Youth Corner (Joel Philip Varughese)

How do you miss college and church?

In terms of college, the impact of the pandemic has been challenging as online learning is not as effective as in-class learning. I also miss interacting with people — friends, teachers and colleagues at my college. I also miss going to church, something that I looked forward to every Sunday. Online worship is just not the same as standing along with your brothers and sisters in Christ together in worship

Interview Video Part 1

What was the role of church in shaping your life journey?

Sunday School has been an important part of my life. I want to recognise the role Sunday school teachers have played, taking time out of their schedules and helping people like me give to the future by learning the Word of God. Other programs like VBS and Christmas events gave us platforms to learn and perform. Another group that is important is Youth Fellowship. It has allowed me to make a lot of friends with whom I can relate and share my experiences with. I also want to call out the role seniors within Youth Fellowship have played. They are people we can always go to with questions and they have paved the way for the future of the Youth. And the church itself has been one of the most important things to shape me as a Christian. Not just going to service but participating in Bible reading, offertory and being a deacon has helped set a strong foundation for me.

Interview Video Part 2

What are your memories from Kerala?

So the last time I visited Kerala was in 2018. The best part of Kerala is definitely the food and my Ammachi is hands down the best cook! I got to ride an elephant which was pretty scary. I also got an auto and riding on the roads in Kerala feels like you’re on a roller coaster. In Kerala everyone seems to know one another unlike here in the US where you may barely know your neighbor. One of the grandest weddings I have attended has also been in India and I had a great time eating the wedding sadya.

Interview Video Part 3

How do you balance both cultures?

When I first came here I really didn’t know much about American culture. I learned more from TV and in school but that wasn’t enough initially because my parents were also in the same boat as me! They were also learning and at home we mainly spoke only Malayalam so you didn’t have much English exposure. However over time I was able to learn more from school and it helped me to understand and appreciate the differences between American and Malayalee culture especially in the view-points and norms of kids who grew up here — respect for parents being one example. I think it is important to have a good mix of both cultures. Once I got to college, the freedoms I had expanded but I realized it was important to know my limits and strike the right balance. It is important not to fully ignore American culture because you need friends from all backgrounds and it is important for your future. Another aspect to this cultural difference is dating. In America, society is more open and accepting whereas in our culture there is a lot more judgment. Personally, I’ve been on the sidelines with regards to dating but if I were to date, it would be a Malayalee girl who is Christian and goes to church since I put a lot of importance on culture and values. But it is ultimately up to the individuals and what their values are and we need to be more accepting.

Interview Video Part 4

What changes do you want to bring to church?

I think the church and organizations within the church like Sunday School and Youth Fellowship can help us by being more accepting. The Youth are the future of the church and if they are not involved it will have an impact. Participation from the Youth is also important and getting them involved in various aspects of the church will strengthen the church and its future. The Youth fellowship has also been doing a good job trying to find times outside of after-service when we can meet, interact and socialize.

Interview Video Part 5

How is your prayer life and faith journey?

My prayer life and faith journey has gotten stronger over time. College has definitely been one of the more challenging times in my life. But prayer has helped me get through a lot of stressful moments in College and my Mom would call to encourage and support me as well. My grandparents were also a constant source of support with their daily calls and prayers. This definitely gave me strength to get through the tough times especially  with the pandemic and shutdowns. Some advice that I have for the youth is to not give up and put your faith and trust in God no matter how difficult the situation. He has a plan for all of us. Another important aspect is being grateful for your parents — without them we would not be here enjoying all the luxuries and benefits of living in the United States. Also, as you grow older try and become friends with your parents. Cherish your family and always thank God for all the blessings you have received and the many plans he has for you.

Interview Video Part 6

The above video is part of a conversation between Joel Philip Varughese and Tom Tharakan.

Joel Philip Varughese is a 3rd year student at the California Northstate University : College of Health Sciences.

The video highlights have been transcribed by Libi Cherian.

About Tom Tharakan

Vice President of San Francisco Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam & Young Family Fellowship