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A pretty awesome thought hit me tonight.

There is now just over a week left of classes here at VT. After which is a week of finals, and then summer. It’s ridiculous how fast time has gone this year, and it sure ain’t slowing down now. Pretty much everyone is in the mindset of so much to do, so little time. These last days are going to fly faster than I can believe. But that’s not the thought; that’s just the context of the thought.

Tonight the thought of leaving for the summer crossed my mind. Not the thought of going to Thailand to stay with my family and intern for the summer, which has been on my mind for a while now. The thought of leaving Virginia Tech for the summer. (To clarify—that’s not the thought either. I’m getting to it.)

Now, just about this time last year, the imminence of leaving for the summer was also on my mind (for obvious reasons.) Last year, as you may know or have read, was not an easy one. I was transitioning from life overseas, at a small, Christian, international boarding school, immersed in an Asian culture, in a country that I had grown up in and considered home almost all my life, to the massive secular school of Virginia Tech, to America and American culture. I had left behind friends who were family to me, many of whom had graduated with me and were now also scattering across the globe, returning to the countries their parents were from. I was a stranger in a foreign land, isolated, and all my attempts to relate to the people around me fell flat. And in response, being the reclusive introvert that I am, I withdrew from the world around me. And as all this dragged on, I found myself drifting even away from God. Not intentionally—by no means. I was really doing everything I could to fight it, to rekindle the flame. I prayed, I cried, I struggled to keep myself afloat, and cried out to God to save me. But I found myself sinking nonetheless.

In the middle of all this, I started going to New Life Christian Fellowship—or [nlcf]—in January, because the church I had been going to discontinued their evening service, and that bus route didn’t run Sunday mornings. But [nlcf] conveniently meets on campus. (Yes, God works in mysterious ways.) For the rest of the year, I went to church there on Sundays, but that was pretty much it. I signed up for their summer program in Virginia Beach, because I knew God was telling me to go, and out of sheer desperation for God to show up.

When the end of the year came around, and as I thought about leaving for the summer, I realized that I wouldn’t even care if I never came back.

To cut a long story short, while Leadership Training, as the summer program is called, was an awesome spiritual experience for most everyone who went, I can’t say it was for me, at least at the time. God was definitely working in me over those ten weeks, but he didn’t show up in some awesome way and get my faith back on track, save from the depression, all that. But he was laying groundwork. Because when I started my sophomore year a few weeks after LT ended, suddenly he flipped the switch. And over the next six weeks, I woke up. No, I came back to life. Through those relationships that began at LT, I started to plug into [nlcf]. For the first time since graduating from high school, I found a community that I could become a part of, and I’ve thrown myself into it wholeheartedly. And it has been awesome. And through that, God fanned my faith back into flame.

And here I am again, facing the end of another year. But this time it’s different. Because the thought hit me tonight (yes, this is the thought that all this has been building up to)—I’m actually gonna miss this place over the summer. I’m gonna miss these people, who have come to mean so much to me. Especially the people who won’t be here when I come back. Of course, I’m definitely excited about going to Thailand and all, and I fully intend to enjoy every minute on non-American soil. (Yes, right about now you Americans are calling me weird. And you fellow TCKs know exactly what I’m talking about.) But for the first time, I will be anticipating the beginning of a new year at VT. I will be excited to be reunited with people here. I will feel like I’m coming home. (Well, from one home to another. Again, you TCKs know what I mean.)

This is not the first time it’s hit me that in many ways I have come to feel at home at [nlcf]. There have been several times over the course of the year that something or other has stopped me short and made me realize just that. But this is very much a milestone, because I can look back at a year ago, when I was in the same position—but this time it’s different. Because a year ago I would not have believed what I’m writing now. It’s a milestone because I can look back and see what God has done over the past year. How far he’s brought me. And it is so awesome to see.