We Live to Do Meaningful Things
I-Ju Fang—Taipei, Taiwan
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you
should go and bear fruit…” (Jn 15:16)
Every believer in the true church
has been chosen by God, and His will for us is to manifest His image and bear
fruit for His glory. I would like to share with you my journey of faith, and
how I came to have a deeper understanding of God through my experiences in life
and my service to Him.
EARLY YEARS IN TAIWAN
I was baptized into the True Jesus
Church together with my mother when I was young. I grew up in the church,
attending Religious Education (RE) classes and enjoying church life. However, my
father was not a believer and would sometimes object to our participation in
church activities. I always wished that he would accept Christ, but he stubbornly
refused even to set foot in church.
The years passed, and I graduated
from a local university and started my career as a full-time
junior high school teacher, teaching music. As
music was not generally considered to be a core subject, my students usually
did not to pay attention in class. I would sometimes think: Do I have to teach like this for the next twenty-five
years? I began contemplating going overseas to further my education.
However, I was worried about my proficiency in English and whether I would be accepted
by any university.
When I shared my aspiration with a
church sister, she encouraged me to fast and pray. I decided to take her advice.
Despite initial apprehension that fasting would impact on my ability to teach, I
found that it did not. In fact, fasting prayer proved to be very effective.
STUDIES IN THE US
By God’s grace, my application to the
American University in Washington DC was
accepted. With this, the next stage of my life began. But the timing was not
ideal. Asia was facing a financial crisis, and my tuition fees increased by thirty
per cent in a matter of months. Adjusting to a new life in the US, while
shouldering the financial burden, became disheartening. One day, while
travelling to attend church services in Philadelphia, a three-hour bus ride
away, I thought to myself: Didn’t I fast
and pray? Why am I facing so many obstacles? What does God want me to do?
That Sabbath service revived my
faith. But on the journey home, it dawned on me that I would still have to confront
the obstacles. I thought of how I had always lived at home with my family in Taiwan;
this was the first time I was living away from home. As I was thinking of this,
some birds flying onto a tree caught my eyes, and Matthew 6, where Jesus tells
us not to worry, came to mind. I thought, if God could prepare food for the
birds, would He not care for His most precious creation—man?
I was reminded that we need to seek
His kingdom and His righteousness first, and He will take care of our needs in
life. God opened my heart to understand that there was a reason for me to study
abroad, and that I might be able to do something for Him. In the midst of difficulties,
God gave me the strength and motivation to study. Indeed, two years later, I
completed my tertiary education abroad and returned to Taiwan.
WORKING IN TAIWAN
In Taiwan, I became involved in a
number of church duties: I served in the RE and music departments, was involved
in college fellowship evangelism, and assisted in the church website, as part
of literary ministry. However, I still asked myself: What can I do for God? At this time, I was looking for a job, and
my criteria was that I must be able to keep the Sabbath and continue my church
work. With this in mind, I prayed to God for guidance.
I found my first job as an administrator
in a music graduate school. Two years later, in 2003, with God’s help, I was
appointed as a professor. That same year, I also served as a counselor and a hymnal
leader in a college students’ spiritual convocation
for the first time. During the convocation, I prayed that God would add to my
faith and my strength so that I could balance my work and church duties. On the
last day, during the prayer following Holy Communion, I heard a voice saying, “No
matter what happens, it is from God. He will guide you.”
MY FATHER’S LONG JOURNEY
On my way home that day, I
received a call: my parents had been involved in an accident. Shocked by the
news, I prayed all the way home. As I was praying, the earlier prayer came to
mind: All of this is from God. I was
When I reached the hospital, I discovered
that my father had sustained serious injuries to his right leg after his
motorbike was hit by a car. The doctor suggested an amputation, but my father
refused. My mother’s injuries were not as serious.
As part of his recovery journey, my
father was treated at six different hospitals. He needed skin and tissue
grafts, and his leg bone was severely fractured. Sometimes the grafts failed, and
the doctors had to repeat the procedures. For two years, the hospital became our
second home. Nevertheless, God granted us peace throughout this period.
Many brothers and sisters in
Christ prayed for us, and often they would ask if they could visit us in the
hospital. However, my father would decline. But still, God continued to guide
us. During one occasion, when we were praying quietly for my father, he
suddenly opened his eyes and said, “Thank you for praying for me.” I took the opportunity
to ask him whether he would pray with us. He agreed, although I felt that he
was doing so just to please us. He could not accept praying in tongues as he
was convinced it was contrived. For this reason, we would pray with him each
day in words.
During this time, as I read the
Bible daily, I would think how best to pray with my father. I thought of the
message in the book of James, that we may have many plans but we do not know
what will happen tomorrow. It made me appreciate that if God wills, we can do this
or that, but if He does not will, we plan in vain (Jas 4:13–14).
Over time, my concern was not so
much over my father’s physical recovery, but rather that he should come to believe
in Jesus Christ.
By God’s grace, two years after
the accident, my father’s condition improved sufficiently for him to be discharged
One morning in 2008, five years
after the accident, my father suddenly asked me, “What do you do in church?” I
did not know how to answer him at first. Then I explained that we go to church
to observe the Sabbath and to listen to sermons. He said, “I want to go with
you.” When I heard this, I did not know what to say as it came as a complete
surprise. All I could do was to go into a room to offer a prayer of thanksgiving.
From that week, my father started attending
Sabbath services. At first, he refused to listen to testimonies or to pray. After
listening to sermons, he would sometimes criticize
the speakers. On my part, I would turn to the Bible to try to find answers to
God is wonderful, and the way He calls
everyone is different. Although my father objected to certain aspects of the
church services, he liked to read the Bible. I gave him a Bible when he was
hospitalized, and he finished reading it within two months. When I took a look
inside, I could see he had underlined many parts. Amazingly, God enabled him to
remember the things he read.
“WE LIVE TO
DO MEANINGFUL THINGS”
In the summer of 2009, the International
Assembly was recruiting students for the full-time Theological Training Program
(TTP). It coincided with a time in my life when I was asking myself: What is the meaning of life?
The TTP was open to both brothers
and sisters. On my part, I would need parental consent in order to apply. My
mum told me that she had no opinion about the matter, and so I asked my father.
After hearing my request, he simply replied: “We live to do meaningful things.”
In September 2009, my father registered
for baptism. One church board member approached my mother and me excitedly, saying,
“You have prayed so hard for your father and have been encouraging him, and now
he’s applied to be baptized!” My mum and I looked at each other. Neither of us
had even dared to raise the issue; it was God who had inspired my father.
Two weeks before his baptism, my
father received the Holy Spirit. I was thankful to God for this, as my father’s
leg injury meant that he could not kneel down to pray. After my father’s
baptism, I felt as if my burdens had been lifted. After twenty-five years, it
had finally happened! I always thought it would happen eventually—but maybe at
the end of his life. God gave us this gift much sooner.
In March 2012, after some
administrative issues had been settled, I took the TTP test and passed. After joining the program in the
fall of that year, I was able to spend
time in prayer, emptying myself and removing the sense of achievement that came
from past service to God. It was also during this time that I encountered many
trials. However, it was on account of these storms of life that God taught me
to rely on Him. Each time I encountered a difficulty, God would reassure me
that His grace was sufficient, and that there were brethren praying for me. I
would learn something new each day.
Since we belong to God, we need to
serve God and put Him first. Although everyone serves in different ways, be it
full-time or part-time, the main thing is that we must endure to the end. We should
believe that God will provide for our daily needs, and that He cares for us and
listens to our prayers. Regardless of what we may encounter, we can be like Paul
who was able to rejoice greatly. Although we may face difficulties, we know
that God will open a way for us. We can rely on the strength that He gives us.
When I first started my TTP
training, many brethren would ask me, “What will you do after you graduate? Are
you going to be a preacher? What are your plans for marriage? What about your career?”
Their questions made me reflect on
the reasons for joining the TTP. A sister asked me whether God’s calling was
clear. In truth, I did not hear a voice telling me what to do. I only know that,
with all the mercies that God has bestowed on me, it would certainly be wrong
not to repay Him. We must grasp every opportunity to do something
that is meaningful in life.