My Testimony (Part 1)
by Pastor James Ho, March 2011
Reason for my sharing
Who is God? How did I come to know God? There are so many religions in the world, why did I choose Christianity and believe in the Christian God? If some of you have confronted the same questions and have found the answer, I would encourage you to share your thoughts so as to help those who are still searching for the truth.
Since becoming a Christian, I have encountered many trials and challenges to my faith. I would like to take this opportunity to testify that there is only one God, and He is both faithful and true. It is my vehement hope that this sharing will aid those seeking God to understand His reality, to establish their faith and to encourage them to pursue the living God with undivided attention.
My childhood experience with religion
My experience with God can be traced back to early childhood. I recall that at the age of five, my mother wanted me to be baptized as a Catholic so that I couldbe eligible to study in an English school run by a Roman Catholic school board. My mother arranged all my religious ceremonies and after a couple of years, I received my Confirmation and accordingly professed to be a Roman Catholic (Roman Catholics consider Baptism and Confirmation as two sacraments).
Although I came to know God when I was a child and fulfilled my religious duty by attending the weekly Sunday Mass, I really didn’t experience God on a personal level. When I went to church, I was somehow always easily distracted. I couldn’t sit still and I liked turning around to see what others were doing. I remember one incident vividly. I was with my two elder brothers attending a Sunday Mass. We started talking softly about girls. We were so carried away with our debate that we raised our voices when the discussion gradually heated up. Unfortunately, we were standing very close to the confessional. As a result the priest from the confessional dashed out and headed towards us. While I was still yapping away, my two elder brothers quickly drooped their heads in a solemn ‘worshipful’ manner. I felt someone tapping my shoulder and as I turned around, lo and behold, the priest was standing right there and he gave me a tight slap. It was such a humiliating experience. Actually, after the incident, I still had to line up for confession to the same priest who had slapped me (Note: Confession is one of the sacraments according to the Roman Catholic Church. It is the means of confessing our sins to God and the priest is the mediator between God and us).
Migrating to Canada
In 1970, I immigrated with my parents to Vancouver, Canada. When I first arrived there, I still went to church but only occasionally, as I did not attend every Sunday. Gradually, my desire to go faded and I ceased to attend church.
Before I left Hong Kong, I was already in my second year at Lingnan College. In Vancouver however, I failed the English language test of the university entrance exam and was demoted to grade 11. That meant losing three years of education. So how could I take such humiliation? Fortunately, I had an elder brother who was studying at a university in Montreal. He strongly recommended that I try my luck over there. I then made my application to Sir George Williams University (it is now known as Concordia University) and surprisingly, I was accepted into first year Electrical Engineering. Not only that, I also received exemptions on some of the courses that I had completed at Lingnan College, Hong Kong. However, I still needed to enroll in Beginner’s English. After discussing with my family members and obtaining their approval in Vancouver, I was soon Montreal bound.
Becoming an atheist
Before I left Vancouver, my sister gave me a very clean and short hair cut. Dressed in my best suit I really looked like a nerd! My elder brother and his friends welcomed me in Montreal. We were completely astounded at each other’s appearance. They all had long hair and wore worn, faded jeans. It was an absolute contrast: my nerdy look versus their hippy style. It was hilarious indeed.
I had been in Montreal for only a few moments and I was already falling in love with the city. I remember my elder brother said on the way home from the airport, “Do you know that I don’t believe in God anymore?” I was shocked to hear that and my response was, “Is that so?” He replied in the affirmative, “Yes, I don’t believe in God! So if you want to go to church, go by yourself. I will not go with you.” When I felt the determination in his reply, I immediately concurred, “If that is the case, then I will not go either.”
My elder brother is two years my senior and I had always looked up to him. While he was in Hong Kong, he was already extremely popular. He had a gang of followers and I was one of his diehard fans! Thus if he concluded that there was no God, it was not a big deal for me to adopt his view. It was beyond me to raise any objections at all. Henceforth, I turned my back on religion and became an atheist.
My university life
During my three years in university, I completely forsook God. I had a very strong background in Mathematics. Therefore when I attended the Mathematics class, I discovered that it was too elementary. I ended up lying on the bench, snoring my time away. Looking back, I would describe my university life as undisciplined, rowdy and rebellious. Our band of friends was all like that - doing nothing and hanging around in pubs, billiard halls and Chinatown. My elder brother was the president of the University’s Chinese Student Association. Together we organized lots of parties and other social events. I was also involved in all kinds of gambling, including poker and mahjong. I spent most of my time enjoying pop music with my friends, playing snooker and billiards. I picked up smoking too and occasionally tried smoking hash and grass.
I remember one time when I was playing mahjong with my friends. One of them was a professed Christian. He said, “When I go to heaven, I cannot play mahjong with you anymore. What a tragedy for all of you who don’t believe in God. If you believe in God, you will have eternal life. If you do not believe in God, you will end up in hell.” I immediately jeered at him saying, “What kind of nonsense is that? If you were in heaven I would rather avoid going there at all costs!” This so-called Christian often played mahjong with us, gambled with us, and he had a mouth full of expletives. He was just as bad as we were. So why should I believe what his religion taught?
At that time, I had so much fun with my buddies so who needed a girlfriend? In fact a girlfriend might have been a hindrance to my social life. But thanks to be God, I met K a year later, and she eventually became my wife. Her elder sister had just become a Christian. She didn’t want K to go out with me. She was a volunteer worker for the social welfare services in Chinatown. She had found out that I was always hanging around with the gangs in Chinatown and was certain that I would be a bad influence on her sister. She soon discovered that it was futile to try persuading K not to go out with me. So she started employing another tactic: she would share the gospel with me. Every time she met me, she would talk about Jesus. During that time, I utterly rejected her influence and I was particularly upset with Christianity because of my mahjong Christian friend.
Strange encounter in job search
I started job-hunting after graduation. The job market was tight and I had a hard time getting a job in Montreal. My elder sister in Vancouver suggested that I try my luck there. So I left Montreal and went back to Vancouver. I couldn’t find a job there and it was already four months after I had graduated. Then all of a sudden I received a call from my elder brother in Montreal telling me that a company was calling me for an interview. I immediately flew back to Montreal. Unfortunately, I was a day late. A colleague of mine had gone for the interview a day before and got the job.
I was devastated about missing the interview. The job could have been mine. Furthermore, I was getting sick and tired of looking for a job. Then, K’s elder sister comforted me and encouraged me to pray to God. But I didn’t take her advice because I simply didn’t believe in God, much less in His answering of prayers. However, I was so desperate to get a job that I tried every trick in the book to better prepare myself. I even tried mock interviews with my elder brother in order to polish up my interview skills. Nothing worked. Time just slipped away and soon, six months had passed since my graduation. I remained unemployed.
Then one day, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a design engineer. I immediately submitted my application. K’s elder sister heard about my application and offered to pray for me. This time, out of sheer desperation I complied. When I went for the interview, the personnel manager told me that they were actually looking for a mechanical design engineer. I was so upset that I confronted him saying, “The ad in the newspaper only indicated that the job was for a design engineer and now you change the requirement to a mechanical design engineer. What’s going on?” I shifted the blame to them. In actual fact, my outburst only reflected my lack of knowledge and understanding of the job description. Any experienced electrical engineer would have known that the job was for a mechanical design engineer. However, since the personnel manager wasn’t a technical person, he was very apologetic to me and offered to call the electrical department to see if there were any vacant positions.
God’s way surpasses all understanding, it leaves no ground for man’s pride
The electrical department head responded, “Someone just resigned and the position is vacant. We haven’t put an ad in the newspaper yet, so you can ask him to come for an interview tomorrow.” I was perplexed and relieved at the same time. When I went to visit K, her elder sister immediately asked me how the interview had gone. I said, “Your prayer led me to the wrong job! However, it just so happened that there is a vacant position in the electrical department and the manager has asked me to go for an interview tomorrow.” She replied excitedly, “Surely, that is God’s plan!”
The next morning, I borrowed my elder brother’s briefcase and went for the interview. While I was waiting for the manager, I played around with the combination lock on the briefcase. By the time the manager arrived and asked me for my resume, I tried to unlock the case but to my horror, found that I was unable to. The manager asked me what happened. I looked blank and helpless and indicated that I couldn’t open my briefcase. He asked if I had left a resume yesterday with the personnel manager. I immediately responded, “Yes!” He called the personnel department and the resume was sent over immediately. Actually, there wasn’t much to show in my resume because I was a fresh graduate with absolutely no prior related working experience.
After browsing through my resume and asking me a few trivial questions, he asked me whether I was interested in the job and when I could start. I immediately told him that I could start anytime. Then he offered me the job and asked me to wait for the official letter of employment which would be mailed.
The next few days I waited nervously for the letter of employment. I received the letter a couple of days later and indeed I was offered the job! I was dumbfounded by what had happened: First, I applied for the wrong job, and then right in front of the manager, was unable to open my briefcase. Yet despite all that fumbling, I got a job. If you were in my position, would you not also agree that there was divine intervention?! So I asked myself, “Now I believe there is a God in this universe, but who is this God? Could that be the God that my gambling Christian friend believes? But I had my reservations.
An incredible experience: God knows the heart of man
In 1976, K’s elder sister often took her to a Christian fellowship on Saturday evening. I would accompany her to the place and then leave to do my own thing. This had been my practice because I refused to attend the Christian fellowship. Then one Friday evening, I was all by myself when I started to ponder over my relationship with K. K and I had already gone out for four years and we were both thinking of getting married. But she had insisted on a church wedding. Though I had started to accept the existence of God, I wasn’t convinced that He was necessarily the Christian God. Even if I were to agree to a church wedding, because of my Roman Catholic background, I would have opted for a Roman Catholic one. These thoughts led me to wrestle with questions about God: if God is real, then what kind of God is He and where would I go to find Him? At that time, I considered Roman Catholicism and Christianity to be two separate religions, and amongst all the mainstream religions (such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism etc.) I was inclined to choose either Roman Catholicism or Christianity. With this in mind, I wondered, ‘Is He the Roman Catholic God or the Christian God?’ Somehow there was a voice which swelled within me, crying silently, “God, if You exist, show me which religion is true so that I can believe in You”.
The next day I went to visit K and her elder sister mentioned to me that there was a special fellowship that evening and invited me to attend. Straightaway I rejected her invitation. But she persisted and said, “This time it’ll be different. They have invited a Pastor from England and he is very knowledgeable. He can answer all your questions.” She further promised, “If this Pastor cannot answer your questions, then I will never ask you to go to the fellowship again!” It was an offer (or challenge) that I couldn’t refuse. So I accepted her invitation and went along to the fellowship.
The place was small but it was packed with 60-70 people. Since we were late, we had to sit way at the back. After singing some songs, the chairperson handed the floor to the guest speaker and the Pastor came forward and started to preach. Then what was amazing started to unfold. This Pastor seemed to be able to read my mind! The message lasted for about forty-five minutes. But throughout the whole period, every time a question came to my mind, he would immediately reiterate my question and give a very convincing answer. It was simply unbelievable! How could he have known exactly what I had in mind? There were around 60-70 people at the meeting, how come he only answered my questions? Could it be that K’s sister had already briefed him on all my queries? But even if she had done so, how could he have known exactly the flow of my questions and speak them exactly in the order of my thinking, and at the precise moment the question had come into my mind? I was completely bewildered. He did answer all my questions convincingly.
Before he concluded his preaching, he shared with us information about his ministry in his church and said, “I would certainly welcome anyone who is interested to come for a visit.” Then suddenly, Iheard a distinct voice coming from nowhere saying to me, “This is the church you should attend.” The Pastor was Rev. Chang and he didn’t know me then. He later became my teacher in full-time missionary training.
From that time on, I began to go to church again. The next day was Sunday and we planned to visit Rev. Chang’s church. It would be the first time I had gone to church after years of absence. It was a rainy day. I hesitated because of the heavy rain. I was about to call K to say that I wouldn’t go. Then suddenly, again a voice came from nowhere cautioned me, “This is the temptation from Satan.” It sort of enlightened me and I immediately determined to go. Since that incident we have been confronted by the temptations of Satan many times. I still remembered how I found the whole liturgy and preaching dull and boring when I attended church in the past. A few minutes of listening to the preaching would knock me off to sleep. Therefore, I was very reluctant to go to church. But this time, having distinctively heard the voice of God, I was ready to go again.
When we arrived at Rev. Chang’s church that Sunday, I was surprised to hear him preaching in Mandarin and to find another person by his side translating verse for verse into Cantonese (He had preached in English just the day before at the fellowship). That automatically doubled the time of the message to two hours. But to my surprise I didn’t fall asleep. On the contrary, being non-Mandarin speaking, I was so alert that I could even understand seventy per cent of his Mandarin. I was fully convinced that God was leading me toward a big leap of faith.
Car accident – from bane to blessing
There was one time when I borrowed my elder brother’s car to drive K, her younger sister and her boyfriend to the McGill University library. It was during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. There were Olympic events held in McGill University facilities. The traffic was chaotic and lots of people were walking along the streets to the Olympics. As I was driving uphill, I couldn’t find a parking space. I ended up just parking the car at the entrance of the side gate and then, together with K’s sister’s boyfriend, we carried the books and dashed off to the library. K and her sister stayed behind in the car. Minutes later, we were back at the side gate but to our astonishment, the car was gone. We were wondering where the car was, when lo and behold! We saw K and her younger sister about fifty meters downhill from us. They were waving to draw our attention. Behind them was the car, ‘parked’ perpendicular to the rest of the parked cars. How could that have happened? We quickly ran to them. When I looked at the way the car was ‘parked’, I knew that it had been a miracle. There was a gap between two parked cars not wide enough to squeeze even a small sized car in between. But it was the perfect fit for my car, parked perpendicularly that is. K told us what happened. She was sitting in front, next to the driver’s seat, with the automatic gearbox in between. As she turned around to talk to her sister, she had somehow fiddled with the automatic gearbox shift and suddenly, the car started to roll downhill. It was actually quite a steep and narrow road. The car started to gain momentum as it rolled backward. In a panic, and not knowing how to stop the car, she immediately leaned sideways and tried in vain to turn the steering wheel. But the steering wheel locked itself after a few turns. The driver-less car ended up rolling downhill in a ‘S’ shaped fashion. It went past at least ten parked cars before finally coming to a halt after swerving into the gap between two parked cars, hitting the concrete walls of McGill property and blocking the pedestrian pathway.
As a result, the back of the car sustained substantial damage and I had to pay for the damage done to McGill University’s concrete wall. But I knew that it could have been a disaster. It was during the Olympics and traffic was extremely chaotic. It could have hit the row of parked cars, the oncoming cars driving uphill as well as the pedestrians on the crowded pedestrian lane. I was convinced that only through divine intervention was disaster averted. Once again, it made me think seriously about God’s reality and His deliverance. As a result of this incident, K firmly believed in God’s safekeeping. It just so happened that Thanksgiving Sunday was approaching, and she committed her life to God through baptism.
Finally, I know whom I have believed
My elder brother is an expert in philosophy. He was like a teacher to me. Every time I discussed life with him I was somehow enlightened. After my encounter with God I told him that God is real. He immediately challenged my position and bombarded me with loads of questions. Since I wasn’t familiar with the Bible, I couldn’t handle most of his challenging questions. Gradually, every time we discussed our beliefs, we would end up with a bitter argument.
One evening I was talking to my brother over the phone. Again, it had ended up in a shouting match. After the phone call I was in deep thought over his challenging questions. Later that same evening I was watching a TV program. It was about some cult members who had murdered a famous Hollywood actress and her friends. The cult leader was a self-proclaimed messiah. He had long hair and a mustache. He really looked like Jesus (I was brought up to accept that Jesus had long hair and a mustache). I was puzzled. Who was Jesus anyway? He said that He was the Messiah and would come back again. Now this cult leader also claimed to be the messiah. How many messiahs were there? I was so confused.
I was sharing my apartment with a student then. We had two single beds, separated by a night table with a lamp on it. That night, I went to bed with loads of unsolved questions. Then, I had a dream…
I entered a Museum. Right in the middle was a big book. It caught my attention and I walked over to take a closer look. To my horror, on it was written, “God is dead!” At the bottom of the page, there was a footnote that said, “If you want to find out more, turn to the next page.” While still being stunned about what I had just read and wondering whether I should turn to the next page or not, there was a sudden “BANG!” Immediately I was awakened from my dream. The lamp on the night table had somehow mysteriously fallen, hit my head and woken me up. It was in the middle of the night and I was astounded at the sudden awakening. I sensed that the atmosphere was a bit eerie, so I quickly covered myself from head to toe with my blanket and shivered beneath the covers. Suddenly, I felt the presence of a Spirit, and then it was like there was a video playing out my past. It was like an instant re-play of all the things that I had done wrong, incidents that only I knew were brought out into the light. I was frightened to death and shaking like a leaf (I understood then how fearful a sinner is in front of the Holy God!). I tearfully pleaded to God, “O God! I know I have sinned. I am indebted to You. Please forgive all my sins.” This was the cry of my heart pleading for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Amazingly, right after my prayer, I received instant relief and felt a surge of indescribable inner peace which ushered me into a quiet serenity. I fell soundly asleep.
The next morning I got up and went to work. I was still mystified by what had happened the previous night. The falling lamp had interrupted my dream right at the point where I was pondering whether to flip the page. I was so terrified within but the instant I prayed to God for forgiveness, I felt a deep inner peace. It just boggled my mind. It was simply inexplicable.
When I got home from work and was having dinner with my roommate, I shared with him what had happened. I tried to rationalize that there must have been something that had caused the lamp to fall on my head. So naturally I insinuated that he might have caused the lamp to fall on my head. He was bemused but immediately denied having anything to do with that. We ended up having an argument. Finally, he ran into the bedroom and jumped onto his bed. He tried to prove to me that even his very deliberate, forceful motion could not affect the lamp. I also joined him, jumping up and down on my bed but the lamp didn’t move an inch. We moved our beds and the night table away from the walls so that nothing touched each other. We reassured one another that nothing would happen again.
In the middle of the night, while I was sleeping like a log, the lamp hit me again! I was woken up only to discover that the lamp was on my head. This time, it was an inexplicable horror, shivering inside out. Again, I tried to cover myself from head to toe with my blanket but it didn’t stop my whole body from shivering and shaking. Finally, I cried out in my heart again, “O God! I truly believe in You. From now on, I will never doubt You. Whatever You want me to do, I will follow unreservedly.” After the plea, the sudden peace and tranquility returned and I once again fell soundly asleep.
From that time on, I knew whom I had to believe. In my later encounters with my elder brother, no matter how challenging a question he posed to me, it would no longer shake my faith in God. If you think that all these things were coincidental, then the odds of believing that all my experiences are coincidental is even more astronomical than believing something supernatural had taken place. Take for instance the incident with Rev. Chang, he didn’t know me at all. Yet he could read my mind like a book and answer all my questions in the order of my thoughts. Please bear in mind that I was sitting way at the back in an obscure place. He simply didn’t even know that I was present. Another example is the case of the car accident. The car had simply rolled downhill without a driver. There was nothing anyone could have done to alter the way the car rolled and swerved. But miraculously, nobody was hurt and none of the cars along the road was hit. Therefore, I submit that God is real and that He is in control of everything. I started to have a keen interest in the Bible and as my life began to be transformed, I started to rid myself of my bad habits.
Test of faith
K and I were married shortly after my renewal of faith in God. At that time, the province of Quebec was undergoing a political upheaval. The separatists had won the Provincial election and were attempting to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada. The day after the election, French became the main language of communication amongst my colleagues. Since I had only an elementary standard of French, I was at a disadvantage when communicating at business meetings. Soon, fear of separation from Canada took its toll on the economy in Quebec. Many companies underwent streamlining and moved their headquarters out of Quebec. My company was affected too and they started to lay off employees. Those who did not speak French bore the brunt first and I was amongst the earliest batch to go.
I felt hurt and frustrated. I had just come to know God and was only married for a couple of months. Now I faced the prospect of losing my job. What had happened to my bright future? My wife was a nurse, but how could I expect her to support me? Certainly not! Out of desperation, I turned to God for deliverance. I prayed that through this time of testing I would experience Him more deeply. After the political crisis, French became compulsory for all job seekers in Montreal. I failed in every job interview because I couldn’t communicate fluently in French. It was a hopeless case.
Then one day, I went to a Christian bookstore and saw a plaque with a Bible verse written on it. It was John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” I was much encouraged by this verse and so I bought the plaque. I prayed silently, “Lord, despite the fact that I am facing the prospect of being laid off, I long for your presence and I want to experience the reality of your words. You also called us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything will be added to us. Is that true? I am seeking you, not because I want you to grant me a job. I am seeking you because I know you will meet my needs.” Instantly, I heard a sweet gentle voice in reply, “You will not face even one day without a job.” I knew my prayer was answered and so I believed.
Week by week, I went looking for a job, expecting something to happen. But there was still no job. I prayed to God, “If You only give me a job, no matter where it is, I will go.” It was about two more weeks before I would be laid off and there was still no sign of any job prospect. I was in agony and despair. Suddenly, there was an interview for me in Toronto. Toronto is about five hundred kilometers from Montreal. K’s two older sisters lived there. I went for the interview on a Friday. Normally, the result should be known the following Monday. I earnestly clung to the Lord for His providence.
Apparent fulfillment of the promise
However, there was no news the following Monday. I left the office with a heavy heart. On Tuesday afternoon, unexpectedly I received a phone call from the manager who had interviewed me in Toronto. He said, “I am offering you the job.” Wow! I was speechless. I was so happy. Coincidentally, that day was February fourteenth, Valentine’s Day. It was also the second day of Chinese New Year according to the lunar Calendar. I found that God was very humorous as well as full of grace and loving kindness. He provided a job for me right on Valentine’s Day, a day that commemorated love. The manager told me that the personnel manager would be working out the details, and that he would get back to me soon. He also asked me to be ready to move to Toronto anytime. I immediately called my wife, K, to give her the good news and asked her to resign in order to pave our exodus to Toronto.
Half an hour after I got the job offer from Toronto, I received a second phone call. It was from a sister company in Montreal. He called me for a job interview. I was so tempted to accept the interview because I would have so dearly loved to stay in Montreal but I had already made the promise to God that wherever He led me to go, I would obey. Since I had already accepted the job offer in Toronto it would have been wrong of me to go for the interview in Montreal. So reluctantly I told him, “Thanks for setting up the interview. I just got a job offer in Toronto. If you had called half an hour earlier, I would have loved to come for the interview. I am sorry, but I cannot come.”
Further test of faith
After a couple of days, I called Toronto to find out when I should start my job there. The manager who hired me was away on a course and my call was transferred to the personnel manager. He said, “Sorry, we haven’t decided to offer you the job yet.” I immediately replied, “That’s not right. Your manager called me and offered me the job a couple of days ago on Tuesday.” But he explained, “I am really sorry. The manager has no authority to offer you the job. He can only recommend you. It is our responsibility to finalize the hiring. Right now, there are still two other candidates to be interviewed for the job and so you only have a one-third chance.” I protested, “I have already asked my wife to resign from her job.” He coldly concluded, “Well, that is your problem. You shouldn’t have asked your wife to resign so quickly without first hearing from us.” I didn’t know what to do. I was completely shattered by the sudden turn of events. It was a bitter pill to swallow. I almost yelled out, “O my God! Are You kidding me? How can that be?” Out of desperation, I immediately called the sister company in Montreal to see if the job was still available. But it was too late. They had already hired someone else.
On Friday evening, after attending the Bible Study at church, I was sharing my ordeal with my Bible Study leader. I asked him why that happened to me and what the real intention of God was. He comforted me by saying, “Perhaps it is a further test of faith. God wants to refine you through this testing.” I replied, “Is that so?” Outwardly, I accepted his answer but deep within my heart, I was very unsettled. It was easy for him to say, but I was the one that had to go through the trial, and by the following Friday I would be laid off. However, I still clung to the Lord with as little faith as a mustard seed.
On Monday, when I went to work, my department manager approached me and asked if I had received the job offer from Toronto (In fact, the company in Toronto was also a sister company). I had no good news for him. My heart was in turmoil and I was thinking of calling the personnel manager in Toronto to ask whether I got the job or not. But I abandoned the idea because I thought that human intervention was useless. I might as well hold onto God and if He opened the door the job would be mine. If He closed the door, no matter how many times I called, I still wouldn’t get the job.
Time slipped by a day at a time and I didn’t call the personnel manager for an answer. Finally, Friday approached and that was my last day at work. In the afternoon, my colleagues took me out for a farewell lunch. After that, I went back to my office to pack my stuff and bid farewell to my colleagues. It was around 3:00pm. I was making my way around the office with a heavy heart to shake hands with my colleagues. The department manager was about to post the reason for my departure on the bulletin board (He actually had two versions of the letter. One would say that I was transferred to the sister company in Toronto and it was a letter of congratulations. The other would say that unfortunately I was laid off due to the company’s reduction of staff).
My phone rang as I was leaving my desk. I picked up the phone casually thinking that it was from one of my colleagues bidding farewell to me. But it wasn’t. It was from the personnel manager in Toronto. He said, “We are offering you a job and you will come on board effective March first”. That was the following Wednesday. I was speechless. He was waiting for my answer. I faintly replied, “Thanks, I will be there!” I almost burst into tears of joy as I was touched by God’s deliverance just in the nick of time. I immediately went over to the department manager and told him the good news. He stared at me and asked, “Are you sure?” Then, without waiting for my answer, he quickly went back to his office and called Toronto. Minutes later, he came out all smiles and shook my hand warmly. He confirmed that I had been accepted. Since it was a sister company, he told me that he would extend my pay until I started my work in Toronto. He quickly took out the second version of the letter and posted it on the bulletin board. All my colleagues flocked over to me and embraced me with joy and laughter. Only minutes ago, I would have been taking the walk of shame, but now I would walk out of the office with some dignity. I made my last call at the office to K and told her the good news and the answer from God to our prayers. I was overwhelmed by the Lord’s loving kindness. He had kept his word when he promised me that I wouldn’t be laid off even for one day. It was the fulfillment of his promise. I got the job on the last day of my work and I was paid until I had launched into my new job. That is a perfect demonstration of God’s power and how He is always in control.
That night when we went to the Bible Study, we told Rev. Chang about our leaving for Toronto. He took us aside and prayed for us. Three days later on Monday, we left Montreal and moved to Toronto.
Life in Toronto: God’s blessings abound
Provision of a new home
The new company offered us accommodations for the first month. During that time we had to start looking for our own home. We discovered that the rent in Toronto was more than in Montreal. Yet I received basically the same salary as in Montreal. K’s another older sister recommended that we purchase a unit instead. But how could I raise such a big sum of money? In fact, I couldn’t even afford to rent. I worked out that the best I could afford was $400.00 a month. After surveying the rental units, we found that most of them were available for over $400.00 a month. I had a friend who was a real estate agent. I asked him for help. I had already worked for over three years. The Government encouraged new homebuyers to contribute to a housing plan as a means for tax deduction. So each year I had contributed $1000.00 and thus far I had $3000.00 in the housing plan. After reviewing my financial situation, he did his homework and started to search for a place for me.
The end of the month drew close and we were still desperately finding a place to settle into. Then one day my real estate friend called us up to look at an apartment. We were very pleased with the unit but we were afraid that we couldn’t afford it. My friend worked out the finances and told me, “If the vendor is willing to reduce the price by $3,000.00, coupled with your $3,000.00 in the housing plan, the total amount including mortgage, all management and maintenance fees would work out to be $396.00 a month.” When I heard that the amount was under my budget of $400.00 a month, I immediately asked my friend to make the offer. Of course, the chance of a $3,000.00 reduction from the sale price was minimal, but it was certainly worth trying. We also committed this matter into the Lord’s hand. Surprisingly, the vendor accepted our offer and we were elated with the answer to our prayers. Again, it was a testimony that nothing is impossible with God. We were able to move into this place just in time, at the expiry of our company’s one–month accommodation contract. Isn’t that amazing?
Provision of my wife’s job
Meanwhile, my wife didn’t have a job in Toronto. She was a recent graduate in nursing. When we lived in Montreal she had to work long hours and odd shifts. After we were married we had to adjust to a ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ lifestyle because of her shifts. In one rotation she would work from 7:00 p.m. in the evening to 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Then on the next rotation the shift would be reversed. I had pictured that in the married life, my wife would at least serve me breakfast. It ended up with me serving her and cooking for her instead.
Not long after we moved to Toronto K enrolled in the Nursing Association of Ontario in order to be eligible to work as a nurse there. When she started to look for a job, I daydreamed and prayed to God, “It would be best if K could work close to where I worked. Also, please give her a ‘9 to 5’ job so that she wouldn’t have to work odd shifts.” See what a dreamer I was?
One day, as K was out looking for a job, she happened to pass by a nicely constructed building. She was attracted to the building and she went in to explore it. To her surprise it was a Jewish hospital. She looked at the building’s directory and discovered that there was a Chinese doctor’s name under the Family Practice Unit. She went straight to the Family Practice Unit and was greeted by a Chinese nurse. K told her that she was looking for a nursing job. The Chinese nurse asked her to wait and went in to call for the head nurse. When the head nurse saw K she welcomed K warmly and talked with her. She was very pleased with K. When she knew that K could read, write, and speak Chinese, she beamed with excitement and joy. Then she told K that due to the influx of Chinese refugees from Vietnam and other Asian countries, they were setting up a weekend clinic to reach out to the Asian refugees. In fact, it was due to open the coming weekend. They desperately needed a Chinese nurse who could read and write in Chinese for the outreach project. The Chinese nurse who worked there was Canadian born and couldn’t read or write Chinese. The Chinese doctor who spearheaded the weekend clinic was Malaysian Chinese and also couldn’t read or write Chinese. She wondered if K could help. In fact, just as K was walking into the office, they were having a hard time trying to translate some of the medical terms from English to Chinese.
K immediately volunteered herself to do the translation. She often loses track of time when she is working. It was already past 5:00 p.m. and I was waiting for her call to go home. I received her call at around 5:15 p.m. only to discover that she was helping out at the Jewish hospital which was located in the block just adjacent to my office!
The head nurse offered K a part time job, working on Friday and Saturday mornings on the Chinese outreach project. It was a good start and a partial fulfillment of prayer because her workplace was very close to mine.
The head nurse really liked K because she was also conversant in other Chinese dialects. Not long after K started her part-time job, the Chinese nurse gave one month’s notice of her resignation because she was going to get married to her fiancé who worked in the United States. According to union regulations, the job had to be posted for internal competition before being advertised to outsiders. Since this was a ‘9 to 5’ job, it would certainly draw lots of applicants. But the head nurse had other ideas in mind. She wanted to offer the job to K. So she literally tailored the entire job description according to K’s experience and language capabilities, including fluency in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Shanghainese. Strangely enough, the personnel department also made a mistake in the educational requirement. They advertised a requirement for a Master’s degree instead of a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. As a result, there was not even one applicant qualified for the job. In the end it was through the head nurse’s recommendation that K was offered the ‘9 to 5’ job and worked next to my office. Isn’t that amazing?
K’s job was from ‘9 to 5’ Monday to Friday. She relinquished her part-time post to somebody else. But her appointment raised envy from the other more experienced nurses from within the clinic. K didn’t want any disharmony with her workmates so she offered to work the afternoon shift (1 to 9pm) twice a week. That was by far a better shift than what she had in Montreal. That settled the disgruntled spirits among her colleagues and they all worked harmoniously together.
We all have different experiences to share but I believe we all receive the same grace that God bestows upon each one of us in sufficient measure to meet our needs. Since we have received so many blessings from the Lord I have learned that as long as we hold on to our faith, humble ourselves before Him and show our willingness to follow Him regardless of the outcome, we will all experience His wonderful grace and unfailing love.
From Montreal to Toronto: God’s divine purpose
Why did I eventually decide to serve the Lord? It was because I had come to know the reality of God through my life experience. Before I left Montreal I told Rev. Chang, “It is so hard to find a good church. I really don’t want to leave.” But he comforted me by saying, “If you only remain faithful, God will certainly lead and guide you all the way. He will fulfill His divine purpose in you.” Indeed, God began to unfold His plan for us. Shortly after we left Montreal, four other couples from our Montreal church were also transferred from Montreal to Toronto one after another because of their work. So, we began to meet together every Friday evening for Bible Study. That carried on for five years and eventually a sister church in Toronto was born. This fulfilled what Rev. Chang said that God had His divine purpose in our move to Toronto.
The attractiveness of the world: rethinking of my commitment to the Lord
After we had moved to Toronto we started to establish our career and our bank accounts began to grow. But at the same time, our hearts started to get dull in spiritual things. As I broadened my knowledge and experience, making more friends and widening my social circle, I was very much drawn by the prosperity of the world, chasing after brand names and living more and more luxuriously. I discovered that although I had changed a lot, and had kicked away most of my bad habits, in my heart I couldn’t help being lured by the lust of the world.
In 1983, I realized that I had to face this question pointblank. It was the question of my regeneration. Since I came back to God, I had admitted to being a Roman Catholic, having been baptized at age five. But then I discovered that I was still lacking in the power of the Spirit. I tried to resolve the problem of why I felt powerless in overcoming the desires of the flesh. I was still so prone to sinning and I was so weak in facing temptation. Finally, I realized that even the most beautiful ritual in baptism would not guarantee the bestowment of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. One could still be empty inside. A baptism ritual doesn’t guarantee the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Re-baptism to regeneration
After a period of fierce struggle within my heart and mind, I finally came to the light. In 1983, at our church summer camp, I was re-baptized. I remember vividly that as I stepped into the St. Lawrence River for my baptism, the water suddenly turned wavy and the current was strong. It almost threw me off balance as I tried to make my way into the water. It was as if Satan tried to frighten me off. But right after the baptism, the water quieted down and I sensed a deep peace in my heart. My wife and some of her family members also witnessed the baptism. God has showered me with many precious experiences. He has done mighty works in my life and answered my prayers. I truly believe that He is the Almighty God upon whom I should always focus!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church