Leah, founder of ANEW, speaks to us about what she has learned in this difficult season, a book about hard questions and bringing attention and awareness to immigrant youth. Check out her ministry, linked below!
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I grew up a preacher’s kid, living in various parts of the US and Canada. I grew up not really having many friends, as my parents were new comers to Canada, and we were the minority. My father also didn’t make it easy; he was really strict and controlling and as a result I was nothing like the other kids. I didn’t dress like them, I didn’t watch TV like them, I was an outcast. By the time I was about 10, my mother and father eventually separated. My mother ended up leaving our home for to live in a different country, and we weren’t allowed contact with her. This began a very painful and confusing time for me. I ended growing up immediately, forfeiting my childhood, instantly becoming a mother to my younger brother and without even knowing it, an emotional partner to my father, taking on his burdens while bearing my own.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’” (I Corinthians 1:18-31)
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: I am working hard on being intentional about spending time in the Word of God, meditating on his Word and being comfortable with the silence. Often times, I will read the Word (when preparing to speak, when reading my devotional etc.) but miss the opportunity to be still and hear in my heart what the Lord is saying due to my impatience. Meditating takes time, requires stillness and sensitivity to a possible whisper. I am learning to be still.
Profession: Human Resources Assistant.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? But God.
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? Despite God being consistent in my life and though I had experienced Him in various ways, working things out for me in very difficult circumstances, He was always the God of someone else. My personal encounter with God happened after the separation with my first husband. It happened as I wept over my child, broken, exhausted with nothing left but to surrender. I came to a place where I couldn’t live a lie anymore, the lie that all was okay. I came clean and admitted I needed Jesus. Like the prodigal son, I came back realizing that this whole time I had needed my Father and this whole time He had been waiting for my return.
How would you describe Jesus? Jesus is LIFE! I am nothing without Him. I often wonder how people without Christ make it, I couldn’t. I need Jesus.
How has your relationship with Him changed you? My transformation has been a process. It has been a lot of surrender, letting go control, trusting and allowing God do come into places where I haven’t even been willing to go because I was too broken, too messy, too much. My relationship with the Lord has taught be to live for Him, being the truest reflection of Him in all that I do, in what I say and how I live. It means dying to myself daily, no longer living for me but living for Jesus.
What has been the darkest time in your life, and how did you see God in it? There have been many dark times throughout my life. When my mother left at such a young age, I remember feeling lost, overwhelmed, confused, scared and broken hearted. I was so young and felt a world of responsibility pressed down on me. I felt the pressure of bearing the weight of pain for my brother, my father and I. Believing that if I wasn’t strong for us to stay together and somehow, we ended up falling apart, it would be all my fault. However, I can think back now to teachers, neighbors and church friends that in their own way would shower us with loving gestures barring that cross with me. From a single hello from our neighbors in acknowledgment that we were seen, to teachers creating a “snack club” at school in order for my brother and I to have something to eat without feeling singled out, to church friends inviting us over for dinner as their way of providing a meal and sending us home with leftovers to ensure we had something to eat for the next couple meals, that was God. That was His love extended to us in the midst of pain, in the midst of the mess that we lived in, He was there, consistent, tangible and unfailing.
“From a single hello from our neighbors in acknowledgment that we were seen, to teachers creating a ‘snack club’ at school in order for my brother and I to have something to eat without feeling singled out, to church friends inviting us over for dinner as their way of providing a meal and sending us home with leftovers to ensure we had something to eat for the next couple meals, that was God.”
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? In this season, what has helped me grow has been the removal of distractions. I lost my job at a dream organization right before COVID. I loved where I worked, what the organization represented and the work I was doing. I saw a lot of potential for me there and suddenly, out of now where, I lost my job. I was devastated and my heart was broken. I was just beginning to recover from this loss when we were all hit by this pandemic. Immediately, I recognized that God was removing all the idols I had created for myself and came to realize that He wasn’t really the center of my life like I told the world He was. This season has taught me that God must be first in all that we do. That there is nothing that we control and when we say we trust Him we must be willing to evaluate our heart asking questions that position our heart in humility open to direction from our Father not relying on our own ideas or strengths.
“Immediately, I recognized that God was removing all the idols I had created for myself and came to realize that He wasn’t really the center of my life like I told the world He was.”
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin – This book is teaching me that at some point in our walk with Christ we must be willing and ready to answer some very difficult questions.
“At some point in our walk with Christ we must be willing and ready to answer some very difficult questions.”
Top three essentials: Bible, bold lipstick and Coke 0
How did God speak to you recently? Recently, God spoke to me through my kids. In an evening chat our family was discussing who we have learned from the most from this season and my answer was them. They have taught me to be flexible and adaptable. That it isn’t just about waiting for the future to unfold but waiting patiently as they have had to wait for life to have some normalcy. To trust wholeheartedly, trust as they trust in us that as their parents we won’t stop caring and providing for them. In that same manner to believe that even in the midst of change and uncertainty, God will also not stop caring and providing for me.
Hobby: I love coffee, brunch or dinner dates with my friends. Through this season we have had to get creative on how and where to meet due to lockdowns. We have done car coffee dates, virtual dinner dates (each of us buys dinner and sits in front of our laptops), front porch visits or walk and talks. Regardless, spending time with the woman I love and value means a lot to me (and of course, dates with my husband too).
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
- Watch what you listen or watch – what you put it is what you will pour from.
- Guard your heart by all means necessary. Setting boundaries, being self-aware and using discernment to know what’s edifying, what you can learn from or when to walk away.
- Be intentional on putting on the armour of God, understanding each piece’s function and when attacked choose to operate using the weapons we’ve been given and not operating in the flesh.
Favorite person in scripture? Esther – To the world she was nobody. An orphan girl, timid and soft-spoken, that before the eyes of others wasn’t anything special. However, in God’s perfect timing used her to save the lives of her people. I love that she was brave in spite of fear and with her obedience was willing to do whatever she had been called to do trusting God the whole way.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? Humility, inclusiveness and love.
How do you engage with your community? I am the founder of ANEW Ministries, a ministry devoted to communities by building connections, nurturing friendships, fostering the love of God through establishing a community of women who support one another while on the journey of life together.
Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving.
A goal you have? I would love to someday write a book or share my story to be made into a movie.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: On each birthday, the birthday girl/boy is awoken with a loud birthday song that is played throughout the entire house. Then, as a family, we meet that person in their room, congratulate them and pray for them before the day begins!
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? I don’t think I will have questions. I just want to say “Thank you, thank you for loving me and never leaving me”.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: I would like to bring awareness to the forgotten people at the Mexico/ US border. Young women particularly, the young women that come parentless, poor, looking for a future. I would love the opportunity to not only provide for their material needs but also share the love of God, pray and reassure them they are essential. I know that Lord will allow me to be able to work in this area down the road.
“I would love the opportunity to not only provide for their material needs but also share the love of God, pray and reassure them they are essential.”
What does your morning routine consist of? My alarm goes off about 7am as I need time to warm up to the idea of rolling out of bed. I get out of bed about 7:20 and wake my kids for school. I shepherd them to get ready and while my husband prepares lunches I help with breakfast. The kids are off to school about 8:30am and as my husband drops them off at school, I get our breakfast on the table, as we usually eat together. After breakfast, my husband, mother-in-law and I will read our devotional, pray together and get the day started.
What is on your nightstand? A picture of my husband and I from the week we met. Hand lotion, pens, a lamp, small jewelry holder for my wedding bands, cell phone charger, study Bible and a couple books I have on the go.
Define Christianity in a sentence: Love God, love people.
For more Leah, follow:
Until next time, keep witnessing!