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Lydia UnderwoodAsbury University is a special place for Lydia Underwood ’18. Not only is it the place that provided her with an opportunity to spend a semester in China, but it’s also the place where she honed her artistic craft and, most importantly, it’s where she met Jesus.

“My favorite Asbury tradition is Fall Revival,” Underwood said. “My freshman year when I went to fall revival, I actually became a Christian. I kind of knew about Christ growing up and thought I was a Christian but I never really had a heart change. So, during that week was when the Lord really met me and helped me realize that I had head knowledge about him but not a relationship. So, looking back four years from then I can totally see that that’s where my life really began to change and mold into what He was calling me to do.”

Check out a spoken word performance of Underwood’s testimony that she gave in Chapel during Reunion 2018 or read the full text below.

Underwood’s Asbury education has given her the tools to begin a career in full-time ministry following her graduation.

“Asbury has really helped me grow closer to the Lord and to develop as a well-rounded person, not just in academics, but in how I lead and serve and my philosophy of life,” Underwood said. “I think I’m set up well and really supported as I head into full-time ministry in the fall.”

At 14, God put a call on Underwood’s heart to go to China to pursue long-term ministry. During her time at Asbury, she completed the China Study Abroad program, and during the summer before her senior year, she completed and internship with English Language Institute in China (ELIC). This fall, Underwood will move to China to teach English for two years at a university through ELIC. Through the China Study Abroad program, Underwood gleaned some very important and transferable lessons that she’s been able to apply to many areas of her life.

“I learned how to be flexible,” Underwood said. “People who know China joke that its middle name is ambiguity, so you just have to go with the flow. Every day is different, even if you have an itinerary. You just have to be ready for everything. It taught me to be flexible and work well with others, and it challenged me with questions like, ‘What are you going to do when things get hard? Are you going to turn to the Lord or suffer or be bitter?’”

Underwood worked as an Ambassador during her last year at Asbury and always shared one piece of advice with prospective students she met while giving tours.

“I always challenged prospective students to start asking the questions that someone proposed to me when I was looking at schools,” Underwood said. “You can study anywhere; you can get a degree from your home. You don’t even have go to school. It’s not about what you want to study, but who you want to be.”

What does it mean to be bold?

A spoken word poem by Lydia Underwood

They say that to be bold is to be courageous, taking risks without reservation, but the confidence society tries to grow is planted in a bed of self-preservation – the root is fear.

So, in that I tried to stand up, to stand out, but my vomits of vulnerability were more like acting out. I thought to be real is to be bare, so in an attempt to understand I laid there, exposed, inviting society to gawk, judge and determine my clothes.

And they willingly handed labels and opinions, which I used to cover my wounds. And it felt good in the limelight, but the material was uncomfortable, itchy and it never even fit quite right in the first place. When those talkers turn to walkers, again I was left alone, cradling in my arms the weight of their words, opinions without answers. I listened to, their mantra become my own. I believed what society said about my identity. Fear of man would prove to be a snare and outfit after outfit I took off and put on until I was an outfitted outsider in my own naked skin.

I put the weight of sin on my feet like shoes, sprayed the compliments of man on my body like cheap perfume, wrapped a coat of insecurity around my chest. I was trying to keep it together. I couldn’t cover the smell of my rotting flesh, death. I couldn’t cover it up, I couldn’t hide, everyone knew it, so I put on a mask labeled pride. And that lasted for a while.

Until I came here.

I was tired of trying to be everything society asks of me – successful, accomplished, noteworthy, pretty. I was crushed underneath the weight of every expectation I accepted – I tried. And failed. Fall revival freshman year I knelt at this altar and cried.

But GOD…

Said

Who told you that you were naked?

Man looks at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart. That beating pulse that drives motive – that’s where I start. I’m not here to medicate pain or correct behavior. The invitation of love is about relationship through Jesus Christ, My Son, your Savior. Let me tell you the truth. Status, wealth, achievement, looks and education are not your identity; You are not your name, family, past present future, who your friends are, or if you even have any. You are not what’s been done to you or what you’ve put others through. I’m calling you out of shame – take my hand. I am your heavenly Father, not your earthly dad. When you come to me all of heaven applauds for you are not sinner or slave but Child of God.

Beloved, you can be bold when you are set free; you are free when you know your identity – who you are by whose you are.

So, what does it mean to be bold?

To be bold is to be honest; He knows it all anyway. To be bold is to accept process, embracing new mercies day by day. To be bold is to be obedient, to His word and to His voice; to be bold is who you turn to when you’ve made the wrong choice.

At this altar I beheld and became not just a believer, but a receiver, of relationships, first from Him and then from you. I know who I am because He is the Great I AM, and by the grace of God I am what I am and His grace to me was not without effect. I’m moving to China. But I was never the subject. His mercy, His plan, His power, His hand, His strength, His provision, His Word, His vision, His Son, His Kingdom, His glory, His dominion. His coming, His breath, His life, His death, His heart, His mind, His sovereignty, divinity, sufficiency, capability, unconditionally loving me and I am floored at His throne in praise I unfold.

I surrender all.

That is what it means to be bold.