Hello, My name is Rachel Victoria Hawkins and I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. While some may understand exactly what this means, I realize that others my be lost as to what the word disciple even means. Dis·ci·ple (noun)- a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher. I am simply a follower of Jesus and a student of his teachings. How did I become a disciple? I grew up with parents who are disciples. Yes, I realize that some may think that this is the extent of it and that I am simply a Christian because my parents are. This however is not the case and you cannot be born into being a Christian. This is a decision I had to make for myself. I have not been a disciple all my life and the stepping-stones that led me to the momentous occasion of finally being added to God’s kingdom begins with my family’s move from California to Georgia. I was only seven years old and was not excited about the move. I don’t do well with change to this day and so much change came with this move including a change in churches. My parents had been a part of the church in Georgia as this was where they both began studying the bible and got baptized. Logically my parents wanted to return to this church when we made the move back but it was no longer the loving, welcoming, and encouraging place they remembered. Because of this we decided we needed to find another church. And so we began the process of what my mom liked to call “church shopping.” This continued for years with no success. I found myself beginning to resent church and the “fake” people I had met and I dreaded my parents continually dragging me out every Sunday. It was not until one summer my parents sent me to a Christian Summer camp called The Swamp. It was there that I experienced the love and acceptance that I had so desperately needed and to this day I have yet to experience anything that rivals a week spent at The Swamp. We like to call it a little piece of Heaven. I met girls there that were from a church called North River Church Of Christ which was ironically the church my parents had decided not to go to. You can imagine their surprise when I came home and the first thing to come from my mouth was, “can we go to North River?” I remember them turning to look at each other and then back at me and telling me the 45 minute drive every Sunday and Wednesday would be difficult but we would try. I think that they must have known what it must have taken for their daughter who had become so resentful to the idea of church to be begging them to go to yet another new church. They saw my desperation to have the friends and relationships that I had at the Swamp in my everyday life. Initially I did experience the same love and acceptance in those relationships but gradually distance crept in. I blamed this distance on others when in fact I was to blame. I had done competitive gymnastics since the age of 9 years old which involve intense training and being in the gym 20-25 hours per week not to mention private lessons and competitions on the weekends. I slowly began to miss Wednesdays and eventually Sundays and I created the distance I was feeling in those relationships. It wasn’t until I was told that I needed to take time off from the sport that had become my life that i was forced to realize that I didn’t know who I was without gymnastics. I had always defined myself as a gymnast and it was a fractured spine that showed me that I didn’t know what I would do without the sport. It was my identity and what every one knew me as. It was what my parents told everyone when introducing me and even what I introduced myself as. It was only when i was weakened by my injury that I realized I cannot rely on my own strength anymore and I needed a change in priorities in my life. I realized that all my friends slowly were studying the bible and one by one they were all getting baptized. I saw their lives change and I realized there must be something I was missing that they now had. I began studying the Bible and learned about God’s love and sacrifice for me but also i saw my sin how God sees it for the first time and how it hurts him. I was entitled, Prideful, selfish, and so many other things that disgust God. It was such a challenge to change these things in my character. I also began to see all the damage I had done to so many relationships but most importantly to my relationship with God and the only way I could mend this is by being baptized. I mad the decision to make Jesus lord on April 27, 2014! I was no longer identified as “gymnast” but now I can call myself a Daughter of the Divine Creator and a disciple of Christ!