This morning I interviewed Kertes, a Wheaton Academy (WA) alumna who is now a student at Wheaton College, for a story I’m writing about WA’s international students (Kertes was one). I picked her up from her dorm and we drove to Café K’Tizo, where we enjoyed coconut matchas (Kertes’s suggestion) and she answered all my questions.
One of them was about her journey to faith in Christ. She began her answer by going back to her sophomore year, her first year at the Academy. She recounted how all the talk about Jesus that she heard in her Bible class and chapel and at church was new to her. “I didn’t know the deep meaning behind it,” she said. “I just thought it was something people did.” Her initial surprise and interest soon gave way to questions. She became defensive and confused by the gap she often saw between what Christians said they should do and actually did.
Her difficulties grew during her junior year, a tough year filled with pressures from a rigorous class load, college decisions, and troubles in her living situation. By the end of it, she was more than ready for summer break. “It will all be better when I get home,” she thought. And it was—but not quite. She did enjoy the deep relationship she has with her parents and good connections with friends, but somehow these weren’t enough. The very things she had thought would make her happy again, didn’t. “Something was still missing,” she said, and she found herself watching the non-Christians who surrounded her. She saw that they, too, were experiencing a deep emptiness.
When she returned to the States for her senior year, she went to church and a miracle happened. Christianity suddenly made sense to her. “I realized nothing else would ever fulfill me, only Jesus. All the knowledge I’d learned came back to me, and I was overwhelmed. I cried that morning in church and then took communion. That was when I came to the Lord. I realized I still didn’t understand everything about Christianity, but I believed it.”
Her life still had its pressures, but as she took those to God in prayer, she experienced His comfort. “My relationship with Christ gave me peace, and it changed me. I began looking at others’ needs rather than just my own.”
When she told her parents of her decision to become a Christian, her father shared with her that his own father, whom he never met, had been one, too. “That made me feel amazed,” Kertes said, “about how God had been working in my life.”
Our time was up then, and when we stood to go, Kertes thanked me. “No,” I said,” “Thank you. I love getting to hear testimonies of how God draws people to Himself.”
She smiled. “But it was also encouraging to me, to get to tell it and remember God’s work all over again.”
I dropped her off at the College and then drove home, her words running through my head. I was reminded of a conversation I had last spring during a meeting at church. Each person attending had shared a short testimony of seeing God’s faithfulness, and after the meeting, the young man sitting next to me turned to me and said, “I need this. When I’m in my everyday, individual life, I struggle with doubts and fears. Sometimes I wonder if Christianity is really true. What I’m experiencing individually doesn’t seem like it’s enough. But when we come together, proclaiming the faith and sharing all our stories of God working in us, it affirms reality. I am encouraged by others’ stories and reminded of God’s work past and present.”
An image jumped into my mind. “It’s like the stones the Israelites dropped in the river Jordan as they crossed into the Promised Land. One stone dropped in would barely make a ripple, but one after another, all together, the pile of them disrupted the flow of the river. My own stone of remembering God’s work for me is often not enough to disrupt the flow of my doubts and fears. But when you drop your stone on top of mine, and then another person does, and another, my doubts get disrupted, and the Truth is evident.”
In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he wrote, “For I am yearning to see you, that I may impart and share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen and establish you; that is, that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Paul, the great apostle, understood that his own faith benefited when he heard others’ testimonies.
Let’s share stones of remembrance with each other today.
*I’m plugging here for Café K’Tizo, which is owned and operated by Judy and Bruce Duncan, who love Jesus and love people of all cultures and have combined their loves [including tea, of course] in this absolutely wonderful café/teashop. If you’re in the Wheaton area, check it out; if not, you can order K’Tizo teas online.