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 (Manna 56: Holidays)
He Is My Lord Though I Have Not Known Him
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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.


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 most difficult.

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.


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.


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 down.


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 program either.

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 Montreal.

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 God’s discipline.


Not long 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 illnesses.

I broke 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.

Despite 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.

But I 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.


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 determination.

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 country.

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.


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.

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Author: Jennifer Chen