Made To Worship
(Please listen to Aiva’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)
Ever since I was young I loved being in church. I didn’t know why I liked being there, but it was a safe place. So I remember I said and going to the altar and giving my life, being like, “Okay Jesus, I have Jesus now. I’m eating crackers and drink some juice.” And that was the first time I can remember accepting the Lord into my heart, and just kind of going, from like seven to maybe thirteen, facing a lot of different things, which is wild. Being homeless, having my mom being in and out of like, they’re called like, a half. I think they’re called halfway houses, but like women shelters and things just moving around, that kind of thing. I was searching for purpose and a reason to be alive because I couldn’t see it. I remember going home one night and I was like, okay, God, people they I mean, I guess when they feel like this, they either give you an ultimatum or I need you to show up or something, but I guess I’m going to commit suicide. I don’t have a reason to live. And no one’s asking me to, seems like, I’m unwanted in all the spaces. I don’t get it. I was like, I need you to like show up, or this is my alternative outlet. Like something has to happen. For the first time I was sure that I heard God and he goes, “Will you live for me?” And I was like, “Well, yeah, of course. Thanks. That’s all I needed.” I didn’t know what he wanted me to do. I didn’t feel like anyone had asked me that and I was like, Okay. And from that moment on I went to FCA camp the next week, and I gave my life to Jesus. I got filled with the Holy Spirit. And my life is sold out to one person. So those years I was 15-16 in high school, not realizing that because I was consuming my Bible and spending time with the Lord and wanting to know the Lord. The only thing that came out of my mouth was God. It was love.
I remember sitting at this table in high school with these girls. I was sitting there, I was like, have you guys ever been in love? And I start talking about love, and I was infatuated with First Corinthians 13, and I’m telling them, and I’m not preaching. I’m not sitting there thinking, oh, I’m preaching to these girls. It is just literally the only thing that will come out my mouth. They’re looking at me and I’m like, Aiva, you should write a book. Mind you, I’m 16. I’m 16 just super passionate about Jesus and being loved. And seeing how now I’m full of joy and now I’m full of light and and it’s fresh and even though, even my teenage years have shifted to just they’re–I’m devoted to this man and this love. So, I graduate from high school. I ended up going getting getting a degree in like arts and religious study. I passed. I don’t know how much I got out of that though, because I was only interested in knowing. I just wanted to know God. That was all I was interested in. I went to CFNI, and I ended up at SAGU. But 2011 I was going to go on my first trip to Thailand, first missions trip ever, I never been out of the country. So the last thing I did, before I left was go to a Labor Day picnic with my mom, my brother and my sister. It was so fun. It was so beautiful, was the first time we gotten together in a while. Before I left I was Facebooking my mom and we just were, she had sent me this whole long letter about how she was proud of me. And how she looked up to me and even though she didn’t say it a lot, she was proud of me. I was the first one to be in be in a university a college. They’d went to college, done Community College, but no one had ever finished. No one had ever been to an actual university. So I was the first one there.
I just remember thinking on the way there, because she was super funny, on the way there, I was with my friend Marlene, we were on the plane, and just going there, being like, wow, I love my mom. Like, for the first time in years I just genuinely love her. That was a miracle. That was a miracle that there was no, it was just I just love this lady.
So we get to Thailand, and we were teaching kids English in the day, and we’d teach them and we do the vacation Bible school at night. And it was so fun. We had a good time. I went to sleep. And then all of a sudden I just woke up. Pause. I forgot to tell a part of this story. Rewind.
Before I went to Thailand, the week before I was walking through our campus, and I was just like, “God, I’m super excited about Thailand.” I was talking to the Lord; I would walk and talk to the Lord. Again, something no one taught me. I just, You’re there, and why not talk to You? I’m walking and I’m talking, and then there’s this moment where I felt the Lord, like just like, “Hey, go left, let’s go to this space.” And I went to this place on campus and I’m standing there. And all of a sudden, I just feel this, wrap-around wind and presence just come around me. It was almost like, the biggest man in the world, hugged me and put his arms around me. I hit my knees and I just started crying. And I was just like, “Thanks, God, that was so nice. That was so kind of You.” I’m weeping and He goes, “I want you to know that I’m always surrounding you this way. I’m always surrounding you this way.” I was like, Okay, wow, I just had an encounter with the Lord.
So back in to Friday night where I woke up. I kind of prayed a little bit, went back to sleep. The next night, the same thing happened. This time I was ready. I woke up. I just put in my mp3 and I’m listening to Misty Edwards: (sings) “Jesus here I am your favorite one. What are you thinking, what are you feeling. I have to know…” So I’m just like listening and I’m like, okay, we’re just worshiping because apparently, I’m supposed to be awake. I’m awake. And my, leader comes in, and she goes, she goes, Hey, Aiva, someone’s on the phone for you. It was my uncle. He was like, “Hey, Aiva, like, I’m sorry to call you.” And then he starts crying. He’s like, “We’re at the hospital.” And I’m like, Oh, goodness, what did, what did my sister do? Because it would have been something my sister did. Because she was the wild one. And I was just ready for it. And they were just like, “No, no, no.” And then he started crying and then my brother gets on the phone. He goes, “Hey, Aiva, I’m at the hospital, and I have to identify mom’s body.” I was like, “What?” He said, “Yeah, mom passed away.”And I was just like, “Why? Why would you call me tell you something like that? Do you know how late it is? Why are you joking? This is a terrible joke.” And for about 10 minutes, I thought he was joking until I had to remember that I was in another country. And it was really hard to get ahold of me. I said, “What happened?”And he told me, she was staying in this. It’s kind of it’s not a homeless shelter. But it’s like a place where, people stay when they want to get their life on track and it’s a free place to stay so that you pay off your debt, you get a job, and so it was a thing, a step she was taken to like improve her life. My niece was with her and she was about to get in the shower. They said she had sat down in a chair and she just passed away. And they said it was congestive heart failure. My mom was, my mom was 41.
I got off the phone. I went to the bathroom. I was like, This is not real. God, this is not real. I was like, Lord, I don’t have any idea why this happened type questions, because this is not actually real. I sat there and I cried, and I went outside to the front yard of this place we were staying in the country. I put my earbuds back in and I turned on the Misty Edwards song I was listening to. And once again, that wrap-around presence, that big hug was there. He was like, “I’m still here.” He didn’t even say anything. I just felt it –like the same thing that happened in that place on my campus, happened again, and I felt people praying for me, and I didn’t feel alone, and I didn’t feel by myself. And I didn’t feel like the end of the world. It was sad. It was a hard moment. But I felt every bit of God and every bit of like, people, church family there with me. When I get back to go back to the States, people say we’re praying for you. I’ll tell them, I felt you. I felt it. I didn’t once feel neglected or alienated because, I knew the nearness of God.
He goes, “I’m more than my words. I’m present. I’m here.” I tell people all the time the journey is worth it. I’ve walked up mountains, I’ve walked through valleys. What I do know is that God–He’s there. And it makes a difference that He’s there.
The next day we’re supposed to tell testimonies at this church, and then I was going to go home. So this was May 7, my birthday was May 24. And I was going to spend it there. Because we were going to be there for three weeks, and I got up and they’re like, “What testimony do you want to tell?” And I told this one, like that had just happened. Then I left and my friend, my leader, Faith, put me on my second international flight ever. So I get on the plane. I’m reading my Bible and I’m just reading First Peter something and reading my Bible and stewardess comes up. He’s like, What are you reading? And I’m just like, Oh, you know, the Bible. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I used to believe in the Bible, too. It’s not worth much to me anymore.” And I was like, “Yeah,” I was like, “life can be tough.” And he was like, yeah, and he just kept talking. His name was Richard. He ended up going back and he comes back. And the Lord had given me a letter to write to him. So I write this letter to Richard, because all the things the Lord was telling me, and I said, “Hey, Richard,” he comes back, he gives me water. I said, “Hey, Richard, this is for you. So I feel like God told me to give this to you.” And he goes, “Thanks, but I don’t actually believe in God that much.” I’m like, “It’s okay. I think he’s still speaks.” At the time I’m giving him a letter, he goes, “So why are you on a plane by yourself back home? And I said, “Well, my mom just passed away. And I was on a missions trip. And so I’m going back for her funeral.” And he goes, “Oh my gosh.” Cuz kind of until that moment. He was being a little bit not the nicest, like not the nicest, because I was reading the Bible. He was fine to me. He was just being skeptical and I wasn’t paying too much attention. And he was just like, “I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can get you? Is there anything?” And I was just like, “No, Richard, it’s okay. God’s with me. But here’s your letter.” So he goes back and the flight ends, he didn’t come back for a long time. And he reads the letter. And he comes back with this complementary, like, pack of combs. It was like he couldn’t find anything to give me but he wanted to give me something. And I just took it and he was just like, “I’m so sorry about your mom. And thank you for the letter, because it said everything that I’ve been asking about for the last three years. And I’m going to go to church on Sunday. And I’m going to pray.” And I was like, “I’m going to be praying.” He said, “I’m going to be praying for you.” And I was just like, “Thanks, Richard,” and he was just like, “It’ll be okay.”
It was just so, it’s so interesting the turn of, turn of events. And I was just like, wow, we’re in the middle of a crisis, and people were getting reconciled to the Lord. But what got me was what followed. I feel like sometimes we don’t know how to handle death and those things, but I really felt like even after my mom’s funeral, my mom’s funeral was beautiful. Me and my brother and sister. Our family laughed a lot. So we laughed a lot. Going into it, we spent the day before crying, and the next day, my mom was a worship leader and a worshiper, and she loved God, and we all loved God. At that funeral, we worshipped, my aunt prophesied over all my friends, we preached the gospel, people got saved, there were hundreds of people there. I had a friend in college with me go, “That was the weirdest funeral that I’ve ever been to. It was the happiest funeral.” And I was just like, “What else are we going to do?” Because someone had paid for the funeral arrangements. We didn’t have any money, it was me, my brother and sister, we didn’t have any money to do any of those things. It was all taken care of. It was kind of one of those situations where you can’t help but think that this was God. He’s fathering, He’s taking care of all the things like, He’s doing all the things. We can’t, I can’t go, why God, why? Because whether she just kind of sat down and was tired like her mom or not, God is taking care of us.
I’m going to miss my mom. She’s with the Lord. I had a series of dreams after that of her being with the Lord and so I’m certain she’s in the best place ever. That was one of the one of the biggest moments of my life and that was when I got the revelation of His nearness. So I had been dropped in a bucket of His love, I’d been covered and surrounded and and He goes, “I’m more than my words. I’m present. I’m here.” I tell people all the time the journey is worth it. I’ve walked up mountains, I’ve walked through valleys. What I do know is that God–He’s there. It makes a difference that He’s there. Even if He doesn’t say or do anything, it makes a difference that He’s there, in our journey. Because I’m no longer the 12 year old, who is wondering like, what is this all about? Because I don’t know what it’s unto. I don’t know where it goes. I don’t know. I don’t know what the scene is going to be. I don’t know what the story is going to do. But I know that the point is that He’s there. And I’m, that’s one thing that I’m sure of. That’s one thing that I tell people when they ask me, “How have you stayed so … I have friends who were in Youth with me who’d come back and they go, how have you stayed so… how have you stayed burning? Like, why do you, how do you still have that?” And I’m like, “I almost lost it quite a few times. But then I figured out it wasn’t about me. It was about Him. It was about Him still being there, still being Himself.” And like as I grow, like, my journey, and my destination, have everything to do with knowing that You’re with me. And I’m taken by that. I had a friend tell me on my birthday, they go, “You’re a romantic, but you’re like the Lord’s romantic.” And I was just like, “I’d never heard that before!” Because I feel like Mary, like “Jesus, what are we doing at your feet today?” Like, yeah, have all my life. So I’m like, “Yeah, I’m a romantic for the Lord. I write plenty of love songs. And I’ve never, experienced it with anybody but the Lord. I’m just a romantic for Jesus.”
I never prayed to God, I learned to sing to God. I was about 8, walking down the street and I just started singing. And I started singing how I felt and from there I just sang. And so when I learned that God was listening, I would sing to God. And so I would just sing and that’s how I learned how to pray.
Okay, cool. Um, yeah.
(Singing) I know there are days and times when I don’t always feel Your light. But help me to know that You’re always near. And I know there are moments when my faith is fuzzy. But I really really want to believe You’re near. Help me believe You’re close. Help me believe You’re close.
Near to me God; near to me Father. Help me believe You’re close. You never leave. I am convinced that You draw me in even when I’m far away. You never leave and I am convinced that You’re not far away. You’re not far away.
So wrap me in Your arms again. Lord, wrap me in Your arms again. Draw me close, draw me nearer. Wrap me in Your arms again. Cuz I need a hug again. And I need a hug again. Cuz I know there are times when things don’t feel bright. Wrap me in Your arms again. Wrap me in Your arms again. Near to me God. Oh, near to me God.