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Fighting the Good Fight: My "Why Vanguard?" Story

March 23, 2021

Vanguard Henry Xuan shares about his journey to Vanguard Gap Year and the ways he has seen God work in and through his life. He says, “We were put on Earth to make visible the invisible God. Who am I? I am the beloved. I will fight the good fight.”

While I grew up in a Christian household, I left the church beginning of my sophomore year. That lasted nearly two years.

I was reintroduced to Christ at the start of senior year when my friend Catherine (Cat) started a dialogue about Christianity and why I left. Through conversations, Cat listened to my hurt, pointed out flaws in my frustrations with Christ, encouraged me to attend church, and challenged me to reconsider issues from an eternal perspective. Looking back, Cat’s influence exemplified the power of the voice of community. As I’ve learned in Vanguard seminars and experienced firsthand at HoneyRock, God truly uses relationships and circumstances to provide a mirror to see ourselves. After those discussions with Cat, God continued to work in my life – from prompting me to slowly attend church again to seeing my atheist grandpa give his life for Christ to even attending the Passion Conference.

When COVID-19 suddenly ended my senior year, my progress in returning to faith also went down the drain. Though Cat continued to encourage me to watch virtual church services, I missed out on the community aspect. I always loved the conversations with friends after sermons, discussing our thoughts on the message and affirming each other to come back the following week. I tried to call friends to have the same discussion, but that effort was short-lived.

A couple months later, a dream come true acceptance to Harvard University helped reignite my spiritual journey. I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined a Christian fellowship at Harvard which immediately connected me with many of the other incoming Christian students. However, when an online Spring semester was announced, I quickly realized I wanted to take a gap year.

While searching for gap year programs, my mom heard from our pastor’s wife about the “Vangord” program. While I couldn’t necessarily find “Vangord” online, I did, however, arrive at the Vanguard Gap Year of Wheaton College. The testimonies of students on the website and my interview with the program coordinator confirmed this was the answer to my spiritual struggles: an unmasked community deeply rooted in the Holy Spirit where I could ask tough questions and have challenging conversations to discover more about who I am and strengthen my faith.

henry xuan climbs rock face

It’s crazy looking back how a little over a year ago, I was an agnostic. It just shows the way God can move in our lives. In our vocations class, a reading by Skye Jethani paints the comparison of life as a series of open and closed doors. As we open a door, instead of the next door, there are multiple other doors in the room. This illustrates the lessons that we can see only a little way ahead but as we proceed, there are twists, turns, and surprises we could not anticipate. We’re given just enough light to know where the next step should be.

henry laughing with friends

Vanguard isn’t easy. But, while there are moments where I feel more confused than ever before, I’ve come to accept that the Christian faith is supposed to be difficult. The spiritual growth during our Vanguard year is similar to the apple tree we planted back in September: the experiences, lessons, and interactions from this year are the roots of the tree that lay a solid foundation that drive future growth. At Vanguard, we live out the teachings and implement spiritual disciplines into our daily routine of life. This semester, I have never prayed more, journaled more, or read the bible than ever before in my life. I have devoured C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller books. I have grasped what it means to find significance in the ordinary and live every day for God. I have challenged my body and seen God move through the physical world. I have learned how to continue ministry in corporate world. I have experienced the joy serving the community through food. I have learned more about who I am as a Son of God. 

I still struggle with trying to lead Jesus rather than allowing him to lead me to live as a signpost of God’s kingdom. But for now, I am focused on simply trying to live out the principles of Christ in my life and understand that the Christian life is one of continuous repentance and readiness to be reformed by the word of God.

henry and friends at scenic overlook

As my Vanguard experience comes to a close at the end of April, I will continue the disciplines of being with God in solitude and creating fellowship. Even though I am still convicted to work in the corporate sector, my Vanguard experience has equipped me with the ability and knowledge to stay rooted in my faith and spread the good news. I may not know what the future holds, but I do know this: We are God’s representatives on Earth. We were put on Earth to make visible the invisible God. Who am I? I am the beloved.

I will fight the good fight. –Henry Xuan, Vanguard ‘21

meg wolfe takes selfie
Vanguard: Year at a Glance

Vanguard, the Christian gap year of Wheaton College, offers incredible opportunities to ask big questions, explore the world, and discover purpose before college. Check out the 30,000-foot view of the year by clicking the link, below!