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Coming Into Focus

Biblical discipleship becomes clearer to one California student.

Ashley Chang
  • Author: By Katie Croft
  • Credits: Photographs by Guy Gerrard
  • Published: November 6, 2012
  • Location: USA

For the last 10 months, Ashley Chang has tried to help her friend and fellow college student grow in her faith. Angela Lee, a freshman at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., attends Ashley’s weekly Bible study. The women meet regularly for “discipleship,” where Ashley (left) hopes to influence her young friend to be an intentional follower of Christ. But last night, Ashley realized there is a major element of spiritual development missing in their lives.

While sitting at a local yogurt shop, Ashley, a junior majoring in food science, posts a photo on Facebook of the two women smiling behind their matching bowls of frozen mango yogurt with berries and mochi. Their friendship blossomed largely due to their involvement with the Epic Movement™, a ministry of Cru (now the name of Campus Crusade for Christ in the U.S.) focused on equipping Asian college students to take the message of Jesus Christ to the world. The students like the idea of discipleship, but their mental picture of what that kind of relationship looks like is still coming into focus.

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As their bowls are emptied, Ashley asks if her young disciple has begun journaling during her times reading the Bible. Angela shakes her head saying she hasn’t had time to buy a journal yet.

Minutes later, the girls exit a nearby Barnes & Noble Booksellers with a new journal, picking up their conversation from two café seats outside of Starbucks. Ashley begins by filling in the freshman on what she had missed during the Epic Movement meeting the night before. “We talked about the three foundations of discipleship,” Ashley says, the coastal breeze teasing her long, dark hair. “One, getting into the Word together. Then getting time outside of discipleship together—which obviously we do.” She playfully rolls her eyes and leans in toward her young friend, emphasizing how easy this point is for them. Ashley takes a short breath before finishing the list: “The third one is evangelizing together. And I was like . . . oh, man,” she ends with her eyebrows scrunched into a nervous furrow.

This is an area of faith both women need to develop. “I am not comfortable sharing my faith,” Ashley states. “Sometimes, I put thoughts in my head saying, The Lord hasn’t given me opportunities to do it so I’m not going to. I know there is a need; it’s just, I don’t like doing it. What if people ask me questions I can’t answer?”

Like many others, Ashley recognizes the contrast between her awareness of the need for outreach and the reality that her life doesn’t often display the urgency of that belief.

The San Jose, Calif., native came to know Jesus at a young age through the influence of older cousins who lived two houses away. Ashley and her older brother were often left home alone while their parents put in long hours at the family’s Chinese restaurant. Extended family members stepped in to help, inviting the siblings into their family routine, which included weekly church services. Though Ashley’s parents claim to be Buddhist, they have been accepting of their children’s decisions to become Christians. However, they see no need to place their faith in Jesus at this time.

One of Ashley's favorite activities is flag football.

“It is easier for me to share with random people than with people who are close to me, like my parents,” Ashley explains. But she isn’t actively engaging the world around her with questions about Jesus either.

Looking across the table at Angela’s attentive expression, Ashley unpacks her newly developing conviction. “Obviously, we both aren’t very comfortable, but we are going to learn together. We are going to experience God together. We are going to help each other. I want to be obedient,” Ashley declares aloud. Opening her Bible, Ashley scans the page to find where her small anchor of evangelistic hope is tied.

“‘Don’t worry about how to respond or what to say,’” she reads from Matthew 10: 19,20. “‘God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking, it will be your Father speaking through you’” (New Living Translation).

“As scared as we are, the Spirit will be speaking through us,” Ashley continues. “When we don’t know what to say, and we are confused, thinking, This is going to be super awkward, that’s OK. We are putting ourselves out there for God to be with us.”

Ashley concludes her pep talk by requesting Angela to hold her accountable to help them grow in this area of discipleship.

“We can push each other,” Angela responds thoughtfully.

“I think it’s important that we do,” Ashley emphasizes. “It’s going to be hard but . . . .” Pausing, she forces a smile before continuing on in a sing-song voice, “We’re all in this together.”

At a loss for words, the women bow their heads to pray, asking God to help them be obedient to read His Word together and talk with others about His love and His Son, Jesus—even though they are scared.

After they say, “Amen,” a thin young man wearing skinny cutoff jeans, a hipster sweater and a beanie politely interrupts the women. Confessing he has overheard parts of their conversation, the young man introduces himself as Luke Hoimer. He says he is a spiritual seeker and asks if they would let him ask a few questions about Christianity.

Ashley and Angela smile, invite Luke to take a seat and tell them what is on his mind. They don’t understand all of the intellectual words Luke is using. Nonetheless, the women do their best to honestly answer his questions about morality, and whether or not geography plays a bigger role in a person’s choice of religion than faith itself.

A surfer takes a moment to warm up on the sands of Morro Bay.

Clinging to God’s promise in Matthew 10, Ashley prays the Holy Spirit will give her insight and truth for Luke.

The Spirit prompts her to speak from her own experience. “My parents aren’t Christians, but I have decided to follow Christ,” Ashley explains. Later on, she tries to help Luke see that a Christian’s motive for doing good things is because Jesus had done so much for them. She explains that she wants to love others because God demonstrated His love for her, not because it is moral. Ashley’s answers give Luke more to think about.

Forty minutes later, the young man glances at his phone and realizes he needs to leave to meet a friend for dinner. The girls invite him to join them at the weekly Epic Movement meeting the following night at a local church. Though he can’t attend, he asks if they could keep in touch through text and email, and meet up for more discussion next time he is in the area.

After Luke leaves, Ashley and Angela stare at each other in amazement—the feeling is electric. God had answered their prayer. He was using them in Luke’s life. With a mix of emotions, the women once again bow their heads to pray. Several minutes later, Ashley’s phone lights up with a text message from Luke: Good meeting you :)

“Wooo! My mind is blown at how God works,” exclaims Ashley. “We were just talking about evangelism and then Jesus just gave us an opportunity.” Ashley finishes with a grin: “Angela, you just got the lab portion of the discipleship meeting from last night.”

The next day Ashley recounts the story for Ondy Pagan, a friend from the Epic Movement. She hopes he will be able to answer more of Luke’s intellectual questions.

“I can do my best,” the history major replies. “But I can’t guarantee I’ll understand the words he is using. That’s really cool that God would throw that opportunity out there.”

A knowing smile spreads across Ashley’s face. She has been reassured that talking with others about Jesus is a privilege given to His followers. Ashley’s mental picture of discipleship is coming into focus.

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