Telios Law Sojourner Scholarship Winner: Philip K.

2022 Essay Prompt

In celebration of our fifth year hosting the Sojourner Scholarship here at Telios Law, we would like to ask each of our applicants to choose and describe five different life experiences. Each of these experiences must be something that impacted your past, present, or future, and shaped you into the person you have become.

Philip's Winning Sojourner Scholarship Essay

God has lavished me with His grace all my life. He has adopted me into His family, forgiven me, and taught me to forgive others. He has assured me that He loves me, and that no matter what I do, He is willing to pay the price to bring me back into His Kingdom.

Before I became a follower of Christ, I was harassed by what I thought was an imaginary friend. The “imaginary” friend told me I was stupid and worthless and a bad boy. My parents had prayed, but after being chased away, this “imaginary” bully kept coming right back. One night, I sat down on the living room couch, with my Mom on one side and my Dad on the other, and prayed that Jesus would come into my heart. However, I was not yet ready to give up my imaginary friend. Finally, I renounced my impure “friend” and called on Jesus to come chase him away. That night, Jesus appeared visibly in my bedroom to drive away the “imaginary friend” that had been harassing me. I have no memory of what He looked like, or of the appearance of the “imaginary friend.” All I know is that Jesus came visibly to rescue me, and He has not abandoned me since.

I spent my fourth grade year in the United States. That winter was one of the coldest on record, with heavy snows and multiple days off school. I spent much of the time off outside, sledding - or at least, trying to sled. A pair of neighbor girls had decided that the sledding hill was their domain, and whenever they were out they would bully the other children and take away their sleds. One of the girls in particular stuck in my memory. She was poised, self-assured, always ready with a quick retort and very strong. I hated her passionately, and I continued to hate her long after I left the United States and went back to Guinea. I would probably still be hating her, had God not changed my heart with a sermon my Dad preached about forgiveness. Near the end of the sermon, he had the congregation think of someone they held a grudge against and pray for that person. I didn’t have to think a moment; the bitter memory of winter days spent fighting over sleds sprang instantly to my mind. But as I prayed, God melted the hatred simmering in my heart. My grudge had ended. For the first time, I could think about what she had done without hatred.

Shortly afterwards, I was baptized. It was cold in the water, and I was shaking even before I had been submerged. After coming out, my parents wrapped me in a towel and we - the newly baptized, as well as family members and church officials - sang songs of celebration in strong Guinean French before we all headed home.

Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, began soon afterwards. Every night for thirty days, as soon as my bedroom light went out, I found myself gripped by an overwhelming terror of what might be hiding in the dark, in the realm I could not see. One night, I was convinced the top of the mosquito net that covered my bed was full of malevolent bats; another night, faces grimaced and glowered at me out of the darkness and leered from the darkness under my eyelids whenever I closed my eyes. On one of the last nights of Ramadan, I fell asleep only to have a nightmare so powerful that the next morning the mere memory of the fear I felt left me shaking.

In hindsight, I can see God’s presence. I always went to sleep eventually, and prayer with my parents every night succeeded in banishing much of my fear. Rather than scarring me, those thirty nights of Ramadan left me with a lasting reminder of the power of God. The bats and faces have come back intermittently over the years, but the terror they inspired is gone. If God is on our side - who can be against us?

One morning before school I drove the family car into a tree. The bumper shattered, sending shards of plastic flying everywhere. I was devastated, and it was as though my heart mirrored the cloudy winter sky overhead. The day did not get any better as it progressed, and by the time I got to biology class, I was barely holding back tears. Then my classmate Ella turned around and asked me how I was doing. My first thought was to just say “fine” and move on. However, I did not have the energy anymore to put on a happy face. “I’m doing okay,” I replied morosely. “What’s wrong?” she asked. I told her the whole story, trying hard to hold back tears. It would have been seriously embarrassing if I had started crying in the middle of Biology class. Ella turned, opened her backpack, and took out a small, palm-sized plastic container of play-doh. “I like to play with play-doh when I’m feeling upset,” she told me. “You should try it. It might help.” All of a sudden, the day was brighter. It was as though the dark clouds of my soul had been wiped away - and all by a small plastic container of play-doh from a girl I barely knew.

I started worrying about God’s plan for my life near the middle of High School, along with a much more pressing question: what if God wasn’t pleased with me? I became slightly obsessed, to the point where I would pray for guidance before I decided to turn left or right on the street! I was filled with an irrational fear that if I made the wrong decision, God would be so upset he'd reject me. But God did not allow me to continue to believe this falsehood. Instead, he began to throw at me, through books and sermons and Bible verses, the truth of His mercy and freedom. When I became a Christian, I became a member of the Body of Christ, and nothing I could ever do would be good enough or bad enough to earn or lose me that status. Because of this, I forgive - unconditionally, just as God forgave me. I have been baptized into God’s family, and as a son of God no power of hell can ever have power over me.

I am a recipient of God’s everlasting grace; His mercies are “new every morning.” When I realized the truth, it was like sunrise after a long, hard night. God gives and forgives because He loves us, and I don’t have to be afraid of losing His love. No matter what I do, God still loves me. No matter how many mistakes I make, He will still call me His child. He sent Jesus to rescue me, and He will never abandon me.