Fuller students proclaim hope in the midst of pain at the second Advent All-Seminary Chapel
Seated in a circular formation symbolic of the Advent Wreath, members of the Fuller community celebrated the second All-Seminary Chapel observing the season of waiting for the Lord.
The call to worship, led by Chapel Director Reverend Jennifer Graffius, came from Isaiah 35. "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God," the community read together. After a beautiful time of worship with the singing of a medley of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus," and "Come Thou Fount," the community was seated for another time of student reflections.
Brehm Center staff member and MDiv student Debi Yu and SOT student and Chaplain Patrick Butsapu told their personal, tragic, moving stories of death, redemption, and hope - hope that sustains them in the waiting for Christ.
Yu recounted her story of leaving to do mission work in Taiwan after her mom was diagnosed with cancer.
"In the name of God and his work, I abandoned my mom even when she asked me to stay," Yu explained. And though she eventually returned to care for her mom for one year as she slowly lost her life in the hospital, what followed next for Yu was a time of deep guilt and depression. It wasn't until the summer of 2013, when Yu took an ethics class with a professor who she calls a "godsend," that she was able to be restored.
"She prayerfully said to me what no one else could," Yu recalled. "I had made a terrible mistake. I had wronged my mom and God. The Holy Spirit, I believe, was really niggling at me, prodding me to recognize my offenses and to receive God's forgiveness and my mom's."
Yu explained that her mother has left her a cruciform legacy in which "the weak are strong, the generous are rich…and forgiveness overcomes selfishness." And yet, the flipside of the cross is resurrection, Yu said. "I have hope for a time when Jesus will lead my mother by the hand and greet me. That is the reason for hope this Advent season."
Peppered throughout Butsapu's story of struggling to adjust to seminary life away from his home in Congo, and facing loss, were the words "I saw God."
"The presence of God made all the difference," Butssapu said. It was God who sustained him when his parents' business was failing, bombs were falling in his hometown, he struggled to pay rent and tuition, and when he got a call from his sister telling him that his brother died, but he couldn't afford to go to the funeral.
"I prayed God if you're here, will you please show up," Butsapu said. "And he did."
Butsapu explained how a community of friends and new family here in Pasadena surrounded him with prayers and words of encouragement. They even organized to bring him food and spend time with him. President Mark Labberton stopped him on campus one day to tell him that he is praying for him and his family, Butsapu recalled.
"I knew that God had given me a large family," he said. "I cried, because I saw God."
"This is why I can shout today that death is dead," Butsapu said. "The one who came, he has conquered death. It's no longer the end of life. It's the beginning of a life without end. Please rejoice because he has come, and he will come again."