By Aaron Chong, Anchor Community
I’m Aaron, a recent graduate from King’s College London, and this is my conversion story. Before flying off for school, I had a lukewarm faith. Although I served in catechism ministry, I had yet to develop a personal relationship with Christ and my service was more a way of ‘giving back’ to church rather than out of love for God. I had many fears and uncertainties about moving away from home to study too. I heard stories of Catholics losing their faith after studying overseas because of the difference in European spirituality and a lack of support, and it made me feel uneasy. I knew that if I wanted to return home from studies a practicing Catholic, I had to make a change in my life.
In May 2018, I signed up for Kickstart, a retreat for students entering university and seeking a Catholic community, in hopes of meeting like-minded brothers and sisters that I could journey with while overseas. Although most members were going to study in local universities, there was a small group of us that were going overseas for studies. This fateful meeting at Kickstart led to the conception of the Anchor community, a new community with numerous like-minded individuals who sought to continue living a life of Christ while away from home.
After kickstart, I joined this budding community and this seemingly small decision drastically changed the entire trajectory of my university life. I was glad to have this community to keep me rooted in Christ despite being so far from home. Seeing many friends fighting for their faith in a foreign land strengthened my conviction to deepen my own relationship with Christ. Community soon became a refuge from the secular life that many of my foreign friends led.
Weekly cell group sessions were a safe space for me to share my faith and an apt reminder and encouragement to live a life of Christ amidst my busy schedule. In moments where I struggled to reject lies that entered my heart and mind, the community was always there to pick me up and remind me of my inheritance as a child of God. In community, I could comfortably share my struggles, and it was my bastion of faith in a secular land, helping my faith to grow where I thought it would wither.
Aaron (rightmost), introducing his brothers in Anchor to his pet chickens
One experience stands out to me. During a day of recollection in Glasgow, community members from all over UK and Europe flew in for a blessed time of reflection, prayer and fellowship. Even our brothers and sisters who were there on university exchange programs took time off their holidays to journey and grow with our community. Seeing so many people on fire for Christ and willing to put aside their studies, assignments, or holidays to spend time with Him that weekend really edified me. It was a pivotal moment for my own faith and seeing the faith and conviction of my fellow brothers and sisters spurred me on to live a life more fully in Jesus Christ.
Many overseas students seek to make the most out of their time abroad by indulging in ‘the overseas life’ and capitalising on the sudden freedom from home. However, I came to realise in my time there that I can make the most out of university through living in community and helping others come to discover the oasis of Christ’s love. Being overseas and far from any authority, it would have been easier for me to choose a life of parties and worldly distractions over Christ, but Jesus called me by name to enter into this new life He prepared for me. I know that Christ has only good things in store for my life, no matter what shape or form it takes. Giving my life for Christ does not necessarily mean that I have to become a priest or a brother, but rather that everything I do in my life should glorify His name and His church.
Throughout these three years, I have made significant changes in my own life and grown in my relationship with God. Prayer is now an important and regular part of my life. I am excited to share the faith with people around me. I enjoy the beauty of mass and the sacraments. I enjoy meeting new Catholics each day to share my own faith story with them. As I move on to the next phase of my life, I will continue living in Christ’s sheepfold and living for His people.
Friends, no matter the challenges or struggles you are facing, no matter how difficult it is to say yes to Christ, no matter your circumstance or past, Christ invites you today to enter into His love. All you have to do is take that first step towards Him, and He will meet you where you are.