A DEVOUT IDOL WORSHIPPER
I am by nature very introspective and religious. At the tender age of ten, I was already asking such questions: Is there a God? How many deities are there in heaven? Where will I go after I die?
My family was Taoist and worshipped the Goddess of Mercy. I liked going with my parents and especially my grandmother to Chinese temples for worship rituals.
We would gather with other worshippers and chant for half an hour or more and listen to sermons from a monk. Although I didn’t understand most of what the monk said, I never grumbled about the long hours there.
Back home, I chanted three times a day and offered incense to the ancestral shrines and idols in the house. I was a staunch believer in ancestor worship even at that young age.
My first and indirect brush with Christianity came when I was twelve, and it literally ended in flames. I found out that one of my brothers had joined a very active Christian group at his college. Christian tracts were often sent to him at home, and he had to be cautious as my father was extremely anti-Christian.
I also knew where my brother hid those publications.
My father eventually discovered that my brother was part of this Christian group and lectured and nagged him daily. Seeing my father so angry and wanting to please him, I told him where the tracts were hidden. When my brother was out of the house, we dug them out and burned them. I was glad that I had pleased my father by helping him get rid of these Christian tracts.
About two years later, I had two classmates and an English teacher who were Christians. Once in a while, these classmates would talk to me about Christ, but it did not leave any impression on me.
I had been told from a young age that all religions were the same since they all taught man to do good. Moreover, I had also been taught that Christianity was a foreign religion and we Chinese should stick to the traditional religions, namely Taoism or Buddhism, handed down from our ancestors.
One time, a Christian classmate shocked me when he said that Christians are smarter than Taoists because Taoists are silly enough to offer food to blocks of wood. I knew that he was serious because his family had converted to Christianity. I was so offended by his remark that I stopped listening from then on whenever Jesus was mentioned.
TRYING CHRISTIAN PRAYER
That same year, when I was fourteen, my father’s health deteriorated very quickly and he was diagnosed with liver cancer. By year’s end, the pain was so great that he would toss and turn with each spasm. The sight of him in such agony broke my heart.
Whenever my father was in pain, I would beg the deities I worshipped to have mercy and to heal him. Oftentimes, I would plead for them to give him a moment of peace and be relieved of the pain so he could sleep well. I even hit my head against the floor as I begged. But none of my requests were granted.
One night, while my father was in the throes of pain, my Christian classmate called me. When I told her that my father was in great pain, she suggested that I pray to Jesus. The moment I heard “Jesus,” I hung up on her. She called back and I hung up when she brought up Jesus again. When she called a third time, I gave in.
Since my usual deities had not listened to me, I decided that there was no harm in trying this foreign God. So I asked her to teach me how to pray. She said, “It’s very simple. Start with ‘In Jesus’ name I pray,’ and just say whatever you want to say. That’s all.” Indeed, it seemed simple—no idol was needed, and I could pray anywhere.
After hanging up the phone, I went into my room. I prayed and begged with a sincere heart that Jesus relieve my father of his pain. During the prayer, I felt a great sense of peace that I had never experienced before, certainly not while chanting or praying to idols.
After the prayer, I went to my father’s room to check on him. He was no longer in pain and was fast asleep! Exhilarated, I told myself that there must be something special about Jesus. My request had been granted after only one prayer to Him while my repeated requests to the idols had been ignored.
I decided not to offer incense or chant to any deities anymore. I wanted to learn more about Jesus.
MY SEARCH FOR JESUS
Back in school, I began to discuss Christianity with my two Christian classmates and asked them questions about the religion. When I did that, many of my Muslim classmates, who had never talked to me about Islam before, also came to talk to me about the Quran.
My new faith in Jesus was soon shaken by my interaction with my Muslim friends. There were times when they were so persuasive that I was tempted to join their religious classes and have their teacher explain the teachings of Islam to me. But I never went. Instead, I turned to my Christian English teacher to clear my doubts. However, her answers could not completely reassure me and restore my faith in Christianity. I was left with many questions and no answers.
About two months later, the classmate who had taught me to pray was also looking for a church to join. She told me that she knew of a small and quiet church at Telok Kurau called True Jesus Church. She added that if one sat quietly in the pews towards the back of the chapel, people would not come up to ask questions or chat.
Since I am quite a shy person who does not like crowds, this church sounded ideal. We decided to attend a service together and joined a Wednesday evening service. I was quite shocked by the prayer in tongues. Still, I returned for a Friday evening service when my classmate asked me to go with her again.
During the closing prayer, I heard singing. It was an angelic sound that hovered near the ceiling, like a physical presence that swayed back and forth. It was very soothing and gave me a wonderfully peaceful sensation. From then on, all fear of prayer in tongues disappeared.
I stayed in the True Jesus Church to search for the truth. I often felt that the sermons were directed at me. Sometimes, they answered my questions about life, and other times they strengthened my conviction that this was the true church of God.
I asked many questions, including those that had surfaced after conversations with my Muslim friends. Thank God that the two brothers who studied the Bible with me were able to provide Bible-based answers to all my questions.
However, many obstacles popped up after I started going to church. It was difficult to attend services because my family still opposed Christianity, and I had to lie about where I was going in order to get out of the house.
A year after I came to True Jesus Church, my father passed away. After the funeral, I was told to offer incense to his tablet on the altar every morning. I refused, which angered my family and caused them to see me as an unfilial child. In addition, I had to buy or cook my own meals during festive seasons as I refused to eat the food that my family had sacrificed to the idols. But through it all, I never saw these obstacles as a burden because I knew that I had to do what was right in the eyes of God.
I often felt that the sermons were directed at me. Sometimes, they answered my questions about life, and other times they strengthened my conviction that this was the true church of God.
Over the next few years, with increased understanding of the truth, I was even more convinced that I had found the true church. My discussions with classmates from other Christian denominations reinforced this belief because I found that they did not fully adhere to the Bible.
I was eager to get baptized but had to wait, since my family opposed my baptism and I was not yet twenty-one years old. As a minor, I wasn’t free to make this decision on my own. But when I turned twenty, I signed up for baptism because I didn’t want to delay any longer. I did not tell my siblings because I knew they would disagree with my decision. I did tell my mother, who gave me permission to proceed.
More than two decades have passed, and I still feel so very blessed that God brought me to His true church. I have had many doctrinal discussions with other Christians, even attending their services to see what their worship sessions were like. I could never feel the presence of God in these other places.
Conversely, attending worship services at the True Jesus Church is like coming home. Though I am still a shy person, I enjoy the fellowship with brothers and sisters. The truth from the sermons continue to enlighten and inspire me, and I derive so much peace and joy listening to the word of God that I try to attend all services.
Great is the Lord! He led me to know Him even though I was a sinner who once felt anger at the mention of His name. I really thank God for such deep love and mercy. All glory to Jesus!