November 4, 2010
What is a hero? I think God's got me searching out the answer to this question in the most recent phase of my life. It's been an interesting fact-finding mission, and to be frank I don't think I have an answer yet. I'm going to try to put together a working definition for this occasion so I can apply it to the incredible man I mean to talk about in this post.
Hero: Someone who can be strong and take action when the need calls for it. Someone who sacrifices their own comfort for the sake of those who need help. Someone who can heed the calling of God and be true to His plan.
The topic for this week is one that brings me, and many other Springfieldians much pride and joy. I would like to dedicate this week's post to one of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friend: Cam Nguyen.
Cam has been my friend for years. In fact, Cam's friendship marked the entrance into a new stage of my life. Before I followed Cam to his lunch table one day in the seventh grade, I sat alone at lunch almost every day. I hardly had any friends at all outside my family, and this fact contributed as much as anything to my severe depression.
In retrospect, the first time I took notice of Cam is when he surfaced as a threat to my standing as the smartest kid in the sixth grade at Hamlin Middle School. I didn't have friends, so feigning a sense of intellectual superiority was all I had, and this became more difficult to maintain when some Asian kid (who had friends, by the way) started outscoring me in math tests. I kept a watchful eye on him throughout the sixth grade, and when, in the seventh grade we both got bumped up to Algebra 1, I followed through with this friends-close-enemies-closer policy and followed him to his lunch table. That day, and every subsequent day, I sat at the same table with an entirely new set of friends as well as an equally new outlook on life.
On the note of academic rivalry, Cam remained my fiercest competitor and closest friend all throughout high school. I am convinced I never would have pushed myself to be as successful as I was had he not been there to push and challenge me.
Now back to our narrative. Coinciding with my newfound friendships was a budding desire to seek after God in my own life. I am confident that, as I began to seek God, He put in motion in my life a great work, blessing me and preparing my heart for the overflowing joys he was prepared to pour into my life. Cam Nguyen was part of my first step toward happiness and an absolutely stellar life. I didn't even consider myself a Christian yet, but God starts to work in our lives long before we choose Him, I'm sure of this much.
Cam wasn't a Christian to begin with. He was absolutely brilliant, talented, and social (frankly everything I wanted to and still want to become) but he was not a Christian. I only say this to show that while God may not have put him in my life to "convert" me, God put him in my life to bring me happiness in the form of a truly blessed friendship.
Once I did become a Christian, Cam was, in fact, one of the people with whom I debated most fervently about my new faith. We, at times, participated in healthy, mature debates, while at other times we simply bickered. We didn't need to agree, however, to build a solid friendship on the foundation of mutual respect. To this day, we don't agree much. He is probably as radically liberal as I am staunchly conservative, yet I have more respect for Cam than I have for just about any conservative I know.
It isn't hard to see that God began to work in Cam's life in pretty miraculous ways once we entered high school. That is, however, no credit to me. Instead I believe it simply means God had a plan to reach a whole group of young men one at a time, so we might one day go out into the world and impact it for His kingdom, bringing peace, justice and love where it is wanting.
When Cam approached me to say he "didn't want to be an atheist anymore," I had no idea what to do. I gave him a clichéd spiel about praying and waiting, but I thank God my own merits as an evangelist had nothing to do with Cam reaching God, or rather God reaching Cam.
Since this moment I have seen a bright young man grow into... well, a hero. Cam is absolute proof young men can achieve leaps and bounds for the Kingdom of God. He embodies this blog's titular scripture, 1 Timothy 4:12 which says, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."
For those of you who don't know, which I can't imagine anyone back in Springfield doesn't know, Cam is spending this whole school year in Ghana (Africa) for the Princeton Bridge Year program. A couple things about this sentence should be striking. One is that anyone from podunk Springtucky, Oregon would be going to Princeton University. We all are duly proud of him. The second is more impressive in my eyes. Cam is spending an ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR in Africa to serve people! Though the program is not church funded, or even a missions trip at all, Cam is using it as an opportunity to put his money where his mouth is. He is serving God's beloved ones in a part of the world desperately in need of heroes like him. He is heeding the call, hearing God's voice, doing incredible things with absolutely no self-interested egotism. I don't mean to say everyone needs to do foreign missions to be right with God. I simply mean, sensitive ears can hear God's will, and it takes a real hero to follow the calling.
It upsets me when people equate political conservatism with a healthy faith in God. No one who knows Cam could ever say he isn't a wholly devoted servant of Christ. He and I don't agree on much, but he and I are both trying to live out God's plan for us. If anything he is the one who knows what it means to have a servant's heart, and to live out the spirit of the gospel.
Cam is constantly shattering ignorant misconceptions. I am so thrilled to call him one of my best friends. Where he once challenged me to grow academically, he now, by example, shows me what it means to follow Christ. What a remarkable young man. What an absolute hero.
"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."
As quoted by Cam Nguyen.