Christian Figueroa grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist tradition, regularly attended church with his family, and understood Adventist beliefs. But it wasn’t until he underwent experiences at La Sierra Academy and La Sierra University that his own spiritual life and identity fell into focus, leading to his decision to be baptized.
The La Sierra University third-year biochemistry/pre-dentistry major and Pasadena native enrolled at La Sierra through the influence of his brother, Jeffery Figueroa, a Riverside dentist and an alumnus of the university.
The window into a deeper and stronger personal faith cracked opened during the first chapel service Christian attended after he arrived at La Sierra Academy’s high school. He was further influenced through the spiritual support and encouragement of his girlfriend, whom he met at La Sierra University. A religion class last year at the university inspired a flash of divine insight, furthering Christian’s journey. He was baptized in June by La Sierra University Chaplain Jason Decena in an outdoor baptistry on the campus’s Founders’ Green.
“I grew up in the [Adventist] environment. But I never felt that I was fully integrated into it,” Figueroa said. “What inspired me was actually coming to the school[s].”
He enrolled at La Sierra Academy for his senior year of high school and attended a Friday afternoon chapel service his first day. “I cried that day because it was so moving for me to see people that were genuinely invested and actually meant what they were doing.”
He attended community college for a year then enrolled at La Sierra University, where he met his future girlfriend, Silvana Albornoz, whose work organizing a homeless outreach through the campus’s Spiritual Life office made an impact on Christian’s burgeoning faith. The Wash Project brings food, clothes, toiletries, and other items each Friday to a large population of homeless families and individuals encamped in a dry riverbed in the region.
“I felt that this program helped me do God's work physically,” said Figueroa. “I think that's definitely what got me to that point where I was, like, Jason, let's do this.”
He also noted a religion class he took at La Sierra University last year with Dr. Kendra Haloviak Valentine during which she relayed an epiphanic moment experienced by one of her students who likened the choice between good and evil as a choice between someone whose goal it is to destroy human beings and someone who loves and adores them even though they’re not worthy.
“So taking ownership of that, that was a huge moment for me because I had never thought of it that way,” said Figueroa. “I don't deserve it anyway. But why don't I just treat it like it's mine.”
By Darla Martin Tucker