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 (Manna 84: TJC at 100 – The Grace That Has Brought Us Here)
My Journey of Serving the Lord
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Aun Quek Chin—Singapore

A BOYS SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

I grew up in the church at Kulim, a town in the state of Kedah in north Malaysia. Back then, we had no deacons or sermon speakers, so deacons from other churches in the state would be sent to Kulim to conduct services. Every Sabbath, my family would travel an hour by bus to church. But there were times when—after a long wait—we would find out that the assigned deacon could not make it. In those instances, we would simply pray together and then go home. If no one turned up within half an hour, then it was likely that there would be no service that week. Seeing this state of affairs, I told myself that, when I finished my studies, I would become a preacher to help deliver sermons and pastor the flock of God.

When I was around fifteen, in my third year of high school, I attended a spiritual meeting. At this meeting, Elder John Yang from Taiwan spoke on the judgment of the last day from the Book of Revelation. His sermons really stirred us and made us realize how close the day of the Lord was. We suddenly felt the urgency to receive the Holy Spirit, otherwise we would not be able to enter the kingdom of God. We prayed earnestly during the many prayer sessions, and by the final session, I was the only one who had not received the Holy Spirit.

Receiving the Holy Spirit

During the final prayer session dedicated to praying for the Holy Spirit, everyone was interceding for me. I was very touched, despite my anxiety, to hear their pleas on my behalf. However, after a while, my sense of urgency decreased when I realized that the last day would not come immediately and I would still have time to pray for the Holy Spirit. Then, it occurred to me that without the Holy Spirit, I would not be accepted to train as a full-time preacher. My anxiety levels rose again because I really wanted to pastor the church. I pleaded with the Lord Jesus, O Lord, please give me the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, there is no way I can become a preacher to pastor your flock.

As I prayed in this manner, suddenly, a deep sorrow welled up within me. The Lords words came to mind, Are you willing to suffer as a preacher? In those days, a preachers life was a hard one. As the believers were very poor, the church could not afford to pay the preachers much. In addition, not all church leaders supported the idea of having full-time evangelists. Because all church workers in Malaysia at that time were volunteers who served the church in their spare time, they could not understand why a preacher could not do the same.

Even so, I told the Lord that I was willing. I wanted to pastor the flock of God. I was afraid of neither difficulties nor poverty. I was then moved by the Holy Spirit. I cried so hard that I could not pray properly. When that prayer ended, my friends beside me were certain I had received the Holy Spirit. They had heard me speaking in tongues, but I could not be sure because I had been crying during the prayer.

In the next prayer, all my doubts disappeared when I clearly spoke in tongues. I was joyful but, at the same time, I felt some stress. Since God had granted me the Holy Spirit, I had to fulfill my part by offering myself for full-time ministry. Ahead of me would be poverty and the opposition of those who did not believe in having full-time preachers.

A YOUTHS PREPARATION AND CRISES

Sermon Speaking and Religious Education

Returning home after the spiritual meeting, I changed my aim in life. I no longer focused solely on my studies and the pursuit of wealth. In order to equip myself to be a preacher, I consistently read the Bible and church publications. In order to practice sermon speaking, I started a nightly family service. I made my younger siblings sit and listen to me speak. My parents were also supportive and would often attend the service. At the same time, I took the initiative to start religious education classes at home, roping in my siblings and cousins to be my students.

Loss of Motivation

That was how I started preparing myself, but such fervor did not last. My enthusiasm gradually waned because I had no one to encourage and guide me. Those little ones came to listen to me only because I forced them to, so I felt less and less motivated to speak. As my faith grew colder, I returned to my old ambitions to do well in my studies, to graduate, to work, and to escape poverty. After I had established myself, then I would think about how to help the church.

My mother saw the change in me and thus gently reminded me, saying, It has been some time since we had a family service. We still held a nightly service, but we would just pray—there was no more hymn singing or sermon speaking. My mother added, Do you realize that your prayer is different from the past? Is there something wrong? Although I knew clearly what was wrong, I did not reply.

A Warning Vision

One night, I was very tired so I decided to have an early night. As it was only 7 pm, my mother asked through my closed bedroom door if I was sick. Before I could reply, I heard a frightening cry, like from a horror movie. I tried to open my eyes and get up, but I could not do either. I have had nightmares before in which I could not move, but after some time, I would wake up and realize it was a dream. This experience was different. I had just lay on the bed, and was not yet asleep. I heard my mother clearly but could not answer her. Because I had not replied, she called out again—I was hoping she would come into my room, but instead, she just remained outside, grumbling to herself.

The terrifying voice grew louder and sounded like it was approaching me. I felt like I was being dragged out of bed, and I fainted from the shock. When I regained consciousness, I found myself walking down a dark road, or rather, being dragged along it. Human wails came from both sides, but it was so dark I could not even see my own fingers, let alone see who was wailing. I did not think that I had been taken to hell. Neither could it be judgment day because the Bible describes the last judgement and hell as a lake of fire, and this did not match my surroundings. So I wondered to myself, What place is this?

Later, I was taken to a brighter place. There was a queue, so I joined it. Facing the queue was a man clothed in black. He held a sword shaped like a fish bone. When those in the queue reached the front, other black-hooded men would drag them before this man. He would then stab them with his fish-bone sword. The scene was so vivid that I still remember it today. What was even more haunting were the cries of those who had been stabbed. They would fall to the ground, writhing and wailing, but they could not die. I knew with a sense of dread that I was going to be the last one.

By then, I was praying extremely fervently. I repented before the Lord and asked for forgiveness. I told the Lord I no longer wanted the mortarboard or wealth; I just wanted to become a preacher. As I kept praying, repenting of my sins, a light suddenly shone down. The cacophonous wailing stopped. And from the source of the light emerged melodious music, as if there was a large group of people singing; the music slowly drifted over to me. I thought, The Lord has answered my prayers. I waited for the Lord to save me. That anticipation caused overwhelming joy to well up within me. I felt deeply blessed to have the Lord as my Savior—I had seen how people suffered because they did not have the Savior to save them. A cloud hovered above my head. I was so excited, thinking this would be my moment of salvation. But the cloud drifted away. I was devastated—the Lord had left me behind. In fear and sadness, I cried out, O Lord! Save me!

It was then that my mother ran into my room. What happened? she asked anxiously, Why are you shouting?

I replied, Nothing happened. But let us pray.

When I knelt down to pray, I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I felt like an abandoned baby who was suddenly saved. I was filled with joy, but a tinge of fear remained. In fact, so intense was the fear of abandonment, I can still feel it today.

As we continued to pray, I wept aloud. My prayer was so loud that my nearest neighbour, whose house was about two hundred meters away, could hear me. The following day, she asked my mother what had happened to me to make me cry so piteously. From that day onwards, we resumed our family services with sermon speaking and hymn singing. On my part, I readjusted my ambitions and direction in life. I no longer aimed to graduate and attain great wealth; I no longer sought the material pleasures the world could offer. I just resolved to be a good preacher.

Test of Resolution

Since the minimum requirement to become a full-time preacher was a high school certificate, I planned to apply for preacher training on my graduation from high school. But when the time came, I did not register because I had found a good job in tin mining. It was easy work with a high wage. No formal qualifications were required, but it was dangerous work.[1]

I was paid $600 per month. For comparison, a primary school teacher was paid $300 per month, and a full-time preacher started at $60 per month. When I told my mother that I wanted to become a full-time preacher, she asked me to consider carefully. She thought that I would be better off working at my full-time secular job and helping out part-time in sermon speaking. My monthly salary was a huge contribution to our family finances. However, my mother left the decision to me.

I thus told the Lord Jesus that, because my siblings were still young, I wanted to work for a few years to support my family before becoming a full-time preacher. Moreover, the concept of a full-time preacher employed by the church was still not well accepted. I told myself that perhaps the time was not right yet, and I continued in my secular career.

A PREACHERS CALL AND TESTING

Motivation

One day at work, I heard a sheep bleating. I wondered who would rear sheep in such a deep mining pit; perhaps a lost sheep had wandered to our mine. I worked in the engine room and was in charge of switching on (or off) the water supply for the monitor pump when instructed. Hearing the sheeps bleating, I stood up and left the engine room to take a look. To my surprise, I saw a sheep right in front of me. But when I looked again, it was gone. Since I could still hear its bleating, I took another careful look in case it had run off at my approach. The sound was very clear—a continuous and pitiful cry—and I felt a deep sorrow. I even went out to the top of the hill (where the engine room was located) just in case the sheep had wandered there. But I could find no sheep. 

Suddenly, I felt a pain in my heart. It seemed as if someone was singing the hymn, The Ninety and Nine,[2] within me. The first verse goes:

There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold.

But one was out on the hills away far off from the gates of gold.

Away on the mountains wild and bare, away from the tender shepherds care...

The voice within me kept echoing, Away on the mountains wild and bare.

I understood. In order to help my family, I had delayed applying to train as a preacher. However, in the house of God, there were many who needed pastoring. I had only thought of my own family, I had not considered the house of God. My family was poor, but no one had yet lost their physical or spiritual lives. In the house of God, many sheep had already gone astray. If there were no shepherd to pastor them, they would sin and die spiritually.

At that point, I resolved to join the ministry. My colleagues and my boss asked why I suddenly quit when I was doing well at work. They were anxious to retain me because few youths were willing to work so far from the city, in a quiet place with nothing much to do. They initially thought I had found a lucrative job, but when I told them I was quitting my $600-per-month job to earn $60, they laughed and asked whether I was mad. I reassured them I was not.

Application

In 1972, at the age of nineteen, I lodged my application to be a trainee preacher with my home church of Kulim. This was accepted at a meeting of Malaysias northern region churches. They decided that I should shadow and learn from the deacons as they went about their pastoral work. The General Assembly (GA) of West Malaysia and Singapore would discuss my application at the annual year-end delegates conference. In the meantime, I was sent to different towns to deliver sermons.

By the end of 1972, at the Annual Delegates Conference, the meeting attendees could not reach a consensus over my application. Church leaders who had opposed the churchs employment of full-time preachers continued to oppose the approval of my application. However, some supported my application. Finally, two elderly ministers suggested, Why dont we allow him to work in the West Malaysia and Singapore churches for two years? For one thing, it will allow us to get to know him better. And for another, it will be a test of his resolve, so we can judge whether he is suitable to be a preacher.

Acceptance

Hence, in 1973, I was officially appointed to minister the churches in West Malaysia and Singapore. A year later, my application to train as a full-time preacher was accepted at another GA meeting; my original probation of two years was effectively cut to one. In 1974, I was sent to Taiwan to attend the theological course.

I was the first church-funded preacher from West Malaysia to participate in the theological course. It was also the first time the Malaysian churches had started training a full-time preacher. Two sisters from Malaysia had gone to Taiwan to participate in the theological course a few years before. However, both of them were self-funded.[3]

Challenge

It was not easy to be the first theological student in Malaysia because of the churchs financial situation. A trainee preacher had to be prepared to suffer financially and even psychologically. For instance, I was regularly asked why an able-bodied young man like myself could not make my own living—was I not ashamed to depend on the church to support me? Some questioned whether I took up full-time ministry because I could not further my studies.

My wife and I had to suffer these hardships but neither of us regret my service as a preacher. Although we faced opposition and disdain, the Lord never spurned our offering.

The Lords Abidance through Dark Valleys

There were many occasions when I was discouraged and wanted to give up. I did not want my wife to have to suffer this unfair treatment, so, at one point, I decided to leave the full-time ministry. I knew that this would disappoint the Lord because He had guided and helped me all along the way. But by then, I had had enough. I asked the Lord to forgive my decision. Although I felt guilty, I really could not imagine having to suffer these hardships for the rest of my life.

As all these thoughts were running through my mind during prayer, the image of the Lord Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane came to mind. The words of Jesus sounded in my heart, Can you not suffer with Me for a moment longer? Moved by the Holy Spirit, I wept. Of course, I gave up that decision. Had the Lord not always helped me, I would have given up long ago.

There was also a time—spanning a few years—when I went through an especially difficult time. My sister was suffering the last stage of cancer, and her pain was so excruciating she would cry out loud. It broke my heart to see her in pain. I had interceded, even with fasting, and asked the Lord to lessen her pain but apparently to no avail. Some seized that moment to criticize me. At that time, the International Assembly of the True Jesus Church was grappling with the case of a preacher who had committed many misdemeanors. This preacher enjoyed a high profile and many supporters. As I had openly spoken out against his conduct, I was accused of maligning him because of my jealousy. They even cited all the grief I was suffering—my wifes miscarriage, my fathers demise, and my sisters painful cancer—as evidence that I was wrong to speak up against him.

It would have been easier for me to adopt a neutral, self-protective stance—to keep quiet and allow this (now) ex-preacher to continue speaking sermons and conducting Holy Communion. But as a servant of the church, it was my responsibility to take care of the church. So I spoke out. Yet in trying to do the right thing, I was seen as the wrongdoer. It was indeed suffering upon suffering.

Honestly, I did not even know what to tell the Lord during prayer. I could not cease praying but I literally did not know how to pray. Often, I just knelt there silently, almost as if I were giving the Lord the cold shoulder. But I was not—I simply did not know what else to do or say. I continued to kneel before Him because He was the only One I could rely on. In my grief, I finally grumbled to Him, Why should I suffer these things? Have I not suffered enough? You have not helped me!

Suddenly, the image of the Lord nailed on the cross appeared before me. I saw people taking something to the Lord, but He did not accept it. The Bible records that after they crucified the Lord Jesus, the Roman soldiers gave Him vinegar mixed with myrrh. This mixture was intended to reduce His physical agony on the cross—an act of compassion from the soldiers. But the Lord refused because He had to suffer on our behalf.

I immediately understood. My sister could reduce her pain by increasing her dosage of painkillers. But she knew that this came at the cost of shortening her life further, so she just endured the pain. My vision helped me explain to my sister, This is the suffering that our Lord wants us to go through. During His crucifixion, He could have reduced His pain, but He did not do so, for our sakes. If we are suffering today, and there is nothing to stop us from relieving our suffering, then we should thank the Lord.

From that time onwards, I no longer grumbled; I only hoped for the Lords will to be fulfilled. That period was a great trial for me, but the Lord helped me again and again. His love and comfort enabled me to persevere to the very end.

A RETIRED PREACHERS GRATITUDE FOR GRACE

When I look back and see how I was able to last until the end of my official tenure as a full-time minister, I can see Gods preservation and Gods grace. I offered up my youth for the Lord, but He allowed me to enjoy the latter years of my life with my wife. Throughout these many years, I have indeed experienced much of Gods grace. It is the Lord who led us personally through those difficult days.

Today, in my retirement, God has given me a more peaceful life. I may not know what tomorrow will bring but I know that the Lord will be there to guide me. The Lord will guide all of us through all the tomorrows He has prepared for us. I was willing to put my hand into the Lords nail-scarred hands and let Him lead.  Are you willing?



[1] I worked as a water jet operator for a tin mining company in Ipoh, Malaysia. High-pressure water jets (known as monitors) were aimed at ore-bearing cliffs to break the earth up. The resultant slurry (mud) would be washed into the pit. The tin ore could then be separated from the earth by panning, or by a gravel pump used to pump the material up a huge wooden sluice box to trap the tin ore. The job was dangerous because the pit would grow increasingly steep, causing mudslides that could trap and kill the miners.

[2] By Elizabeth C. Clephane (1830V1869).

[3] In fact, in those days, the church did not allow sisters to speak on the pulpit. If there were no brothers to interpret, the sisters had to interpret from below the pulpit.

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Author: Aun Quek Chin
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 12/08/2017
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