Sister Stories - Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Sister Stories

This podcast encourages us to reflect on how the Lord has grown and moulded us into becoming more like Christ.

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S2 - 12. Erika

In this episode, I am interviewing Erika, who was studying Data Science at Kingston University. She has now gone back to the US, where she is from. Listen to hear about her journey with the Lord and how she has grown to know him more and depend on him in all aspects of her life.

Apologies for the sound quality - we experienced some issues with one of the microphones.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

When we move on to the sister's story's podcast, this pencast's aim is to Babu Aggod's sovereignty over Itchavala and women and to encourage 1 another by sharing our stories.

My name is Sophie, and today I'm joined by Erica.

Hello? Erica from America.

Erica from America.

I think Ben might have asked me to say that.

Don't worry.

It was already on the list of things to mention.


So first of all, can you tell us a bit about who you are.


So I'm Erica.

I'm from America.

And so I came to Kingston about a year ago to study my masters in data science.

And finished in September.

And so just hanging out until until I gotta go home.

Oh, wow.


And where whereabouts are you from in Livas? So I'm from Texas.

Kind of moved around a lot, but predominantly Texas.



So we're going to start with you telling us a bit about your family background and how you were brought up.

So could you line that out for us? Yeah.

So I, grew up in a Christian home and don't really remember a time when I didn't know who Jesus was.

Was in Sunday school from pretty much birth and, always at church anytime the doors were open.

And so I think I knew who Jesus was, and it's somewhere in a Bible.

It's written like Erica accepted Christ at age 5 or something like that.

We went to a baptist church, so it was baptized at age 7 because they baptized you really young.

And but I think it was probably about 8 or 9 years old where I started to, like, really realize the need for a savior and for Jesus.

And I was at a summer camp, and I just remember having that that feeling of really brokenness and, just kind of the conviction of sin and the fact that I was in need of a savior.

And then that's kind of when it clicked as to why Jesus needed to live a perfect life and to, digress and death.

And so from then, it was all all uphill.

So a lot of my story Because I was so young.

I don't have a a lot of, like, pre Christ memories.

Most of them are more of a sanctification and a grow and him kinda process throughout my life.

So Wow.


So your your family was a church growing family as well? Yeah.


So my, my dad goes.

He's not, like, the most involved, but he does go every week.

And then my mom, and serve of believers and involved in church and, have been pretty consistent as well my life.

So that's a that's been nice to have that as a family.

To kinda grow together.

Oh, great.




So, obviously, you've grown up since then.

Well, it would be nice if you took us through, you know, how how that develops for you and then how how that process of sanctification happens for you, really.

But I think maybe before that, sorry.

How what was it like between these years? So you said you can it kind of felt like you accepted things age 5, but then it didn't really mean much until you were a little bit older.

Can you tell us a little bit about maybe something you learned in that time or how how that develops really? Yeah.

I think, I think the biggest thing is looking back I mean, as a kid, it's hard to, like, know about, you know, good or bad or whatever, but I can just see the biggest thing I think noticed a change in was just friendships and how I treated people.

And not that I was necessarily, like, mean or bully, but there were just things where I look back and I'm like, oh, that probably wasn't the kindest thing or the best way to handle that situation or, things like that.

And so I think my friendships really changed a lot.

That's kind of like the biggest indicator at the time.

Where there was a bit of a switch.

But then after that, yeah, I think after that, the lord had kind of opened my eyes to other people and just the need that the needs that other people have and that it's not really all about me.

And so that was kind of cool to see that process change as I got older as well and, moving around different places and different churches and stuff.


It's okay.

Where did you move to? So I was born in Houston and then lived in Houston and Dallas till I was about 8.

And then we moved to New Mexico for 5 years, and we're in a pretty, like, solid church in New Mexico.

And so thankfully, had a really good foundation between, like, 8 and 12 or 13 years old, of just, like, scripture and good Sunday school lessons and stuff like And then after that, we moved to Pittsburgh, and our church was a little more charismatic and a little more, feeling.

So Pittsburgh tends to be they're very Catholic or very charismatic, and there's not a lot of, like, sound bible teaching.

And so during that time of my life, I felt like my faith was a lot more Kind of just, like, floating on my own.

And so it wasn't that I doubted God or anything like that, but I didn't really have community.

My school friends all either Catholic or just openly rejecting Christ and had no desire to have any part of church or anything.

And then my church friends were, like, more charismatic than me and, didn't really understand where I was coming from.

And so there was a battle of, okay, well, I don't really fit into either of these groups, but the lord used that a lot to grow me and, actually encouraged me to, like, dig into the word for myself and figure out what he's saying and what the purpose of it is.



How old were you at this time? So this would have been between, like, 13 and 18 years old.

So, like, true high school.




Let's quit.

Really enough, I guess, that's an important time to be thinking.


Isn't it? Yeah.

Oh, that's great.

What what about the people around you? I mean, you said your family was Christian, but what about your friends at school or other people that you encounter? How do they respond to your faith and Do you go into church regularly and everything like that? Yeah.

I think people definitely thought it was weird, especially I played sports.

And so all of my sports teammates would just be like that's really weird.

Why are you going to church? So if I ever invited people to things, they'd be like, No.

And it was just kind of that open rejection of like, okay.

That's fine that you wanna do that, but, like, keep it away from me.

But I actually had a French teacher at the time who was a Christian, and he found out that I was and really encouraged me and my faith in was like, I can't say things because it's a public school, but bring it up, I can respond, which was cool because I hadn't really I think because I was in such a isolated Christian bubble.

I did have some Christian friends, but overall, a lot of my friends were not believers.

And so I didn't really know what to do or, like, how to approach that.

And he was really good about encouraging me to, you know, step out and be a light in such a dark school.

So That is great.


I should have to do the same, but it's very limited sometimes.


It is hard.




So I wonder if you can take us through, I mean, I guess just chronologically, the the next few years of your life when you went off to university maybe on and then when you arrived here, whether there were things that, changed in your faith or in your understanding of things or maybe some things you've grown, into, I guess, or or the god developing you throughout time.

She she don't mind.



So I think university was a big change for me.

I went back to Texas, so my family was still living in Pennsylvania.

So I was pretty far away.

Didn't get to go home on the weekends or anything.

But because of that, was able to get really involved in a local church in Texas and Cultation, and ended up finding a church that was very biblically sound and very they had really awesome bible studies.

They would write these bible studies and they because The town I lived in was very much a university town.

They really focused on students.

And for the first time I learned, you know, how to do an inductive bible study and how to look at the ancient texts and compare, you know, what does the Greek say and what is the translation and, just really, like, interpret scripture and understand it.

And so I think with that, that was huge in my faith and just my understanding of Who Christ was because I feel like before that, I had I knew who god was, and I had convictions, but I didn't necessarily have ways to back them up.

And so that stage of my life was really instrumental in helping me to know how to defend the bible.

And why she wishes to defend the Bible.

And at the same time, our church in Pittsburgh started getting more charismatic and my family I kind of pointed out, like, there are some differences.

Like, now that I'm in a different church, some things are kind of weird.

And my mom had been feeling those convictions a little bit too.

And so ended up they ended up leaving the church partially because of things I was learning at my university church, which was Really hard, but really cool because it brought us all closer to god in the long run, which was great.

And I guess asking these big questions that sometimes we kind of leave aside a little bit because, I have faith this enough, but actually, do I know how to present IV to others.

And, yeah, that's very interesting.

Did you feel that that changed the way you talk to people about your face around you a little bit, or they were maybe better equipped to engage with their questions or their their comments or something like that? Yeah.

I think the biggest change was just I felt confident in evangelism in a way that I had it in the past.

Like before I felt like my church, and I had to invite people to church for them to be able to see god because I didn't really know what to say on my own.

Other than just like, oh, Jesus died for your sins.

And that was kind of it.

Like, if they didn't accept it right there, there wasn't a whole lot extra discussion I felt like I could go into.

But then after doing all these bible studies and reading, the gospels and all of Paul's letters and just having that to go off of.

It made conversation so much easier.

1 of my best friends I wrote she kept coming to me with questions and was, like, kind of there.

And, I felt like for the first time I had answers to her questions, which was really cool.

And so she's a believer now.

And, That's great.


Oh, wow.


It's just still in the US as well.


She is.

So nice.

Oh, that's great.


And So, obviously, you've you've been in the UK for about a year, and I want to, so, first of all, why did you come to the UK? Yeah.

That's no.

That's like it's the question everyone asks.

The real reason, there there are kind of 2 reasons.

Programs in the US required a lot of prerequisite And so it would have been an extra year of studying plus the masters or 2 years.

So it would have been, like, 3 years of studying, and I just didn't necessarily wanna take 3 years off of work.

And then, also, it's about a third of the price to come here.

And so I figured, you know what? Might as well get an adventure out of it.

And, yeah, let's get started.

And then you ended up in Cornerstone.

Ended up here.

How did you hear about Cornerstone, actually? Did someone tell you about this? Or No.

So I had been googling when kind of before when I was looking at coming over here, I was just searching churches in the area, because I I know Europe as a whole is a little more post Christian.

And so I was like, I don't wanna get over there, and they're like, no Christians at all.

And I'm just isolated and miserable.

And so ended up in Kingston because I had found several churches in the area that seemed pretty normal.

And I was like, okay.

That's encouraging.

That seems like a good start.

And so Cornerstone was 1 of them, and it happened to be 5 minutes from where I lived.

And I was like, this is perfect.

Oh, yeah.

It was great.



Can you tell us a little bit, if there are any things that you spotted that were quite different? Maybe I mean, maybe a church or or just in general in the culture that maybe you found a bit difficult at first or over challenging.

I mean, the church culture is very different, but I think in a in a good way.

Most of the churches in the US are much larger, and so it's really hard to get to know people quickly.

So I remember showing up the 1st Sunday and thinking, okay.

I'll sit in the back row, and I'll, like, listen to the sermon, and then I'll sneak out before anyone talks to me.

And that way I can, like, for my thoughts about the sermon and whether or not it was good without any, like, commitment.

And that didn't happen.

I ended up having everyone grab me and you have to meet so and so, and you have to meet this person.

And I think we met.


It's only if we met the first time you did.

It was pretty early.



But, It was almost overwhelming because I've never been in a church that is so welcoming.

Most of the time, even churches that I attended had attended for years, could kinda sneak in the back and sneak right out.

And I think because of that, my faith and just kind of like I was saying earlier with school and stuff.

My faith was very, like, individualized.

And I hadn't fully realized how amazing it is to be part of the body of Christ and of a body that's functioning so well.


That's amazing.

Do you think that skin change the way you go to church in the US now, is that going to change maybe, I don't know, the way you maybe approach newcomers or or come to them? Or Yeah.

I mean, it might be difficult because if there's a lot of people, it's still difficult.


And so that's something I would always I would always try to reach out to people or just talk to new people at church before coming here.

But, yeah, it's that kind of difficulty if people don't always want to reciprocate, or, like, they don't want you talking to them because they wanna sneak in the back row and sneak out without any commitment.

So I think The biggest thing, and 1 of my friends back home and I talk about this all the time, because we go to the same church in Houston and just how it is hard to meet people and have community.

And she's actually been going to a church, a church plant that's, like, 20 people because And so I could see going for more of that style church, just for the community aspect.

I think before I was a little scared of smaller churches because I thought, oh, they don't have as much to offer, but after being here, and I know Cornerstone by England Sanders is probably a bigger church but to me, it's so small.

And I think there's so much more to offer with a smaller church and just really knowing people.


And if I compare with France, it's basically twice the size of a big church in France.

Really? Pretty much.


So well, not maybe not everywhere, but there are some big churches, but the churches I experienced, it was a hundred people Wow.


And that was actually quite a stretch.

So that was still a shock for me.


I think my smallest was probably 5 or 600 people on a Sunday.

That's a lot.

And then, yeah, and that that you do need that's when you need smaller group still should you say, would you have home groups in the US actually? Yeah.

So they do have home groups.

The problem with Houston in particular is everything is so spread out And because the churches, there's a a really big range of churches and what they teach.

And, so there aren't necessarily a ton of really bible centered churches, and some people will drive from Oliver Houston to the church I was going to.

And so you can have someone in your home group that lives 45 minutes to an hour for me with traffic.

So, like, the practicality of actually doing stuff outside of a Sunday, it gets a little hard.

Which I think kind of adds to the level of community.

So it's like, I'd you do have community.

There are friends, but you're limited in how much time you can actually spend interacting with them.


It's just really interesting how it just works out differently in different countries since it, the US being more spread out anyway with quite a lot of people as well, which is kind of have different patterns.

Yeah, that's really interesting.

Is there anything that you feel you've learned in particular at Cornerstone, for example, that maybe hadn't encountered before or that the lord reminded you of, in your time here? Yeah.

I think the biggest thing is just, Just this past year, he's really taught me to pray boldly and to trust in him.

I mean, you know, moving to a con a new country is stressful, and there's a lot of change and a lot of differences.

And, so just with that, that was a lot of a trust exercise, but then things I prayed for that he's answered.

Like, I remember before I came, it was, like, July.

And I was praying like, okay, lord, give me somewhere to go for miss because I don't wanna be in this country by myself, but, like, I probably won't go home because it was still kinda early in COVID and just figured it'd be a little skeed to try going home and felt really silly praying that at the time, but then he answered that prayer through Cornerstone and has answered so many other prayers from some of them from way long before and some that seem really small.

But we were talking at the the Sisters Act, like, table groups about prayer.

I guess it was last month or whenever the last session was.

And everyone at my table was like, we always feel like we can't ask god for the really big things because that's bothering him, but then the really small things seem silly too.

And I think the biggest thing I've learned is just, like, ask him for everything.

Like, he delights in answering our prayers no matter how big or small, and that's been really cool see.



For sure.

That's great.

It feels, hasn't it? Yeah.

So, obviously, you're going to return to the US soon.

Can you tell us a little bit about where your plans are? Yeah.

So I, have unfortunately booked up 1 way plane ticket for the end of the month.

So I know.

So I'll be going home and, staying with my parents and continuing to look for jobs and Yeah.

Excited to go and catch up with family and friends, but definitely sad to leave.


You have to come back Oh, absolutely.

So you haven't got job prospects just yet, but you'd be looking into Yeah.


So I've kinda, most of the companies I've had have responses from have been US, so it just kind of made more sense to go back there and keep looking I think a lot have kind of hit hiring freezes or it's the end of the year, so everyone kinda slows it down.


So, hopefully, in the beginning of next year, yeah, we'll start kinda picking up again.

But Yeah.

I know.

Oh, let's see what goes.

This is next.


I'm like, he's answered all the other pairs.

I'm sure this one'll be fine.


Right, I guess to finish with, is there any advice you would like to give to perhaps younger questions.

I mean, you are pretty young yourself, but it feels like having been a Christian for quite a few years now, that you've, you know, matured through it and all of that.

So, yeah, any advice you would like to share or things to remind yourself, maybe? Yeah.

I think just, 1 to pray big things and small things and all the things, but then also to remember that, like, scripture is sufficient for, whatever worries or fears.

All of the answers we need are in the Bible, and you can find them, and just like It's a joy to be able to sit down in the word and really hear from god every day.

So do that.



Thank you so much, Erica.

Thanks for joining us today.

Thanks for having me.

And thank you, everyone, for listening to sister stories.

This is the end of this episode, but join us again next time.


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