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Christians at Brown: Lessons Learned

As college students during four of the most pivotal years of our lives, what we learn inside the classroom pales in comparison to the wisdom we gain and challenges we face outside the classroom. For Christian students on campus, this is colored by the spiritual guidance, knowledge, and community we encounter and embrace here that encourage us in our walk of faith and growth into maturity.

Two weeks ago, first-year Chaelin Jung wrote a piece on lessons she has been learning during her last two months on campus [Read that here!]. Beautifully and honestly written, her written words did not just speak to other first-years experiencing the same lessons learned — they spoke to the second, third, and fourth-years just the same who, while farther ahead in this four-year journey, are still growing in learning these lessons.

So I asked four Christian students farther along in this four-year journey to talk a little bit about their own lessons learned and how they are still growing in the lessons Chaelin so eloquently wrote about.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.


Jeremy Wang, ‘22

Second year from the Philly suburbs thinking about concentrating in computational biology and applied mathematics.

What is the most important lesson you have learned as a Christian at Brown?

I think, personally, it's been simply just not to dwell on the good that God has given me in the past. I really grew up as not a very strong Christian, but the summer before I came to college God just brought a lot of events together that transpired and really pulled me out of apathy and brought me to salvation. When I came to college I expected a lot more of the same. I came in and I thought RUF would be exactly the same kind of community — just really committed to God and sacrificing time for Him every single day. And I realize that was actually just a really special experience — a blessing that doesn’t come very often. So in the first semester I didn’t realize it yet and I think I was very bitter about it to some extent, but as time's gone on I think I just try to look for more of the goodness and the blessings available to me now and also to be proactive and make something out of what's available to me. Honestly, just not dwelling too much on the past because

God is very good in the past but we live in the present and he's a God of the present as well.

In Chaelin Jung’s piece two weeks ago she spoke on lessons she’s learning as a first-year at Brown. One lesson she writes is, “The line between honoring God through diligent work and idolizing work itself is thin.” Can you speak to how this has also been a lesson for you during your time at Brown?

I think just ending up at a school like this you have to have a pretty decent work ethic and/or a lot of interest in the subject you're studying. And sort of this part of really Asian-American community — there's a lot of extra baggage that comes with that too. Coming from a strict and diligent household, work is always a first priority — building your career and your future is really high on the list. So I struggled for a while last year just trying to reconcile all these ideas of working and carving out a place for yourself in this world with also somehow preparing a place for yourself in eternity. At a certain point last year I actually really considered dropping out and just going into missions in Turkey.

But I think there's definitely a balance to be struck there. I think many of us we end up here for a reason especially since Brown is honestly kind of a dry spiritual place — there's a lot of work we could do as Christians at Brown to reach out to unbelievers who have a lot of questions and anger and to just continue to nurture new revivals on campus. There's just so much you can do while you're at Brown so I think there's always going to be that shadow of your career and your future hovering over you, but in all honesty, most people don't spend all of their lives at college working just on school or working just in clubs and academics — there is a lot of time to invest in the Christian community. I think that's what God has really put in front of us now so I think that's the line we can balance ourselves on — between self-investment and investment in the community at large.


Joseph Delamerced, ‘22

Second year from Cincinnati concentrating probably in education and health.

What is the most important lesson you have learned as a Christian at Brown?

I think the last part about being a Christian at Brown resonates with me. I don't think a lot of people realize that there are… Christians here that were not Christian at home. They did not come in here with a Christian background or if they did it was very limited… So when they see these Christians who are more forthright with their faith and more bold and talking to them, they often assume that this is a person who grew up with this and I did not. I'm never going to be that person… and for me being a Christian at Brown is very specific because I felt like I really became Christian at Brown.

I didn't really have Christian friends at home, my knowledge of Christianity was very limited, and even going to church on Sundays felt like more of a demand and a thing I had to do — an obligatory event — and it was something that almost every Sunday I would fall asleep through… My mom would always try to keep me up but I always closed my eyes and tried to rest since I didn't see the importance of ever being there. So when I came here I thought that would sort of be the same. I would go through these motions: tell my mom I was going to church, tell my mom you know, “I can't really make it to a Christian group because I don't have the time to do it.”

But I found in a very different way and a very important lesson as a Christian at Brown is that growing my faith was probably the most important thing I didn't know I needed to do but it was something that God helped guide me to do. When I say that God helped guide me to do that it's not like I necessarily heard him say like “Go here or here,” but I don't think there's any choice or anything that happened to me that was ever by accident — it was always pointing towards my relationship with God and strengthening that. I think that's the most important lesson.

In Chaelin Jung’s piece one lesson she writes is, “Community is non-negotiable when it comes to walking in faith.” Can you speak to how this has also been a lesson for you during your time at Brown?

… My sense of community is I know I belong there, I know my role in this community, and I know others know my role and value within the community and we all see each other for that and we support and love each other for that. Growing up I didn’t know what that community would look like in a Christian context. So when I came here to Brown, I think the thing that stood out to me the most was the fact that I never felt like I could belong in the overall Brown community because it was so separated into these distinct groups that I felt like all had to have almost the exact same values and interests and likes and supported all the same things… and I never felt that I could ever just belong to one specific group and… [feel] like I was in a place where I could feel at home or at peace even. So when I joined a Christian fellowship… I think I was most surprised to see the diversity of everyone’s backgrounds even from the subject of their studies to where they came from to even how they became Christian. I think that gave me a lot of hope and peace knowing that my experience does not apply to everyone in terms of how I understand my faith or how I grew into my faith, and more importantly, I think it was a good example for me to learn from other people about how they came to their faith and to help them grow…

The idea of it being “non-negotiable” I really resonate with because I think people want to believe, “If I just tried to pray or just talk to God, he’s watching out for me, but I’m set.” But I think a lot of people don’t realize the value in talking to other Christians, I think especially because it is a lot of anxiety and worry about like, “I don’t know as much of the Bible” or “I don’t know as much as this person, I haven’t spent a lot of time in my faith, how can I ever have a productive conversation if I don’t know what I am talking about half the time and I feel like I’ll say something wrong and I’ll be judged and I won’t be able to be part of the community?” I think what’s beautiful about being part of a Christian community is that even without saying these things out right God puts in everyone’s hearts… to have that grace and kindness for everyone… no matter what your faith walk is. For me at least, I don’t think I was very far in my faith walk, but I knew there was something in my heart that wanted to know more about it… I mean if a class wants to encourage discussion, it makes you go to section — why don’t you want to talk to other people about something even more important as your faith and your relationship with God? I feel like a lot of people underrate that component and sort of believe they’re fine where they are and I think part of that is because they’re afraid to be challenged, afraid to grow, because they’re comfortable in that spot.

I think being comfortable as a Christian is the most dangerous thing

and I think community can really push us to grow one another in a very safe and secure way, but also still really making our faith grow in a very real way.


Christopher Ng, ‘21

Third year from Chicago. What’s his concentration? He says,“That’s complicated.”

What is the most important lesson you have learned as a Christian at Brown?

I think it’s that I can’t put God in a box… [which] has been a result of interacting with people from different faith backgrounds, even other Christian backgrounds and seeing in my own life the way God works miracles in the people around me and what He does in my day to day life. It’s tempting to say with my learned experiences thus far God is a certain way — like that I know these things about Him because I read it in the Bible or a pastor told me that in a sermon once — but the truth is that God is constantly revealing more of Himself to us and that there is so much about Him that we still don’t know and that we learn everyday. I think God has just tried to give me more humility about how much I don’t know about Him and about how much exactly there’s still left to learn.

One lesson Chaelin Jung writes in her piece is, “Trusting in God means not only trusting in His future goodness but also praising Him for His present faithfulness.” Can you speak to how this has also been a lesson for you during your time at Brown?

… I think C.S. Lewis is the person who once said that the two points in time that are the most connected with God are eternity and the present. The reason why he said that is because the past is something that has already been done, so when we look upon the past it frequently turns into this cycle of regret where you’re like, “Oh, that already happened. I could have done things differently.” Those don’t really lead you too much towards God’s kingdom. The future really lends itself to anxiety. “What will I eat tomorrow? What will I wear tomorrow?” These are things that the Bible warns us against and because the future is inherently so uncertain it’s very easy to worry about those things. But the present is the connection that God gives us because we’re not yet living in eternity. We know that we are promised eternal life, but with our limited understanding we’re very much trapped to the Earth right now. What we do in the present, I think, is how we prepare for eternity. If we have God’s mindset it’s going to change how we live in the present. In the present there’s the sense that you need to have a mindset that trusts God about the future — so that is something we do actively in the present. The other thing that we do in the present is to give thanks to God for His faithfulness to us in the moment and in the past.

So, the present I really see as an opportunity to live that out, and with our actions be doers of the word and not hearers only, as James would say, right? Praising him for His present faithfulness is key to allowing you to have that deeply grounded faith that God will do what He’s promised to do in the future, that His promises for eternity are good, that His present goodness to you is a continuation of His goodness to you throughout the past, and that

in all timelines, God is faithful.

The present just happens to be the part in time where you get the opportunity to live it out and all of it is in anticipation and storing up for your treasures that you’ll have in heaven for eternity.


Karis Ryu, ‘21

Third year from Boston (but she, admittingly, moves a lot) concentrating in history and East Asian studies.

What is the most important lesson you have learned as a Christian at Brown?

I feel like each semester has been really expanding what I thought faith was. I became a Christian junior year [of high school], so I came in with a foundation, but I think I also came in with a very idealized perspective on what college was going to be. My first year was very much learning how to love people and learning how to love myself in my imperfections. Then the second year was crises starting to hit and “What’s going to happen?” and “How do you apply being a Christian to all these really professional ideas or how do you go about being proactive in your future endeavors while also laying it all on God without being lazy?”

So I guess if there was one thing it would just be realizing that when you say you’re a Christian that really means God is your whole identity. I came in with a lot of cultural and emotional baggage and it was defining myself a lot by my anger like as a woman or as someone who didn’t quite fit labels of Asian or Asian-American and I spent a lot of time being angry about that and trying to justify that but God was just calling me this whole time and he continues to call me saying, “You’re my child. That’s the only thing you need — nothing, no label of this world, should be that important to you.” And if I say that I am a Christian, am I living with that joy and with that surrender? Like is God second on my list compared to everything else I am doing or am I actively engaging with scripture every day? Is my first reaction to a situation to pray or is my first reaction really to think “What would Jesus do?” as cliche as that sounds? I think college really puts you to the test about whether Jesus is first in your life and how, if Jesus died for you, all these things that seem really important now should not be of consequence compared to God.

In Chaelin Jung’s piece, one lesson she writes is, “Community is non-negotiable when it comes to walking in faith.” Can you speak to how this has also been a lesson for you during your time at Brown?

Coming in, finding a Christian community was the first thing on my mind and I’m really thankful that God gave me that lesson before I came into college… Having moved around a lot, I was in places where there maybe wasn’t a teen ministry or I was part of a teen ministry for maybe a year and it may have been at a Korean-American church and the next one was at a military base. So it was all very different and I came in wanting stability and I came in wanting something very ideal. The fact of the matter is that humans are very imperfect and even if you’re in a fellowship a lot of times you’re going to be really angry with people or disappointed or really tempted to leave or not sure what to do. I think what I learned is that community is non-negotiable because your faith in God — you can’t just have a personal, shallow faith in God alone. You have to understand how God calls you to love all the other people He’s created and all the other things that they can teach you because your faith is still growing and you’re not the one who knows everything. So, I think community especially in college has been getting to know other believers and their stories — growing with other believers, accepting their faults and being so humbled in the fact that they’re accepting yours and that they’re helping you grow and being really invested in one group of people for a long period of time, investing in the hurt and also reaping the rewards is really, really important as a Christian.


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