Martin: You’re listening to Heart And Soul, a podcast from the Iglesia Ni Cristo Church of Christ. I’m your host, Martin Zerrudo, and I’ll be interviewing young adults from across the world who are living Christian lives, but are also dealing with real world problems. This is Heart And Soul.
Martin: Hey guys, you’re about to listen to part two of “A Friend In Need.” In part one, Vince and Amanda talked about how it’s gotten harder to find the right kind of friends the older they get. We went over some articles that tackled the difference between online connections, their social media, versus the physical friendships that we can make in person. Now in part two, Vince tells us about the loneliest moment of his life, and how Amanda found the one place where she feels she can be her true, authentic self. Hope you enjoy.
Amanda: I said, “No, I can’t. I can’t do those things. I feel like it’s wrong. And who knows what could happen to us, right?” And they’re just like, “No, nothing will happen. You’ll just have fun.” And then I just kept saying no. And then, after a while, I could feel like they were being distant with me. And I was thinking in my head, “Did I say anything wrong, did I do anything wrong?” But I didn’t approach them about it. I didn’t bring it up. I just focused on what my priorities were, which was school and Church. And friends, people come and go in your life. And if they stay, that’s great. If they don’t, just move on, keep going forward.
Martin: What was in your prayers during those times when they were really on you?
Amanda: During my prayers, I would always ask God for guidance and help in finding those friends who are true, who are genuine, and who won’t tarnish my faith and won’t tarnish my duties.
Martin: Vince,was there ever a time that you prayed for the right kind of friends? Or to find friends?
Vince: Yes. Definitely, when I joined the Navy, and I had to essentially leave a lot of the things I had built behind. Granted, there’s social media, right? So you can still maintain that. But that face, what we talked about before, that face-to-face interaction really plays a huge role in that. And so I had to leave all that behind. And once I moved to my duty station in Virginia Beach, it was just me. I had to try to find rides to go to Church, and didn’t really have a ride because I just came out from boot camp. I was alone for the most part. I did have a friend out in Virginia Beach, who I grew up with when I was in Japan, and I thought I could count on her since I was there. And we were there, we had this connection back in childhood. But due to her own circumstances though, that didn’t end up working out.
Martin: What were you hoping she was going to be for you?
Vince: I was hoping she was gonna be there for me, be my friend be able to be that medium to integrate me into the social life at Church, but it didn’t happen. And so I felt really alone for the first year I was there, just because I didn’t have a ride. Sometimes the KADIWA (youth group in the Church Of Christ) would ask me to hang out. But I didn’t have a ride, and I was still in school for my job. That’s what I had to focus on. So I would just go home right after Church, and go home right after the meeting, because my ride was waiting for me. And so I didn’t really have that much of an opportunity to hang out with anyone. It just continued on like that.
Martin: How long?
Vince: About a year, until I was finally able to bring myself to these activities and be more involved.
Martin: So, a whole year, you went pretty much on your own?
Vince: Yes. Pretty much.
Martin: What was that like?
Vince: It was difficult. I talked to my parents about it. I’m pretty open with my parents, I was asking, I really want some friends. It’s kind of lonely. Actually, for that New Year’s, I spent it alone in my room in the barracks.
Martin: No way.
Vince: Just watching on my laptop with apple cider and pizza, because I didn’t have anywhere to really hang out with. So it was pretty difficult. And so they advised me to pray, pray to God that He’ll guide you, and He’ll bring the right people into your life. So, that’s what I did. I prayed. And eventually, thank God, He was able to do that for me.
Martin: What was running through your mind? What year was this when you were in the barracks by yourself?
Vince: This is about 2013 going into ‘14.
Marti: So, it’s 2013, you got that cold pizza in your hand…
Vince: Yes. My cold Pizza Hut.
Martin: Yeah, livestreaming the the New York City celebration?
Martin: What is that like? What’s running through your head?
Vince: It’s just like, “Wow, look at all those people having fun,” and then, “Wow, there’s so many people that are together.” My family FaceTimed me for a little bit. I saw my family and friends on FaceTime. And I really miss it. I really miss home. And that was just kind of sad. And not really a…
Martin: Probably one of the lowest moments?
Vince: Yeah, yeah, about the lowest moments in my life. I felt like it was my fault, for not being a lot more extroverted, not being really sociable, because I’m a shy person before I make friends. I don’t put 100% of myself out there. I like to assess the situation first to see what type of person they are. And so I feel like that hindered me because I would have that mentality. And then I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t keep pushing myself to get to know people, to put myself in a situation where I would be friends with them.
Martin: Amanda, did you have a similar situation when Vince talks about “Hey, this is the lowest low, I was pretty much alone on a New Year’s Eve eating Pizza Hut”? No offence, Vince, we’ve all been there. Amanda, what would you say?
Amanda: Especially going into new settings and new social settings, I always have that apprehension and that anxiety that if I talk to these people will they like me? And I know that everybody has their insecurities, including myself, and it’s hard to get over those negative thoughts. “Are they going to like who I am? Are they going to like what I say?” I’m always constantly thinking, what if?
Martin: What would those “what ifs” be?
Amanda: If I say something will they not like it? Will they get offended? Or if I crack a joke, will they say, “Oh, she’s lame,” kind of thing. So, yeah, I always had those thoughts running in my head. So that as well is kind of like a mental block for me to open up to people, talk to them, and speak to them. Yeah, I always find that difficult in any social situation.
Martin: Is there a moment where you’re like, “Wow this is pretty rough”?
Amanda: Yes, because I know who I am and my insecurities. It’s always rough for me.
Martin: Oh, it’s not just one time?
Amanda: It’s usually for every social situation, especially in big groups. If I go to a party or a large social gathering, even for KADIWA activities (youth group in the Church Of Christ), I still get pretty nervous.
Martin: What are some of those insecurities?
Amanda: For myself it’s “Will they like me for who I am? Will they think I’m cool or not?” Yes, it’s just my thoughts. It’s my negative thoughts. Not everybody’s going to say or think the same thing that I’m thinking about what they could say about me.
Martin: But do you feel like, “Oh, so I’ve just had this my whole life,” or was there something that triggered or like, “Man, I just need to be more careful,” because I don’t know?
Amanda: For me, where it stems from is my insecurities about myself. Everybody thinks negatively about themselves at one point, like, “Oh, I don’t like how my hair looks,” or “I don’t like my freckles.” So, it comes from my own insecurities in my thoughts about myself. And it’s hard.
Martin: For sure, for sure, and I don’t want our listeners to feel like, “Oh, man. These guys, they have a hard time making friends. They don’t like to go out. They don’t like to have fun.” It’s not that at all, as referenced by Brother Bob, in the verse, we’re trying to find quality relationships, quality friendships with people who are going to help us not only in our day to day, but as people, and more importantly as Christians. Just because we’re not going to do certain things that we’re being pressured to do, it doesn’t devalue the friendships that we have to offer. It doesn’t devalue the time that we’re willing to provide, which is more valuable than a couple Instagram likes or shares on Facebook.
And so if you’re listening right now saying, “Okay, well, where did these guys find the right kind of friends? Where did they go to have fun in a way where it really helped them?” I point to an article “Seven ways to make new friends as an adult,” because it’s not as easy as it sounds. Now, this article talked a lot about how, because there’s so much stuff happening online, people don’t know where to go. Well, okay, I know that I can’t make this quality friendship on any social media platform, where am I supposed to go to define these kinds of people? And one of the ways that they said was volunteering. From the article, they say volunteering is a total win win. If you do it regularly, you’ll meet people who care about the same things that you care about. And if you don’t meet people, you still use your talents to do something good for the world. Now, Amanda, can you tell us, knowing that, how did your involvement in volunteering your time with the Church allow you to find the right kind of people for you to get over some of those insecurities that you’re talking about?
Amanda: Having the opportunity to volunteer for the Church really opened doors for me to have that setting where I can make friends, I can talk to people, as well as helping out in the Church. So, it allowed me to be more open and find the common ground where we all have something in common and can talk about, and that’s what allowed me to be more out there.
Martin: What did you notice in terms of the setting, the more you were involved in Church activities that was different from non-Church settings?
Amanda: What I noticed was that everybody was super friendly, everybody was super supportive. I felt very calm, and I didn’t have to feel like I’m trying to act in a way that they’ll like me. I felt very free and having conversations with them, and joke around not trying to be somebody that they would like.
Martin: There’s no judgment.
Amanda: No judgment. Yeah, exactly.
Martin: How important was that for you?
Amanda: For me, being able to freely express myself and be open is really great, it felt really awesome. Because it’s really hard to be authentic, and be genuine outside and be who you want to be, right? Feel comfortable in your own skin. And so that kind of helping out in the Church really helped me be more free and authentic.
Martin: And, Vince, you did something similar, you started volunteering more time in Church activities. Tell us a little about that, and how that helped you kind of discover a new core of friends.
Vince: Right. This is like about a year into my time in Virginia Beach, post New Year’s. And so I had my car, I can finally start performing again as a secretary (volunteer office work in the Church of Christ). And like Amanda said earlier, being involved in Church really gives you that visibility. A lot of the friends I have now, we’re also officers (in the Church Of Christ), and we would have that thing in common where we would spend time after Church to attend these meetings, attend these events, and be put in a leadership role for these events. And that was definitely the medium for me in making friends. Like a couple months later down the road, I knew from my past experiences in high school that the Christian Family Organizations like the BINHI organization (youth group in the Church Of Christ) when I was growing up really helped me in making friends whenever I would move. And so my thought process was that’s my medium to make friends. And so I took that upon myself to approach the KADIWA (youth group in the Church Of Christ) officers and ask, “Hey, is there a way for me to also become an officer?” Because when you’re part of a team, you get closer with one another, and eventually, hopefully, you’ll become friends when you’re on the same team. And so I had that thought process going into this, and got a couple of them they talked to me about it (about being more involved with Church). They let me go through the process of becoming an officer. And then at that time, the old KADIWA officers were actually transitioning, and so it was just going to be a whole new team. And we were going through these seminars and everything to get us ready to take over for them. And then we bonded through these activities that the officers would hold.
Vince: And so we’re able to get to know each other through these icebreakers and activities.
Martin: What was that trigger for you that said, “I’m going to give these activities in the Christian Family Organization a shot, I’m tired of lonely pizza”?
Vince: I think that lonely pizza was the trigger. But the trigger was I was actually looking for something. I saw them having fun at the KADIWA meetings, cracking some inside jokes. And I know how that was, like being a BINHI officer. And so I was like, “I think they have the same mentality that I do. So, let me go ahead and approach them.”
Martin: So, the outside looking in, and you’re like, “I want in.”
Vince: Yeah, pretty much like I’m tired of eating this cold, lonely pizza…
Martin: Eat the pizza together, at least.
Vince: Pretty much.
Martin: Now for those of you listening who are not members of the Church Of Christ, we do have the Christian Family Organization, which Brother Bob can elaborate on a little bit more, but its organizations that are set up to foster relationships within different age groups within the Church Of Christ. Brother Bob, can you tell us a little bit more about how the Christian Family Organization helps the youth within the Church? And why, you know it happened to Amanda here in Toronto, it happened to Vince in Virginia Beach, and as a minister who has been assigned to multiple places around the world, why is that a consistent thing that he would see at any of these Church Of Christ locations, this kind of unity, this family organization that’s meant to foster friendships?
Brother Bob: Well, surely, a married couple with three children are not going to have the same time or wants or likes and dislikes, etc, as a single person who’s 18 years old. So, the Church Administration has always tried to cater programs, activities, where they would have an opportunity to get together relative to their own age group, situation in life. The younger than 18 youth group would be focusing at various programs that have to do with future college education, or study habits and things like that. Whereas those who are already a married age, those groups would have various seminars on proper Christian courting, and things like that parenting, symposiums and such would be undertaken by those who are married and having children, or challenged with their current parenting skills. So many different things we could mention. All of these are simply an attempt of the Church Administration to help everyone along their journey to serve God with faithfulness and with concern for their spiritual and family life.
Martin: Absolutely. I remember this story. So for myself, I wasn’t born in the Church. Later converted into the Church Of Christ, and grew up in my teens as a new member. And then, eventually, when I became 18, within that KADIWA Family Organization was very active. I guess, similar to what Amanda and Vince were going through. I wasn’t always at the Church activities because I didn’t have time, or I didn’t think it was for me to my foolish detriment. But eventually one of the officers, or somebody who was volunteering their time with the Church had said, “Hey, do you want to grab some coffee?” and I said “Sure.” But she didn’t take me to coffee, she took me to one of these, like a meeting of these other volunteers to kind of discuss an event that they were going to do for similar aged members of the Church as me and I was like, “Wait a minute, this isn’t Tim Hortons. This is somebody’s house, and we’re talking about like an event.” And that triggered, that moment where she brought me, (a) change my life completely. I didn’t give it a second thought. And then the moment I was there, I was like “This is where I need to be.”
Brother Bob: By the way, Martin, it’s important to let your listeners know, Tim Hortons is the best coffee house, anywhere. You want some good coffee, go to Tim Hortons.
Martin: Tim Hortons in Canada. There are some in New York, but it’s not the same.
Amanda: And their Timbits are amazing. Honey cruller.
Martin: And that’s the thing is that these volunteers within the Church, if you’re a member, or if you’re a non member, as a listener, you go to one of our chapels, and you talk to the people who are of your age group or those who welcome you into the Church, there are events, there are activities, there are conversations at coffee places like Tim Hortons, where you get to know and feel like you’re part of this Christian Family Organization. Because that’s our goal is to make everybody who is wanting to learn more about the Church who wants to start their spiritual journey and those who are already a part of the Church feel like we’re all family. I remember now that I eventually became more active in the Church, I became an officer, a district officer like Sister Amanda in this district. So, I met this friend, his name is Bobby Soriano, he was already a member of the Church Of Christ, recently baptized, and I met him at one of these visitations. And so I would go to this visitation then I would see Bobby again. And I go to another visitation and see Bobby again. And you know, he could have just joined the activities in New York, in his area, in his district (geographical collection of local congregations), but he wanted to continue to feel what he was feeling and those activities in other parts. And then he became all more active, he eventually got married. Now, I believe he’s a Head Deacon, in the Local Congregation of Manhattan there. I think it’s Long Island. It just surprised me that I made a friend who I never would have expected to meet because I decided to volunteer my time. He decided to do the exact same thing, two people who would never have met, but decided to spend time at Church of all places to find a friend. And I made a lifelong friend, because of it.
And so I urge our listeners, if somebody shares this podcast with you, and they’re a member of the Church Of Christ, and they say, “Hey, I want you to listen to this podcast to give our Church a chance.” You got to get to know what we’re all about. This is how we view friendships. Sometimes you might think we’re not fun, because we don’t want to do bad things. Sometimes you might think we don’t have time because we’re always devoting time to volunteering in the Church. But the payoff, like what Amanda was talking about, like Vince was talking about something life changing, where Amanda, you said, insecurities, no judgment. And for Vince, you said, “You’re no longer on the outside, you’re on the inside?” What is that, Brother Bob? How do we describe that feeling, I feel like I’m home?
Brother Bob: Well, actually there is there is something mentioned in the Bible about that, in fact, Martin. In Proverbs 18:24, it says:
Some friends are fun to be with. But a true friend can be better than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 (ERV)
Imagine making mentioned here in the Bible that’s even better than a family member. A true friend can be better than that. So, it’s not just having someone, an acquaintance that you have fun with. That’s not necessarily the definition of a friend. That’s an acquaintance you have fun with. But a true friend is something much deeper than that. And it sounds to me that that’s what Vince and Amanda, both of you have experienced when you came to the Church Of Christ. You felt a deeper love, trust, relationship? Or maybe just that kind of a genuine connection that was not superficial? And that’s what we invite all those joining here to be part of. Become part of the family of Church Of Christ members.
Martin: Definitely. We want to thank Amanda and Vince for coming on the show. I’m sure this is the first many conversations. Thank you so much for being honest, vulnerable enough to admit the challenges when it comes to making friends, and for the courage, the confidence and the faith that really goes long way. Now, if you’re looking to find real friendship, not only with Christians, but more importantly, with God, please you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Day or night, you’ve got a friend in us there, we’ll be there for you. Please follow our hashtag for the show on Instagram, #heartandsoulconversations, which is on social media. But if you want that face-to-face real connection, any of are members of the Church Of Christ who listen to the show will be more than happy to continue this Heart and Soul conversation at any of our chapels around the world. That’s it from us today. I hope you’ll join us next time, ready again to listen with all your heart and soul. Take care.
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