Casper Lee (UCI, Class of 2019)
God called me to surrender my life to Him at GRN my freshmen year.
But before all this, I came into college looking for KASA, not KCM.
Because of a basketball bet, I ended up staying in KCM for a couple of weeks, and by week 6, I somehow found myself going to Gospel Renewal Night. At this point, I was not even a Christian; I wanted to know God, but it seemed like too much effort and too costly. However, leading up to GRN, God placed this question in my heart, “What will you choose: me or the world?”
I ignored Him. I didn’t have an answer.
I grew up going to church all my life but fell away, so Pastor Harold wasn’t really speaking on anything new. He just shared about how God had used his own past hurts and struggles to transform him into something that God delighted in. Then, it finally clicked – God wanted to do the same for me. The same Savior that came to this earth, died on the cross, and rose again for Pastor Harold was welcoming me with those same open arms. As Pastor Harold ended, he said with God, there’s no half-in or half-out. We were to either completely surrender to Him or nothing.
During this moment, God called out to me and asked again: “What will you choose: ME or the world?”
I struggled to give God a clear answer. It was so clear how much God wanted to pursue after me and how much He wanted to pour out His love to me. I told him I would fully surrender to whatever He wanted to do with my life – no more half-in, half-out.
The praise team went up at that same moment and began to sing one of my favorite songs, “Man of Sorrows.” That one part in the bridge gets me every time, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” For a guy who spent his entire senior year going to parties and running in the opposite direction from God to being surrounded by a bunch of Christians who probably listened to praise music out of their own will made me feel inferior. But that line signified that there was no difference between anybody in this room, Jesus died for my sins just as much as He did theirs.
My experience at GRN led to committing to a church, going on STSM to East Asia and Cambodia, serving on Servant Team, serving on Core, and ultimately finding my identity and joy in Jesus.
I don’t know where you are… maybe you are a freshman and wondering why you should go to GRN or maybe you are serving and these events are mandatory, but just come and let God speak and see what He does.
Russell Midomaru (UCLA, Class of 2016)
I remember struggling a lot after returning from Cambodia in 2014. It had been just about a month since I returned from witnessing God’s mighty Kingdom work being established in the country, and I was not having it. My first missions trip was a roller coaster ride in many ways, but I was enormously blessed and had a new resolve to make my life mean something more for God. However, I found myself constantly exhausted, frustrated, and even depressed. I spiraled down into a state that many missions trainees learn to call the post missions syndrome (go on STSM and learn!).
This post missions syndrome persisted for quite a long time. I was operating out of a very unhealthy mindset, especially as I served as Outreach Core for KCM. In KCM and even at church, I remember thinking, “People just don’t get it – they just don’t understand it,” as I continued to live through the days I spent in Cambodia. With discouragement fueling my cynicism, I remember thrusting myself into the hustle and grind rhythm of proclaiming Christ to non-believers, convincing myself that I was definitely “getting it.” I also recollect how empty I still felt after doing all of these Christianese things. I was busy, but the fuel that I was drawing from was not God and His grace – I was placing my hope and strength in myself. I loathed this state that I was in, and I desperately wanted to get out of it, but I didn’t have the strength to seek restoration. Even God felt so distant and His love for me seemed barren within me.
I remember Pastor Alex Choi spoke at GRN in 2014. He preached from Psalm 42, where two verses vividly stood out to me. Verses 5 and 11 both say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” My reality at the time intersected with God’s Word where I felt that the Holy Spirit indeed knew the deepest groanings of my soul. I saw myself in turmoil – I wanted to draw near to God but I couldn’t. I was too discouraged to the point of not caring and even believing God was far from me.
I not only saw my own reality in King David’s honest confession before God when he speaks of being cast down, but I also saw the need to repent of my lack of trust in the character of God, as seen by David saying, “Hope in God.” P. Alex’s sermon pointed me back to the character of God who never fails and promises Himself for His people. I had forgotten to rest in His promise and to simply trust in His character. I needed to encounter the Gospel through the lens of a discouraged saint like King David so that I may be restored to His grace. GRN did not heal me completely overnight, but it did become a major stepping stone towards restoration during that season of my life, where I was able to begin praying, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”
Gospel Renewal Night is coming up this Saturday @ Living Hope Community Church!
Click HERE for the FB event page!