Be Known…And Know Others

Congrats, grads! The High School Class of 2016 was honored at 11:00 am worship on May 22 See photo gallery. Join us we pray for all students as they embark on their next stages of life.

Each year when we celebrate high school seniors moving onto the next chapter of their lives, we invite our own youth alumni to share their wisdom for finding faith communities in wherever life next takes our grads. Wes Kimball (Concordia College, ’16) and Aubree Tsurusaki (Luther College, ’17) took on the honor of speaking to the class of 2016 at our recent High School Senior Recognition. We are so grateful to both for sharing their wisdom and heart.

Below is an excerpt of Aubree’s message that reminds all of us that no matter what age we are, there’s always a need to make meaning out of our context by being vulnerable and setting ourselves up to be loved by others.

My name is Aubree Tsurusaki, and I just completed my junior year at Luther College, where I’m studying elementary education. I graduated from Eastview in 2013, and like many of you, I was deeply involved in church during my middle and high school years. When I left for college, I remember feeling really nervous about leaving my faith community here, which included most of my really good friends, as well as my super awesome youth directors, pastors, and mentors, whom I had come to love and appreciate so much! I knew I was going to miss being involved, and simply having a familiar place to go to, to foster my relationship with Christ and my relationships with others. I was afraid that I would never be able to find a community like Shepherd of the Valley again! Little did I know that faith communities really do exist beyond Apple Valley MN.

For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking and reflecting on my experiences in college and what a faith community even is and looks like. Long story short, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. It doesn’t matter who you’re with or where you arein your life (spiritually or emotionally), community can and does have the power to exist no matter where, and no matter what, and we are called to intentionally seek out and be a part of Christ’s community.

Jesus tells us what a community is in Matthew ch. 18 when He says, “where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” In Acts ch. 2, we see an example of fellowship, where Christians intentionally spent time with one another, sharing meals and joining together with “sincere hearts.” Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Romans chapter 12 teaches us that we each have different gifts and we need each other in order to, together, form the body of Christ. 1 John 4:11-12 reads, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another… if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” The beginning of Philippians chapter 2 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” And the chapter goes on to tell us to be more like Jesus, who gave everything of Himself in order to truly be present with us.

We’re clearly not made to live life alone — we were made to live in unity… to live in community… and that doesn’t always have to be something huge and perfect that you may picture when you think about the words “faith community.” What Jesus tells us is a true community is anywhere where people are gathered in His name, where we love one another, intentionally spend time with each other, and walk with one another through our faith journeys.

I’ve learned that in order for a community to truly exist, it requires a big piece of ourselves, and for this reason, I’ve decided that community truly is what we make it to be. During times in my college experience when I’ve felt like I don’t really have a “community,” I’ve realized that those are the times in my life when I’m hiding myself from others and from God — I’m not being vulnerable enough, I’m not giving enough of myself to people and to Jesus, including my time, but especially my presence; I’m not asking for prayer, or praying for other people. Overall, I’m really focused on myself and not on the people – the community, around me. It’s during times like these when I feel alone and helpless and discouraged, and when community doesn’t seem to “exist” for me.

When I allow myself to be vulnerable with my friends and transparent before God, to ask for prayer when I’m really struggling with something, to admit that I need Jesus and I need others — these are the times when community flourishes, and when my relationships with Jesus and with others also flourish. I’ve learned that a true, genuine, Christ-centered Community cannot exist without vulnerability, transparency, trust, love, and whole lot of prayer. So, finding a community is not about going to the “right” place or finding the “right” church or ministry. It’s about knowing others, and being known in return…

No matter where you end up in the next few years of of your life, find people who care about you. Find people who want to love you and take the time to know you, who you can be honest with and trust, and who will listen to you and pray for and with you. But also, be that person for other people.

Take advantage of the community that can and does exist around you… if you let it. Be vulnerable no matter how hard it is. Be open and transparent — let yourself be known and take the time to truly know others. Humble yourself enough to ask for prayer when you need it, but don’t forget to ask others what you can be praying about for them — and then actually pray for them, or better, pray with them. Rejoice with others during times of joy. Encourage people, even in tiny ways. Make worship and fellowship a top priority, even when you have 24 hours of homework to do for the next day.

Pause your so-called “busy” life for an hour and get coffee or a meal with someone. Listen to them. Have an actual conversation. Let them know that they are worth your time. I know that college is a busy time for everyone, and obviously schoolwork is important and should be a priority, but don’t let it take priority over being loved and loving others. Put your phones down and your homework away enough to be fully present and in unity with others. It won’t always be easy. I suck at it most times too, but I promise that it’s worth it, and that amazing things will happen even when just two or three gather in His name. Because He always shows up. And He has the power to unite us like nothing else in this world ever can.

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