his chest in sorrow like this: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus explains that it was the tax collector, and not the Pharisee who stood justified and innocent before God.
The Pharisee’s blindness to his own sin came from within in the form of pride and foolishness. I believe that the Pharisee honestly believed himself justified, but that’s not enough. By fully trusting his own heart’s judgement of himself (we always tend to minimize our sins to ourselves, don’t we?) he lost an opportunity to be made right before God.
To be successful, our hearts need solid truth for direction
The basis of the gospel is that we (and our hearts) are not good or innocent by default (Romans 3:10). Thus, we cannot be trusted to follow our hearts unless what we desire matches up with God’s will for us. How does one do that, exactly?
Believe First, take heart! (ha) Remember that God has said, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”(Ez 36:26). He can do amazing work with our old broken hearts.
Commit There is a decision facing you today. It may be large or small, but to the Lord, size doesn’t matter when it comes to obedience. Make a commitment to seek the right path to take. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
Seek The first place I go when I’m seeking wisdom from the Bible is usually the concordance in the back of my Bible (many popular bibles have them). Biblegateway.com and openBible.info are also excellent for quickly finding what you need.
Ask This one sort of goes together with #3. Often it’s not the finding of the information that’s difficult, it’s the application of it. Even if you are pretty sure you know what you’re doing to do, it’s important to check yourself with the wisdom of another older believer. Stay in fellowship with one another through a church, a small group, and/or with a spiritual mentoring relationship with an older and trusted believer. I’m personally so thankful to have several such wise men and women in my life to whom I can go for direction.
Do you have a person or church family you trust for support? If not, I challenge you to reach out this week to someone like this. Remember that we all get off the path and need the support of our church family. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
God’s Word never changes and “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 timothy 3:16).
Prayer: God, we praise you for your mercy on poor sinners like us. We pray that your Holy Spirit would help us to discern the difference between your direction and our own sinful direction for our lives. Show us how to recognize our need for your mercy. Let our hearts consistently move forward toward that perfection that we will have in Heaven with You.
Application Question: What decision is facing you today, and how are you going to search for the right way to go?
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.