Tim & Lydia Choi
My goal in life was to make it big: rich, powerful, and famous enough for Time Magazine to write my obituary. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky but I wanted to get out to the big city to make my mark. My parents both attended Southern Seminary and served at different churches, so church was definitely a big part of my upbringing. I had varying experiences of church, from a small, cozy, ethnic church where I couldn’t understand what was going on, all the way to a 30,000-person megachurch with breathtaking programming. I even had the privilege of attending a Billy Graham crusade during his final tour, where my mom promptly decided that my sister and I would be walking up to receive prayer... whether we liked it or not. So a big part of my identity growing up was as a Christian.
My Christian identity started getting challenged in the latter part of high school. My life goals - sold to me through movies and TV - rendered Christianity irrelevant at best. I had a growing number of intellectual questions that I couldn’t resolve on my own. But I think most of all, there just wasn’t anything compelling about Christian life to make me want to stick it out. And the church was something I was more apologetic to my friends about, rather than proud of. So I made a clear, conscious choice to leave the church when I left for college and have a fresh start. I made my choice official through the ceremony of putting my Bible on my bookshelf next to my childhood books before leaving for college.
To my surprise, this period didn’t last long. The day I arrived at UC Berkeley, I met some mentors from our church playing basketball and it ended up being a life-changing experience. I got plugged into a community of people who were trying their best to live out Christian life in all areas. And the next four years became a life-trajectory-altering experience of learning how huge the gospel actually is and what God’s plan for my life is.
Since then I’ve been invovled with college ministry and church planting in California, the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast regions.
I come from the foggy hometown of San Francisco. I was raised in a Christian family. And so, from a young age, Christianity was familiar to me and the church was my extended family. But it wasn't until my tumultuous middle school years that I came to understand how the gospel is relevant for me personally and it was in 7th grade that my personal relationship with Jesus began. And that was just the beginning. Navigating through the challenges of middle school and high school on top of the challenges of growing as a Christian was hard as I was forced to grapple with what I genuinely believed, especially being immersed in the San Francisco culture.
But coming into college at UC Berkeley, it was then that I gained a more significant understanding of what it meant to live out the gospel. I met like-minded Christian friends who I could do life together with, and it was in the context of a close Christian community in the campus context that I really began to experience both joy in Christian life and vision for how life is meant to be. It was in college that I first experienced the thrill of ministry and being caught up in a story and cause so much bigger than myself. It was also then that I really came to appreciate the blessings I had grown up with - an Acts 2 church where I was surrounded by people committed to not only sharing the gospel evangelistically but also living it out in a close-knit community doing daily life together. It was then that I started to really understand how much other people needed to experience this kind of life-changing, gospel-centered community too. And it was then that I grew in the desire to share what I received with others, especially other college students.
And so, since graduating from college, I have been serving in college ministry and continuing to reach out to and mentor college students like myself! Along with my husband Tim, I've served in many different campus ministries including our alma mater UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Washington, SFSU and Stony Brook and NYU.