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Journey To Jesus: What's in a Name?

Transforming Canada Together BannerMy name is Julie Niyitegeka. Many people from different cultures find it surprising and slightly confusing that I do not share the same last name as my parents or any of my siblings. But this is how things were back in Rwanda where I was born. Rwanda was my home in my growing up years. Inheriting your parents’ name is a very recent tradition. My last name, Niyitegeka, means God reigns. It was chosen by my parents as it had a significant meaning for them at the time when I was born.

Rwanda FlagI came to Canada in 2016. I was just 15 years old and made the journey all by myself. A lot of people wonder how my parents could let me travel that far on my own at such a young age! Well, I had this dream to study abroad so that I could learn more about other people and cultures that were different from mine. When God opened a door for me, my parents trusted that He would take care of me no matter how far away I would be. They knew that the same God who has always looked after me when I was in their sight, would be the same One to protect me in a foreign land.

I am deeply grateful for my parents’ faith in God, which allowed them to trust me as well. Coming to Canada was not easy. Everything was different. From the weather, accents, food, to social cues. You name it, it was new for me. Thankfully over time, I was able to find myself in this different environment. I was so blessed to find a community of believers wherever I lived, and they became my home away from home. In Victoria, BC, it was the people from Colwood Pentecostal Church. When I moved to Nanaimo, BC, it was, and still is, my Vancouver Island University (VIU) University Christian Ministries and Oceanside Church Nanaimo community.

When I began telling you this story, I talked about my family name. Although it is different from my parents’ last name, I have their DNA. No matter what my name is, whether it changes or not, the fact that they are my parents will never change.

Julie with some of her Family pictureWhy am I bringing this up? When I felt homesick, my father (who has passed on to Heaven and is now with Jesus forever) would remind me that in this world there will always be something lacking or missing because it is not where we truly belong.

That reassuring thought impacted my view on life and on eternity.  It has helped to solidify who I truly am … I belong to my Father in Heaven! That’s my truest home. I have nothing to worry about in this temporary life here on earth.  And, because I have given my life to Jesus and He is my Lord and Saviour, worrying about eternity is not an issue for me. When the time comes, I will go home to be with Jesus forever. I belong to Him. My identity is engraved in His.  So, what does it really matter what my last name is?! I am, and will always be, one of His people. I have been adopted into God’s family, and because of that, I am eternally grateful that I am one of His own children since that amazing day when I accepted Jesus and my life was transformed!

As hard as life can be living away from home and being so distant from your earthly family, knowing and remembering who I am in Christ always gives me comfort, hope and peace beyond my present circumstances.

Julie headshotLooking back, I am so thankful for my journey to Jesus and now how He has chosen to use me to spiritually impact the lives of others, especially in a Canadian post-secondary environment. Pray with me that our team at VIU will see life transformation come to many students on this campus in the days ahead!