This is where I learned more in depth about Christianity. -Thomas Saekao, Alumni

Before I met Jesus

When I was a freshman at Goergia Tech, about 4 years ago, I was uninterested in being involved in any extracurricular clubs/activities, and especially religious ones or Christianity ones because I thought they were out to convert you or something. However, I was interested in dancing because I did a little bit in high school so one of my friends invited me to join this dance team called IMPACT. But I wanted to use that 1st semester of college to really settle and focus into my studies so I didn’t join anything. Like most other Techies, I was blinded by this vision of the “good life” where success, money, and a decent job come first. However, with that mindset I felt like I was missing something…

Then 2nd semester came, and I felt an urge to focus on other things and I remembered my friend who told me about the dance team. So I asked her, “Hey what was the name of that dance team you told me to join earlier? I kind of want to check it out now.” 

She told me that it was called IMPACT, but this time she told me more about it and said it was a dance team part of the ministry KCCC (Soon Movement) and it’s a Christian dance team. When she told me that, I was hesitant to join because I felt uncomfortable with Christianity I felt like I wouldn’t be able to fit in. I contemplated not going anymore but what she said next made me think again about it. She said that this team is different from other dance teams because everyone is accepted regardless of dance experience and that it’s like one big close family. At the time, I didn’t really know how to dance so hearing that no dance experience was required helped and also hearing that everyone is really close together like family helped a lot. So after hearing these things, I decided to give it a shot and go to the first practice of the new semester.

I went, and there were a lot of people so I was a bit intimidated, and then we all circled up before practice. I thought it was going to just be a brief intro of what IMPACT is since it’s the beginning of a new semester, but instead, we sat in a circle and prayed. That’s when I felt super uncomfortable. So, then I just went about the rest of the practice learning the dance, and it was difficult, and I didn’t get the dance at all. At the end of the practice, when we do the final recording, I was like the only one who sat out of it because I guess I was the only one who didn’t get the dance. After that practice, I was really thinking of not coming back. But for some reason, I decided to stay…

There were two main reasons why I stayed. One was that the current members really reached out to me, allowing me to feel welcomed in an uncomfortable environment. But a deeper reason is that I was just confused and curious. I wanted to know the true purpose of why they dance. Before, I simply thought the purpose of dancing was just to look cool and show off your skills and impress the audience. But that clearly wasn’t the case here because 90% of the team had no dance experience yet they continue to dance even though it’s hard and perform even though it’s nerve-wracking. But they were all united with one purpose and with one goal. They didn’t care whether they looked good or not as long as the message was clear. Of course, I didn’t understand this at first, but I did the longer I stayed with the team. Even though I was a non-believer at the time, I knew for sure, when I talked with the members, it wasn’t them I was seeing but it was Christ inside of them. This love and feeling of unity that I felt was what caused me to stay and through that, I gained a home away from home and an unbreakable bond with other brothers and sisters.

However, despite finding this family to dance with, I was still hesitant on seeking God. I felt that it was unnecessary to submit your life to God and did not see the point in dedicating so much time to God when time could be used for something else. The idea that there is a God who created everything and the idea that we must submit to him perplexed me and each time I was exposed to these ideas, I felt very uncomfortable. After going to my first Soon Movement meeting, I told myself that I was never going to go back again because the intensity of which they were praising and praying intimidated me. To me, it looked like they were crazy because I didn’t know why they were praising and praying so intently.

How I met Jesus

What this ministry puts a huge focus on is discipleship. In the next school year, this guy named Gabe, who was the IMPACT leader at the time asked me if I wanted to be his soonwon – or disciple. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I said “yeah why not” because I thought he was cool. I was still extremely uncomfortable going to Soon Movement events, like Large Group and Gethsemane, but instead, I did this thing called soonmoim, or bible study with my Soonjang. This is where I learned more in depth about Christianity. Gabe had three soonwons and we always did soonmoim in a group, which was nice because we got to bond with not only him, but with each other as well. This family of brothers was amazing because we would do a lot of things together, talk about anything together, and they would always answer my questions, since I was new to Christianity. I was very encouraged by them because they always made sure that I was comfortable. If they knew that a topic was too uncomfortable for me to discuss, we wouldn’t discuss it. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I know for sure that I saw glimpses of Christ love through these brothers. But I still couldn’t understand how people can commit their lives to Christ.

This all led up to me going to my first church Sunday service. I can say here that God’s timing is so perfect because this Sunday happened to be a baptism service at this church. People were getting baptized, but beforehand, each of them shared their personal testimony about coming to Christ. I heard all these amazing testimonies about lives being changed and trusting in a greater God, and this is where I really became curious about God’s existence. Through these testimonies, I started asking myself if there really is a God out there, if someone really did come down to die for our sins, and if there really is eternal salvation after death. From this point on, I started learning more about Christianity.

Shortly after, I reluctantly decided to attend Higher Calling Conference. I was still uncomfortable going, but I had a feeling that maybe I would get something out of it. I didn’t go with many expectations, but this conference exceeded my expectations. The conference’s main theme was “life” and the theme verse was “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 ). During the last night, I realized that this life was what I was lacking, that there was nothing to look forward to in life without Christ. It wasn’t about myself, my studies, anyone else, but it was only about God. During the prayer time, the person who led it said, “if there’s anyone struggling to receive Christ, please raise your hand so we may pray for you.” I rose my hand and immediately many brothers and sisters surrounded me and prayed for me and that was the moment I realized Christ’s love and sacrifice and came to accept Him. I felt this overwhelming wave of God’s love and an overwhelming feeling of how undeserving I was to receive it. I realized that I am a sinner and Christ came to set me free. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). I broke down in tears with this realization and cried on many fellow brothers that day.

After (Commitments)

Shortly after receiving Christ, I had an offer to partake in discipleship training. I was reluctant because I felt highly unqualified. I felt that I lacked knowledge and experience, but many people encouraged me that it’s not about how much you know but the love and heart that you have for others around you. And something that my SJ told me right before I started doing SJ training was that being a SJ is such a wonderful privilege, and that he wouldn’t trade his relationships with his SWs for anything else. The love I felt from my SJ made me really look up to him as a role model and from that, I wanted to share this love to others as well, who are still looking for a family away from home, or a community just to grow together in. I wanted to seek a love so great that I couldn’t help but pour it upon others who have not yet experienced this love.

In the beginning, I was on fire for this and wanted to share Christ’s love everywhere. However, I started entering a season of spiritual dryness once I realized that I was trying to please people instead of God. I was doing a lot to reach out and speak to others, but I had not focused on my own personal time with God. Especially as a new Christian, foundation is extremely important. This is where Jae Pyo, my next Soonjang, came in (my previous SJ graduated) and challenged me to personally know God even more. The more I met him and did bible study with him, the more I saw Christ throughout the word. “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). I felt that I got the best of both world with my two Soonjangs because Gabe taught me to love people whereas Jae taught me to love God.

Through faith in Christ and a desire to share Christ love, I made commitments to take on 2 soonwons, go on missions to EA, and lead IMPACT within the next year. It was a year of growth and discipline, but I believe it helped reaffirm my purpose as God’s child. At this time, I couldn’t believe the journey that God took me on. I went from a non-believer barely wanting to join IMPACT to leading others in dancing for Christ. I would have never imagined this before. IMPACT consisted of many different people from diverse backgrounds. There were many non-believers, but we all came together simply to dance. The story we shared that year was about Christ’s love and sacrifice and our role as His children in fulfilling the great commission. Regardless of belief or dance experience, we came together to share this beautiful message on stage, and I believe that it wasn’t us dancing on that stage, but it was the Jesus inside of us. A motto that we kept on saying that year was “Dance not to impress but to express”. I’m so thankful that we were able to share the Gospel through dance to our members and to the audience. Though they may not fully believe yet, the seed was planted. “Let them praise His name with dancing” (Psalm 149:3).

After graduation, the ideal route is to focus on job, career, success, and money, which was tempting, but I felt an urge to come back and serve in ministry. I saw this sign from God when I suddenly got a job offer in Atlanta even though I had already accepted one in Boston. I knew that there was purpose for me to stay in Atlanta. In the beginning, however, I limited myself to my comfort zone and served within IMPACT. Even though it was difficult to balance a full-time job along with serving IMPACT, I still grew complacent and stagnant in my faith because I lacked desperation and started idolizing laziness and relaxation. Even IMPACT started reflecting the complacency of my faith. We were facing hardships this year with numbers dwindling dramatically and passion to dance for God diminishing. Then this year went by and summer came along, where I attended two retreats emphasizing the danger of growing lukewarm, allowing God to influence ALL areas of your life, and running the race for God, throwing away all sin which entangles us. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

I felt that God was calling me out of my comfort zone. I decided to take on the challenge of serving as a campus staff at GSU while still serving within IMPACT. I honestly had no idea what to expect in the beginning, but as time went on, and as I spent more time with my campus, I developed a bond with them. It was challenging because I had no experience with leading campus ministry before, but God works even though the unqualified. This first semester was more getting to know one another and had many fellowship activities. God also worked through IMPACT this semester and brought a huge revival, with many wanting to join and praise God through dancing.

Then, the next semester came, and the beginning was very difficult. There were logistical complications with the current GT staff, forbidding him from coming to campus. As a result, we were short on staff members and now had to cater to both GSU and GT. It was at this point where I felt very stretched with having to take on two campuses, planning Large Group and discipleship training, choreographing for IMPACT, performances, along with a full-time job and grad school. But it was through the grace of God and His everlasting provisions which gave me the strength to serve. I was extremely thankful to the GSU DPD duo for remaining calm in this situation and wholeheartedly serving both campuses. I can also see it as God’s plan in bringing two campuses closer together. I loved the unity that came out of this and I even saw an opportunity to add IMPACT into the mix! The intercampus unity was beautiful and over time, I saw that everything was in God’s full control. We simply had to stay faithful and trust in his provisions. God never fails to provide as I saw fruit from both campuses and an IMPACT team that was on fire to dance for God. This specific semester, I saw everything point back to the Gospel and to Jesus. There’s absolutely nothing we can do to earn our salvation because Jesus has already earned it for us… and that is the Good News, the Gospel. Though it was my hardest and most tiring semester serving in ministry, I can confidently say that it was personally the most meaningful one to me. I was just glad that God was able to use me for His will and invite others into this ministry of reconciliation which God has given us. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).