Canvas | Issue 91: Engaging with Culture Through a Gospel Lens
Lisiua is studying a Master of Arts in Psychology at the University of Auckland and has found being part of the TSCF group Sola Scriptura a real help to her faith. She shares some of her journey with us.
Tell us about your upbringing.
I’m a New Zealand-born Tongan but grew up in Tonga until I was 8, when we migrated to NZ because my parents wanted a better education for me. Growing up, church was a routine and an obligation. I thought that as long as I attend church, I’ll get to heaven. It wasn’t about a personal relationship, and I didn’t feel like I had access to God. Whenever anything went wrong in life, I blamed God for it, but also felt a deep void in my life that could never be filled.
What changed for you?
When we moved to NZ, my aunty brought me to her church, and that’s when I started to feel connected and like I belonged. Initially, I thought it was just people pretending to be nice because it was their “job” to greet newcomers, but I realised they genuinely wanted to see me and connect with me – that felt very different. My aunty also took me along to camps during my high school years that helped me understand the gospel. The day I prayed to commit my life to Christ, the worries I had slipped away, healing started, and that empty void was filled – I felt complete.
What has university been like?
Uni was a culture shock. In a Tongan household, I was taught to respect authority without questioning it. So it was confronting to find that students were discussing things in class and challenging the lecturers’ perspectives. A lot of my friends got caught up in the drinking culture, but I was a head-down, study-hard kind of student. I prayed for just one believer to meet, and God answered that prayer by introducing me to Lana, who invited me to Sola Scriptura.
How has Sola Scriptura grown you spiritually?
I realised I had a lack of understanding of the Bible, so it’s been great to sit down and dig deeply into the Bible together without add-ons or someone spending most of the time just sharing their opinion without reference to the Bible. I like how Bena always tells us to check what’s being taught against Scripture and call it out if something’s unbiblical, and that it’s ok to ask questions. I’ve needed this Bible study to help me be rooted in the Word of God, especially because in my classes, lecturers teach atheism or that Christianity is just a western culture imposed on Pasifika people. But it has also been hard to unlearn some things that I grew up with, cultural expectations around things like tithing that I’ve realised aren’t wholly biblical.
Why are you involved in a missional TSCF group on campus?
I know what it’s like to be disconnected, to be rejected, to be overlooked, but those things have led me to hold onto God – I owe him my life. God has been there for me, comforted me and carried me through challenges in life – how wonderful to experience his love despite all my sin. I want to share the hope in Christ and continue to be salt and light.