Telios Law Sojourner Scholarship Winner: J. from Asia

2024 Essay Prompt

Being a sojourner means to be a stranger in different lands, residing in a place and among your people that are not your own. It is a unique experience most do not understand. However, there are many individuals in the Bible who have shared this perspective! Choose one biblical account and compare it with your own experiences as a Sojourner.

J's Winning Sojourner Scholarship Essay

A Nigerian poet, Ijeoma Umebinyuo, once described a sojourner perfectly: "So, here you are. Too foreign for home, too foreign for here. Never enough for both.” Encapsulating both the desire to conform to a foreign culture and the loss of cultural identity in a birth country, this quote portrays my journey in searching for identity. Often, identity originates where someone lives, and they associate who they are with 'home.' However, as I’ve lived overseas in East Asia and now Southeast Asia, I’ve learned to find my identity in something other than geographical location; I find my identity in Christ. This singular point defines my permanent identity in my Creator and allows me to call both East Asia and Southeast Asia my home, living fully unto Christ in both places. Thus, living as a sojourner, I have a greater purpose than myself to use my experiences for Christ.

Many Biblical characters experienced this sojourner life and struggle with their identity. As I reflect on my journey, the patriarch Moses stands out. Moses' life story in searching for identity in the Egyptian royal family, being “exiled,” and later leading the Israelites to the promised land reflects my own.

At a young age, Moses was sent away from his homeland and his people. He was taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter and grew up in the Egyptian court, whose culture was drastically different than his own. He became like an Egyptian, adopting their customs and ways of life. The Egyptian culture, however, was fraught with paganism and extreme religious practices. Yet despite these circumstances, Moses grew into a strong follower of God and did not conform to the worship of Egyptian gods. Just like Moses, I was sent away from my homeland when I was two years old and grew up in East Asia, a culture far different from my own. My parents enrolled me in a Chinese local preschool, and I continued in the local public school system until 7th grade. Initially, I faced bullying from classmates and friends who perceived me differently because of my skin color. Despite these circumstances, I persevered and adopted the Chinese way of life, eventually being perceived as a local. I learned the language, ate the local food/snacks, learned ping-pong Chinese style, and even understood many of the ancient Chinese customs and practices. Through all this, I did not forget the Creator God, whom I was living for, and was given countless opportunities to share my faith with others. I placed my identity in Christ, embracing the local culture while staying true to my faith and heritage.

Furthermore, in Exodus 2:14, Moses fled to Midian after killing an Egyptian servant and violating the laws of the land. However, it was in this desperate time of “exile” that Moses grew tremendously. Not only did God provide a wife for him, but he also grew in confidence and assurance of his faith. God showed him, through the burning bush, that he had no reason to fear. God revealed Himself personally to Moses as the great “I AM.” Just as Moses fled Egypt, I was exiled from my life in East Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020. My family and I left East Asia, assuming we would return in just a few months, but due to complex security issues, we eventually received news that we could never return. I was devastated. My home, my friends, and my personal belongings were all gone in an instant. Yet, through this loss, God grew my faith in Him. I was reminded of the fleeting and ephemeral nature of our lives on earth.

Everything in this life will pass, but God never will. He is not bound by our ephemeral nature. Rather, He is eternal. Because of this, I came to know God at a deeper level and renewed my trust in Him as the only source of hope. As God revealed Himself to Moses, He also revealed to me that He is the great “I AM,” and my identity in Him is unchangeable.

Lastly, in obedience to God, Moses returned to Egypt to fulfill His purpose of freeing the Israelites from their captivity and leading them to the promised land. I have yet to fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for my life as Moses did, but I wait in expectance of the great things He will accomplish through me in the future. I believe God is leading me to a path of service through medical work. As medical missionaries, my parents have shown me the deep care they can offer to the hurting while sharing about the eternal hope in Christ. Because of this, I want to pursue medicine to care for those who are hurting and lift up the broken-hearted through Christ’s love. Ultimately, I want to glorify God with my life and make Him known among the nations. Just as Moses obeyed God’s will and led the Israelites, I will lead the lost and hurting to the promised land God has in store.

Through my experience as a sojourner between the USA, East Asia, and Southeast Asia, God has helped me grow my identity in Him and develop my character. Contrary to Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s words, God has equipped me with knowledge and understanding to not only fit in but thrive with the local communities in East Asia and Southeast Asia, despite being a ‘foreigner.’ Although challenging, I would not change this life with which God has blessed me. Rather, through my experiences, I eagerly await God’s grand plan to fully unfold in my life.