Alumnus’ Thoughts on Spiritual Gift

What did I just do?
The question ran over and over again in my mind, eyes searching my hands for an answer they couldn’t give. 
“What did I just do?” I repeated aloud, hoping my friend who just hopped up beside me might provide an acceptable excuse.
“Yeah, I don’t know. I feel strange about it too,” she confessed. 
We cast a glance back toward the missions booth where we had, just moments before, signed our names on an application form to teach English in the Micronesian Islands. It was as if I had no control of my hand. It just…happened. 
And, like any Christian should do after a strange experience, I prayed about it. I asked God for a sign. If this is what He wanted me to do, He’d give me a sign.
That sign came the next day.
I loathe teaching with a passion. Effective teachers exercise wisdom, patience, leadership and discipline at a level I cannot begin to comprehend. Effective teachers also know how to adjust their messages to their audience. 
My one-week teaching experience in Sabah taught me that I lack the aforementioned skills. Through this experience, God taught me that effective teaching is a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12: 7-11), a spiritual gift not bestowed upon me. 
My bruised ego sought comfort in my spiritual gift of journalistic writing. That’s what I’d been called to do. Hence, the least likely thing I thought I’d do after graduation was teach.
“I’m not an English major; I’m not even good at teaching!” frequented my prayers. “And I don’t know how to tell people about the Bible. And me navigating around Asia on my own? God, you and I both know I don’t have the street smarts for that. There are better people out there. Why me?”
God answered. Sign after sign was granted me. 
Long story made short, I submitting another application to work as a student ambassador at Hong Kong Adventist Academy. Despite missing numerous deadlines and unaffordable airfare, everything worked out, and on August 10, 2017, my feet touched island ground. 
But, these last six months have shown that God qualifies the unqualified (1 Corinthians 1: 18-31). 
God’s people have a tendency of rejecting such divine calls. Some of our most renowned Biblical heroes have fallen into this mindset. Moses is a prime example. God heard Moses’ pleas and allowed him to work alongside his brother Aaron. Moses didn’t face his call alone. 
Of course, neither did Ellen White. 
During her first attempt at walking with God, Ellen would always shirk the responsibility of praying in public. God didn’t give up on her. Ellen offered all the same excuses as Moses. Encouragement from her cousin Hazen Foss and a dream of innocents’ blood on her clothes pushed her to accept the call, a call she answered with her soon-to-be-husband James White.
God doesn’t call people to do things on their own. He gives them a human partner. But, more importantly, He equips us with His Holy Spirit. 
The reassurance of God’s Holy Spirit was all I had to cling to on my journey to Hong Kong. And, within 24 hours, God provided two additional student ambassadors who would later become my “family”. 
While my family has been beneficial, there are moments when I fall back into the pit of despair. One of them is when I’m selected to speak for morning and evening worship and to lead the prayer service. 
In these moments, it’s essential to remember that the body of Christ has many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12). I may not be the best public speaker or the most bubbly girl on campus, but God put me here for a reason, just as He guided each of you to where you are today. 
During a leadership retreat, a colleague kindly wrote to me, “Keep working for God. I see your dedication in a quiet but effective way.” 
Being a leader—a teacher—doesn’t mean I need charisma and public speaking abilities. Being a teacher can come through being a friend or being a positive influence.Being that resident assistant who will offer to pray with someone before a test. Being that roommate who will watch a movie with a friend after a hard day.
Being a leader for God means making Christlike a cardinal trait, a trait so pervasive it influences every word, every action, every movement, every thought. Total and utter surrender. 
God qualifies the unqualified. 
You don’t have to be good at what you do.
Just do it—prayerfully and happily—for Jesus.

Stefani Leeper is a student ambassador at Hong Kong Adventist College.

Christ-Myths: Debunked

It’s almost that time of year again: the consumers’ holiday. The time of year when churches are once again full of people. The time of year when lights are strung and the giddy holiday tunes float above the commotion of last minute shopping. The line “and it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered” is repeated in households, movies and books in remembrance of the story of the Christ.
This season is a reminder of the day that changed the world. Though it’s common belief that Jesus’s birth took place in Bethlehem on December 25 thousands of years ago, this idea doesn't make a lot of sense. We know that the birth of Jesus took place around the time of the census, which is believed to have occurred during the mildest part of the fall so that travelers didn’t have to journey to their hometowns during the cold winter or blistering hot summer.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Jesus’s birth couldn’t have been during the winter; the shepherds wouldn’t be tending their flocks in the fields in the cold. Look around you at this time of the year. What reason is there to be in a field? Everything is dead. There is nothing for sheep to feed on. During the winter, the sheep would be cozy in their stables and the shepherds would be warm in their homes.

The wise men were astronomers, mathematicians, engineers and generally smart and knowledgeable men. 

In the traditional nativity, a trio of wise men is present, usually bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Though the Magi came bearing three gifts we know of, the Bible doesn’t specify exactly how many Magi there were. There could have been any number of Magi above two, though the number probably wasn’t over ten because of logistical challenges such as travel time and resources presented by a trip of that length.
Growing up, I believed that the wise men came and visited Mary, Joseph and infant Jesus in the lowly stable the night of his birth. But both Matthew and Mark state that after Jesus was born, the wise men appeared before King Herod in Jerusalem (which isn’t more than a 6-mile trek to Bethlehem that can be completed in less than a day). The threat of a new king infuriated the jealous Herod, so he interrogated the wise men and found out as much about the star, and what it meant about the Child, as he could from the oblivious yet willingly honest Magi. He instructed them to return to him after their Bethlehem visit to inform him of what they found.

When the Magi didn’t return, Herod ordered that all the male children two years and younger be murdered. He had a good amount of knowledge from what the men had told him to approximate Jesus’s age. He wasn’t acting unintelligibly. The fact that Herod ordered the murder of baby boys in such a large age range implies that the Magi visited Jesus several months or more after he was born. Jesus is also referred to as a young child by both Matthew and Mark after the wise men are referenced in the Bible. 

Every part of Jesus’s birth story is extraordinary. He truly is the reason for the season because of his decision to embrace humanity and the price he paid for each one of us. We like to think we know what happened at His birth, but the popular story includes a lot of misconceptions. Though the story we know and believe might not be perfectly correct, Jesus honors the faith that we put in what we do believe. The details aren’t as important as it is to recognize the option of eternal life that he gave us. That gift is no myth.

Kasondra Reel is a senior studying nursing. 

Hectic Holidays


As the holiday season rolls around, everyone is excited to take a break from it all. Whether it's three weeks off from school with no responsibilities (praise God!) or just the few days around Christmas and New Years, many people look forward to spending time with family and friends. 

Here in America, we’re blessed to be an incredibly diverse nation in everything from ethnicity to religion. Americans from all around the world have their own celebrations and reasons behind them. The holidays are a perfect time to explore just how many different festivities are celebrated in this country. 

Christmas is by far the most celebrated holiday in the United States. The practice of giving gifts comes from the story of the wise men visiting the baby Jesus and giving Him gifts fit for a king. While it may be a religious holiday, many non-believers still celebrate Christmas as a day of family, friends and gift-giving.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday commemorating one of the greatest miracles in the history of Judaism. The Jews were under the rule of the Syrian king Antiochus. He desecrated their temple and tried to force the Jews to worship the Greek gods. A small group of Jews called the Maccabees rebelled and, after three years, recaptured Jerusalem. The temple had been destroyed and so the Jews went about repairing it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough oil unsoiled by the Syrians to last more than a day in the Menorah lamp, which is a symbol of God’s presence. But miraculously, the lamp burned for eight days while they prepared untainted oil. Hanukkah is celebrated today by lighting a candle every day for eight days.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of African culture and heritage throughout the world. It was founded in 1966 and is celebrated from December 26 to January 1. Each of the candles on the Kinara stand represents one of the Seven Principles by which African people are urged to live. Many of the decorations and colors have meanings, including family, unity, prosperity and kindness. 

There are many other nationalities that celebrate different holidays before and during our traditional holiday season. The variety is so beautiful. All these holidays encourage camaraderie, celebrate history and are great avenues to understanding people who have different beliefs. 

Growing up, many of us were only exposed to Christmas. When I was little, I really believed that everyone celebrates Christmas! But now that I’ve met people from different backgrounds, I see just how diverse the holiday season is. It’s wonderful to be able to say “Happy Holidays” and understand all the happiness this season brings to so many people.

If you get the chance to meet someone of a different belief system who celebrates a different holiday than you, I encourage you to strike up a conversation. It will give you a new way of looking at the holiday season while also showing that similar values are celebrated by different nationalities and religions. At a time when everyone is celebrating love, family, and kindness, exploring other holidays is a great way to make friendships and learn about your neighbor. Happy Holidays, Union!

Wesley Rodriguez-Diep is a sophomore studying international relations.