Anything Less would not
have been Worthy of Him
by Connie Chan, August, 1998
This is my personal testimony of how I came to know Jesus Christ and to follow and serve Him as my master and Lord. I am of Chinese descent and have grown up and lived most of my life in the Philippines.
When I was young, I read about Jesus and also saw His image on my mother’s altar, who worshipped Him as the Catholics do. However, I never knew that we can talk to Him and request for His help. It was only when my cousin Belinda came to visit us during her summer vacation that I realised Jesus could help us. We were living in Tarlac, a province north of Manila and Belinda and I shared the same room and bed. The very first night of her visit, I woke her up with my screams and cries due to the nightmares I was having. I dreamed of being chased by wild beasts and monsters and this was a regular nightly experience. Belinda asked me if I knew how to pray and when she learned that I didn’t, she immediately taught me. From that night onwards, I prayed and asked Jesus’ help and I never had anymore bad dreams.
Being able to talk to God every night, sharing my feelings and thoughts with Him, helped me to face much pain and anguish as I was growing up. One of the early painful incidents of my life was to be raped and the memory of this was something I could only bear and endure through prayer. In addition to this, my parents quarrelled almost every night and this was something I could only face through prayer.
We were the only Chinese family living in our town and my mother, out of concern for our welfare, wouldn’t let us go out and play with the Filipino neighbourhood children. Our big bungalow house became a virtual prison for the five of us children. Although we had lots of space inside, we longed for the fresh outdoor air. We had our first taste of freedom when our parents went to Baguio for a day outing and locked us up with the maid. My elder brother, being bored, cut off the wire in our window so that we could escape. The air outside was as wonderful as we dreamed it would be. As well, for the first time in my life, I went inside our neighbours nipa house and enjoyed eating without a knife and fork and resting on the cool bamboo floor. It had been a wonderful day but as it began to get dark, a fear started to come over me because of what I would face when my parents returned. I was not afraid of my father because he had never involved himself much with us but I was petrified of my mother whose wrath I had already had occasion to taste. On one occasion in the past, she had given me a haircut and I was left looking like a coconut husk. When I saw myself in the mirror, I was so ashamed of what I looked like that I wailed and wailed. I couldn’t stop blaming her for what she had done and she became so angry that she beat me until I stopped crying. Though I still felt the pain in my heart, her beatings were more painful! So severe was her beating that even though she was using a thick stick, the force against my legs and buttocks was such that it broke. With this memory fresh in my mind, I quivered as I thought about what would happen when my mother returned and found out what we had done that day. I had not had a chance to go to my bed and cry out to God for help as I usually did at night so I prayed in my heart right where I was. Surprisingly, when my mum came home, she was angry but she didn’t mention the matter. The next day, she arranged for steel bars to be put on the windows and so our house really became like a prison. Because I was expecting a severe punishment, I didn’t mind that she did this. I was also amazed that God had heard my prayer even though I had prayed to Him in broad daylight and in the midst of so much noise. I learned from this that God is everywhere and that you can count on Him anywhere and anytime. Later, this would also become an excuse for me not to go to church because I thought, if He is everywhere, why do I need to worship Him in church?
My second taste of freedom came when I was sent to Manila to study. I stayed with my aunt’s family. At first, I thought it was a blessing to be away from home and away from my mum’s nagging but later I faced the shame of not being able to pay for the room and board because my parents weren’t able to afford it. Although my aunt was on a tight budget, she never sent me away because of lack of funds. Living on others charity was painful even though I was treated well and so I always tried to compensate by making myself useful around the house. At school, I was quiet and didn’t have many friends. In my free time, I burrowed myself in my books; fairy tales, adventures and love stories, all in an effort to escape from the pain of everyday life. My cousins were studying in a Christian school and sometimes they would invite me to their church services. I didn’t enjoy church because I didn’t understand the message and generally speaking, the atmosphere was not friendly. I also saw their attitude outside of church and so in my mind, I saw no difference in going or not going to church. God still heard my prayers even though I stayed home.
On one occasion, my cousin, Vicky, invited me to their church summer camp in Baguio. Even though I was shy among people I didn’t know, I still agreed to go because another cousin was going and I would enjoy the cool weather in the mountains and also the scenery, all of which were irresistable. At the camp, I was hurt by the fact my cousins left me on my own. They had responsibilities and also their own sets of friends and I was treated as a mere acquaintance. For sleeping accomodations, I was put with a church group from one of the provinces and while they were nice to me, I couldn’t enjoy myself because of all the resentment in my heart towards my cousins. While I was physically at the camp, my heart and mind were in another world, dreaming of all the things I would like to happen. The only thing that brought me back to what was going on around me was the singing because I liked to sing. In the end, the thing that made the camp memorable for me was what happened on the last day. That was when I experienced the Lord and His presence. We had been asked to prepare a simple testimony to share with everyone in the afternoon. Because of my shyness, I intended to only participate as a listener. After listening to several testimonies, I became bored. Unpleasant thoughts came to me of why I had to sit there and listen to all these people share their nonsense testimonies. Perhaps because the Lord saw my attitude, I felt Him compelling me to go forward to share something. I ignored His prompting and prayed for the session to end. Instead, the session dragged on and on, and I felt more uneasy with each moment that passed. Finally, to escape my own uneasiness and to regain the peace in my heart, I went forward in obedience to the Lord. I went up and told them the truth; I was only up there because the
Lord had commanded me to come and if we don’t listen to and obey the Lord, we won’t ever have His peace. What I said was short and simple but I was amazed at the impact of my words. Some cried and some came to me and told me how good I was but I couldn’t understand how I was good except that now I felt peaceful and normal again because I had obeyed the Lord and escaped His disciplining hand.
That experience helped to slightly change my attitude to going to church. When my friends invited me to go to church with them, I did so. They even convinced me to get baptised, telling me all I had to do was to believe in Jesus as my Saviour. Well, I did believe in Jesus as my Saviour but I was disturbed by the attitude I saw in them because they were proud of having convinced me to take this step and not only I but the many that were baptised with me that day. As a result, I never went to that church anymore and while I may have regretted the ceremony, I never regretted accepting the Lord. It made me search a for spiritual things and I did so by going to different churches. In my search at that time, I didn’t find much but I came out with some change in my life.
All along I had resented my parents and had kept asking God why He had given me such parents who made me suffer so much pain. At this time, I noticed a change in my own heart. I was now able to accept them for what they were and to forgive them for all the past. Later on, when their physical health deteriorated, I was able to care for them without a sense of complaint in my heart. However, there remained other things in my life which hadn’t yet changed.
What didn’t change was my being a lone ranger and someone whose life was very much governed by pride. Outwardly, I appeared to be humble but inwardly, I was very proud. I was not proud for all the things I had externally in life for I had very little but rather, I was proud about myself as a person. I was proud that I hadn’t fallen into this or that sin and that I was able to bear silently, all the pains that God had allowed to come my way.
I spent four years working in Taiwan and this served to bring me closer to God. I was able to read the Bible daily and this was something I hadn’t done while at home. I even attended church regularly but again my experience with church was not good because of the quarrelling I saw there. This drove me back to reading the Bible and praying on my own and not having much contact with other Christians. Still, I was happy. The few friends I had were very kind and caring to me. I felt loved and was at peace for the first time in my life but that was short lived. My brother asked me to return to the Philippines to care for my ailing parents. At first, I was reluctant to let go of my freedom by telling him that I would just send all the necessary money back but he persisted by saying it was the manpower that was most needed. With a heavy heart, I returned home.
Adjusting to the conditions back home was hard at first. The heat, the air pollution, the low wages and my mother’s constant nagging all served to remind me of the peace and freedom that I had left behind in Taiwan. I felt I was suffocating! Nevertheless, I pressed on with the task because I could see I was needed. During this time, I started attending Gospel Disciples Church in Quezon City, Metro Manila and God’s peace helped me to have a quiet heart in spite of all the unpleasantness. It was my cousin Belinda who introduced me to this church and I had met Pastor Boo and Brother Thomas (now Pastor) and his wife Amy, before I went to Taiwan. Now upon my return, I attended the weekly Bible study and joined in their commitment training, a training to help us understand the meaning of committing our lives to the Lord. It was at the end of the commitment training that something terrible happened to my younger brother.
Our family had a store selling house wares. The store was on the ground floor of a two story building and we also lived in the building. One day while my brother was in the store, some armed robbers came in and during the course of the robbery, killed my brother. I cannot describe the pain I felt in my heart. It was so great that I became angry and questioned and blamed the Lord at first. I also could see the impact that this had on my ailing bedridden semi comatose father, who cried when he heard the news. My mum was devastated and she blamed herself for what happened. Seeing their pain, I found the whole situation unbearable. In my heart I was envious of my brother, who now had departed from all these sufferings. He must be happy where ever he was. I never doubted that he had gone to heaven because he was always a gentle, kind, patient and generous person, not only to us and his own family but to everyone who knew him including animals.
When I came to accept his death, I apologised to the Lord and asked Him for strength. I could see His graciousness almost immediately because within three weeks, He took my father, whose sufferings had been long and drawn out. I was relieved because seeing him suffer each day was a painful experience for me and I also knew he wanted to go. I was also sad with my father’s parting because I was never sure whether he was fully ready for what lies beyond this life. I hoped that he had had a chance to repent but because he never shared anything with me, I couldn’t be sure. I could only commit him into God’s merciful hand.
From that time on, I concentrated all my care and concern on my mom. In the past, I had tried to tell her about the Lord but to no avail. This time, I was determined to try harder. I was very thankful to Sister Elizabeth (the wife of Pastor Boo) and others who showed love and concern for my mom by visiting her regularly. They would come and chat and share songs with her. Seeing the love and concern from people who were other than her family helped my mom to become more receptive to God’s words and His love. She attended church with me on many occasions. The greatest obstacle in her spiritual progress was her unwillingness to forgive others who had caused her so much pain. I tried to explain to her all that Jesus had done on the cross for us and His willingness to forgive in spite of all that He had suffered. In the end, she was able to breakthrough in this matter because her last words were “let bygones be bygones”.
After her death, I was able to think clearly about my own spiritual life. The deaths of my brother, my father and now my mother all served to remind me that I need to be ready for what comes after, because life can be taken from us unexpectedly and it is not in our control. The question that troubled me was how to prepare myself for death? All my life I had lived either for myself or my family and I had become conscious of God’s graciousness to condescend Himself to help me when I called to Him. I had done things to try to respond to all His help to me but when I thought of what He had done on the cross for me, I was overcome with shame and realised that I really hadn’t responded to Him as I ought. For this reason, I decided I would do all I could and that was to give myself unreservedly to Him because anything less was not worthy of Him. I entered into the covenant of baptism, swallowing all my pride and repenting of all my sins and taking up my cross to follow Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and Master.
It has been more than eight months since my baptism and there have been no regrets. I am living happily with my Lord’s family and I look forward to serving Him and following Him each day as He leads me forward. I thank and praise Him for who He is and that He is the Master of my life. May all glory be His!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church