My Testimony (Stephanie S. Kim)
Before I met Jesus
My parents divorced when I was two years old, and they soon after remarried. My mom lived in Japan with my stepdad; my dad lived in Burbank with my stepmom, expanding their business in downtown L.A. Until I was seven, I was raised by a nanny, whom I considered as my dear grandma. Growing up, longing was like a childhood friend of mine, and I looked forward to the day I could live with my mom.
When I was eight, my aunt became my guardian. She had a feisty temper and often yelled at me. As a sensitive, shy child, living with her made me yearn even more for the day I could live with my mom and escape moments of walking on eggshells. Finally in 7th grade, my mom, stepdad, and half-sister moved from Japan to Irvine, and I was able to join them. Living with them for the first time was a difficult adjustment because of my stepdad’s authoritarian rule. I felt like I was walking on eggshells all over again, but only this time, it was in a bigger house, nicer neighborhood, surrounded by all the material things I could ever ask for.
In the eighth grade, my father, whom I would meet every other month for lunch, got into a terrible accident. I still remember seeing him lying on the hospital bed—half of his body paralyzed, his speech and memory capabilities having deserted him. I did not understand why such a thing had to happen to him. I did not understand why I had to face these circumstances as a result of the choices that the adults in my life had made. I became angry at the world and I became bitter and cynical at life. When I could no longer hold onto hope, I became depressed. My inner turmoil overflowed into my interpersonal and academic life, and I went from an honor roll student to a problem child with a 2.0 G.P.A. in high school
After my dad’s accident, my dad and stepmom not only had to suddenly sell their business, they had to come to terms with their irrevocably changed lives and different needs, expectations, and freedom in life. After their divorce, I decided to live in Burbank with my dad and finish my last two years of high school there—despite many family members’ reluctance. No number of phone calls and monthly lunches could have ever replaced living with him. It was the greatest blessing of my life—to have the chance to build a father-daughter relationship, to know that I have a lifelong friend in him, to have someone encourage me with warm and sometimes tough, encouraging words, and to finally forgive him after years of blaming him for my parents’ divorce. Under his love and care, I blossomed and became more confident. I became happy.
When I met Jesus
When I moved to Burbank, my mom, sister, and step-dad moved back to Japan. My sister wished to attend college in the States, so she moved back to Irvine in middle school, and my mom asked that I transfer from UC Santa Cruz to another UC school closer to my sister. When I got my acceptance letter from UCLA, I cried. I knew it was a miracle from God even though I was a non-believer. After moving to L.A., I met devout Christians that showed me what it meant to be on fire for God.
After much reluctance in going to church and preferring to sleep in on Sundays, I reached out to God during my last summer session in college. Wanting to finish on time and after switching my major at the last minute, I took on five English classes that summer. I knew I could not lean on myself or my dad but solely on God. That summer, I received the highest marks in my college life, and I learned that all things were possible through Him.
After graduating from college and being dissatisfied with working in the fashion industry, I had an intense desire to learn and to go back to school. I wanted to pursue a career that involved working with children. After quitting my job, I joined a small group at church called, “Your Beautiful Purpose,” as well as volunteered in the Children’s Ministry. I knew with an inexplicable certainty that everything was going to be okay—that God had good plans for me. During the last week of our small group, after much prayer and reading about God’s purpose for our lives, my prayer was answered. Since then, I’ve been walking toward the path of becoming a pediatrician.
I met Jesus while serving in the Children’s Ministry. As a floater, I spent time with children with autism and children of all ages—from toddlers to elementary school. In every single child, I saw a little bit of myself or the type of adult I wished I had in my life when I was that age. When I saw a child hiding in the corner, a child hesitant to sing and dance during worship, a child acting up or disrupting other students in class, a child crying due to being placed in a new environment, I loved on them and encouraged them with a smile, rub on the back, or by talking to them, bending down at their eye level. I gained so much more than these children will ever know. I learned how to love and I experienced joy for the first time—the kind that can only come from knowing how much Jesus loved me.
Life after Jesus
During the journey and after becoming a Christ follower, I look at life differently—the past and present. I now know that despite my imperfect upbringing, my parents loved me. With the limited opportunities that they had, they did the best they could to provide me with a better life so that I can attend college, so that I don’t have to experience poverty and hunger, so that I can dare to have dreams and pursue them. I realized my aunt had loved me too, but the pain and bitterness from her past made it difficult for her to speak words of love and kindness. It was out of love that she was strict so that I don’t fill my parents’ absence with outside attention and affection. I am grateful to be in a place where I can embrace my past and continue to grow and love myself. I am grateful that because of my past experiences, I can be more compassionate and understanding. As the only Christian in my immediate family, I pray that my home can be my missionary field and that my mom, sister, and dad can come to know Christ and be reborn in Him. Writing this testimony reminds me how my words and action should reflect the ways and life of a Christian, and I pray that years from now, my life can be a testimony of how God has worked and is continuing to work in my life.