Until residing at WJU, I have always lived in Sacramento. I am the oldest kid in a family of 6: two younger sisters and a little brother. I was homeschooled through 4th grade and then entered into Bradshaw Christian High school where I remained through graduation. High school was a mildly trying time as I shifted between different friend groups, trying all too desperately to find where my identity lied. It was time to choose a college. Initially, I didn’t have a particularly vigor to go to WJU, but I chose to go here because my youth pastor offered me a one-year youth intern position for my first year of college. After prayer and consideration, this offer appeared to be God’s direction to me as to which university I should attend. I was thankful to be moving onto campus and beginning a new experience that included independence, an internship, and a school that loved Jesus.
My freshman year at WJU was spent primarily in school work, campus activities, my youth internship and commitment to worship band at my church. Even though all of my church work was volunteered time, I tended to see it as a stress-reliever rather than an extra burden. My time spent in community with teens was rewarding for me. To accompany that, I played keyboard and sung back-up vocals for Sunday morning worship. As my internship ended and I moved on to my sophomore year at Jessup, the Lord pressed upon my heart that it was time to move churches and refocus my ministry efforts.
By the time I moved back on to campus in early August for leadership training, I had already been working as a volunteer barista at Origin Coffee and Tea for almost 2 months. Freshman year had hit me hard with the realities of sex-trafficking. Before coming to Jessup, the fact that this sickening, worldwide industry of selling children, girls, and women was unknown to me. Origin Coffee opened in January 2011 and it became the new hot spot for Jessup students. Realizing that all of Origin’s profits were channeled to fight against sex trafficking, I decided that volunteering there should be a part of my summer. Little did I know how much that small decision was paving the way for so much more. Origin is also a church, and after attending a couple of gatherings, God made it clear that this place was my new church home. By October, I had become an official member of Origin Church and shortly thereafter, became involved in one of their small groups. Ever since then, I have been able to grow within this wonderful community of believers.
It was in the spring of my sophomore year that my call to missions became very clear to me. The Lord took my broken heart for the abused, particularly those who had been trafficked, and turned it into a sincere and authentic love for the gospel. I realized it was not society who tore my heart so that I could become a humanitarian and help the oppressed, but it was God who had torn my heart so that I could come to love the gospel and how it provides everything that any victim will ever need. It hit me that it doesn’t matter how many girls are saved from trafficking if their souls are not captured by the Lord in the end; it doesn’t matter how much trauma they escape if they cannot embrace the loving God who wants so badly to heal them of their sorrow and past tragedies. The importance of the gospel became a renewed concept to me and it began to slowly transform the way I thought and acted, knowing that it was important for me to be a living example of God’s presence regardless of where I was or what I was doing.
I kicked off my junior year by studying abroad. Having a passion for human trafficking, I had greatly desired to be a part of Jessup’s mission team for Cambodia. I was not accepted onto the team and it didn’t make any sense, until April 2012. My plan was to study abroad in Uganda in Spring 2013 with my friend Janie Lovejoy. I felt more comfortable and safe with the idea of going with a friend. But that wasn’t what God had in mind. One week before the application deadline for Fall 2012, I clearly heard the Lord telling me to apply for the Uganda Studies Program (USP). I obeyed, feeling vulnerable to another rejection, but no more than 2 weeks later, I was accepted. I had never traveled internationally before, and I was positive that my first experience of such would be a mission trip and likely to a trafficking-prevalent country. But as the Lord would have it, Uganda does not suffer from human-trafficking and I was not going as a missionary. In August 2012, I flew to Uganda and did not return until December. I lived with a Ugandan family, went to Uganda Christian University, and participated in an internship with an organization that housed street kids from the capital city, Kampala. Those four months spent living in a suburban African society were some of the most trying and learning-filled times I have experienced in life thus far. I had to be teachable, flexible, and willing to submit to a different way of life than I was used to. Living in Uganda as a student, a pilgrim in a sense, and not as a tourist or a missionary, reaffirmed my call to cross-cultural ministry. The most definable concept I learned was the grand importance of living amongst certain people groups and adhering to their specific way of life before expecting them to listen to what help or advice I might have to offer. The vast majority of Uganda is Christian, but there were still plenty of issues to be debated (homosexuality being the prime example, since many Christians in Uganda despise this movement and would rather see them killed than shown love in Christ). This concept of being culturally flexible was new to me, but very real, and I realized that I needed to adopt this attitude in whatever setting I was in, not just when I was in a different country.
I returned to the states and found myself back in my Jessup/Origin/anti-trafficking community. What I had learned in Uganda became instantly applicable. I quickly found ways to reengage: one of those ways was becoming a team member for The GRACE Network (TGN). GRACE stands for guys/gals resolved against child exploitation. No longer was fighting human trafficking only possible in international settings; this opportunity was right in my backyard. Chris, who heads it up, is a deacon at my church. TGN is lacking in many formalities that a normal organization may have, but we definitely get down to business. We travel to different groups and events and speak about the issue of local trafficking. We also conduct training for spotting and fighting trafficking. There are also occasional hands-on outreach events that happen. But the best thing about The GRACE Network is that it aligns with the two biggest things God has taught me about ministry. First, this is not about saving girls, but reaching out to them with Jesus’ love; it’s not about humanitarian efforts, it’s about the gospel. Second, everyone reached out to in ministry is valuable enough to get to know them personally before you try to take charge of their problems and pretend like you know everything. People don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care. And since TGN is based out of Rocklin, a suburb area full of many well-off white folk, it takes some coaching and practicing of adjusting our attitudes to be flexible and responsive to those whom we are helping.
The scholarships that I want to be considered for are specified to cross-cultural ministry. Although being an Intercultural Studies major does not guarantee that I will work in cross-cultural ministry, it is intended to accompany and aid the calling I believe the Lord has given me: to work with the culturally oppressed, the hurt, and broken hearted. Ever since sex-trafficking became a reality to me in my freshman year, God placed in me a passion for those victims and a longing to help them. As this passion has matured and grown, I have realized that this is not just a passion, but a calling for my life. Like everyone else, though, I have to start at square one. I see God’s calling for my life in ministry as follows: it starts with the gospel in me, then sharing the good news with those in my personal circle of influence, then going to the “ends of the earth” (or wherever God sends me) as Jesus instructed in Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:8. I cannot wait for the day that God sees me as fit and ready to be sent out into a foreign land for mission work. I have always had a longing to mix cultures and exist outside of my comfort zone. I’ve already received a great taste of that by way of missions trips throughout the U.S. and Mexico and studying abroad in Uganda.
My life and plans are entirely dependent upon God’s timing. I hope to remain in the Rocklin community for at least a year after graduation for the sake of staying near my church and involved with The GRACE Network. I absolutely love to write and I hope that I may begin a project through TGN that allows me and other writers to take real life stories from the lives of a broad array of people and publish them as living testimonies to the amazing things God has done for them. God may have that in mind or He may not. He may send me out right away or steer me in a different direction; He may even wait decades until I get to travel far and wide. There is one fact that I know is an absolute in God’s plans since He promises it in His word: I will be a minister everywhere that I go. Whether I have a simple desk job or am helping to rescue child slaves in Asia, there will never be a time when I am not on mission for the gospel. My ultimate goal wherever I may be is to make less of myself in order to make more of Jesus, so that others may see and believe as well.