Elisha Miranda, a gapper in Lansing, Michigan during the 2015-2016 academic year, describes her experience of life as the child of immigrants while becoming quite “Americanized.”
“There was some culture clash at times between traditional Filipino culture and U.S. culture. My dad had an easier time as he likes to be informed about current trends and counted on me to tell him the latest youth happenings. My mom had a harder time letting me be an American teenager. In spite of trepidation, however, they sent me to four high school YES Retreats in Michigan and on two mission trips (Mexico and Detroit). They wanted me to love and serve the Lord.
“As I approached high school graduation, doing a GAP Year seemed like the normal next step. I had no idea how impactful it would be. Difficult as it was for my parents to have me go so far away, they were really supportive of my GAP year.
“I didn’t know anyone in Michigan when I came last August. I think what was in my mind was some experience like the YES Retreat (show up, have a great experience, make some friends, and go home). I was very homesick at first. I called my mom crying (and I am sure she was crying too) but it was good to work through it. I soon had lots to distract me. The transition to basically being on my own and related to as an adult was weirder than I had anticipated. Being in this good environment allows the mistakes I make to be minor and good learning experiences, not the monumental mistakes many young people newly on their own make.
“The August Summer Academy is the ‘diving board’ into the GAP year. It was a bit overwhelming for me but in a really fun way. The week at the Academy confirmed to me that I was now expected to make basic decisions for myself. At home, I would always plan for fun a few days ahead after clearing it with Mom. At the Academy, people spontaneously would do Karaoke late at night, or go walking outside in the warm evening, or decide to go swimming because it was hot. I had never done anything that spontaneous before.
“After the Academy, I moved into my new home, the women’s UCO house. Guys from the Academy and the UCO chapter moved us in. I was completely drained with all the new people. I was afraid things would never slow down. But, they did; we got into our house patterns, relationships were built and established within the house and the chapter, and I actually did have some time to myself!
“I have learned how important supportive, Christian relationships are. I have learned about myself as I work on maintaining good communication and loving relating. A fantastic part of my GAP year is the daily prayer, praise, and worship we have here in our household. I did not have the opportunity to pray regularly with others at home in L.A., but I am going to work on that when I go back. I will really miss the support I have in Lansing.
“Another fruit of my GAP year: I have become more outgoing and I take responsibility for greeting and engaging new people at our UCO events. I find myself choosing for the Lord – I choose to do this because I am serving and loving the Lord, not because my parents are.
“I would not have grown and changed like I have if I had stayed in California. The challenges and the personal stretching so far have born great fruit. I will be the GAP ‘ambassador’ when I go home; I will really be pushing people to do a GAP year. I firmly believe that youth should find the Lord first and THEN go to college and build UCO – God first, then family and community, then school. There are only brief moments in life when you can really give yourself to the Lord in a full way – I want to encourage other young people to grab those opportunities.”