Before you read this any further, gentle readers, I warn you this is a very religiously fueled post. I am merely venting my personal frustrations at my own experience with my “home church” and not so much that of the churches in general. I still to this day consider myself a Christian and still struggling to find the right “home” for myself spiritually. If this in any way offends you, please stop reading now.
I grew up going to church. In fact there was never a moment in my stages of growing up where Church Life was not a huge part of who I am. As far and long as I can remember I have been going to church. There are pictures of me going to a church in Hong Kong and then a church we went to for a few years in the Toronto area before we moved into the quiet peaceful area of the Durham region where we attended a small Chinese oriented church that ended up being one of the biggest influences in my life. Ever since the age of 8, my life had revolved around this church. School life wasn’t always easy for me. Grade were but friends weren’t. I was a dork, I was a nerd, I was a loser. Grade school I don’t remember many happy memories. But when I went to church….it was different. It was like I was coming home. I had an extended family that loved me no matter what and I felt safe. Every Sunday as much as I grumbled about getting up to go to service, I looked forward to going because I was hungry to learn. I wanted to be a better person. I wanted to be above all the sadness at school. Most of all, I thought at that time I had a great group of brothers and sisters I could rely on who loved me unconditionally. I always thought that these people would ALWAYS be in my life and be there for me. Every Sunday after church, families would go out together for lunch and then usually congregate at someone’s house for dinner. Summers were filled with BBQs and winters with Chinese Hot Pot dinners. 3 generations would gather and split off to spent time with each other. Everyone else’s moms felt like another mother to me. It was exactly as I had always imagined a church should be like. Full of fellowship and love. Even when my family had problems, people were there for us. They encouraged and spent time with us so we always felt the love of Christ through them. It was going to be ok.
Then something changed. I went off to college. I didn’t just go off to college, I went to mere cooking school. I was thrilled to go and asked for advice on making sure I kept up to my spiritual needs while away at school. I was told to go to a local Chinese church where I went to school and that they will help me out. Accept me into their church family. Boy were they wrong. The first day I went to church I went to the college/university group service. One of the other students came over to talk to me and asked me what program I was taking at the university in town. I told her no I am taking Culinary School at the local college I don’t go to the university. At first she just looked shocked. “You go to just college?” she exclaimed. I nodded. “oh” she composed herself and walked off to join her friends. They whispered some looked over and then began to make after church plans to go to dim sum. I was never asked to go. First step into my disillusion of the Chinese church system.
But hey it’s ok I still have my weekends home to enjoy my home church right? Not really. As time wore on I started to feel like my brothers and sisters were drifting away from me. After school was completed I decided I wanted to see more of Canada. So I packed my things and worked out in Jasper Alberta for a while. While I was there, no one from my church even bothered to write me an email or FB me asking me how I was doing. In order for me to keep in contact I had to make the first move which was followed by some very half-hearted answers. When I came home from Jasper, I moved to Niagara Falls to live with my then boyfriend. I made the 1.5 hour drive home every sunday morning right after I got off my 6pm-2am shift to make it to service. By then, everyone felt like strangers. The ladies who used to treat me like their own kids barely had time to talk to me. My friends who were like brothers and sisters to me were too caught up in each other to murmur a hi. I was heartbroken so I thought.
2 years ago, my dad got in a terrible accident. He still is recovering from it. He had be a huge part of this church for some time. He taught sunday school. He treated all the kids like they were his. At one point when I was away, he even let one of the kids live in my room for free so he can concentrate on school in the city instead of having to worry about the long commute home every day. My dad is easily one of my greatest inspirations on how to be a good person in this world. How to love completely and with a big heart. He can’t make it to church anymore. Since his accident, sure the first few months people visit. Now, no one from the church he once called home calls or visits. Just recently, one of the kids got married from my church. One of the kids he taught sunday school to. He nor my family was even invited.
I am not disheartened with God. It’s not God who wills people to be the way they are. It is people who forget and stop caring that act the way they do. I know somewhere out there, there’s a church that is what I expect a church to be. Welcoming, warm, loving and won’t forget about you and what you have done in order to be a part of that church. Being a church goer doesn’t make you a Christian. I learned over the years that being Christian means having God in your heart when things are good and even more so when things are tough. God has seen me through some of the toughest times in my life. I have fallen on my knees many a time crying and praying because I know that only God can save me from myself now. I now don’t ask God to make things go away, I ask God to give me the strength to be that better person and to help me take care of the things in my life no matter how hard or how painful it is. I find joy in God because he has always been my only hope. That will never change. I just hope that someday, when I do find the right church and I am blessed enough to be active again in it, that I will not be like these people. That I will not forget. I will always love, always hope and always accept.