A Love Story and China: Part I
When I was in 7th grade, Kevin '98 and Camie (Grasser '98) Doyle were my youth pastors and students at Vanguard (SCC). They encouraged, challenged, and loved me in so many ways. It was challenging at times to be a Christian in a public junior high school, but Kevin and Camie were always there for me. I loved who they were and enjoyed hearing about their life at Vanguard. Since 7th grade, I knew that I would go to Vanguard myself. It was confirmed to me in high school when the Vanguard Singers and Band visited my church. I loved meeting them and hearing them lead us in worship. I also met a few students that I really connected with. Some of them were at Youth Convention that fall, so I knew Vanguard was where I was supposed to go for college.
Vanguard was the only college/university that I applied to. No one in my public high school understood why I would only apply to one school. God put Vanguard in my heart as a seventh grader in 1997. By the fall of 2003, I was a freshman at Vanguard.
I definitely would not have been able to go to Vanguard without scholarships. I was so thankful that I was able to receive Academic scholarship, as well as Music scholarships every semester. I was blessed my senior year with a Leadership scholarship as well. In reflecting on how Vanguard helped mold and lead me, I realize that without scholarships I would not be who I am today.
Even though I knew I would be going to Vanguard well before actually starting classes there, I never imagined how much of an impact it would have on my life. I was a shy and quiet student, unsure of what I would study. I loved Music, and immediately felt a connection to the Music students and staff at Music Camp. I made many close friends in the Music department and was a member of both Concert Choir and the Vanguard Singers and Band. Because I was so involved in music, I chose Music as my major. My first year at Vanguard was all about Music. I loved it, but I knew something was missing.
One morning in chapel, Dr. Mike Wilson announced a summer missions' trip to China. My heart practically jumped out of my chest ... I knew I would be going on that trip! I immediately called my mom and dad to say, "This Summer 2004, I am going to China." They were shocked but supportive. I ran to my room and emailed Dr. Wilson, hoping that there was a spot for me. He emailed me back and asked that I meet with him to talk about China more. Most of the team were older students and a majority History/Political Science majors, but he allowed me to join the team.
We went to Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province, for three weeks and taught conversational English for a summer camp. That trip had a huge impact on me. It not only opened my heart to China and the people there, but it reminded me of my heart for both teaching and missions. It also reminded me of the calling that God had given me as a young child. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said A missionary AND a teacher. However, I always thought that I would have to choose one or the other eventually. This trip to China helped me to see that I could be both! When I returned for my sophomore year at Vanguard, I changed my major to Liberal Studies/Education and was elected to be the sophomore class president for ASB/student government.
Through my continued involvement in the music department and ASB, I learned to be confident in who I am and in the gifts that God had given me. I became a stronger leader and was encouraged by so many students, faculty, and staff mentors. My junior year, I became ASB Vice-President, and by my senior year I was the ASB President. Through being involved in ASB, I was reminded of the history and legacy of Vanguard. I wanted to continue its mission and values well beyond my own graduation.
My heart for China and missions grew stronger and stronger throughout my time at Vanguard. I went on the teaching missions trip to China every summer (2004-2007), and led the team with my parents my senior year. I was also given the opportunity to go on a missions' trip to Greece, led by Jean and Sandy Morgan in 2006. My involvements in Music took me to both Asia in 2005 and Europe in 2007 with the Vanguard Singers and Band. It was actually during the trip to Europe where I met my fiancé, Andre Abrantes.
After graduating from Vanguard in 2007, I moved to China that Fall. I lived in China for two years, teaching at the university in Hanzhong (the same university I visited each summer with Vanguard). I taught conversational English to freshmen and sophomore students and eventually taught a total of 1200 students during my time there (320 students each semester). I am so thankful for the teaching training that I received while at Vanguard and am thankful for the relationships built with leaders at the university in Hanzhong through my summer visits with Vanguard.
God definitely used Vanguard to mold and lead me in ways that I would have never imagined! I am very thankful for Vanguard, and the people who poured into me. They challenged me to grow spiritually, academically, and in character and virtue.
I am currently engaged to Andre Abrantes '11, and our wedding will be on March 31, 2012. We will live here in the States for a few months and then return to China this fall. We will teach at Shaanxi University of Technology in Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province. This is the same university that I first visited in 2004 with Dr. Wilson and the Vanguard team. This time we will return as Assemblies of God missionary associates (pending medical exams and district approval that we are still in the process of). We are excited to see how God will use us while we are there! We pray that friendships will be continued in Hanzhong as we reflect God's heart and light to the people we come in to contact with. Please pray for our preparations and safety as we continue the Vanguard legacy in China.
Thank you for listening to my story.