Hi, readers. Today, I am writing and sharing with you a post that is really important to me. In fact, I believe it is the most important one I’ve written yet. It will also probably be broken down into a few parts because I have way too many personal thoughts and stories to share to keep it within one readable post.
But first, before I begin, just a little background about myself; I am a Christian and have been attending Heart of God Church for close to 8 years now. I volunteer in the church on a regular basis and to me, church is a Home.
At this point, you are probably thinking – why did I decide to write this post now? No one told me to do so, nor do I have anything to gain out of this (at least not from anyone I know). Well, I am writing this for myself. I am writing this so that I will always remember to keep a heart of gratitude. Because a sense of gratitude is what prevents a sense of entitlement.
I know – the words “open letter” are commonly used in widely published articles with the purpose of criticism. But I think it’s time for us to redeem the name of open letters! After all, some of the oldest pieces of open letters were not used to criticize or attack, but to bring faith, hope and love to people.
I am referring to the epistles of Apostle Paul, which can be found in the Bible. Sure, there are many parts of these letters that challenge character growth and change. But all these are done from a heart of love. I really like how Paul begins his letters:
Greetings from Paul
This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. All the brothers and sisters here join me in sending this letter to the churches of Galatia. May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.Galatians 1:1–3 (NLT)
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.Philippians 1:3 (NLT)
While I am not an apostle nor anywhere near Paul’s greatness, I certainly feel I can learn a thing or two (or more) from him. We can surely all grow to be people of peace and thanksgiving, don’t you think?
Haha anyway, that was quite a lengthy intro. Let’s begin with the main content of this letter, shall we?
I want to start by saying this: to Heart of God Church, its pastors, leaders, volunteers and members – thank you.
Over the past 8 years, you have taught me what it truly means to belong, to believe and to become. To be more specific, I am going to take the rest of this open letter to explain what I mean. Let me first talk about belonging.
What it means to Belong
When I first stepped into Heart of God Church, I was 15 years-old. I was doing relatively well in life! In school, I was scoring good grades and was also the president of a co-curricular activity (CCA). At home, I lived with a supportive grandma and a loving mother. We didn’t lack anything financially, so whenever I wanted something, most of the time, I got it.
I was living quite a simple life, but I was happy! Perhaps, it was also because I had a good bunch of friends. During school hours, we were serious about schoolwork together. After school hours, however, we became gaming buddies, going on quests and slaying monsters in the virtual world until bedtime.
I talk about all these things because when I mentioned “belonging”, the natural instinct for a lot of you might be to paint a picture of me as some boy from a broken family without love or care. Or maybe you imagined a person without any friends. I personally know people like that whose lives have been redeemed & turned around 180 degrees by the love of God and His people. But that is not my story.
The truth is for me, up until that point in time, I never thought my life could get any happier and have any more meaning or purpose. I was happy just living for the fun and excitement in the day-to-day. Maybe some of you can relate to this. I didn’t think there was a need for God or church in my life.
That all changed on May 29, 2011 when I stepped into Heart of God Church for the very first time. The moment I entered the auditorium, I knew there was something different about this place. Not gonna lie – what really amazed me at first were the colorful lights, cool music and lively atmosphere. But when I left that day, what left the deepest impression on me was the people.
I still remember very fondly that on that day, after service ended, I was about to leave the building together with my cousin who brought me there. But I was given a pleasant surprise by everyone I met that day in church! Turns out, my cousin had previously revealed to them that my birthday was a few days away. So they decided to surprise me with a cake and birthday song, even though it was only their first time meeting me!
Now, to some of you, you might think this would be a really awkward situation. But for me, I was just grinning from ear to ear. Haha, I just felt it was so sweet of these people to decide to do something like that for me, even though we were not close.
Over the next few weeks and months, I came back to church together with my cousin. The people in church got to know me better, I got to know them better. And I realized that these are really genuine people, who weren’t just being friendly with me. They actually wanted to be my friends. And let me tell you, there is a huge difference between being friendly and being a friend.
To be continued…