How The Lord Called Me
Testimony By Irene S. Lane – Irvine, California, USA
STARTING OVER IN SINGAPORE
My Buddhist grandparents left China in their youth and settled in Indonesia, where I was born many years later. My mother was a Buddhist by birth, but my dad was an avid self-believer and he was always confident in whatever he did.
I had a happy childhood growing up in my parents’ home, and their only requirement was for me to study hard. They sent me to a Christian school and, occasionally, I prayed to my grandparents’ portraits. Sometimes, during Chinese New Year, I would visit the temple and ask for higher grades. Meanwhile, the teachers at school taught us the Lord’s Prayer and how God is omnipresent, so we could talk to Him anytime and anyplace. At that time, I was nine years old and living in my little comfort zone when my uncle called my father about my future education.
My parents’ generation had gone to Chinese school but, because of racial discrimination, all Chinese schools in Indonesia were closed down by the time I was in school. That is why some Chinese Indonesians can’t speak fluent Chinese nowadays. After their conversation, my dad sat me down and asked, “Do you want to be able to speak Chinese and English fluently?” I replied, “Yes”, and before I knew it, my mom and I were off to Singapore. Arrangements were made for me to stay with a homestead mother to act as my guardian. She was about sixty years old and spoke only Mandarin and Hakka – another dialect in Chinese. Because many Chinese Indonesian parents sent their children to Singapore to study, this lady operated a homestead business to accept overseas students.
I felt as if my life had been turned upside down. In Indonesia, a family has three servants and a nanny at home to take care of the kids. Suddenly, I was brought to Singapore, with no mommy’s kisses or daddy’s smile, and with no one to wait on me. I had to be independent. I was left with a difficult course load at school and an old lady at home who could care less for the children staying at her house. I regretted that I had agreed to my father. If only I had refused, I would have been able to enjoy my life like any other ordinary kid in Indonesia. But I didn’t know that God had a different plan for me.
“JUST COME AND SEE”
The LORD has called Me from the womb; From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name. (Isa 49:1)
I didn’t know God had chosen me to be one of His own, but the time came when I was fifteen years old and approaching my junior year of secondary school. A friend asked me what my religion was, and I said both Buddhism and Christianity. She said, “How can you have two husbands? You have to pick one.” I was shocked. I was still young, why did I have to think about religion? I really didn’t know how to pick. I just knew that Jesus is everywhere and that He is invisible. But according to my family, I was supposed to be a Buddhist.
That night, I prayed on my bed. I crossed my legs and held up my hand in the Buddhist prayer position. But with my mouth, I said, “Lord Jesus, I want to pray to you now. Please tell me what my religion is.” I prayed the way a Buddhist prayed because I thought I was a Buddhist, but there were no statues related to Buddhism or pictures of my grandparents in front of me. At the same time, I was aware that the Lord Jesus is available anytime and anywhere, and I didn’t want to offend any of the gods. I didn’t know that there was only one God.
Exactly one month after that prayer God still graciously gave me the answer, though I was ignorant of the fact that I shouldn’t pray in this way. Two older boys in that house suddenly invited me to the True Jesus Church. They hadn’t been going to church for two years, and they suddenly felt like going. So they said to me, “Hey, just come and see.” Immediately, I grabbed three other girls to come with me. It was a Wednesday night service, and half of the service was devoted to praying for the Holy Spirit. It was the first time I had ever stepped into a church, and there was no introduction about speaking in tongues.
An amazing thing happened that night, though. The speaker used almost twenty-five passages and I had never turned to the Bible before. But that night, every time I had flipped to a verse, the pages seemed to turn for me. I was always on the right verse. It must be God helping me, I thought. I had learned in school that when you pray, you should never peek at your friends. But when the time to pray came, I couldn’t stand it, so I apologized to God and bravely opened my eyes. What I saw shocked me. Everyone was praying in a loud voice, and they were vibrating in an orderly manner. I couldn’t understand at all what they were speaking. I turned to my friend who was beside me. When I looked at her, she said, “Shhh… just see.”
About the service, a sister from the church came to answer my questions about the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. She said that speaking in tongues is speaking in the language of heaven. I already knew a few languages, and I wanted to learn this one. The second time I came, there was a hymnal evangelical service. I was moved to tears. It seemed like the words sung by the choir were so real and were sung straight from their hearts.
Despite my experiences, I still had my doubts and started to shop around for other churches. This time, I narrowed down my options. I knew I was attracted to Christianity, but I didn’t know which church I should go to. I tried a charismatic church. Their singing was great, but as soon as the preacher started to preach, I immediately fell asleep. I told God, if I go and I fall asleep again, I won’t come back. True enough, I went back a second time and fell asleep. I felt the sermons at the True Jesus Church were more appealing and had more depth. Still, I struggled with some confusion, gave up, and didn’t
go to any church after that.
Three months later, the sister who had sat next to me called me up and said, “Hey, our church is organizing a badminton competition. Do you want to come?” That was my third contact with the True Jesus Church.
Some members at the competition were playing badminton, and some were playing basketball. I thought to myself, “How come all these people call themselves brothers and sisters? Are they related? How come they seem to be one big family?” My curiosity made me investigate the truth.
That day, the first person who sat down with me referred to John 3:5, which states: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” It was very direct and hard for me to swallow. I also had many questions: “First of all, do I even want to enter the kingdom of heaven? What is the purpose anyway? Is it to be able to speak in an unknown tongue?” Despite my uncertainties, I knew that this church offered something really extraordinary. This church had the abidance of the Holy Spirit.
From then on, I actively search into the church. I asked many questions. I learned how to pray to Jesus. I kept encouraging those three girls who come with me that first time to come back to church. Out of the three, one of them accepted the truth. I thought, since I was the one who had brought my friends, I should receive the Holy Spirit before them. I thought God’s principles are the same as ours: First come, first serve. But it turned out to be the other way around – the first would be the last, and the last would be the first. As we prayed together, I could only repeat “Hallelujah” loudly. But those three girls began to experience the movement of the Holy Spirit. One of them immediately spoke in tongues. I was shocked and disappointed at the same time. What’s wrong with me, I thought. Was it because I hadn’t mastered the Bible well enough?
So I bought a simple NIV Bible and was determined to read through it. At six o’clock every morning before I went to school, I would read one to three chapters. Before long I had finished the whole Bible. I was going to church four times a week, reading the Bible everyday, and praying loudly in my room daily. Each time there was a spiritual convocation, I would pray until I lose my voice. I did all I could to pray for the Holy Spirit. Yet I still didn’t receive it. I still had to learn that God has His own time for everything. All I needed to do was to wait and to keep on praying.
Apparently, my homestead lady became unhappy because a few of us were praying loudly for the Holy Spirit. Secretly, she called my parents and told them that I was going to church everyday, wasn’t studying, was wasting my time, and believed in something very weird. But it was not true. I studied till late every night, and I only went to church four times a week; not every day. That was the beginning of the persecution of my faith. I was fifteen years old at the time. My parents called and said they were very upset even though I tried very hard to explain to them. My mother said to me, “If you plant a watermelon seed, it will grow into a watermelon tree. If your mother is a Buddhist, then you are a Buddhist for life, and shouldn’t believe in some Western religion.” My parents became very angry and said that if I went to church one more time, they would buy me a one-way ticket back to Indonesia, even if school wasn’t finished. Thank God for giving me the strong will to keep on searching for the truth. In those days, I went to church secretly and prayed for God to open a way.
Going to church on Sabbath was not easy for me. Two times a year, I would go back to Indonesia to be with my parents during the holidays. But during those happy times, I couldn’t go to church on Saturdays. We would be traveling in a car and passing by the True Jesus Church building, and my heart wanted to cry out to go to church. Sabbath service might become a routine and habit for some people, but I know what it’s like not being allowed to go to service when I wanted to. Only God could hear my cries and see the tears in my eyes. My body was in the car, but my soul was worshipping God with the others at church. He trained me to stand up for what is true. When everybody else was worshipping my grandparents in the tomb site, I sat in the car by myself. During Chinese New Year, when everybody brought flowers to burn incense in the temple, I stayed at home by myself. To my family and to everybody else, I was unfilial and foolish. To some, I was crazy. But in my heart was a burning flame. I knew what I was doing and, just as the title of a familiar hymn expresses, I know whom I have believed. I would often smile and say to God, “Lord Jesus, You said I would be blessed when I’m persecuted for Your name’s sake. I should rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”
RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT
The persecution went on but I continued to pray for the Holy Spirit. By then, two years had gone by and I still hadn’t received the Holy Spirit. I knew how important it was, and I was thirsting for it. I attended the first day of a student spiritual convocation in June, 1991. The preacher asked all the students to pray earnestly and persistently. The ministers laid hands on us and, because so many students would receive the Holy Spirit during prayer, a circle would be marked on the floor in front of where we knelt, so they would remember who had received the Holy Spirit.
After we finished praying, I also had a circle marked. The minister said, “Thank God, you have received the Holy Spirit.” I quickly stood up and said, “Oh, I haven’t received the Holy Spirit because I know I was clearly saying ‘hallelujah’ and not speaking in the spiritual tongue yet.” Though the preacher kept assuring me that I had received the Holy Spirit, I kept on denying it, so I did not receive the Holy Spirit until the next year. It took me three years of praying before I received the Holy Spirit. I was foolish to doubt God.
On June 2, 1992, I attended the student spiritual convocation with my friends again. By the first prayer, I already saw a round circle marked in front of me. At that time, I was surprised but I didn’t dare to deny the Holy Spirit again. Even though I knew that my tongue could clearly say “hallelujah,” I did not dare to doubt. The same preacher told me I had received the Holy Spirit and that I should keep praying. I didn’t say anything but just smiled. I knew I had been wrong the previous year, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake. During the 4:00 pm prayer, I decided to change my attitude and mindset. When the prayer began, as usual, everyone started to pursue earnestly for the Holy Spirit. I also put complete concentration into my prayer, with the same urgency, thirst, sweat, tears and everything in me.
But this time I also did something different. With my mouth I said “hallelujah,” but in my heart I said to God, “The preacher said You have given me the Holy Spirit. This time I don’t dare to doubt. Thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit already.” As soon as I said the word “already,” my tongue rolled away very, very quickly. I was so shocked that I opened my eyes. In front of me was a fan that was turning very fast. I thought in my heart that my tongue was rolling faster than the fan! Another difference in this prayer was that no tears fell down my cheeks. Instead I was filled with joy and a stream of happiness flowed from my belly. The Holy Spirit is truly an indwelling Spirit. Once we pray for it, it will not leave us and will dwell in us if we abide in His word. Just as Mark 11:24 states: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
GOD’S WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN OUR WAYS
Ever since I received the Holy Spirit, God has made even more changes in my life. First of all, He gradually changed my character. The Holy Spirit also led me to understand the truth one step at a time. Finally, in 1994, I braced myself for baptism. The Holy Spirit had also put it in my heart to come to study in the U.S., after I had been living in Singapore for eight years. At the time, I didn’t know why God led me to the U.S. through my prayers and through signs. But now I know why.
As God says in Isaiah 55:9: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Looking back, if I hadn’t come to the U.S., I wouldn’t have been baptized at Pacifica Church in San Francisco. Maybe I would have kept on living in Singapore. Maybe I wouldn’t have met my husband nine years ago. Around the time of my baptism, a sister was preparing to get married and she said to me, “Getting married is a very serious matter. It’s as serious as getting baptized. Once you go forward, you cannot turn back. There is no other man, only this one.” She told me that if I could make the big decision to get baptized, then getting married should be my second biggest commitment. Up to that point, I was only hearing how to make the first commitment, and I was already so afraid. I knew that if I decided to be baptized in the Lord, I could not turn back. I could not pray to any other God. All my life I would have to keep myself in the faith. My attitude, speech, and behavior would have to be in tune with the Lord Jesus.
Now that I have embraced the first commitment of baptism, God would also show me His way in my marriage.
He Saved My Family
Four years after my baptism, I left Pacifica Church. My mom called me to go back to Indonesia because violent riots aimed at Chinese Indonesians broke out. Houses, cars, and properties were burned. Many Chinese and Christians were killed, but God led me to help my parents-to pray for them and to introduce the Lord Jesus to my family at the time. Even though there were persecutions in my faith, I was moved by the lyrics of a hymn, “though others may obstruct our way, but in Jesus we will be happy all the day.” And I turned to Acts 16:30-31:
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and you will be saved, you and your household… And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
The Lord Jesus protected my family and their business throughout the civil unrests in Indonesia, and they also witnessed God’s miracles in their lives. During that year, my brother was baptized, and my parents started to seek the truth. One week before my wedding, my parents were also baptized in Christ.
Who could foretell that ten years after I braved myself for baptism, my parents would receive the grace of salvation and be baptized, too? We probably hear it all the time, but I will say it again. Our God is a living God, and everything He said in the Bible is true. After we get baptized, our lives will be totally changed. We belong to God now, and He will see us through our Christian journey. Through every circumstance and when we encounter turbulences, God will keep us in perfect peace. Using human eyesight, it was very painful for me to leave my parents at the age of nine. But God had a more wonderful plan in my life. He chose me and gave me something that money cannot buy – His saving grace.
God also wanted to give my family this salvation grace; I cannot imagine where I would be now if I did not go through all that He has blessed me. God has also commissioned us what we are to do for Him. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we are all here together (Acts 17:26-27). From different parts of the world with different languages we worship the same God.
Let us open our hearts, let Him control our lives, and let Him lead us. Thank God for everything.
May all honor, praise, and glory be given to His name only!