I grew up in a Christian household with two immigrant parents, from Hong Kong, who decided to pursue advanced degrees in the U.S. My father, who earned his Ph.D. while working and taking care of my brother, then, a 3-year-old toddler, was very driven. My parents always emphasized independence with faithfulness, and that same hard-working mentality was passed down and instilled in me at an early age.
When I was one year old, my family and I lived in Houston, Texas. At the time, my dad was working for the Baylor College of Medicine and my mom was working as a nurse at the M.D Anderson Cancer Center. Seemingly overnight, my dad received four job offers. His options were: to stay at Baylor in Houston, work for the government in Beijing, move back to Hong Kong and work for the University, or work for a government-funded institution in Singapore.
Essentially, my dad received the four offers within a single week and had just one week to make a decision. My parents fervently prayed about where to go. On the sixth day of prayer, my dad came across a verse in Genesis 12, where God told Abram to go to the new land.
“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 NIV)
My parents interpreted it as a sign from the Lord.
Go from your country. We were in Houston at the time, so we knew we had to leave the States.
Your people. My family is Chinese, so Beijing was out.
Your father’s household. My dad is from Hong Kong, so that was out as well.
To the land I will show you. And with that, my family packed up and made our trek to Singapore.
While we lived in Singapore, I started gymnastics at an after-school program. During that first class, I fell in love with the sport. Throughout my time in Singapore, I continued to pursue gymnastics, and eventually, when we moved back to the States, I found a gym to train at. Looking back, had it not been for our family’s move to Singapore, I would have never found my first love.
In 2015, I was recruited by the University of Arizona on a scholarship. In March, during my junior year of high school, the head coach called to ask if I would like to come to college a year early due to a year increase in scholarships. Since my birthday was in September, I was already really young for my grade. So, graduating early would mean that I would start college at 16.
I remember talking to my parents about attending college early. They told me about all the ways they have instilled independence in me, and how they raised me to persevere through whatever life throws at me. So I called my head coach back and agreed to graduate early.
To graduate high school early, I had to take summer school to catch up on my credits. It paid off. I received my diploma on August 16, and college started on August 22. The experience of starting college early caused me to mature earlier, but it also taught me how to adapt to my environment, work within a team, and ultimately, it enabled me to compete at a Division I institution while earning an education.
In my time at the University of Arizona, I have found an amazing community within Athletes in Action and Epic Movement, both of which give me the love and support I need to grow in my faithfulness and spiritual life.
Looking back, it’s extremely evident how much God was working in my life. Throughout all the challenges and curveballs I have experienced, when I look back, everything fell into place in God’s perfect timing.
Had my family not moved to Singapore, I may have never started gymnastics and pursued it as a career. Likewise, had I not decided to start college early, I would have never found an amazing community of friends, spiritual leaders, and an institution that not only encourages me to grow, but pushes me to succeed. In everything, it is truly God’s perfect timing that makes me grateful and appreciative of the life he has blessed me with. His grace is so, so good, and I can’t wait to look back at my life in the future and see all the wonderful works He has done.
Jenny Leung is a junior on the University of Arizona Wildcats Gymnastics team.