Hannah Ling Thoughts and writings from Pittsburgh

Welcome Week!

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Hi all, Thanks to everyone who has been faithful in keeping up with me and reading these and writing to me! As some of you may have heard, my first two weeks was difficult as I struggled with homesickness, tiredness(with our schedule of sleeping at 12/12:30 and waking up at 6:45 every day), and my poor character/laziness/relational conflict. It was also hard to adjust to being in a new place where I didn’t know anything and new team(that was also trying to get to know each other).

However, since then, things have gotten a lot better and I don’t feel homesick or so tired every day anymore! I’m able to say that I really like it here and I’m really glad I came out. We just finished our Welcome/Orientation Week(the week when its just freshmen on campus doing orientation activities) and the first two weeks of classes.

Our team is so much fun and I love hanging out with them all! We have a lot of fun at all our times together just telling stories, listening to Bon Jin do impressions of people and laughing.

There was so much I got to experience and I’ll try to capture it all here:

Welcome Week in general was a one-of-a-kind experience. We started with move-in day on Saturday where we handed out water bottles and just hung out playing frisbee and meeting new people. Every day the CPIs (and Morgan, a 2016 grad who just moved out here to join us) would do planning, logistics, different work, and then go on campus for more low-key stuff like playing frisbee, volleyball, and board games. In the evenings, the working staff would come and we had different events like ultimate frisbee, shaved snow, s’mores and campfire, game night.

We met a LOT of people! People here were really open during orientation week, really different than Berkeley! We tabled on Thursday and Friday and it was actually the craziest tabling experience I’ve ever had. In Berkeley, usually you table and call out to people while they walk past you and ignore you for hours on end. You’re lucky if even one or two people stop. Here, as soon as we set up the table, a lot of students came up to us and asked what we had going on, talked to us, and got to know us. Many students were looking for a church/Christian group, but there were a lot of non-Christian students who were just bored/hanging out and down to just talk. The Pittsburgh weather took a break for this week and we actually had California-like, warm, sunny, breezy weather, and it was a perfect environment to just chill by our table and talk.

One thing that’s cool about CMU is that the campus is so small. So after meeting a student for the first time, it was normal to see them and talk to them every day after that. I liked that because if you wanted to follow up on something you talked about, or forgot to get someone’s number/social media, or meet up with someone for lunch, you could just wait for the next time you saw them, unlike Berkeley where you might never see them again.

I got to experience the church in action! Our team has 13 people, and we were planning to put on New Student Welcome Night for 200 people on Saturday. That is a ton of work from driving supplies, prepping food, grilling meat, setting up A frames, setting up the food stations to serve 200 people, not to mention even talking to the students/engaging and getting to know them. We were originally slated to have a small mission team from our Santa Barbara church come, but a virus went around that entire church and they had to cancel. We felt really small heading into the week, like “oh man…how are we going to do this?” Angell sent out an email asking for prayers, and we got the awesome news on Wednesday that the Chicago team(consisting of 12 CPIs and the leads, Ray/Sieun and fam) were going to come and join us–the next day! I was really excited, I thought I wouldn’t see them again for almost a year after training! Also, Pastor Will and Esther, the East Coast leads for our church, were coming!

We literally felt like in The Two Towers at Helm’s Deep when the Riders of Rohan showed up at the eleventh hour and saved the day! It was so crazy that at a day’s notice, they were willing to drive nine hours from Chicago to Pittsburgh just to help us do outreach and put on our welcome night! I’ve heard of things like this happening, this is how the church is supposed to work, but it was different to actually experience! We also got the Irvine Church mission team on loan from our University of Pittsburgh team, and for the next couple days, I got to experience all three teams laboring alongside each other, “of one mind and one spirit, striving side by side” as Phillipians 1 says. Even though we barely knew each other(I thought one of the Irvine guys was a CMU freshman), I felt like we were truly one team. One cool experience was to see our church’s value of servanthood firsthand, as Pastor Will and Esther cleaned, scooped rice, and wiped bins right alongside us.

Welcome night itself was pretty awesome! We almost filled the room and had 80something newcomers come and check out our group. The Chicago team did the Race of a Lifetime skit. The frosh picture for CMU was right after Welcome Night, so we cut our song and some of our activities to have a 40 minute program, and had dinner outside on the picnic blankets and played volleyball/frisbee. It was evening, the sun was setting, and the weather was perfect! It was such a different experience from Welcome Night at Berkeley, which is more chaotic with way more people. It was so fun and it felt like we were just hanging out outside. Afterward, we had a team time, went to Grand View Overlook, and cleaned.

I got to experience the joy of giving my all and working hard! Saturday was crazy–outreach, tabling, then loading, setting up–a lot of hard work. Right before the event, we went out to do last-minute flyering. By then I was actually already pretty tired, and I remember going out there to talk to more students and inviting them to come thinking: “this is wild, I can’t believe I’m doing this right now!” And Welcome Night hadn’t even started yet! Somehow I survived Welcome Night, and then the momenteous task of cleaning and organizing all the food and equipment we had used throughout the day. I was so tired at the end, but it was so joyful! It was awesome to experience just giving my all and being spent for a worthy cause.

Our Sunday Service was also really fun, with the mission teams we had over 100 people and it felt pretty poppin’. There were quite a few students looking for a church who came to check us out!

This past two weeks, things have been a lot slower and more toned down. Students here actually get pretty stressed the first week, so outreach slowed down a lot and our kickoff event last Friday was a much cozier group. Last night, we had boba and board games and it was a fun time of getting to know students!

We’ve been doing things like tabling, tea for thought, and more low-key outreach. Olivia, Jana, and I are taking classes–I’m taking CS 15112, the equivalent of CS61A at Berkeley(again). It gives us things like campus wifi, room access, and gym access as well!

For me, it feels weird being on campus and being a student at a campus that’s not my home campus. Sometimes when I walk around campus, I get an urge to yell “I’M A FAKE STUDENT! THIS IS CRAZY!” it’s hard to remember that I don’t need to treat this like school at Berkeley–and it is a bit lonelier being at school without DL and the familiarity of our big community, even knowing Jana and Olivia and the students that we’ve recently met.

One recent thing I’ve been learning is just resting in Jesus’s grace again, especially with DT in Romans. I love Romans 5:1-11–it’s easy for me to feel, especially during the day, that I’m not doing enough–people are paying for me to be here, but I’m not doing outreach or meeting people, I’m just catching up on life or reading or doing homework for a class that doesn’t even matter. I’m really learning to just rest in Jesus’s grace and not frantically worry about doing “enough” or seeming lame–when I’m putting pressure on myself to meet people, just seeing them as ways to make myself feel validated, I can’t actually love them and they don’t actually benefit from that. What God wants is not good works or more devotion or more service, but for me to just be personally relating with him in every moment.

Please pray for our church! I feel really burdened and challenged for God’s vision of the Acts 2 Church. I thought how church plants worked was we would show up, and the Acts 2 church would just kind of happen, but seeing how the 13 of us have been tasked to implanting this church to our sophomores/juniors/seniors, as well as freshmen, is a momentous task. It doesn’t just happen, the devotion and love and community and sacrifice and service we’ve experienced have to be transmitted somehow, or they won’t get it. Making that a new norm in their lives is on me, and the rest of the team here, and it just seems so far out and I feel so inadequate for that task. Man, if/when the church here grows into that community, and eventually becomes an Acts 2 church or even a sending church, that will be so awesome!

Miss you all! Hannah

We have arrived!

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cardinal It has been a while since my last update, but we have safely arrived in Pittsburgh! The last two weeks of training were pretty intense, and were more difficult than the first week. Some things we did:

-Course 101 drilling, which was not getting destroyed but a chance to get coached on how to present the material by some of our most seasoned instructors. -more cooking camp: we made meatloaf, chili, dakjim, pork roast, kimbap, and katsu. -going on a prayer retreat to prayer mountain and reading Humility. -Finishing memorizing 2 Timothy and taking a quiz -Joyworld babysitting: This was a really good learning experience as I don’t consider myself that good with kids. I feel like I can’t relate to them on their level–the prideful part of me doesn’t want to get down on their level and do stuff that I consider “silly”. It was a crazy experience to get tossed into a classroom of 15 K-2nd graders and entertain them from 5:30-10:30 on a Friday! But I got to see and appreciate a lot of what went on every Friday so people could reach out to me and build up my experience of a2f. Joyworld takes a lot of work, thought, and energy to plan engaging activities and constantly manage the kids. -Sierra Lodge trip with all the other first-year interns and the entire Berkeley College team! It was crazy to have all 160ish of us at Sierra Lodge, but it was so much fun, including an inter-class sports competition

Here is an email I wrote about our first couple days in the East Coast:

Hi everyone,

​It’s our one-week anniversary in the East Coast! I miss you all a lot! Our send-off was really touching and I was amazed by how many people came to say goodbye and all the thoughtful words and cards we received. It didn’t feel real that we were leaving, but I was thankful for all the relationships God had blessed me with over the last four years. I know that I was often hard to love and neglectful of my relationships, but it’s amazing that God has placed so many of you in my life.

When we arrived in Baltimore, Pastor Timothy and Alice picked us up at the airport and we went on a tour of UMD! The UMD and GMU teams welcomed us just like family, cooking us so much food and getting to know us, even though few of us knew them personally before this. We spent the next few days training with Pastor Will and Alice and the other East Coast CPIs, touring DC monuments, the Capitol, and the Bible museum. These days were really really precious just getting to know each other, getting to know Pastor Will and Esther, having a LOT of fun, hearing the word of God, and praying for each other. I was so thankful that Pastor Will and Esther were willing to spend those two whole days with us even though they’re the EC Leads and must be so busy. They were so much fun to be around and I appreciated all their wisdom and love.

We also had a one day EC rally where I got to meet a lot of the other EC church plant members who I only previously heard stories about or saw on Thanksgiving Retreat videos. It was cool to experience that sense of unity with the others I had just met, knowing that we were committing to strive side by side for the east coast. We heard a bible study on Saul and Pastor Will challenged us again to really depend on God and be driven by our relationship with him and listening to his word.

The retreat was a lot of fun, but it got real when we all separated and got into our cars to drive to our different locations. Olivia, Jana, and I were warmly welcomed by the team, who were all really excited to meet us!

We have a HUGE apartment only a 5-10 minute walk from CMU campus! However, Pittsburgh only allows 3-4 unrelated people to live in an apartment, and we have 7 sisters living there, so we need to talk to the landlord and beg them to allow us to live there. The entire East Coast is very hot and humid right now, which takes some getting used to, although Pittsburgh is less humid.

So far, we have hung out a lot with our lead(Judy) at her house, doing personal reading, running errands, helping unpack, set up, and clean. We toured campus and also went to check out different classrooms and venues yesterday. We’ve eaten A LOT of food and ice cream! We’ve been to an Asian market, the grocery store, and an ice cream place but haven’t had a chance to check out Pittsburgh for real yet. Campus is heavily under construction right now, a tiny campus with big buildings with a lot of nooks and crannies(we did a ~4-5 hour exploration yesterday!)

I’m thankful for how my motivations and faith are really challenged out here. It’s so clear what my Christian life has to be about because everything else–my friends, the big community, our old structure, the beautiful weather and scenery of Alameda, the perks and comforts, the familiarity of home– are all stripped away. I never really thought of life in Alameda/Berkeley/HB as comfortable but now I’m getting to see just how privileged we were in Berkeley church! Out here, here’s nothing else besides our small team, prayer, and God’s word to turn to, so I’m looking forward to really grow to treasure those things.

We’re receiving so much grace from the team and older sisters who are loving us, treating us to food, furnishing/getting all the stuff for the apartment, giving us rides… For me, it’s a temptation to feel pressure to perform–“they’re giving us so much, so I better work to deserve it”, “They’re so excited for us to be here and I don’t want to disappoint them”, and I have to correct this thinking with the gospel, that I’m a sinner and they know that, but they love us and want to extend us grace. I’ve already gotten to see more of my sin, my pride and selfishness manifested in relational conflict, my laziness and lack of servanthood manifested in how I disdain menial tasks, my insecurity and lack of trust in God. It’s through seeing those things that I could deepen in my appreciation of the gospel and love of God and let that fuel me every day. Pushing my body, working on relationships, trying to keep up a good attitude with little rest is difficult, and when ministry starts, it’ll be even harder. It’s easy to try to just psych myself up for it, but it really isn’t sustainable without the gospel and being strengthened by God.

Our team meets every night to work and pray. Ministry hasn’t even started yet, but we’re trying to bathe the semester in prayer. Angell and Judy are new to the campus too, so we’re trying to develop a heart for the students so that no matter what we face, we would just try to love them. CMU students are very smart, involved, and ambitious, with little in their schedule or bandwidth left over to think about the big questions.

Prayer requests: *Please pray hard for our housing that the landlord would have mercy and let us live there! *For the incoming students to be spiritually open *For us to be an encouragement and strength to each other *For me to grow in my heart for God, appreciation of the gospel, and willingness to do whatever is needed rather than just the most “important” things

Thanks, Hannah

First week of training done!

First week of CPI training is in the books! It was packed with a pretty regular schedule. From 7AM-7:40, we exercise, then we go shower and wash up. From 8:30-10, we do our daily devotions and pray together, then we have our first session, and then lunch. We are then split into teams to clean HB(different staff volunteer to teach us to clean and supervise our cleaning), and then we have our second session. For dinner four days a week, we do “cooking camp” where three of us go to different people’s houses and they teach us how to cook more efficiently. Then, we do bible reading at HB(with the goal of reading through the New Testament+Jeremiah). For content, we’ve been watching a lot of webcast videos from our church’s College Ministry Training Retreat, including messages on Psalm 73, 2 Corinthians 4, and topics like the word of God, Soul Care, conversations, relationships, and clear thinking.

It’s been really awesome! It’s been fun getting to know the other CPIs(13 from Berkeley, 6 from Davis, 3 from Austin, 4 from LA, 2 from Irvine, one each from SF, Riverside, and Santa Barbara). Even though we all come from different places and backgrounds, and most of us didn’t know each other that well before training, I feel a sense of camaraderie with them. It’s only in the church that such a random motley group could come together with no drama, politics, cliques, or competitiveness. I think we really are experiencing a sense of unity as we all share the same desire to grow in our relationship with God and same heart for the campuses. We all started out in different places spiritually and with varying interest(or no interest) in church, yet we were captivated by the love and community we witnessed and later by the truth of the gospel. We all share the same experiences of painful ministry stories and concern for the younger ones and the churches we were leaving behind. We spend a lot of time together, and while we sometimes have disagreements, exhausted grouchiness, embarrasing moments(like when I accidently flung my peers’ notebook into the air and what seemed like every handout from the past two years fluttered out from between the pages), I’m thankful for this neew experience of covanental relationships.

I also have gotten to experience a greater sense of love from the church. It means a lot that our church is going all out for the sake of our training. It really hit me when I came back the first day hungry from working out and showering and there was a TON of breakfast food ready in the kitchen for us(of course not only for us but for everyone else at HB that morning too). I LOVE the korean version of chicken porridge and as I was digging into it I thought it was amazing that some people got up super early every morning to prepare this for us, for free. That’s crazy! People(some of our oldest and most experienced church members) have dedicated time to teaching us to cook and clean and do stuff even when they have a lot of ministry responsibilities, kids at home, etc. It’s not because we have so much potential to accomplish a lot or give a lot back to the church, but just because they want to pour into us even more than we have already received.

This upcoming week, we are going to do a lot of drilling of our church’s fundamental Christianity material called Course 101 and 201, and other training!

Cheers, Hannah

Training starts tomorrow!

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The past week has been a whirlwind! From Saturday to Friday, my family and I went camping in Tuolomne Meadows, Yosemite. We went to a bunch of awesome hikes and destinations including Cloud’s Rest, Cathedral Lakes, Mono Pass, Lambert Dome, and Lower Yosemite Falls. It was a lot of fun(although we got on each others’ nerves occasionally, and it was difficult living conditions with a lot of mosquitos, a lot of dirt, and no showers).

Right now, I’m staying at one of my peers’ houses with O, my CPI partner who’s also going to CMU. It’s so weird after years of living in a dinky apartment to have a house with our own washer and dryer, and TONS of space and walk-in closet! There are 6 of us at this house right now, and 6 more at our other house just down the street. Today we had 9 people for dinner and it was a happy time.

On Friday and Saturday, we did Members orientation to become a member of Gracepoint church and New Intern orientation. Those were mostly going through different standard expectations about being an intern and logistical things. Today, we had Members Bible Study as well as attended the worship service with the college students/college staff.

Then, we had a short meeting where Pastor Ed and Kelly encouraged us to become good at receiving feedback(essential for living in really close proximity and constant interaction with each other) and answered logistics questions. It’s been really fun to meet the other CPIs coming in from Davis, Austin, Riverside, Irvine, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara!

Our official send-off date is *8/6!!!! Until then, our training goes from 7AM-10PM every day and consists of some kind of content, cleaning, cooking training, life skills training, exercising, and Bible reading! We’ll also be doing Joyworld on Fridays and helping out with the Element High School and Middle School retreats.

Really excited! Next couple weeks will be really busy.

Cheers, Hannah

Why CPI?

Hi everyone! Welcome to my website.

This is actually not my first time doing this. I had a blog from 8th grade to 12th grade, the url which is hopefully hidden somewhere deep, deep on the internet. I want to update my friends and family with what I’m doing at Pittsburgh, and keep a record for myself as well. To be clear, everything I’m going to write is just my own thoughts and experiences, not trying to preach anything or speak for anyone else.

As most of you know, I just graduated from UC Berkeley and I’ll be spending my first year out of college at Klesis@CMU as a Church Plant Intern(CPI). I have a month of training first before leaving for Pittsburgh at the end of July along with nine of my peers, but first I wanted to explain a bit more about what this is, and why I’m doing it.

As CPIs, we’ll be helping build up our Gracepoint Pittsburgh church by helping with campus bible study and services, reaching out to new students, and helping whoever’s interested to learn about Christianity and grow in their faith. Also probably things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, and babysitting.

I did not think this is what I would be doing upon graduation. Coming into college, my goal was to achieve a bunch of awesome things and land a great job (and guy) so others would respect and admire me. I knew all the Christian beliefs, but none of them felt particularly personal or relevant. I did not like church. To be honest, I didn’t really care about God as anything more than something I could pray to to ensure my success.

At college, I stumbled upon my church and was blown away by a community where people were dedicated to each other, to seriously studying God’s word and living it out. During this time I was convicted as a sinner–my apathy towards God was not just unfortunate, but a serious rejection of his love that resulted in selfishness and bitterness towards others. But Jesus came and died in my place so I could be forgiven and have an eternal personal relationship with God. I realized that that was the love that I had been looking for all along. I experienced this coming alive through being loved and forgiven by others in the church.

Over the next four years, I began to see college as a precious window of opportunity and see the gospel as the one thing I wanted my life to be about. I decided that no matter what career path I chose, I would commit myself to the people in the church and our shared vision of planting churches on college campuses.

At the end of my freshman year(2015), a few seniors became CPIs and started our Seattle church, first putting CPI on my radar. In summer 2017, we started churches on campuses in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey. Meanwhile, I interned at Splunk having a lot of fun doing something I loved with some really cool people. In early August, I hadn’t heard anything about CPIs, and assuming there would be no church plants this year, I accepted a full-time offer starting July 2018.

I was sitting at La Vals eating a margherita pizza in December when I got the notice that there was the opportunity to be a CPI this year. In the upcoming month, I thought a lot about what I wanted to do. Eventually I resolved that either Christianity was true or not, my life was going to be about the gospel or not, and if it was, I never wanted to be limited by fear of others’ disapproval or the pull of a lucrative salary and cushy career. My first year out of college is when I’m going to (hopefully) have the most freedom and the most energy. It’s an opportunity to put a stake in the ground for myself about what I want the rest of my life to be like.

Amazingly, God provided (through my amazing former manager) and Splunk revised my offer to start July 2019 instead.

So the first reason I’m going is out of gratitude for what God has done and a desire to participate in his work of saving souls. The gospel has to be transmitted not only through words but through being lived out among a community of people. There is such a need for solid, gospel-centered churches on campuses where students can get their questions answered and be welcomed into God’s people. I was lucky enough to experience this kind of church, and I want to build it so that others can experience it as well.

However, to be clear, God doesn’t need me on his mission, and it’s not out of any spiritual qualification that I’m being sent. I’ve made mistakes, missed opportunities, and hurt people and despite my best efforts, will continue to do so in the future. Even my best performance, Isaiah says, is like “filthy rags” compared to God’s righteousness. Going doesn’t make me any “better” in God’s eyes, because the gospel says I’m already a complete failure whose status before God comes 100% from Jesus’s cleansing sacrifice. That means that I could quit tomorrow and spend the next year reading BTS fanfiction instead, and God would love me the exact same.

The second reason I’m going is so I could experience God in a new way. Something I’ve been thinking about is how my experience of God became richer the more I stretched myself in ministry. Before, when my life consisted of consumning anime and YA novels, going to school, and sitting in a church service once a week, how much of God did I get to experience? No one to annoy me, so it was (relatively) easy to be patient. It’s (relatively) easy to love my family and friends, so love was easy. Nothing to persevere past (besides the Shingeki no Kyojin mid-season slump), no one to exhort or rebuke, no one exhorting or rebuking me. Christian life was easy and uneventful, and in my mind, I was a loving, patient, persevering person.

When I started to work together to do ministry, bumping up against others, all that changed. People annoyed me and I annoyed people. I saw how unloving and selfish I actually was when I tried and failed to love younger sisters. So when pushed beyond my comfort zone, I saw my own sin more clearly, I experienced more of God’s grace, and I was able to grow.

Going to Pittsburgh will do that to me, even more so. It’s a huge blessing that I can go, when I know there are so many of my peers who would love to go but have many circumstances preventing them. I’m thankful that out of love and grace, my church is willing to spend resources so I can experience this.

That was a very long post. (That’s the purpose of a blog, to give opinionated people like me the opportunity to talk as long as I want with no one to interrupt me!) This upcoming week, I’ll be camping in Yosemite (No internet! No showers! No real beds!) and then to the Bay Area for CPI training.

Have fun poking around my website! It’s under construction and really jank right now(it’s just a bunch of code forked/copy/pasted from the internet and strung together with HTML), so the design might get switched up. Let me know what’s broken so I can fix it.

Cheers,

Hannah