He Is My Lord Though I Have not Known Him
Jennifer Chen—Montreal, Canada
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have
called you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will
be with you;…when you pass through the fire, you shall
not be burned…For I am the Lord your God…you [are] precious in my eyes.” (Isa 43:1-4)
I’m very blessed to have been born
into a family that believes in the True Jesus Church. I didn’t fully realize
this blessing until much later in life and perhaps still don’t remember it as
often as I should.
As a little girl, I did not really
feel different from the other kids. I led a simple and happy life in Taiwan and
was care-free every day—going to school, doing my homework, watching television, and playing with my friends.
Every Saturday, I would go to
church with my parents, brother, and grandparents. But besides Religious
Education (RE) class, I never opened the Bible. I prayed very little, usually
just before meals and bed time. God was someone mysterious and abstract—I knew
He provided everything, but the love I received from my family satisfied me, so
I didn’t think much about His love.
My family was very busy with their
work, so we didn’t really have a life of faith at home; we didn’t really
discuss our faith openly, even though it was always present as a fact.
ADJUSTING TO A NEW LIFE
After many years of waiting our
immigration application to Canada was approved in January 1993. Within twenty
days, we packed all of our belongings, completed all the immigration procedures,
and said goodbye to family and friends.
When we arrived in Montreal, it
was the middle of winter, and the snow was so deep it covered most of the front
door of our house. I had never experienced anything like that before.
The weather wasn’t the only thing
to get used to—I was really in awe of the culture and the different things I
saw in a new country. In the midst of all the hardships and adjustments that I
had to face, not having the close-knit family network we had in Taiwan was the
However, in Canada my parents were
not busy with their work anymore. And because of the change of lifestyle, we
began to have more family sharing time. The four of us gradually built up a
tighter spiritual bond and started to rely on God more together. For the first
time, we started to read the Bible as a family. I believe that immigrating to
Canada brought us closer to each other and to God.
FINDING MY IDENTITY
When I entered secondary school,
work became harder and social life more complex. I often felt that there were
two different worlds, one at home and one outside, and I did not know to which
I belonged. My friends at school did not have a similar background, so I kept
many troubles and thoughts to myself. But in my heart, I longed for close
friends who would really understand me.
God must have heard my thoughts
because starting from 1997, He brought sisters from
different places of the world to Montreal to study. They were like my older
sisters and spiritual friends. Those were probably the most fulfilling years of
my teens, because I finally had a group of people with whom I could share
laughter and tears, and not just superficially. It was also the first time that
I had companions with whom to pray and discuss God. We attended different
church seminars together in Toronto and in the US, where I continued to make
many new church friends.
By this time, there were enough
youths in Montreal to hold a youth class. Gradually, more and more
responsibilities were given to us. But after a few years, right before I
entered university, these sisters finished their studies and, one after
another, left. Their assignments were distributed among the few youths who
remained. Almost every youth had to multi-task—for example, being a hymn
leader, interpreter, and RE teacher all on the same Sabbath.
FROM HOT FAITH TO
In the summer of 2000, before I
started university, I attended the National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS) in
the US for the first time. Two weeks of cultivation and fellowship sharpened my
spiritual awareness and opened up my heart of servitude. I was very touched by
the members’ love as well as God’s love.
I realized that faith isn’t only
something to hold on to. It wasn’t enough just to receive the faith that my
family passed down to me or to only rely on church friends to lead me. I
realized that I had to work on my own faith and make it grow. I started to read
the Bible and pray more regularly.
When I went back to Montreal, my
enthusiasm for church work lasted for a while. But I was doing it from the
wrong source of strength. I carried my load of church work only on my shoulders
and not in my heart. So whenever I went to church I felt very tired.
From the outcome, it seemed like I
did all of my jobs well, but deep inside, I knew that I did not. I felt no rest
at the end of every Sabbath day. My Bible reading and prayers gradually died
FEELING LOST IN LIFE AND LETTING GOD
Meanwhile, things weren’t going
very well at school. The program I had enrolled in at university wasn’t really
what I expected. So after a year and a half, I switched majors and continued in
a completely new field. However, I did not get good grades in the second
I was already in the beginning of
my third year of university, and I didn’t know what to do—should I switch
majors again, or should I just finish my degree? In the end, I decided to keep
on going. Still, I could not keep up with the workload and did not find
interest in the studies. That period of time was filled with academic pressure
and changes, which caused me to doubt my abilities and future. I ended up
failing many classes.
One Sunday morning in September, I
decided that instead of attending youth class, I would run away without telling
anyone. I packed my schoolbag and took a bus to the school library in downtown
After a few hours of studying, I
purposely wandered around the neighborhood. I went to a very crowded food court
to waste more time, knowing that the youths were having fellowship at that same
moment. I put my schoolbag on the ground while I ate lunch. Someone walked by
pushing a stroller with a really cute baby, and I turned to look at that baby.
When I turned back around, my bag was gone. My heart started to pound very fast
as I looked around, only to realize that my bag was nowhere to be found.
That morning, I had deliberately
put all my ID cards, wallet, and valuables in the bag because I was running
away from home. And it was all gone. I didn’t know what to do so I called 911
from a pay phone with the change in my pocket. They told me to go to the nearby
police station to report my stolen bag.
After filing the report, I had no
choice but to call home. When my father came into the station to pick me up, I
felt very sorry and ashamed, as if I had committed a crime. I knew that God had
punished me for purposely skipping the youth class. I wondered if this meant
that He still loved me. I felt very ashamed about my actions and not worthy of
DEALING WITH LOSS AND SAYING GOODBYE
after these events, my maternal grandfather was diagnosed with terminal lung
cancer. A few months later, my paternal grandfather got sick because of his
advanced age. Within the same month, I lost both of my grandfathers to their
down and wept when I erased my grandfathers’ names from my prayer request
board. At that moment, all the unspoken sadness and pressure that had
accumulated in me flowed out with my tears. I could not control it and cried
for a long time. I started to feel a great desire to fly back to Taiwan to see
my grandfathers’ graves, but I was thousands of miles away.
these problems, I still had to continue doing church work. I hid my weaknesses
and kept going. I did not disclose my deepest fears about my academic future or
the pain of losing my loved ones. I felt a responsibility to keep smiling, to
encourage others, and to teach my RE students.
felt like a hypocrite. I felt like I had nothing to give. During this time, I
completely stopped praying and reading the Bible at home.
GOD CORRECTED MY WAY
I decided that I needed to get
away from Montreal and go on a long trip by myself. I wanted to run away from
all of my responsibilities in church and from school. So I withdrew from
university, started planning my itinerary, and booked everything to show my
I basically told my parents, “No
more school for me. I’m gone.” They were worried and sad to see me like that,
but they could see how unfit and unhealthy I was spiritually. They let me go.
In April 2003 I flew across the ocean without knowing what was ahead.
But God really does work in
mysterious ways. Ironically, I began my run-away trip by spending five straight
days in church!
I knew only one person in Japan, a
sister who had studied in Montreal, and I emailed her to see if she could pick
me up at the airport and take me to the hostel when I arrived. I wasn’t
planning to go to church there; I just wanted to visit various places around
The sister emailed me back, saying
that I was just in time for their spring spiritual convocation and invited me
to go. I didn’t know what to say and ended up attending.
I knew then that God was
disciplining me, but I was not ready to give in.
My plan after three weeks in Japan
was to stay in Taiwan for one month and keep my grandmother company. Even
though SARS had spread there, I did not want to end my trip without visiting my
family in Taiwan, especially my deceased grandfathers’ graves.
I stubbornly flew to Taiwan
knowing the risk that I was taking. The airport was almost empty; everyone wore
masks, and I was very nervous during the entire flight. I realized that my life
was not in my hands. No matter how perfectly my escape trip had been planned, I
could never have foreseen the dangers and variables involved.
Into my second week in Taiwan, a
relative in the US got very sick, so instead of staying in Taiwan when the SARS
epidemic was at its peak, I flew to the US to visit my relative. I was back in
North America much sooner than I had planned.
While I was staying with my
relative, her condition suddenly worsened and I rushed her to the emergency
room. I remember feeling very weak in the knees and in the stomach that night
when I returned from the hospital. For the first time in my entire trip, I
prayed whole-heartedly to God. I asked Him to give me strength to help my
relative in this foreign place. I asked Him to save her life and mine. She was
physically sick, and I was spiritually sick. I told Him about all my troubles
and asked Him to please pull me out from the bottomless pit.
God heard my pleas. He healed my
relative, and He also lifted my spirit up.
I had not gone to Sabbath services
for a few weeks, but I found out there was a sister who lived in the same city,
and we arranged to go to the local True Jesus Church together. When I knelt
down to pray in the chapel, I realized what a blessing it was to be able to
keep the Sabbath! For the first time in a very long while, I enjoyed the rest
and peace of the Holy Sabbath day.
BACK TO MY HEAVENLY FATHER
The experience I had in the chapel
on Sabbath and the presence of God throughout my trip made me want to draw
close to God again. After sight-seeing for another month, I flew to Southern
California and attended the 2003 NYTS. It was my last stop, and this time, unlike
the rest of my trip, there were no obstacles.
Through prayer and fellowship at
NYTS, God softened my heart and gave me strength. He welcomed me back with open
arms and with no rebuke. I felt like the prodigal son, coming back home to my
Father after discovering where I truly belonged. I had done everything out
of my own will, thinking that I knew what was best for me, but God was telling
me, No, you don’t.
He did not ask me why I had
abandoned the blessings I was born with and chosen to leave Him. He just let me
go and learn things step by step on the way, to realize that going back to my
heavenly Father was the best and only choice.
“And he arose and came to his father. But when
he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran
and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Lk 15:20)
I really thank God because I would
not be here without Him. If it were not for His forgiveness and His grace, I
would not have learned what God means to me. Not only during the trip but for
my entire life, He has guided me and been my light. He has always been my God
though I have not known Him.