Photo credit: Irina Doytcheva Photography
On any given Sabbath when you approach the Bolingbrook Church, before you walk in the sanctuary, you are welcomed by a group of warm, loving individuals who smile and greet you. Amongst these greeters is 20-year-old Miki Valchinova.
Miki and her parents migrated to the United States from Bulgaria when she was just four years old. She was taught at an early age to “trust and believe God,” no matter what, due to the many issues that her family faced as new immigrants to this country. Her fondest memory growing up was her first communion and a turning point in her life was when she was baptized at 15. Miki was worried because she didn’t quite grasp all the laws and traditions that she had seen and heard regarding baptism, but she knew she loved Jesus and He had convicted her to give her life to Him.
It was when Jose St. Phard, former pastor of Bolingbrook Church, emphasized to her that, “God doesn’t need you to be perfect; He needs you to be you” that she decided to move forward and live out His will for her life.
As a pre-med major who just began her junior year at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Miki is coming face-to-face with, as she describes it, “a world without love.” Several of her peers struggle with the longing for more, being mostly atheists and agnostics, but they have a deep, profound respect for her. She has earned the nickname “mom” because she is always careful to give advice, but does so in a loving manner. Miki shares her faith openly, but never wants to be judgmental towards anyone.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and her campus shut down, she encountered many students who had no place to go, so she encouraged them the best she could. Miki says she relates to people in this manner because Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb who spoke up when needed and dealt gently with people. Bolingbrook associate pastor, David Quilitan, recognizes these qualities in Miki and describes her as an adaptive leader. “No matter what situation or context she finds herself in,” he explains, “she is able to lead from her values and principles, and parse them into her current situation."
Here are a few tips Miki says that you must remember when dealing with people who don’t believe as you do. First, have boundaries, and don’t let anyone manipulate your niceness. Say “No” when needed. Second, don’t just talk about God; show His love through your actions. Lastly, your job as a Christian is to love that person and plant the seed. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest!
Miki credits Jesus and the Seventh-day Adventist medical missionary, David Livingston, as her ultimate heroes and examples. She wants her life as a doctor to be about compassionate treatment and not based solely on money. Her ultimate goals are to show God’s love to everyone she encounters.
Kandis Draw is a member of Bolingbrook Church and a columnist for an online women's magazine called Curvicality.