You may not yet know her name or her likes/dislikes, but if you've attended service at Crosswalk, you all know who Leila is -- at least from a distance -- as she is a singer/keyboardist in Crosswalk's Praise Team. We interviewed Leila to allow others to get to know her off the stage, as well as to find out about her walk with God and what drives her on to keep serving and singing. Read on and find out!
Q: You are a great singer, as evident by your work in Crosswalk's Praise Team. How did you develop your singing ability, and how do you plan to continue using your talent?
A: I learned music by watching my family members. My mother was a gifted musician pursuing a professional career as an opera singer. My sister – if she hears any music, she is able to replicate it on the piano without sheet music, in perfect pitch. My dad has an amazing voice, too. I’m actually not as musically gifted as my family members. But I grew up loving music and singing because it was a regular part of our family life. And I am mostly a self-taught musician/singer, although my sister taught me the basics of piano.
I’ve been a part of Crosswalk's praise team for close to two years now, and it is a great joy for me. It never feels like I am “serving” because I find so much joy in it.
Recently, I began leading praise team once or twice per month. That was a huge challenge for me and still is. It is also humbling. God is teaching me to trust and rely on Him only, rather than on any musical talent and abilities I may have, and making me realize that He will accomplish His work irrespective of my talent and abilities. My hope is that I can lead praise team to help people be able to focus solely on God during that time.
Q: At what point in your life did God become real and personal to you, and what were the circumstances of that encounter?
A: I was born into a fifth-generation Christian family. I think our long heritage of faith, in a way, hindered us from having a genuine, personal relationship with God. We had a somewhat prideful and pompous way of viewing faith.
Then, when I was in junior high school, my father became diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and lost his motor abilities. He struggled to even hold a spoon to feed himself soup, or to pick up a piece of paper. Seeing that was extremely difficult, because to me, my father was the biggest and strongest person whom I looked up to so much. Yet I saw the disease utterly break him down.
But through that, my faith became real for the first time. Rather than just leaning on my heritage to call myself a Christian, I was able to realize, confess, and awaken to the truth that I have no control over anything – not my body and not my life. Only God has control over my body and my life. And nothing I have is my own. My family members had a similar experience as well. I guess you can say that my father’s physical breakdown led to the spiritual breakdown of our family, but in a good way.
Q: What is one lesson that God taught you personally and uniquely, that you couldn't have possibly learned from other people?
A: That I need to find joy in the midst of the struggles. It’s easy to say after the struggle is over, “Oh yeah, God was working during that time. I’m so grateful.” I want to be able to praise God now, and not just after the fact. And it’s certainly something that I cannot do on my own. God is teaching me how to do this. Some days it is very tough, and some days are easier. It’s a learning process.
Q: I think that one of the biggest challenges of being a Christian is not being swayed by the circumstances of life, especially because we're humans and we have emotions. How do you deal with this in your Christian walk?
A: I try to remember what’s true. The truth is that God is an eternal and sovereign God who knows every day of my future and is with me through it all. Constantly reminding myself of the truth helps me to overcome my daily struggles.
Q: Many Christians struggle with boredom; they do not find spending time with God very exciting. What are some things that you do which keep your relationship with God exciting and dynamic?
A: I believe that God is a very personal God and gives us many different, personalized channels so that you can connect with Him. I think you can find God through your natural interest. For me, because I love music, I find God through music. When there are days when I just don’t “feel” it and don’t have that desire to spend personal time with God, I’ll just plug in my earphones and listen to a praise song I like. I just enjoy the music for a couple of minutes, then I mediate on its lyrics, and then I end up finding joy in God’s presence. But there is definitely discipline involved in spending time with God; sometimes you do need to take that step and go through some motions before you learn to enjoy Him. And once you reach out to Him, He always reaches back to you.
So find something that gives you joy, and dive into that and see where He takes you!