God’s Perfect Timing

9781599793511Where did we leave off? Well, according to my blog, it was a little over a year ago, at the Graduate Student Winter Retreat– the one with PhD/Med/Masters students from Berkeley, UCSC, UCSF, and Stanford. I’m a bit more mature since then; or, at least, I am more relaxed about many things. If anything, I am grateful that my own impatience had not burned bridges, and that it would’ve been no benefit for me to needlessly make enemies.

Ethan, who’s off in San Diego, had heard through the grapevine that things were going well. He recently wrote me and said: “seems like you’re working along with leadership quite well now– glad to see, and keep it up–”

How appropriately concise of him to summarize. I think this was what was circulating.

Winter Conference with Josh McPaul was outstanding. There’s a new tradition – having a different band at each session (more or less). A Santa Cruz worship leader even recruited 4 non-believer friends into playing one session. Josh spoke on “Everyone Is Invited” and she took it seriously, eh. Each session had a different worship leader, and there seems to be a lot of talent at the moment. It was a wonderful sequence of sessions of praise.

I’d say that it was more like 2 or 3, but that’s another crazy story that I will tell another time. At this retreat, we had a very successful and vibrant meeting with the graduate students from the 4 neighboring schools. I honestly wasn’t even really sure how much I’d be carrying this meeting– which testifies to the contrast of the struggles in years past. What I mean is, I wasn’t trying to usurp authority. This time, authority just happened to be there waiting for me.

Winter Retreat, Feb 2012

All this is building up to an event on April 13th in the bay area, where we’ve agreed to be the next stepping stone in this journey. Before we get there, I’d like to quickly catch people up to where we are now.

2009

I’d like to begin in 2009. Janet and Peter had relocated to this area in 2007 to start a UCSC graduate student ministry. As things got going, I learned (through them) of the retreat that Berkeley and Stanford hold every Winter. Probably, I was the most eager to crash that event. Here’s the recap:

My name is Sherol Chen and I’ve been going to Janet and Peter’s group since I got here at UCSC in 2007.  It was my first Christian Community as I started life here on the west coast.  This past valentines weekend, I went on a retreat with graduate students from Berkeley, Stanford, and UC Santa Cruz.  From UC Santa Cruz, we had seven people go.  It was an amazing time as we fellowshipped with not just brothers and sisters, but neighboring colleagues and scholars.  There were lasting impressions made on all sides.  In particular, one night, all the UCSC students and some of the Stanford students had an impromptu prayer and worship session.  We built some truly lasting relationships that night. (2/17/09)

2010

As you, who is reading this, may have felt, I’ve always known there was something more. In many ways, waiting for it’s time to come. In late 2010, these feelings were maturing into ideas, and I wrote a year later about that experience:

I’ll tell you what it was that I saw… I saw young professionals coming together in a way that has never happened before– a gathering, built upon a unity of love and purpose. In it’s early stages, people who have been eagerly waiting their call will gather to “set up for the party.” Later on, waves of purpose will be passed through media and technology that stirs a spiritual awakening. People, in my generation, have been waiting for their reason to live. At church, we receive promise that we are indeed part of something amazing, and yet, have settled for the social clubhouse that has become of the western church. Deep down, we all know that there is more, but who is willing to go prepare for the party? I believe only a few people will understand this excitement, and I believe that few will have the great privilege to be an integral part of the release of this “something amazing.”

Winter Retreat, Feb 2010

A couple months later, was the next Winter retreat. At the time, it was still just Stanford, Berkeley, and a couple UCSC grads.

Last weekend, we went to a conference-center like location in the Santa Cruz mountains for 3 days with PhD and Masters students from Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSC.  It was a great networking opportunity where we were broken into small groups to discuss issues on faith, spirituality, and our vocation.  All of us, in addition to professing the same faith, are working towards becoming (leading) experts in our respective areas, such as: Computer Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Biology, International Relations… etc.  In addition to lectures and discussion, we had a lot of relaxing, reflection time, and casual conversations. (2/21/2010)

At that retreat, I met some key people: Ethan, Kimmy, Kassa, and Rachel from Stanford. It was at this retreat that I started realized the significance of our community and how nontrivial these relationships really were. I remember at this retreat that Kimmy said I was cool– haha, like if you replaced the “oo” with the infinity sign, that’s what I’d be. Then when I recapped the retreat, she asked me why I was so emo (lol).

A couple months later, my friend Tess and I visited our friends at Stanford for Ethan’s Multi-Faith Forum. It was there that I realized our brothers and sisters at UCSF seem to be missing from our loosely-held-together cohort.

My last post was about chillin’ with my Stanford friends, and while we were there, I realized that we have no contact with those at UCSF. I asked the Stanford InterVarsity grad director, Peter, why UCSF never comes to our grad retreat (over the Winter). He says that they’re invited every year, but never come. Invitations don’t make things happen though, relationships do, and that’s where this story begins. (7/1/10)

UCSF Spring Retreat, April 2011

I basically convince Tess that we should go to this Spring retreat at UCSF despite not being invited nor knowing a single person there. It was amazing and I concluded:

In any case, it doesn’t end there (it never does). I mean, I met amazing people, had great conversation, and made a lot of friends, but there’s more. Stanford, UCSC, and UCSF will be trying to get together sometime soon. I’ll let you all know how that goes. And remember, sometimes you just have to do it, even if it doesn’t make sense, because the only reason people went along with it was because it made “perfect sense” to me. (7/1/10)

To be honest, its really hard to connect with this group and not feel like you are connected with almost everyone. It was at this meeting that I got to know: Chris, Johanna, Henry, Brian, Jay, and many others.

PhD, Masters, and Professional Students gathering from UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Francisco, and Stanford. October 2011.

That Summer, we decided to bring the schools together for an intentional gathering of prayer, worship, and sharing. That event summarizes what we are doing right now pretty well. Although, getting all these people together was no easy task. We had about 30 people at this event– a good distribution over discipline and schools.

It was a great mixture of music and sharing, worship and praying. We started by introducing and praying for each campus. Instead of the awkward non-initiative taking tendencies that people have in new situations and around new people, I knew people well enough at each school to just delegate. For example: UCSC shared about their grad fellowship, UCSF shared about working towards being doctors and dentists in San Francisco, Berkeley talked about grad student Christian endeavors, and Stanford shared about the number of different groups at their school. (11/29/10)

Even though it seemed to make sense to be doing what we were doing. I guess, it still wasn’t something that people were getting excited about. If anything, I’d have only grown in excitement, and clearly in impatience as well… haha.

2011

UCSF is in a world of their own, and I had to write an essay of reasons why they should come visit us in the subsequent Winter Retreat. This was the first time they’d had UCSF with the other three schools (since I’d been there). Ethan, from Stanford, thought it would be appropriate to have people from all schools do worship together. Definitely a step in the direction I was headed towards.

What is life all about? When it’s all over, we’ll want to have been part of something that drew us closer to God. There’re enough world changers in one spot (at the retreat) to build passionate and driven movements that will bring significant purpose to our lives, the movers. Didn’t you ever dream of being part of something, of having a group of crime fighting friends? We could be like the X-Men. If Henry comes, I can introduce him to the other X-Men :) (2/7/2011)

The x-men in their discussion groups. Winter Retreat, Feb 2011.

I’m not gonna lie, at that retreat, Ethan was heavily the voice of reason and I was straight up trippin’ the whole time– trying to do all these vigilante things like jam sessions and prayer meetings. I wanted so badly for people to want more than just another retreat.

The final morning, I got to pray one more time during our last worship set. I centered on the verse: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise” I prayed that we may be foolish in living for the impossible, because through God all things are possible. I must’ve prayed for humility and for revelation of how hungry we truly are. If we, with the most influence, who draw our strength from God, don’t contend for the darkest and most devastating problems and injustices of the world, the who will? (8/11/2011)

Hanging out with UCSF, March 2011.

About a month later, after the Game Developers Conference, I swung by UCSF to catch up with their group (staying with and going to church with Johanna). Then after another conference in October at Stanford, I caught up with Kimmy (b/c she graciously lets me sleep on her couch whenever I am in town). That week I had some breakthrough conversations with, not only Kimmy, but Kassa and Rachel as well.

About a month after that, I email the various connections from the different schools this update:

I’m in the midst to talking to leaders in charge of the winter retreat in regards to further defining a solid purpose for this group of grad students. It’s not a matter of being a “bay area” university thing, but that, since we are somewhat close, we’ve managed to build friendships over the years.

This is what I believe is likely to happen this winter retreat: We will pull together a vision/mission statement. Identify people who have this collaboration on their hearts. Put up a website.

Also, today, I received an email from Heidi Baker. She said that she might be available to come speak in this area on April 13th 2012. This may be a good reason to host a more well-thought-out event.

Let me know how you guys are doing, or if there are any thoughts on these matters.

If anything, it’d be great to see everyone at the winter retreat. (11/14/11)

Giving away my first Heidi Baker book (1 of over 100), Knoxville, October 2010.

I had met Heidi Baker a year earlier, and I liked her so much that I bought 100 copies of her book and gave them all away– most of them given away at that past Winter Retreat. That was no trivial purchase, costing me $937. The things that Heidi spoke about were remarkable relevant and what we, our generation, needed to hear someone say. A month after I’d first met her (a year ago), she sent me this message in regards to our ReClaim October event in 2010:

Hi Sherol:

How did your event go?

I look forward to seeing you in God’s perfect timing.
Please email my new administrative assistant at Heidi@Irismin.org

Many blessings,
Heidi (11/10/10)

That phrase she used, “God’s perfect timing,” has had a profound impact on how I see things. I no longer rush to get everything done at once, and a year later, I got the confirmation that she’s planning to come meet with us on April 13th.

2012

Ok, so, we’re only 2 months into 2012, and most of the updates have to do with the Winter Retreat this past month. I’ll give a detailed recap in another post, but for now, I just want to highlight what went on this time.

Getting dim sum with Brian and Jingyi to catch up with UCSF leaders. January 2012.

Earlier, in January, I made a trip to see Heidi in San Francisco. While I was there, I stayed with Johanna, from UCSF. I had met up with a few of the other UCSF leaders as well. Although, if you hung out with UCSF’s Sonrise Fellowship, you’d soon realize that everyone in that group is a leader (yea, I know– it’s incredible). There I met Steph, who came with me to meet with Heidi Baker. Right after SF, Steph and I headed to Stanford to meet with a few select leaders from each of the other 3 schools. At this meeting we finalized details in regards to April 13th.

Meeting with leaders from UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Francisco, and Stanford, with UC San Diego Video Chatting in. January 7, 2012.

On Saturday, Feb 11th, we had a meeting at 4:00 in regards to “stewarding our influence and vocation.” As we were all gathered, we went around talking about what our research was or what profession we were working towards and also what we feel called to or what we are willing to give our lives towards. I made a list of these dreams and visions. It was indeed a powerful exchange and students found themselves dreaming the same sorts of dreams and having the tools to realize them. This was much like the meeting we had about 1.5 years ago with the initial gathering of the 4 schools.

Winter Retreat meeting of 5 schools: UCB, UCSC, UCSD, UCSF, and Stanford. Feb 2012.

A lot of this discussion will go on a website soon, as we intend to continue talking about our dreams and visions. It’s through times like this where people seemed mutually encouraged to fully step into their calling and “live a life worthy of the calling” we have received. We had about 20 people from either UCSC, UCSF, Berkeley, and Stanford come together and agree in building a stronger and purposeful community.

I remember suggesting that we aim for a conference-like event in 2013, and someone remarked that we should do something sooner, like over the Summer. That was really encouraging. I’d heard that Berkeley wanted to more about the things going on, and since they are so far away, I’ve not had a chance to make it up there. I’m going to go this weekend and stay with an amazing worship leader, Margaret.

I seriously need a car…

In any case, please email me if you feel like this story that is unfolding means something to you. I told the group as we left our meeting that I like to take a lot of pictures, b/c I feel a strong need to steward the story that God is writing. Someday people are going to want to know what happened at this meeting that we had. To which Kassa remarks that I am quite the visionary.

I’m sure I will be making history with many of you on April 13th.

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