When Marissa’s family moved back to Texas from Mexico, her new classmates made fun of her accent and habits.
“I am pretty sure I cried myself to sleep everyday of my eighth grade year and developed crippling anxiety,” she says.
Marissa was born in Texas, but grew up in northern Mexico. At school, the children excluded her because she was American-born and spoke with an English-tinged accent – even her schoolmaster teased her. Feeling like an outcast, she retreated from relationships, and dreamt of returning to Texas. There, she thought, she would finally find belonging, but they, in turn, teased her for being too Mexican. So she retreated further from friendships and buried herself in schoolwork.
Before starting high school, Marissa’s mother noticed her sadness and encouraged her to find community. Her family was vaguely Catholic, so she plugged into a local Christian youth group.
“Jesus did not mean anything to me. He was just a dude on a cross,” she says. “God was a distant old man.”
Yet, at the youth group, she found a group of friends and felt included for the first time. They tried to understand her, rather than jump to conclusions or judgement. From there, she discovered their deep, abiding joy through their relationship with Jesus. God was not a distant deity, but an intimate Father and friend. Indeed, she learned the depths of Jesus’ love for her – He went to the cross to atone for her sins and rose from the dead to give her new life in Him.
Over the summer before she started high school, Marissa accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior in response to His great love. For the first time, she rejoiced in her identity through Christ.
“I am a Mexican-American who loves Jesus,” she says.
During her freshman year at Texas Tech, she stumbled across a Cru table handing out free tamales while walking back from a canceled Calculus lecture. She’d never heard of Cru before, but filled out a contact card and plugged into a community that would define her college career.
She matured in her faith, received leadership courses, and met her best friends. In her junior year, she shared the gospel with her parents, who later both surrendered their lives to Christ.
However, Marissa’s anxiety returned on the brink of graduation – this time concerning her future. She had a job lined up, but she worried about becoming stagnant over the summer and after college. She wondered how her life would pan out and, again, anxiety from her past crept in.
Sensing her worries, a close friend suggested she join Summer Connect. Within her Hub, she’s found the ideal fuel to keep her fire burning. Her Hub-mates are intentional with each other – going to movies, playing games, and eating together. Above all, the time spent together is always Christ-centered, involving prayer and gospel-centered discussions.
She says, “I feel God moving and putting a fire in the souls of these believers.”
As Marissa poured herself into others, they poured into her. A friend encouraged her not to fall away and stay strong – she challenged Marissa to fix her eyes on God. Even though Marissa already knew many of these points, joining Summer Connect reinforced her beliefs and refined her character before leaving college ministry.
“Now, I am able to see God move in my life even beyond school,” she says.
As she steps into her career as a field engineer with a construction company, Marissa is going into the workplace with the Great Commission at the forefront. Her excitement over the influence she wields through Christ brings her to tears of joy. When Marissa thinks about the gospel, she often feels unworthy and small. And yet, she feels all the more deeply loved.
“I don’t understand why God would pay a price for me,” she says. “But He paid the highest price.”
About the Author: Antonio Castillo is a Colorado Operations Summer Mission intern for 2017. He currently studies history at the University of California, Davis. He loves writing, indie music, and Wes Anderson movies.
Recently, a message from Summer Connect convinced Nathan of the urgency to actively speak to those around him about the Good News.
Thad Finds God and Community through Summer Connect
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