"His Love Endures Forever" Graduation Testimony by Curie Lee
Chicago UBF (Northwestern)
Five summers ago, I ran Warren Park every day with a Harvard cap on and a prayer that God would lead me to the University of his choice. December 2008, I was accepted into Northwestern University. I enrolled to study Social Policy at the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP). Now, in 2012, I graduated with a double major in Social Policy and Political Science and a minor in German. As I think about who God was to me during these four years, I can confidently say that God is love -- and that his love endures forever.
God’s love was first manifested through the gift of friendship. Since I grew up taking care of my five siblings, I felt I never really had friends; I almost gave up on the idea of friendship altogether. But I thank God for sending my ‘fetus friend’ Sarah Wolff to Northwestern. Before arriving, I decided to live on the south end of campus at the Women’s Residential College (WRC). On my first night, I opened my door at 4AM to go to the bathroom. Right outside my door was a girl on her prayer mat praying to Allah. Then, when I came back from the bathroom, there was a congregation of girls huddled together to break their Ramadan fast. It was a culture shock, but I took it as God’s prodding to pray for those of different faiths; these girls became my new family and my friends. I made life-long friends at WRC, and I pray that God may continue to hold them in his hands as we go our separate ways.
God’s love also endured the academic roller coaster. I was surprised to get all A’s in my first year of college, since this never happened in high school. I took this as a sign of God’s blessing. What I learned after four years, however, was that His love endures through all the academics ups and downs. It was required for social policy majors to take macro and microeconomics. This meant nights of pure terror before exams and insecurity and a lowered GPA. My self-worth was also affected – to the point where I felt not just academically, but spiritually, dead. Around this time, I was asked to give an Easter message. God’s words to the widow and her dead son touched my heart: Jesus said, “Get up!” I accepted that God could resurrect my life – in its academic, spiritual forms. Although my GPA and social life radically changed, God’s love remained unchanged. The following quarter, I decided to study by faith, and not fear – fear of maintaining a good GPA or fulfilling my expectations. I took five classes and God blessed me with the best grades that quarter.
During my junior year, I did a study abroad in Freiburg, Germany. The ministry there was small. No one knew who I was, who my family was, and my role in the Chicago and Northwestern ministries. This was exactly what I needed; it was a time of true spiritual restoration. I joined Msn. Noah and Deborah You’s family in Daily Bread every morning and ate fresh baked bread for breakfast. I became child-like as I learned a new culture and language. Msn. Deborah studied Genesis with me in German, and I prayed for my flat-mates. I believe God blessed my stay because by the time I left, I felt like I mastered the German culture in at least two ways: praying to God in simple German, and telling stories to native Germans that made them genuinely laugh. Then, after this period of spiritual and academic rest, God brought me back to Chicago.
From my academic life, I earned that God is good all the time, but this was tested once more the week before graduation. Due to over committing my senior year, I failed to pass a required Constitutional Law class and my double major was jeopardized. It was a situation beyond my control. When I remembered God’s goodness and by his grace, I could entrust this situation into God’s hands. By His grace, my advisors found a way for me to hold onto my double major and minor and I could graduate with honors. But even if they hadn’t, I learned that academics is a way to know the Lord and myself, better, and that whether he gives or takes away his blessing, His Name is always to be praised.
I tasted God’s love most when I accepted his calling to live as a shepherd. My senior year I was plagued with a question: why am I not happy? Christian life was supposed to be joyful, but for some reason there was an unresolved emptiness within me. Being with friends or family did not resolve this coldness inside. I knew that I was not looking for a significant other, because I had received love-letters in my life, and I was still left emotionally ambivalent. I was searching for the love of God, my father. Until I found this, all my efforts to serve God were meaningless: my Bible students, my piano playing, and my academics. I wanted to enter the Promised Land that God promised the Israelites in Deuteronomy 26:9. But this was not some ‘place’ I could find in Chicago, in Evanston, in Freiburg, in a prestigious university, in relationships, or in myself. I was looking for a place where God was.
At the end of last year, God opened my eyes to see that I was like the older lost son in Luke chapter 15:31. “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’” All this time I was with God, serving him. But I did not know God, and His love for me. This verse simply changed my life. I could feel happy for the first time. I enjoyed hugging people for the first time. I had found God, and he was everything I needed. This is my testimony: God’s love and grace is sufficient for me. He has filled me up and blessed me thus far, and given me many opportunities to share my testimony and my life with Northwestern students, faculty, and the school Dean. Suddenly I found myself passionate about teaching the Bible to four-five Northwestern students each week despite a busy schedule. He has resurrected my ministry life, music life, shepherd life, family life and relationships. So now what?
Earlier this year, I applied for two fellowships: the Fulbright and DAAD to do research in Cologne, Germany. I prayed that if it was God’s will, I would be able to go back to Germany and conduct qualitative research on immigrant children, faith, and academic motivation. I also applied to Teach for America. When I received the results, I found that I did not receive the fellowships but that I was placed through TFA to teach English to high school students in the Mississippi Delta. I accepted the position to teach, and prepared myself to accept an Abrahamic calling to leave my people, my ‘country’ and my father’s household. I thought this was God’s will in my life. But as I prayed more, God challenged me. He reminded me of my New Year’s key verse from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I was convicted to think about God. That same week, God gave me Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Up to this point, I planned my career in Washington DC as an education policy maker, graduate school, law school, etc… I saw TFA as my ticket into these places, as a form of legitimacy and source of security. But God’s words reminded me that it is Him who guides my life, and He was calling me to follow Him. Practically. By faith, I respectfully withdrew from TFA in order to dedicate one year to God and His people. My prayer is that, “now, I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me” (Deut 26:10). Now when people ask me what my plans after graduation are, I tell them that my plan is to have no plans, other than to ask God each day what he wants me to do. Specifically, I want to see how God can develop my talents in Bible studies and music for His glory. I still have dreams, but I’ve decided to trust that God will give me the desires of my heart when I delight first and foremost in Him.
Deuteronomy 26:10b-11 says, “Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.” As I leave all tangible forms of security and leave the ‘system’, I am not scared or more insecure for not seeing or telling people what most people want to hear. Instead, I have peace and great joy. I’m also surprised at how much more God has been glorified by this decision -- this decision of faith became my testimony to all my friends and school faculty and anyone who asks me what I’m doing next year. I praise God all the more for this. Please pray for me to continue seeking God each day for his guidance, to have courage, and live by faith. I pray for God’s direction and to take care of the ministry as long as I am here. Finally, I pray to listen to Jesus according to Matthew 17:5. Finally, according to Matthew 21, I learned that I must be a worker who says and does the work of God, practically. I pray to be faithful to Acts Bible study with my mom, faithfully write and prepare testimonies and Bible study material, and shepherd Meesoh, Jean, and my sisters Mary and Joanne.
Final thought: Rejoice! God’s love endures forever!
By Curie Lee