Like many GDQ students, I grew up as an MK and TCK. However, somewhat atypically, I lived in the same little town in southern Albania my whole life up until high school. Surrounded by Albanian friends with Muslim, Catholic, and Greek Orthodox backgrounds, I was asked many questions about my faith and culture. Mostly I responded with “the Bible says so” or “that’s what my parents told me.” Like every little girl I believed my parents were right about everything, so these simple reasons I gave were enough for me for years. The time came, however, when my own doubts surfaced upon my parents’ announcement that we were moving to the capital. This shook my whole little world, and I wondered “Why is God letting my parents move me somewhere I don’t want to go?” I was somewhat angry with both God and my parents, but deeper than the anger was the lie that started to root in my 13-year-old head, “God must not really want what’s best for me.”
GDQ High School was waiting for me on the other end of this doubt-stirring move. Despite being skeptical of the city, I was excited to start high school and be one of the “big kids.” Little did I know that this would be the place where I would build my own faith foundation separate from my parents. GDQ requires its students to take a Bible class each year of high school, the very first one I took was Bible Basics with Mr. V. This class wrestled with many of the questions I had been asked by my earlier friends, and it gave reasonings for Christian belief outside of the Biblical context. We explored questions like “Is the Bible really reliable?” or “Did Jesus really rise from the grave?” and later on, “don’t all religions lead to the same God?” Wresting with these allowed God to fill some holes dug out by lies that I didn’t even know were hiding inside of me.
Outside of the classroom, I was supported by Ms. Neuman in a Bible Study on Lies Young Women Believe, and Mr. V co-led a Friday night worship meeting for the high schoolers where I was prompted to make a new kind of commitment to God through baptism. I remember crying to my parents over dinner that night asking if I could be baptized and had the privilege of returning to my hometown to do so the following fall. I had prayed the sinner’s prayer a couple of times in my childhood, but during my transition to the capital, there had also begun a transition in my heart, from simply trusting my parents to taking hold of my own faith. This transition in my faith would not have been possible without teachers like Mr. V, who cared deeply not only about my learning in the classroom, but poured time, energy, and prayer into my personal and spiritual growth.