A Pair of Sandals that
Changed My Life
by D R Hunga, January 2002
Being not a very expressive person, I find it hard to talk about myself or open up to others. Yet the marvelous things that the Lord Jesus has done in my life are not something I can keep to myself anymore. Six months ago, my teammate Kale and I left our hometown of Kupang, West Timor to make a long journey by ship to Balikpapan, Kalimantan. This was the first time both of us had journeyed out of our hometown, and we were heading towards a place where we had never been before and where I knew no one personally. I guess that most young people like me will venture forth to bigger cities and provinces in search of a better life and a better future. When we arrived in Balikpapan, many thought that we were economic pilgrims. Little did they know that we are the pilgrims of a higher calling! Let me share with you how the Lord plucked me out of nothingness and gave me a new and meaningful direction in life.
My family and I are really nothings in the world. We are extremely poor and I grew up staying from place to place on the mercy of others because my parents could not even afford to own a house. My dad is uneducated and had never held a regular job. Mum worked hard to put food on the table and to ensure that we can go to school. I lost count as to the kinds of job she had gone into - selling vegetables, making cakes, washing and cleaning from house to house, selling snacks, etc. All the years of hard work had finally taken its toll on her. Before I left for Kalimantan, I noticed that her left hand had shriveled into a fist and is numb. To make matters worse, her legs are giving her pain all the time. I suspect that she has leprosy, but I cannot confirm it as she has yet to go to the doctor. Given all her sacrifices for us, I aptly called her “the woman of valor”. Without her, I do not think the 7 of us would have had any chance at all to go to school. In fact we were so poor that I had to stop school for three years. Being the second eldest in the family, I had to help out. So, I dropped out of school to work as a construction worker, a fishmonger in the market and as a hawker. But my desire to study was so overwhelming that after 3 depressing years doing hard labor, I threatened my mum into letting me continue with my studies. I had an explosive and violent temper, and in one of my outbursts, I threatened to damage everything in the house unless my mum made it possible for me to continue with my studies. Finally she was forced to beg others to lend her money to enable me to continue with my studies. I graduated from STM (a technical school equivalent to A-level) in 1999. I was one of the oldest students when I graduated.
Poverty had robbed me of many good things in life, but one thing it did not stop me from pursuing was my interest in the sport of self-defense. Growing up in a tough and rowdy environment, coupled with my explosive nature, I guess it was not surprising for me to develop a keen interest in martial arts. It was something I excelled in. In fact I was the state champion for ‘kempo’, a form of martial arts similar to karate. As the state champion, I was invited to go for a final test before joining the national training center. It was to be my passport to a better life. Imagine the honor and pride of my family if I were to be a national champion. It was at this point in my life that the Lord stooped down to honor me, a mere nobody, with the greatest honor ever bestowed upon mankind - the honor of knowing Him and knowing the truth.
It all started with an invitation. Invitations can really change your life. My sister invited me to join her in attending a fellowship group led by a very charismatic young lady. Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, I experienced something I had never experienced before. Nothing else mattered at that time. Through that group and through the close fellowship with the brethren there, I began to experience the Lord and experience a deep joy and peace. Soon after that, I had the opportunity to attend Commitment Training conducted by a missionary couple, and this opened my eyes evermore to the truth of the Word and helped to deepen my faith in Him.
There was this one time when I had a deep longing to attend church service on Sunday, but I could not find the pair of proper shoes that I shared with my brother because he had gone out in them. In our culture here, it is not acceptable to go to church wearing sandals. In desperation, I went to my room and prayed to God. I was crying when I lifted up my sandals as high as I could and showed them to God. In tears I asked God to give me a pair of shoes so that I can worship Him in church. After my heartfelt cry to God, I left for church even though I was wearing my sandals. I was hoping that nobody would notice it since I was wearing my long trousers. After service, as usual with my spirit lifted up, I went home. Upon reaching home, someone came looking for me inviting me to go shopping. She brought me to a shoe shop and asked me to pick a pair of shoes. I was shocked and felt humiliated, so I rejected her offer of buying me a pair of shoes. As I was rejecting her kind offer, suddenly I heard a voice in my heart saying, “That was what you asked of Me.” Feeling convicted, I swallowed my pride and accepted her generosity while giving thanks to God for answering me in such a specific and prompt manner.
This experience of the living and real God - a God who hears my cry for a pair of shoes and delivered them a few hours later - prompted me to reflect on the touch of God in my life since I was young. As a young boy, I suffered from high fever caused by malaria. The untreated high fever severely affected a nerve in my brain. It was related to me that during that period of insanity, I was often seen running around the village shouting like a mad person. Though untreated miraculously, my mental state became normal after a brief period of insanity. I could see now that God’s healing hands were upon me for a purpose, and it was to confer upon me the opportunity and the privilege to know Him. I determined in my heart then to pursue after Him seriously.
Though I want earnestly to follow the desire of my heart, oftentimes the path is not smooth and easy. I do not want to share of only the good things in my life. That would not be faithful in presenting the truth in our Christian life. Being still in the flesh, there are many difficult choices to make and sometimes we make the wrong choices and end up doing the wrong things. I started a relationship that ended up stumbling many people. I had to make the difficult decision to terminate the relationship that had become a stumbling block to others. The unfortunate incident caused me to suffer from a crisis of faith. I questioned my very own spiritual existence. Am I the son of the devil or the son of the Kingdom? How was it that my action became a stumbling block to others? How was it possible that one mistake of mine caused others to fall away from God? Am I an angel of darkness sent by the devil to cause the sons of God to fall from faith? The Parable of the Wheat and Tares kept coming to my mind. Who am I actually? At that point of crisis, I did not have the answer but I only felt utterly sinful and that my sin was unforgivable. Yet God is gracious and His everlasting mercies never cease. At that time of great sorrow and guilt, I could only run to God and plead for His grace to restore me, and I could only try to live daily by His grace. That experience however has drawn me closer to Him, to evermore rely on Him.
The Lord has to continuously purify me to make me a worthy channel for His use. My concern and love for my family and their suffering due to poverty oftentimes pulled me back from going all out for God. I always felt the pull to work and to help them out financially. The test came during the end of a biblical training I attended, what is called the Basic Training, a training to teach us about the basics of the Christian life. As part of the training program, I had to go out to do evangelistic work in an island about 3 hours from Kupang together with the other trainees. At that time, I had just started working in a telephone kiosk. The money I earned was much needed by the family. In Kupang, a job is not easy to come by. The leaders of the training program gave me the option not to go and left the decision to me but in my heart, I had this deep longing to launch out and to do the Lord’s work. I talked to my boss to ask for permission to take a month of no-pay leave and to tell him I would try to find someone to replace me during that period. The boss would not hear of it. In the end I made the difficult decision of quitting, to the dismay of my family and friends. But the Lord is good! As I learned to honor Him by putting Him above everything else, He too honored me. I received from another source a monthly support equivalent to the salary I lost due to losing the job. Overcoming this test was not easy for me, but I could see that it has helped to liberate me from a certain ‘bondage’ to my family and now I am free to do as the Lord wills and to leave my family entirely into His hands.
And the Lord’s will for me is to be His messenger, to go wherever He leads me. This is the reason why Kale and I embarked on the long journey to the island of Kalimantan. Here in a totally new environment, we are learning to be led by the Lord daily to share the love and truth of Christ to others. It has not been an easy experience, but it definitely has been a fulfilling one. I cannot imagine doing anything else. For in Him, I have found the true meaning and purpose of my life. I wish for all to have an opportunity to know and experience Him as many others and I have had. May His grace be with us all!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church