It is such an honour to stand here, and share some things that I’ve learned over the past 3 years at PCA. I have to say, time just flies by. I remember when I was sitting there (pointing to the Grade 10 seats) and wondering how beautiful the auditorium is as a new student. Time goes faster and faster as you grow older. Some of my Grade 12 buddies can’t wait till university, some of us don’t want to leave high school. But I know, we will miss each other.

Picture this, you are 15 years old, and you come to study in Canada from the other side of the world – China, without your parents. You NEVER really heard about Christianity, but your parents put you in a Christian school simply because they think that Christians should be nice people. Your English was limited (well, but fluent in both Mandarin & Cantonese which are not helpful at PCA), and in your first History class, when the teacher says “take notes on Page 1 – 5”, you basically just stare at other students because you don’t even know what “take notes” means. At night, you have to spend about 3 hours just to finish a chapter in Lord of the Flies for English class. On Sundays, you go to church, and the only thing you know what the pastor says are “Jesus, God, Amen”, because he talks too fast. That was my starting point, and it was just 3 years ago.

I understand, my life is very different from all of you. Well, we all have our own stories, and I picked some of my moments to share with you guys.

Lesson 1 Choices

Make good decisions. Life’s about choices! We have so many options in our lives, about what you want to eat at lunch: tuna sandwich, Mr. Chu’s special, or salad? About what you want to do on Friday night: hang out with friends, play video games, or watch a movie? About what university you want to spend 4 years at: Queen’s, Harvard, or Cambridge? In our society, some university students decide to drink and party all the time, it’s sad but this is the reality. And we – future undergraduate students – have to make this choice – whether to drink or not. It is completely optional. You can choose to say “No” to things that you don’t want to do. We are all responsible for the choices which eventually make up our life!
Making good decisions is really important since we don’t want to have regrets in the future. What we’ve done, what we own, and what we believe all contribute to our decisions.

PCA is very special to me, well, not because that this is the only school I’ve been to in Canada so far, but the fact that it brought Jesus into my life. I’m the only one in my family who is a Christian. I truly enjoyed the relationship between Jesus and myself. Let me try to describe it, you are fulfilled because that empty spot in you is satisfied with Jesus’ love. I once thought that Christians are not so smart – they believe in SOMEONE who they can’t see. But then, as I knew more about the whole Christianity, my doubts went away – the validity of the Bible and God’s work throughout the centuries. I chose to accept the TRUTH. People are curious about how my parents see me as a Christian. My father, to my surprise, he said, “this is your choice, you are in charge of yourself.” But my mother – who normally is more open-minded than my father – said, “don’t get too deep into it.”

They give me the freedom to believe in what I choose, with the trust that I am responsible for myself.

Lesson 2 Keep your faith, follow your dreams!

You are the owner of yourself, and it’s you who make the decision of what kind of the person do you want to be. People are always watching your life. They see you through your actions. Faith is a belief that lies in your soul, but not your mind. Christian faith is what supports all Christians, faith decides what you do, what you want to be, and who you are.

However, I’m not only talking about Christian faith, but also a faith in believing yourself – the ability to achieve your dreams. I want to share my own story with you. My dream school is Williams College – a top liberal arts college in the U.S. I was so passionate about it, I wrote “Williams College” on my binders, my books, even on my calculator. I worked really hard, and spent a lot of time preparing to get into this school, and I thought I deserve this admission letter. I was confident, and even an admissions officer from another university replied me and said, “this is one of the best applications I’ve ever seen.” I remember late at night, I was writing Williams’ requirement essay, which titled “Imagine looking through a window at any environment that is particularly significant to you and tell us why it is meaningful to you.”

Essay holds a lot of weight in U.S Admissions. Well, I guess they don’t really like my window that much, so they turned me down. I was very upset, kept thinking why doesn’t this school want me?! I have good grades. I love God, but it seems that God doesn’t care about my passions, my dreams, and my goals. He didn’t see that I spent so much effort on how to get into this school. I suddenly became the poorest person in the world. I illustrated my frustration by getting mad at my parents on the  phone (which later on I apologized to them), crying when I woke up at night in nightmares, and saying bad things in my prayers (maybe you can’t call them prayers).

Many people gave me their support; however, I had no intention to listen to them. I knew what I was doing. I gave myself some time by reflecting back the days that I was preparing for the SAT, the TOEFL which is the test of English as a Foreign Language and all other required materials. My world collapsed, but the sad thing is, you still have to live with it. Slowly, I started to realize that God just closed a door for me, but He didn’t walk away; instead, He opened up another one. I regretted that I was not still when I was in a situation like this. God watches over us at any moment. I don’t know if He is mad at me, but I am sure He still loves me deeply. I still have dreams, indeed, many big ones. I know God will use me in a way that He wants me to be. I trust Him.

Learn to be STRONG, physically, emotionally, and spiritually! Remember to keep your faith because this is what supports you to live in this world =) whenever you face an obstacle.

Lesson 3 Learn to be appreciative

This changes your life attitude. Don’t just talk about the things you don’t have, but to learn that how much you already have. Maybe you don’t have the newest iPhone, but you own the latest iPod! Think about how many people only live under $1 a day, and think about how lucky you are living in Canada… you don’t have to think about where to get the next meal.

Maybe it’s harder to wait for people to understand you than if you take the step first to try to wear their shoes.

Sometimes I feel that life is very unfair. My family is not in Canada, I miss them, and I admire my friends who can have family trips. But here, I also have a family – maybe my last name should be changed to Lindstrom’s. Mrs. Lindstrom is my Canadian mother and my friend. She spends her heart on people who are in need and she lives a life that she never regrets. She teaches me how to stand strong and live in a joyful way. I’ve changed over the past one and a half years living with her, she definitely shows me that life is full of obstacles, but if you keep your faith, God shows you the miracle.

My classmates are Canadian citizens like the majority of you, they don’t need a visa to go to Slovakia, but I do. I had go to Ottawa which is about 5 hours drive from here to get my visa. But there is a man who gave his hand and drove me all the way to Ottawa and back. During my years at P.C.A., he may have answered more than 500 questions from me. I am very thankful for him being my teacher and my mentor, and he is Mr. Philip.

People care about me, they say I sacrifice a lot. I laugh, because the fact is I am enjoying my “dream-chasing-journey”. It was me who talked to my parents and asked them if they allow me to achieve my dreams. They are the ones who have to let go of their only child. They sacrifice more than I do. I am very thankful for having such parents, though they are not with me right now. I can’t say I love you to my parents because this is not the way how my family expresses our love to each other. But I will say it here, I love you, mom & dad. And hope they will hear it in their dreams tonight (it’s night time in China right now ^^).

Well, I know I don’t have the whole world, but what I have is enough to create a new world. Right?

Lesson 4 Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Our world is so big, and yet it’s so small. It really depends on how well you make yourself do certain things. There are so many surprises out there waiting for you to discover! This is about life experience. Our school is pretty small in size, but do you know everyone here? Maybe not… is it difficult for you to say hi to a person that you constantly see on the hall way, and yet still don’t know the person’s name? Maybe when you get to know that person, you two can become good friends, who knows?!

Jesus, well, on the other hand, always stepped out of his comfort zone. He never lived within his own bubble. He kept helping people that he didn’t know. It’s important that we try; if it doesn’t work out, then we can do it another way. God creates the world, but how cool is it if your world is IN your hand.
Last year, some of us went to the Slovakia mission trip. We went to a local school and taught Slovak kids some English. If we didn’t take the initiative to talk to the children, we would not build any relationships. Generally, people do not come to you, you have to approach to others. So take the initiative and step out of the comfort zone and say hi to the world!

Lesson 5 You are Unique, You the Special

Your experience makes who you are, and no one can replace you. Your choices, your faith, your perseverance of overcoming obstacles, and your willingness to try new things.

As God’s children, we don’t look the same, we surely don’t have the same experience. There is a pair of Hands that holds the world which made us UNIQUE!

Enjoy your life at PCA. Learn to know about God, He’s not only God, He’s your Friend, your Provider, your Source of Happiness =). If you believe in Jesus, you also get a bonus to really enjoy Christian worship songs, and truly enjoy Christmas.

Thank you PCA, thank you my Grade 12 fellows, thank you my teachers.

Thank you ALL for listening. God bless you!

Coco, Class of 2009