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January 16, 2023

Penn Sophomore Became A Christian Through CU Martus 

By Anne Kerhoulas

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. -1 Corinthians 3:5-7

For every Christian, the Lord appoints servants whom he uses to bring about our faith. Whether you grew up in a Christian home or an atheist home, God, in his perfect plan and kindness, placed individuals in your life who would speak the gospel to you, embody the love of Christ, help solidify theology, and love you into the kingdom of God. 

For Stanley Liu, who grew up in Los Angeles in a secular household, the Lord appointed the Boy Scouts and a Catholic girlfriend to plant and Christian Union Martus to water. 

grace not works

For years, the Lord had been quietly growing Stanley, preparing him for a life of faith and obedience to God. And in the summer of 2022, Stanley gave his life to Christ, offering living proof of the power of the gospel—that he is saved by grace and not his own works, that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and that even in the midst of an increasingly secular society, He is drawing people to himself. 

Liu, who is a sophomore bioengineering major at Penn, first encountered Christian Union Martus as a freshman trying to get connected to a community. “I had no intention of becoming a Christian in college,” Liu states. “But through a series of serendipitous events, God placed me in a position to find Christian Union.”

Liu approached a table for the Penn Epistle at an activities fair. What he didn’t know was that the journal was a Christian journal founded by a Christian Union Martus alumni. After chatting with the students at the table, Liu was invited to lunch by  Jeremiah, a senior in CU Martus. He accepted, and after Jerry treated him to lunch and spent an hour caring for him, getting to know him, and offering him advice and guidance as he started out at Penn, Liu felt like he ought to accept his invitation to a Christian Union event. 

“What I found with Christian Union was a really supportive and loving group of people. Even though I didn’t come from a Christian background, I felt like I belonged at worship and in Bible study—it was just a really loving group of people with good values,” Liu recalls. “For freshmen, a big concern is finding a community, and I found that being in Christian Union fulflilled a lot of that need for community and friendship. I especially found this through many upperclassmen taking me under their wing.” 

But what started out as a warm welcome and a sense of belonging quickly became a place to ask hard questions about life, meaning, and who God was. Liu was invited to join a Bible course and attend church with his new friends. Liu recalls attending his first fall retreat and hearing talks about Revelation and heaven, topics that were very challenging and radically different from his secular upbringing. 

“Over time, through community, engaging in Scripture, and getting involved in Church, I saw the Lord working very slowly throughout my life and softening my heart toward the Christian faith—that Jesus died on the cross for my sin. He was hardening my heart towards sin and secular tendencies, and softening me toward Christ.”

For Liu, one of the biggest obstacles to committing his life to Christ was the concept of salvation through grace and not works. 

“The biggest challenge I faced in my decision to become a Christian was feeling that I was unworthy of Christ’s love and that I had to meet a series of prerequisites to submit to Christ. I felt like I needed to overcome all my bad habits and earn my place as a Christian before I could submit to him, which is a very secular way of approaching faith,” Liu says. 

“The mindset I grew up with was that nothing is given in life and everything is earned  through your work and dedication. I found a lot of success and identity pursuing things of the world, but everything I know now about Christianity is that we don’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven because of work. It’s Christ’s sacrifice alone that brings us there and that alone,” says Liu. “It’s such a humbling and grounding and sobering concept because it's the exact opposite of what I believed growing up.”

Led by the Lord, Liu committed his life to Christ during his breakup conversation with his girlfriend of almost two years. Liu, who had been encouraged in his faith by his Catholic girlfriend at the time, prayed with her after they broke up for all the loving memories they shared together. In that moment he felt overwhelmingly convicted to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior after grappling with his faith for over 10 months. “I lost my girlfriend and best friend, but I gained the Kingdom of God and became a brother of Christ that day.”

Since his conversion, Liu is a changed man; he hungers for the things of God and has a deep desire to pour into other young men and women who, like him, came to Penn unaware and indifferent to Jesus. One way Liu does this is by mentoring freshman students and spending time caring for them as they transition into college life.

“I remember what that felt like on the receiving end and to recreate what was given to me. Just being able to put an arm around a younger brother and listen to him and support him as he adjusts to college means everything to me because it meant everything to me.”