For Tanya, feeling lonely and distant from God was part of her life from a young age. Born in China and the only child of her Asian-American mother and American father, she longed to be loved and feel like she belonged.
Growing up, Tanya never understood the hope found in the gospel. “I had a very wrong view of what Christianity was. I didn’t really know who God was,” she recalls. Through middle school, Tanya’s relationship with her parents grew more and more distant. As the tension at home rose during her high school years, Tanya sought distraction in relationships with guys, drinking, and experimenting with drugs. “I just felt like I could say and do anything, and it would all be meaningless anyway. I was so numb and didn’t know what it meant to value myself.”
Tanya was accepted to The University of Texas at Austin to study medicine. For the first two years of college, she dated a guy who led the same party lifestyle. In the last semester of her sophomore year, Tanya was sick with fevers, and her body was responding negatively to her detrimental choices. The pain began to affect her daily life, making everyday tasks like running errands and going to class harder. One night after a drunken argument with a friend, Tanya remembers pacing outside along the street and crying out to God for help. “My thoughts were increasingly dark. I was so frustrated with everything and everyone,” she remembers.
God heard her prayer. A few months later—driving 80 miles per hour down the highway—Tanya hit an object that fell from a truck in front of her. She skidded out of control, until coming to a stop in the median of the busy highway. With three lanes of traffic on either side, she just sat there, stunned. In that moment, everything became clear to Tanya. She remembers thinking, I am literally stuck on this road. I’m stuck in every single direction of my life—with friendships, family, school, and even my physical needs. In tears, Tanya realized she could not rescue herself. She was face-to-face with her brokenness and wanted to pay for it all—whatever the cost—to make things right with God. That night on the highway she prayed, “God, let me pay. Let me serve up for every wrong I have committed to land myself here.”
Soon after the accident Tanya needed a new place to stay. Her friend, Karen, invited her to move in. “But there’s one condition for you to live here,” Karen told her. “You have to let me cook all of your meals. I have a passion for cooking, and I want to take care of you in that way.” Little did Tanya know, Karen attended The Austin Stone Community Church, and this was one way she was able to begin demonstrating the gospel to Tanya.
On the first night in her new place, Tanya shared her entire story with Karen. “I had never shared my past with anyone before, and no one had ever been that intentional or caring with me.”
Longing for a fresh start, Tanya finally began to let go of her destructive lifestyle, even though it hurt and she did not know what was ahead. Each day, she would walk out of her room and sit down to eat the authentic Chinese food Karen had prepared for her. “I was eating and being nourished by the same food my mom used to cook for me when I was a kid,” Tanya says. She began to see the ways that God was with her throughout her entire life, and through this new friendship with Karen, Tanya understood the gospel for the first time. She realized that she could spend her whole life trying to make up for her sins and it would never be enough. She had nothing that could pay her debt to God. She began to hear and believe the truth that Jesus came to live the perfect life, die for her, and give her eternal life. Tanya began to believe that she was actually loved and cherished by God, and she wanted to live this new life that was laid out before her.
Taking pre-med and science classes again, she had a realization: “I was learning intensively about science while hearing about this incredible God who created it all, yet is so personal and came and took care of me. He provides so well, and yet, He also created galaxies. That’s the type of God we serve.”
Following Jesus also taught Tanya about forgiveness, and in 2018, she forgave her parents and began to seek healing in her relationship with them. When she publicly professed her faith in Jesus through baptism, she wanted her father to be a part of it. “I called him on the phone, and I said, ‘Daddy, will you baptize me?’”
Now Tanya worships at The Austin Stone and is involved with a Missional Community group made up of friends with whom she studies the Bible. She describes her life in Christ as fully satisfying and knows that she totally belongs to Him. “In the lowest points when I couldn’t love myself, that’s who Jesus saw, and He said, ‘That’s the one I’m going to die for.’”