Releasing the Grip on Academic Success
“I really felt God was speaking to me, telling me to let go and let him take control of my life.”
“I felt really loved when I joined McGill Christian Fellowship. It was the biggest change in my spiritual life.”
Gabriel Jai grew up in Hong Kong, where he attended church regularly with his parents.
“I was pretty young. I had a lot of different influences, and the Christian life wasn’t that important to me. I had friends, peer pressure, school, so I wasn’t really a faithful Christian.”
From Place to Place
In 2010, Gabriel moved to the USA for school. In 2014, he applied to university in Canada, and was accepted at McGill.
“I got the acceptance two weeks before school started. I was very, very nervous and worried because I had two weeks to get my visa, study permit, find housing and get into courses. It was a miracle that I got my permit in time, and I got really good housing near my classes.”
Gabriel had cousins in town who brought him to Montreal Christian Alliance Church where he met Matt Lee, a student leader with InterVarsity at McGill (McGill Christian Fellowship, or MCF).
“Matt invited me to a small group, and that’s how I started going to McGill Christian Fellowship. And the more I got to know the leaders there, the more I experienced God’s work. I felt God convicting me just by being around them. I really enjoyed their company; they were very thoughtful. Especially my small group leader, Maggie—she’d call to see if I was coming to small group. She’d call everyone every week to see if there was anything she could pray about for them. It really touched me and I began to love going.
But school pressures were returning.
Holding On Tightly
“I was really, really focused on my studies, trying to achieve. I set high goals for myself and tried hard to reach them. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I stopped going to church and I skipped MCF events sometimes too.
“I remember during spring break, I had three or four midterms in a row and I did awful. And I just thought, what had I done wrong?? I spent like eight hours a day studying and worked all term and didn’t do well. I talked to my mom and she encouraged me to go back to church and read the Bible.
“So I did. I really felt God was speaking to me, telling me to let go and let him take control of my life. Every single day the Bible app I was using was on those topics; when I’d go to church on Sunday, the pastor would talk about letting God do the work. God really spoke to my heart, and I realized I didn’t have the power to achieve those high goals by myself.”
Releasing the Grip, Discovering Potential
In his third year, Gabriel studied Mark’s gospel with his InterVarsity friends and felt God speak again.
“I felt him say, ‘okay, now that you truly believe in me and have let me do the work, let yourself serve.’” So Gabriel joined the student leadership team.
“And I knew I would be graduating in a year and I had a lot of stuff going on; that could have made it easy to make excuses not to serve, but I saw it as a challenge, to keep serving. And it was good.”
International students make up 28% of InterVarsity’s undergraduate fellowship. Now a graduate student, Gabriel recently reached out to get involved with InterVarsity on campus at the University of Toronto.
If you’re interested in getting connected with InterVarsity, please visit www.intervarsity.ca/campus/locations.
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