The Winding Path

Yuri Kuriatnyk | Aug. 17, 2021

I've been asked to share my testimony, my story of how I became a Jesus follower. I'm afraid that this won't be a nice, neat story with a beginning (being lost and not knowing Jesus), a middle (the moment I find Jesus-or really when Jesus finds me), and an end (how my life has changed with Jesus in it). I may ramble because, to be honest, I don't know what my story is. But everyone has one, or should have one, right? We weren't all born with a deep and loving relationship with Jesus. So I'll attempt to put a timeline to my story here.

I grew up in a mixed religion household. My dad was brought up Catholic and my mom was raised Presbyterian. We were immigrants to NYC from S. Korea with my dad’s side of the family. I got sent to a private Catholic school because my parents wanted to avoid sending me to public school in the city. There I learned to be a "good Catholic girl." I was already baptized (the first sacrament of the Catholic church) in Korea as an infant. My First Penance, or Confession, followed by First Communion or Eucharist with my second-grade class. I attended mass every Tuesday in school, learned to pray the Rosary, and familiarized myself with all the most famous Bible stories.

But, on Sundays, my mom got to take our family to a Korean Presbyterian church.

I went to multiple Vacation Bible Schools every summer, Korean language and culture school on Saturdays (also run by the churches), and was in every Christmas pageant. I actually wore my communion dress as the angel costume one year. Super convenient! After moving out to the city to Puyallup, WA, my dad took over again and started taking us to mass on Sundays.

I never asked how this hybrid arrangement came to be. I never considered my religious background unusual or confusing, since that’s just how I grew up. It didn't feel like two different religions really. I wasn't worshipping and praying to two different gods. It was the same God, same Jesus, same Bible stories. But the way I prayed and worshiped on Sundays just looked different depending on where I was.

It took me until I got to college (now in upstate NY 2600 miles from home), when I was unsure of where to go that first Sunday. Would it be Catholic Mass or to a local Presbyterian choice somewhere? This was the first time where I was to make those choices for MYSELF, and I truly didn't know how to categorize my faith and how I wanted to practice it.

My friend, who was from Tacoma, WA ended up in the same college as me, was a PK (pastor’s kid) and his mom had found a church that would be a good place for her son to go while he was attending college. He found me that Sunday and asked if I wanted to come along to this church his mom suggested where there were a bunch of other Asian college students. There were so many of us that they rented a bus on Sundays to pick us all up to take us to this off-campus church. I heard contemporary American Christian music for the first time, performed by the worship band with students from the music conservatory, Eastman School of Music, no less! (talk about intimidating.) We met on Friday evenings for fellowship and worship nights. And I was introduced to my first small group that met weekly, where I learned to pray out loud however the Spirit led me, how to read and study the Bible, and how to spend quiet times with the Lord. It was like I was taking a college course, "Intro to Modern Day Christian Life 101." I learned the language, the songs, the customs. But thinking back, I'm not sure I really had a relationship with Jesus. It was very much "for the grade." I was so used to performing for praise and high marks, I did all the things that could get me those good grades but it never went beyond that. Eventually, I became disillusioned with just going through the motions and just stopped participating. It was easy to let it go because it never felt genuine to begin with.

I think it took all of those winding paths to get me to where I am today with Jesus. I never was too far off from him, always floating around the periphery. My deeper and more grounded relationship with God started after coming to Discovery, with my now-husband. The foundations were there from college so it felt easy to fit back in; familiar songs, language, and culture. After my first mission trip to Eternal Anchor, the mission team members became a small group, splitting up by guys and girls. This time though, I finally matured enough to genuinely be there. It wasn't for "grades" and it wasn't to fit in. I enjoyed spending quiet times with God and sharing life with my small group full of Godly women, who would be role models on how to be a wife, a mother, and a Jesus follower. And in the past 10 years of being at Discovery, I've only grown closer to God, been more sure of who He wants me to be, and how He can and will use me for his glory. It's not over though. I haven't "arrived". It will always be an evolving and fluid relationship as all relationships are. If you don't put in the work, it will feel weak and unsteady. So I keep trying. And keep remembering to see myself the way God sees me. I will always be a work in progress.

As you can tell, my testimony involved no visions or signs confirming His existence to me. I was just a girl who always knew about God but just didn't know what a relationship with God could look like. I finally do and finally know my own story.