Standing Up and Stepping Out in Faith
By Harry Tom
(From our RE:NEW Magazine Issue 3: #nofilter. Read other articles from this issue here)
Alyssa was an eighth-grade student who served as the teacher’s assistant for my math class. She was your typical “Asian” girl—good grades, well-liked, respectful, and eager to help. She was also a born-again Christian. Through our conversations in class, she discovered that I was also a Christian. Our small talks went to a whole new level as we began to share common stories and experiences about church, youth group, worship events, and summer camps. I could tell she was passionate about her faith.
One day, Alyssa approached me with a “project.” She wanted to start a Christian Club on campus and needed a teacher to act as the club’s sponsor. It was a divine appointment. Jefferson Middle School was known as the “fun” school with a lot of student activities and social clubs. Alyssa was active in a few of those clubs: Chinese Club, School Spirit Club, etc. Why not a Christian Club?
Her boldness was infectious and quite convicting. She crafted a sincere heart-felt letter to the principal with her proposal and began to pray. The letter reflected her convictions, and she did not hold back or mince words; she wasn’t concerned with political correctness. She described her recent experience at summer camp, her re-dedication to the Lord, and her conviction over sin. Yes, she actually used those exact words in her letter, with no filter! I submitted the letter with my approval and willingness to open up my room during lunch.
I mentioned this proposal to a few of my colleagues over lunch in the faculty lounge. I recall one teacher turning to her neighbor and asking, “What about separation of church and state?” I replied with my own question, “Where does it exactly say that in the Constitution?” No response. I wasn’t trying to shut my colleague down or pick a fight. I just wanted to clarify the misconception of the phrase “church and state” and how it really isn’t in the Constitution. Student-led Christian Clubs are protected under district policies. I actually made a copy of the district policies before meeting with the principal, just in case he “forgot” or was “unaware” (hat tip to Jay Sekulow and the American Center for Law and Justice).
The club received tremendous support from Alyssa’s peers, along with a handful of active and supportive parents. Some of the parents held prominent positions in the school—one was the Parent Teacher Association president, and another was on the school board. God had his hand on Alyssa throughout this entire process. She organized, advertised, and mobilized others to get things off the ground. I remember sitting in the back of my room during the meetings and seeing this young, but maturing eighth-grade student lead her peers in a time of prayer, a short Bible devotion, and a time of encouragement challenging her peers to take a stand for their faith.
Jeremiah 1:7-8 says, “But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” Just like Alyssa, God will provide the strength and courage you need to step out in faith.
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