The Twelve: PUC’s Student-Run Church Service

By Sarah Tanner

For over a year, PUC students have spearheaded a personalized, student-focused Sabbath worship service called The Twelve. Their mission is simple. Summarized by lead coordinator and junior English major, Leah Dopp, “Our goal is to develop an open spirit driven community that reflects the life and teaching of Jesus through discipleship.”

And, after five quarters of student-led worship services, it is clear their mission is a huge success.

Dopp, along with two of The Twelve’s veterans, heads a team of student leaders that meet weekly to create Saturday services for PUC’s student population. In a conversation with Leah over pad thai, she explained what makes The Twelve so special.

To tackle a project of this size, Dopp found it useful to delegate tasks, breaking down The Twelve into nine departments. Her team of student leaders includes coordinators for the various aspects of the service. Welcome and greetings are headed by Valerie Barraza and Hazel Labaco, respectively. Music is organized by Lydia Zebedeus. Nephta Marin heads PowerPoint slides during the service, and sound is coordinated by Nick Borchik. PR and treasury are organized by Stefaan Dick. Emily Castellanos is in charge of prayer, while Jayla Cruse directs stage management. And last, but definitely not least is the ever popular coffee ministry run by Audrey Uyemura, Kelly Kimura, and Jamie Nelson.

“Table meetings are held twice during the quarter to discuss big picture things, like speakers and any changes we want to make to the program,” Leah says. “We organize a list of students, faculty, alumni, and others who we feel would convey interesting messages during the service. Then, each student leader organizes contacts for their corresponding department and teams are formed. For example, music teams choose their songs based on the speaker’s topics so we can create continuity for the whole service.”

A typical Twelve service is fairly simple. Held at noon in Winning Hall’s Dauphinee Chapel every Saturday during the school year, visitors are greeted with coffee at the door and are then welcome to make their way to a seat. The service opens with a song followed by a brief welcome message. The worship team then performs two more songs which lead into a prayer or prayer activity that relates to the sermon. Following the message, welcome coordinators give announcements and the service is concluded.

“Our schedule is always open to changes; we want to keep things moving so we don’t get too sedentary,” says Dopp. “Right now we are playing with the idea of including a discussion time so people can reflect on the message of the service together.”

The Twelve’s name is meant to evoke a spirit of discipleship, as it calls forth the image of Jesus’ original followers. And this spirit of mentorship is present in virtually all facets of the service.

“In addition to the idea of student leaders acting as disciples through their running of the program, we also want to make sure that it is a lasting part of PUC’s legacy,” Dopp explained. “All leaders are constantly mentoring people to fill their position so that there is always someone able to step in and fill that role if needed.” She continues, “We are trying to get lots of people involved to carry on that spirit of mentorship. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have any experience; we’re here to teach.”

As The Twelve is student-run, it is also dependent on student feedback for the program’s growth and development. On this topic, Dopp made it clear, “We are always open to feedback. The Twelve is here to give the students what they want in a worship service, and to do that we need input; we strive to be an event that PUC wants to attend.”

Students looking to share ideas are encouraged to speak to any of the leaders mentioned above and can reach out via email to Leah directly at lmdopp@puc.edu or thetwelvepuc@gmail.com. The Twelve’s team is constantly looking for new speakers, contributors, and students to be involved in all aspects of the service.

“We’re really excited to see where this program will go. Our team’s dedication to creating a meaningful service is incredible.”

Dopp is right; The Twelve is something to be proud of, and it stands as a testament to the ability of students to make a meaningful impact on campus life.

Service: A Lifestyle

By Megan Weems

Editor’s note: In July, over 200 college students and recent graduates, including many from Pacific Union College, traveled to Brazil to participate in a new volunteer program from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency to help build the Adventist Technical School of Massauari (ETAM). Below, recent PUC graduate Megan Weems shares her experience on the life-changing trip.

This summer, I was fortunate to embark on a journey along the Amazon River to a small village called Nova Jerusalem. On this boat, in the midst of nowhere, I was reminded of the attributes of service. This was not a solo mission but one that included 200 plus other college students or recent graduates, like myself, who decided to use two weeks of their summer to do something out of the norm. We were on our way to help finish building a K-9 technical school that needed a little extra tender loving care. The work included: cutting and putting up siding, laying and grouting tiles, painting, varnishing, and cleaning up the classrooms, library, and student dormitories.

I have served as a long-term missionary as a fifth and sixth-grade teacher in Fiji and also volunteered on other mission trips. On this particular excursion, I came with a sense of urgency and persistence to get the building project done. Having witnessed on countless occasions that if the project was left incomplete, it may never get done, and the children would be the ones who suffered. It was quite reassuring knowing that ADRA Brazil and ADRA Connections, a new volunteer program operated by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, had produced a flawless plan keeping everyone involved and working through the entire trip. The huge group of North Americans and Brazilians worked effectively and cohesively to do exactly what we came to do in the Amazon: provide an infrastructure for education that would offer technical skills, and most importantly educating children with eternity in mind.

Every morning, volunteers greeted each other with the phrase, “bom dia,” or good morning in Portuguese, and yelled from boat to boat that worship was starting. We’d awake from our rested slumber in our hammocks, which swung in unison on the boat’s top deck during the cool, breezy nights. Our workdays began when the sun rose and set, and later that evening, we’d end the day with worship. The work was hard, sweat was plenty, there were a few complaints about the heat, but regardless, there was nothing but smiles, singing, and laughter.

What makes me nervous with mission trips is that people are coming from many different backgrounds, which sometimes means learning to adjust to a new work ethic and understanding of the work we are required to do. However, my worries were put at ease as each boat was assigned boat leaders and interpreters who stayed with their boats from start to finish of the mission. On our boat, we were blessed to be led by an amazing couple, Julianna and Diego, who had finished their missionary work from another village in the Amazon as a nurse and boat technician. Both spoke very little English yet the interpreters from the University of Sao Paulo were so helpful to explain what they said. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, Julianna and Diego set a clear example for our group that whatever the task is, whether big or small, we do it with the love of God.

What I saw in Julianna and Diego’s leadership is the type of leadership I pray that God instills within me. They were great at recognizing the strengths of the group, while they delegated, set expectations, and exemplified hard work. I didn’t need to speak the same language to recognize a person who gives 100 percent to every task, but I was very humbled and inspired by Julianna and Diego, and the service they showed.

Another couple left an indelible impression on my heart that I will remember forever, Don and Elaine Halenz. Don and Elaine actually accompanied my group from Pacific Union College, but it would be my first time meeting them. This couple, both age 83, and married for 60 years, decided to come on this trip, very aware of the trip’s extreme destination. They have been intermittent missionaries throughout their lives and here they were with all of us 20-somethings in the field again, working hard and never asking for any modifications. Never once did I hear them utter a complaint! I was incredibly humbled and inspired by Don and Elaine because they stand for everything I hope to be and live for when I am their age. Both of these couples, however, embodied what I believe true service is.

In essence, service to me is not a single action, but a lifestyle. It is a daily choice that leads up to multiple times making an intentional decision to be the best version of yourself in order to improve someone else’s existence. It is in everything we do, whether we are in the comforts of our homes or in a land far away from anything familiar. It is intentional modeling of Christ-like love continuously and consistently from moment to moment. I was incredibly blessed by my short-term experience on the ADRA Connections trip, and was reminded of the service I hope to exemplify all the days of my life.

Read more about the Amazon trip on Adventist Today.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?”

Photo Credit: Karina Oliani

By Yuliya Belikova

Going on a mission trip was one of my New Year’s Resolutions. It was something I wanted to do just to say I have done and maybe receive a different view of the world that everyone who has been on a mission trip keeps talking about. I was dreading the day of departure and wanted to get it over with. This was something out of my comfort zone, but that is why I needed to do it.

This journey was only 10 days long but it taught me so much more than I could have learned in years. It expanded my heart to love the way I didn’t think I could. Building those relationships with the kids and the locals, hearing their stories, their everyday lives, and having real conversations. One of the things that I admired about the kids is when they asked you about your life they actually cared and wanted to know more about you, with no hint of jealousy. They genuinely wanted to get to know you, respect you, and love you. These are the people that our society talks about as if they lack the “important” things in life, but in my eyes, they have it all and even more than we do.  They may not have the materialistic things of this world, but they have the most important thing in life, a developing relationship with God that is not forced, and the relationships within the community and each other. It made me realize how shut out we are to making new relationships with others, but in reality that is what keeps us alive.

Going on this trip has taught me the simplicity of life and the importance of relationships. Putting away your phone and getting up early, actually listening to another person’s answer when you ask the generic question “how are you?” These may seem like small and little things that others take for granted, but for me, it changed my perspective. It would have taken me years to develop this mentality, but here I am after 10 days. You may not believe me or won’t be able to fully understand the emotion until you go through it too. This is why I 100% suggest doing this at least once in your life. The relationships that were made on that small island of Mana were made for a lifetime. Now I can point to that small island on the map and say, “I have a family who lives here and I can’t wait to go back and visit them soon.”

PUC: A Place I Found My Spiritual Talents

By Jamal Armstrong

My name is Jamal Armstrong and I am a super senior social work major. Yes, I have been in college for five years. As I come to the end of my undergraduate career, I have become retrospective about how much I have grown at PUC and how I have been able to leave an impact. PUC has taught me many things. From learning to truly have my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ to how to manage my time better, I learned it all at PUC.

Coming here in September of 2013 after living on the East Coast for the previous four years was exciting for me. I came to college as a wide-eyed 18-year-old freshman who was simply excited to come back and live in the state where I was born. I like to consider myself an outgoing person so it didn’t take a long time for me to begin making friends and coming out of my shell. One thing I quickly became involved in was praise music. I absolutely love singing and I consider it a huge honor to be a vessel for Christ as I let Him use me to help lead out in praising His name. In a sense, I went through the ranks. I started out being on praise teams meant for smaller worship services and made my way through to leading out vespers and church. I recognized God gave me talents to lead in praise and I dove headfirst into that. Understanding I have talents the Lord gave me and having older worship leaders such as George Tuyu and Jason Decena to help mold me as a worship leader are things I am grateful for.

From a young freshman to a seasoned super senior, I have learned the best thing I can do as a follower of Christ is to be absolutely honest and open with how I praise Him on stage. People can see right through someone who is just going through the motions just as well as they can tell when someone is being genuine. For me personally, it is easy to be genuine because I consider myself a very introspective person. I like to know where I’m at mentally, physically, and emotionally and I like to know where I can improve. As I have grown up the past five years, I can honestly say I have learned to let others help me rather than rely on myself, and more importantly, I have learned how to rely on God. There will always be ups and downs in life but with God leading my life I know I will go far. As I get ready to set sail from PUC, I leave knowing my purpose in life and to always rely on God.

Randy Ramos, Your Student Chaplain!

By Becky St. Clair

This week we caught up with Randy Ramos, student chaplain here at PUC. Randy grew up in Southern California and chose PUC because he wanted to stay in the state, but wanted to stretch his wings a bit, too. By all accounts, it sounds like he made the right choice. We talked to Randy a bit about his spiritual journey, his experience at PUC, and the hopes he has for his future. Without further ado, we introduce to you Randy Ramos!

What led you to choose a theology major?

It’s definitely a calling. To be honest, I never wanted to be a pastor and didn’t see myself as one. I actually wanted to do physical therapy—something I’d planned on doing since fifth grade. Then I came here and I realized my calling wasn’t to the medical world, but to minister to people in a different way. To help them find spiritual healing. Just taking the basic theology classes started to build my passion for looking into scripture to see how God views us.

Growing up the focus was more on how we view God, and ultimately what I’ve come down to in the last four years here at PUC is how God views us is shaped by how we view him. If we view him with anger, we’ll see him as an angry God. Scripture says he loves and wants us. Studying theology and diving into the Bible has reshaped how I view God, and I want to share that with other people—I want to help them find their own view of God that gives them peace and joy.

Tell me about your job. What kinds of things are you responsible for as student chaplain?

Well, along with the Student Association’s religious vice president, I’m in charge of spiritual life on campus. I want to make sure people on campus are doing well and their spiritual life is going well. If they’re struggling, students can talk to the campus chaplain or myself, and since I’m closer to their age, it gives me the chance to minister in a different way. I also create and lead Bible studies. I see the importance of small groups in building relationships, because that’s how Jesus did it with his small group of disciples. Although they didn’t quite catch on during his ministry, they finally got it when He ascended. It was then they realized the importance of a closer relationship with Christ. I want to see that model grow here at PUC, too, by urging through small groups the importance of rediscovering who God is in our lives.

So, what is it you love most about your job?

First, that I don’t see it as a job. It’s a passion, and what I’ve truly been called to. When those two become one—a passion and a calling together—it just doesn’t feel like work. This is what I’m meant to do for the rest of my life: Care for people the way Jesus cared for people and the way He cares for us now. I also love the opportunity to build relationships with people, watching them grow spiritually. My first roommate didn’t want anything to do with God. He had a lot of doubt. Throughout the year I spent as his roommate, I never preached the Gospel at him, or told him what to believe. I built the friendship first and then we began opening the Bible and praying together. Eventually he opened up, asking me to pray for him and his family. Our close friendship started it all. I love creating opportunities for more relationships like that to take place here on campus.

Just because you love it doesn’t mean it’s easy, right? What do you find challenging about being a student chaplain?

Getting people to see your vision. Sometimes you can do a lot of motivating and planning, trying to inspire others to see God loves them, and He is moving in their lives. Sometimes the response is, “meh.” Sometimes they don’t want to see it. Sometimes it can be sad seeing people not tasting and seeing the glory of God, but everyone has their own spiritual walk. Being patient with others’ walks is hard, too. We can all grow and move forward, but it takes time. It took time for the disciples; for example, Peter denied Jesus but if you look at Acts you see the Peter who now gets it. What Jesus told him to do he’s out in the world doing. It just takes time.

Since you mentioned spiritual walks, can you tell us a little bit about your own?

Of course! I came here knowing what I’d been taught, and knowing how God views us. I came feeling really guilty about the things I’d messed up in the past, and believed God to be extremely angry with me. During my first year here I started really looking into the life of Jesus, and I discovered He’s the mirror reflection of the Father. It was at that point I saw the Bible in a whole new light, realizing God actually really loves me. Loves all of us. That really shaped my spiritual journey. Now I can look back at my worst days and see God there, too, just loving me.

I’ve grown a lot here at PUC. I’ve come to realize church isn’t just a service on Sabbath. There’s so much more to it than four walls and a roof. Church is a broken community coming together for healing, and to accept the love God is always there to give. That has shaped a lot of how I’m going to go into ministry, understanding how God views me.

Growing up, I was afraid to ask the hard questions. “Who is God?” “Does he even exist?” “Does He even love us?” It was so hard because I was afraid people would shut me down. It wasn’t until I was about 16-years-old when I started realizing what was happening in my life had a reason. I started trusting God and walking with Him of my own accord, and really believed He had a plan for me. When I came here to PUC, I realized the same struggle was going on with people around me, too—there were other people asking the hard stuff I had asked. When we came together we were asking these questions, even in Bible studies I attended. It was so relieving to know I wasn’t alone in my questioning and doubt.

Last year I took a class called “God and Human Suffering.” That was a tough class. For one assignment, I wrote a paper called “A Theodicy,” which was basically a defense of God’s character. In that paper, through my own testimony, experience, and scripture, I looked at people who have died in my life and asked, “Why?” Why did my 10-year-old cousin die? Why did my high school friend die? I wrestled with my faith, and ultimately, it came down to this thing called sin. And it sucks. But God sent His son to overcome it, to give us life. We’re not going to be obedient to death, but Jesus was. That’s why He says He’s the way, the truth, and the life.

PUC is a place where asking questions is okay. It’s a place where you’ll find spiritual leadership to help you find the answers and point you to the true God. I keep going back to the fact if God allowed Job to ask these questions, we can do the same. God won’t be hurt by our questions. What it really comes down to is do you trust God?

You’re graduating this year and heading out into the world with your absolute faith and trust in God, and a solid education. What will you do with it?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? My ultimate goal is to pastor, whether that’s through chaplaincy, teaching, or other ways. It doesn’t have to be at a church. I want to lead a group of people as we move together to build leadership and empower the next generation. This has been my calling and I feel it’s the calling for the rest of my life. Giving my life to ministry was a huge step in my life, and I don’t plan on ever looking back.

How do you feel your time at PUC has helped you prepare for both your career and other aspects of your future?

It’s the experience here. Through the worst days, I feel that’s where I’ve learned the most that’s helped me prepare to relate to people who are struggling. The best way to relate to people is through experience and testimony. Even my good days are a testimony, as I can share with someone who’s struggling that better days are coming. What has really prepared me is not just classes and education, but experiences I’ve had here on campus.

You were recently given an award. What was it, and how were you selected?

Oh man, I was so surprised to learn I’d been been selected for this award. According to the email I received, the Charles E. Weniger Fellows student scholarship is awarded to students who exemplify positive qualities and characteristics in campus leadership. I’m honored to be selected for this award, as it tells me I have been effectively allowing Christ’s character to shine through me. I can attribute this only to allowing Jesus to lead the way in my life.

If you could give all incoming freshmen one piece of advice, what would it be?

Just one? Haha! Seriously, though, I think I’d most want them to know it’s okay to ask the hard questions—they will allow you to grow. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to struggle. Out of that, something beautiful happens. I’m speaking to myself, here, too. I was afraid of failing and struggling, but out of that, in Ecclesiastes 3, the Bible tells us God makes everything beautiful in its time. There’s a season for everything. It’s okay to go through the hard stuff, because He’ll be with you every step of the way.

How Uganda Love It?

By Lauren Chang

It all started as an ordinary trip to Uganda—that is if you consider moving halfway across the globe to be a student missionary for three months “ordinary.” I used to believe when I was accomplished enough—like when I became more self-sacrificing or developed a skill in medicine, dentistry, or law—then, God could use me. Well, I now know after three months of missionary time my preconceived notions of “helping others” couldn’t be further from the truth. God doesn’t need great people to do great things. He only needs people who are willing to say “yes” and take a leap of faith—something I think people like Abraham, Moses, and many other missionaries realized very quickly.

* * *

I left on September 26, 2017, with fellow PUC pioneers Tom and Mick Borecky and later, my friend Sadie Valentine as volunteers for the Kellerman Foundation. Originally founded by Dr. Scott Kellerman, the foundation was created to help the Pygmy people in Buhoma, Uganda, who were displaced from their indigenous home in the National Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Coming to Uganda was a leap of faith because we knew we were called to work with the Kellerman Foundation, but initially, we had no idea what we were going to do. The only job we set up was to build two simple structures: 1) a banda, which is a community center that also functions to collects rainwater; and 2) a Pygmy house made by mudding bamboo frames. In fact, until we were invited to join research projects by Dr. Kellerman and Dr. Jean Creasey, a dentist in Nevada City, this was all we had set up to do for three entire months.

Expectations

What I expected out of this missionary experience was to connect with the locals, to help others, and to grow and change because of it. All of those things turned out to be true—and to an even greater degree than I expected.

But what I didn’t expect? Generosity, friendship, and warmth like you wouldn’t believe. Downtime, and lots of it. Emotional breakdowns. Success not according to accomplishments and achievements, but according to relationships. Sobbing after listening to Christmas music because I missed home. Things not going to plan. The emotional toll of being constantly watched by everyone because you are a mazoongu or “foreigner” in the local language of Rukiga. And most of all, the feeling of helplessness from witnessing some of the poorest people on earth. I don’t think any amount of National Geographic pictures could have prepared me for the heartbreak of seeing and meeting kids with bloated bellies from malnutrition or people dying from extremely curable diseases. We saw some of the poorest people in the world, and I still struggle with processing and dealing with that degree of poverty to this very day. But despite it all, these people are some of the happiest, most generous folks I have ever met. They invited us in time after time for the holidays or to share meals simply because we had become friends.

Friendship

One of our friends Christine Twasiima (Rukiga for “we appreciate”), works in a tourist shop with mountain gorilla merchandise and crafts. She spent countless afternoons teaching me how to weave baskets. There we would weave with our grass piles and needles for hours at the door of her shop, either talking and laughing with the other shopkeepers or hiding inside from the tropical rain. For many of those afternoons, she shared her lunch of matooke (bananas made like mashed potatoes), beans, and sweet potatoes in a light sauce, telling me that all the locals purposely prepare more food than they need in case of hungry visitors or friends. And the people know everything about everyone. One day, when I decided to stay in for a day of resting, I thought nobody would even notice. Later, I found out that everyone was worried and asked Tom and Mick as they passed by if I was OK and why I wasn’t there. Christine even called me to check on me. What I love the most about the culture is it is relationship-oriented and there is no sense of time at all. People will sit around and talk to you for as long as you’ll let them because this culture is centered around relationships—not productivity.

Another friend of ours named Gemma is the manager of a gorilla trekking lodge. We initially came to buy ice-cold sodas, but we ended up becoming instant friends when I asked her to teach me some Rukiga. Two months later on her off-days, Gemma took us to her hometown via a 4-hour bus ride at 4 a.m. through windy mountain dirt roads (and lots of honking!). After escaping the clutches of death, however, we ended up having one of the best days of our entire trip. We visited Gemma’s house built from the ground up by her father, met the family—seven people were there, and this is not including the other siblings and their kids!—saw the family beekeeping houses, gardens, crops, flowers, forest, and the breathtaking mountain views. The air smelled of pine and a picnic was set out for us in front of the house that was cool and shaded as we ate the most amazing home-cooked meal of stew, greens, and potatoes—all cooked on a clay furnace with three holes and a single fire underneath. Our day ended with loads of gifts sent back with us: fresh honey from their beehives, sugar cane, mangoes, clay pots, and a gorgeous necklace. In my entire life, I have not experienced better hospitality than in Uganda.

Closing

I talk so much about these experiences because really, besides the research and two days of helping to build the banda and the house, this was what we did. The research took a lot of time and effort to conduct, it’s true. We spent many days going out into the communities and conducting focus group interviews and surveys or recording data at the hospital for our research. Additionally, I have grown much closer to my friends and family who were a fantastic support system as we worked through all of the struggles and hardships we encountered together. But sometimes, I ask myself: “Why did God bring us all the way to Uganda if what came out of it was personal growth, strengthened and new friendships, research, two structures, and the witnessing of terrible poverty?” The answer? I am unsure, but at the very least, I have a renewed commitment to helping and loving others as God calls. I believe God uses ordinary people who are willing to say “yes” to do great things, and even though I am unsure of what that entails from my time in Uganda, I trust what He has set into motion, nobody can stop.

A panorama of our view.

Dr. Kellerman and I with a new friend.

Sadie and I’s room.

A Polaroid of Gemma and I.

Me making a basket in front of Christine’s shop.

Me with Gemma’s family.

Mick (L) and Tom (R) talking at Gemma’s house.

Me with guest house employee, Diana.

Monkeying around.

Batwa school kids.

Conducting a research surveys in a church.

Worship and Bible Study Resources at PUC

By Andrea James

When we have questions about God or want to discuss the Bible with other people, it can be difficult to know where to go and who to talk to. However, there are a multitude of resources available at PUC. Of course, you can always talk to our campus chaplain Jonathan Henderson ((707) 965-7191; jhenderson@puc.edu) or any of the pastors at the PUC Church (their contact information is on the church’s website). Then there is PRSM, which stands for peer-led, relevant, small-group ministries. You can contact the student chaplain Amber Sanchez ((707) 965-7190; alsanchez@puc.edu) about joining or starting one of these groups. There are also dorm worships every week, both for your hall and your specific floor (you can go to other dorms’ and floors’ worships too). You can look at the worship calendar on the PUC Ministries website to find out what events are coming up and what groups are meeting soon.

However, you’ve probably thought of or heard of those resources before. What might not come to mind immediately is our library. We have great commentaries, biblical encyclopedias, and other research material. There’s a whole section in the library with great worship and Bible study tools, plus those in the main stacks. Some suggestions for places to start include devotionals and biographies of Christian missionaries and theologians (e.g. C. S. Lewis or J. N. Andrews). Another resource you might not think of is the library’s website where you can find links (like under “SDA Resources” in the sidebar) to online tools such as:

This is just a small selection of what’s available. There are also things like bibliographies compiled on church history, theology, etc. to help you with your research and the Adventist Archives containing everything from General Conference Committee meeting minutes dating back to 1975 to a slideshow about the Millerite movement to Adventist periodicals from around the world. This is a Christian institution of learning—research on religious topics is PUC’s specialty! And if you don’t know where to start, ask a librarian for help. They’re there for a reason.

However, studying the Bible shouldn’t feel like studying for your classes. Your relationship with God can be enriched by a deeper understanding of the Bible and theology, but there are many other ways to get to know God better or to strengthen your relationship with Him. Pray to God for guidance and do what works for you. That could involve being part of a small group, asking a pastor questions, talking with your friends, researching ancient Hebrew culture, spending time singing hymns, or a thousand other options. It could also involve combinations of activities. Your relationship with God is deeply personal and works in a way specific to you. God is your friend, not an exam for which you need to prepare. However, you come know Him better and more intimately is great and should be pursued.