The Community Alongside Me
by KK Yu
In graduation season, we are immersed in speeches and congratulations. We are reminded of our accomplishments as academics and scholars. We recognize ourselves, but we also recognize others. We see our fellow classmates walking the same path across the stage, and know that we could not have succeeded without their help. Family and friends visit, and we are reminded of the support they gave and continue to give. I am blessed to recently have had a chance to express my gratitude to the community around me, and I wanted to share that here.
Since I am graduating, I was asked to give a short reflection of my time at Cornell during my church’s graduation service. My church here has been an integral part of my community, as it is this community that was the background for my Christian formation. It was in writing this reflection that I gently realized that without community, whether it be church or non-church, professional or personal, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Realizing this made me appreciate the great importance that God places on community and how much it’s shaped me. I was lucky that I was able to find and be a part of one, and to grow and practice my faith with them. Praise the Lord!
My reflection, edited, follows. In it you can see how my old community affected my finding community here, and how I was kept involved and checked upon by them. Through them I saw God shepherding me, and am humbled as I know I couldn’t have relied on myself. The lesson I take away is simply this: wherever I go, find and get involved in a church community!
My time at Cornell and at First Ithaca Chinese Christian Church (FICCC) is special to me because it was where I matured as a Christian, and I couldn’t have done it without being part of a community. I would like to share a short version of my faith journey here.
I became a Christian at the end of my last year of undergrad, a testament to my community there in the form of my Christian fellowship, and also to the foundation of faith my mother and family laid.
However, because I soon graduated and went my own way, that community wasn’t able to help me grow and really find out what it meant to be Christian. I was, as the Bible says, a baby Christian, still drinking milk and not yet ready for solid food, and I didn’t have spiritual parents to feed me.
When I came to Cornell, the only thing I knew to do was to find a community. Finding community was something my previous community instilled in me, and I’m grateful they got that message to me. I started going to FICCC as soon as I got to Ithaca, but I was only a face in the crowd for three and a half years. I’m sure I learned a lot while even just going, but it didn’t result in any meaningful transformation. I lived my life pretty much the same as when I wasn’t Christian. I was not alone in my journey, but without real Christian community, I withered and eventually stopped going to church.
My old community from college was still checking in on me though, and when the chance to attend Urbana in December of 2009 came up, they encouraged me to go. Urbana is a ten-thousand person Christian conference, and I decided to go at the last minute. The push from my old college community was aided by practical help from FICCC, and I ended up going.
Urbana provided a needed spark to my faith, and when I came back in the spring of 2010, I made a conscious decision to be more involved in church life. I started serving, got to know the community, and to seek for the Christian mentorship and direction I needed and continue to need.
The past five years have been a great blessing to me. I started very slowly, but being able to interact one-on-one with mentors such as Pastor Paul, seeing mature Christians of all ages, and learning to serve and prioritize my time differently are all things I learned in this community. I was baptized here and I’ve even been able to preach from the pulpit a few times. No church or community is perfect, but that’s how we are, and how we grow. You may be able to grow alone, but for me it was so much more fulfilling when growing together. I would not have learned as much about so many different aspects of the faith, and I would not be the person I am today without the community God provided. When I left undergrad as a new Christian, I was not mature and not able to serve. This time as I leave, I will take what I’ve learned in discipleship, in theology, in people skills, and it will serve me and I hope, His Kingdom, for a lifetime to come.
KK Yu is an n-th year PhD student who is graduating soon and walked in May. He is still here by the grace of God, who has kept him here to mature him through service to the community.