God Met Me in Boston: Interview with Cherchaela Spellen
If you’re ministering in Boston, you’re probably familiar with the well-worn “godless New England” narrative. Academic reports and popular publications have cited Boston as one of America’s most “post-Christian” cities, reinforcing this image in the national consciousness.
But there’s another reality—of today’s Boston Christian vitality—that such reports do not capture.
We sat down with Cherchaela Spellen, Lead Facilitator of the Making Youth Voices Heard initiative in Roxbury. She shares that despite being raised in a ministry family she didn’t personally connect with God until she moved to Boston. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what brought you to Boston?
I’m 21. I’m from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. I grew up there. I came to Boston through a student exchange. I did a semester at UMass Boston, for my undergrad in Biology. I went back home, graduated, and was like, “Hmm, I really like Boston!” So I decided to take a risk and apply to grad school in Boston.
Tell me a little bit about your spiritual background growing up.
My grandfather started a church called Zion Assembly in St. Thomas. Honestly, I was just going to church because I sort of had to, not really because I had a personal relationship or experienced God in some sort of magnificent way.
Then my grandmother fell sick with Alzheimer’s Disease, and my mother ended up taking over the ministry, which was mind-blowing! My mom had wanted nothing to do with preaching. She was like, “I’m NOT going to be a preacher!” But she ended up taking over the ministry.
But I feel as if I really started understanding God at a better level when I came here to Boston. Christianity was always my parents’ faith. When I came to Boston, I had the freedom to choose whether I wanted to keep a relationship with God, or I wanted to explore other things. Then the Lord just moved in my life magnificently.
I had done my undergrad in Biology, but I ended up switching to social work for grad school because I felt Him calling me to do that. Also, I had met some really cool people at CrossTown Church International. I started volunteering there, just as an administrator, and then God was telling me to do more. So I did an open mic night for the youth in the Roxbury community.
What are some challenges you’ve experienced on this journey?
There were some relationships that I’ve had to let go of, and I believe that God brought me here to make it easier, because those relationships were back home. So it was a transition state for me. I just put my full attention on Him and I was like, “Lord, lead, me, direct me, wherever you want me to go, I’ll go.”
And honestly, when I accepted BC’s package to me, I was like, “Why am I going to BC? I’m not equipped to go to BC! I’m just this island girl! I don’t even know how to talk the lingo. I know nothing about social work.”
But He was like, Trust me. And I trusted Him. I still trust Him. I have a better relationship with Him now since I’ve been here. I feel like God is using this time to minister to me, telling me to focus on Him, and get to know Him better.
What would you say is your passion?
I hope it doesn’t sound too cliche. But I feel like my passion right now is to honestly win souls for Christ. I feel like that only started like January or February of this year.
I was just reading Scripture and praying, and I was like, “You have to show me some sort of direction, Lord! I feel as if I’m just going about my life, not knowing what I’m going to do. It has to be more than a career that you have me on this earth for.” I just heard, evangelism.
My pastor preached that we have to choose whether we’re serving Christ or we’re going to serve someone else—we can’t have two masters.
I was thinking, “Lord, I think I’ve made fear my biggest idol. I’m so fearful of what people will think of me. I don’t want to go out and say, ‘Oh, do you know Jesus?’ I know You’ve done so much for my life. But I’m the type of person who wants people to love and accept me. Not everyone loves and accepts God. So how will they embrace me if I’m outside prophesying about You, Lord?”
But that message kept ringing in my head, “You can’t serve two masters.” I want other people to experience the same joy and contentment that I have, just developing my relationship with Him. So I was like, “Ok, Lord. If they don’t like me, then that’s fine.”
Now I’m being more keen to listen to Him and who He wants me to speak to. I just really want people to give their lives to Christ. It’s the best decision I ever, ever, ever made.