August 31, 2022

Craving community

It wasn’t until heading to Wisconsin Academy in Columbus, Wisconsin, that Kassandra Gonzalez’ personal spiritual life took a breath of life.

There’s something about being around people your age that makes you feel not so alone in the issues you go through. Whereas back home, the only spiritual meetings outside of main services were small groups, here she had vespers and multiple activities to strengthen her faith and build relationships with other like-minded young people.

Then the pandemic hit.

Suddenly she found herself again in that loneliness which had tormented her before, only this time it was worse. The mission trip to the Philippines she had been anticipating was canceled and, after having tasted what it meant to be with like-minded people her age, this time felt worse. Depression became a reluctant friend and the faith that once blossomed was withering.

By the time she was at University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh that fall, those who surrounded her were students “enjoying” their newfound freedom through elaborate parties. She noticed that, after these parties, friends would crash the next day. Ironically, it was scenes like these that rekindled her faith. For comfort, she turned to Christian music and her devotions, ties that reminded her of a Christian life.

It was then that a friend from home encouraged her to visit her church. Out of the reach of weekly visits due to the distance between school and home, she ventured whenever she could. With time, she became more involved at church in areas such as music. The more she was around godly people, the more she, too, sensed a change, a change towards that vibrant and happy girl she once knew.

Her experience has taught her the power of a Christ-like community. After transferring schools to one closer to home, she’s more often experiencing the warmth of a family-oriented church, Hayes Spanish in Milwaukee, and now takes the initiative to provide that warmth for others. That has meant the 20-year-old makes sure to go out of her way to make everyone feel welcomed and show them what Christ’s love can feel like. She reaches out to those who haven’t made their presence felt in a while, emphasizing that they’re welcome there.

Knowing what it means to be and feel lonely, she now actively works so no one has to feel the same way. As she puts it, “Both God and this church will welcome you with open arms.”


Josue Peralta is a writer and founder of Attractive, a web design and storytelling studio based in Wisconsin. He’s also host of the podcast, “Oatmeal at Dawn,” a collection of sermons he has written and preached throughout the country.