“Friends” to Friends

by Leticia

Hi! I’m Leticia and I’m a Sophomore majoring in General Geology. I am ethnically Chinese, but I identify as Taiwanese-Malaysian American; my dad is from Taiwan and my mom from Malaysia. I grew up in a Christian household, went to an American church every Sunday, memorized Bible verses, prayed before every meal, etc.: the “usual” Christian stuff. But, who was I doing this all for? At times, perhaps for God, but most of the time it was “because my parents are doing so”. What I lacked was a focus on God and a close relationship with Jesus.

I struggled a lot with friendships in middle school. The illusion of having “best-friends-forever” and everlasting friendships was shattered with piercing arrows of betrayal and loneliness. And I was stuck watching everyone drift away. Sometimes, though, I would suddenly recall a bible verse or hymn from church/radio, and they would always provide comfort, reassurance, and encouragement to keep moving forward. Looking back, I realize that God was with me then, and He was speaking to me through those verses and songs. It was also during this period that my family had moved to a small Chinese Church, and I attended Sunday School with a few girls somewhat around my age. My spiritual life began to be cultivated here, with in-depth readings of the Bible, daily devotional books, and consistent prayer. I began to discover the character of God and who He truly is. At the same time, I began spending more time with the other girls, and together, we formed the youth group. Little did I know, God was restoring and transforming the shattered pieces of my heart.

High school years brought many challenges: I had to juggle a heavy academic workload and a new environment. No longer were my classmates primarily Black or Hispanic, now they were all Asian or White. Suddenly struck with the differing lifestyles, blatant economic disparity (the high school was situated in a wealthy section of the city), and established social circles, I panicked and raced to fit in.

Though the people were nice, friendships were shallow: topics discussed always revolved around academics or things I pretended to share interest in. As time passed, I felt those friendship bonds wither away. And again, I was stuck watching as friends drifted away, as they formed new bonds, leaving me behind. By this time, my spiritual life and relationship with God had reached a state that I felt comfortable asking Him, “Why? Why do they keep leaving me? Is there something wrong with me?” And He answered me, saying that some friendships are only there for certain times of your life; other friendships remain with you and grow as you grow. He told me that He loves me, and that I didn’t need to pretend, I didn’t need to conform to the patterns of this world—of these “friends”.

I realized that I had unrealistic expectations for what a friend should be like. And, all along, I had those true and long-lasting friendships that I’d wished for, not only with the girls from the youth group, but also with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. And more was yet to come!

Entering into college, I wanted to continue growing in my faith, so I decided to go church-hopping and try out different Christian organizations. What drew me to Chi Alpha was the genuineness of people and the diversity within the organization. I saw people being intentional about getting to know others. I saw a diverse group of people united in worshiping God. I saw the eagerness to truly know God and the desire to live out the Word.

This community has enabled me to grow in so many ways. How people and small group leaders reached out to me helped me see that in the past, I often relied on/waited for others to invite or talk to me. And that now, I should and can take initiative in forming and maintaining friendships. In addition, I began a journey in learning how to trust God completely--to surrender all to Him, from academic burdens to my personal relationships. I began discovering more about the Holy Spirit and His attributes. But most importantly, I began to put Jesus at the center of all things.

I’m so thankful that God has led me here, to the Chi Alpha community. I am able to be myself around these people, comfortable enough to talk about my actual interests and be honest about anything happening in my life.

Furthermore, He has blessed me with sisters in Christ who I can truly call: my friends.