Evelyn Eng-Nol—Houston, Texas, USA
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills. (Hab 3:17–19)
During the time of Habakkuk, the people experienced countless trials and tribulations. However, Habakkuk was determined to rejoice in the LORD even if his life was filled with suffering.
This is the kind of faith I hope to have as I journey toward eternal life. When the world seems full of darkness and evil, and it feels as if nothing can strengthen my faith, I hope to remember that I worship the almighty God. He will give me strength and make my feet like deer’s feet.
As a young child, though no one taught me about God, I knew that God exists—I felt there was a power much greater than me. When I felt afraid, I would pray to God for help. I would also draw pictures of God and me together. In Jeremiah 1:5, God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Even before I was conceived, God knew who I was. I also believe that God put the knowledge of His existence into my heart.
My family went to a local church in Boston for a short while, but I did not feel God’s presence there. Then in 2000, when I was about ten years old, my uncle invited me to their church, the True Jesus Church, Boston House of Prayer. I do not remember much about my experience, but the love I felt there was clearly etched in my mind because the members there treated me with kindness.
During our drive to the church, I sat in the front passenger seat of my uncle’s car. We talked about God and he mentioned that we sometimes misunderstand the way to worship God. Some people complicate worship by making it an extravagant performance. However, worship should be a simple affair. Jesus Himself came to earth in a simple manner—He was born in a manger and led a life of simplicity. My uncle explained that we should also worship God in a similar manner, with no frills or unnecessary extravagance. All God desires is sincere worship from our hearts; that message has stuck with me to this day.
After a few more visits, I stopped attending services and eventually lost contact with my uncle when my mother decided it would be more convenient to attend a different church closer to our home. A few years later, I learned that my aunt and uncle had moved to San Jose. Although I did not think too much about this, I knew that I missed going to True Jesus Church because one morning afterwards, I sat on my bed and began to cry. When I wept, I felt alone. Then I remembered how I did not feel lonely when I was in church. To deal with my sadness and loneliness, I became an angry young girl who would take out my frustration on my peers in school. I bullied other children and would purposely start fights. Throughout this time, I regularly wrote in my diary and had pages filled with curse words. The worst part about this time was that I blamed God for my misery.
When I was between thirteen and sixteen years old, my feeling of loneliness persisted, and I would seek attention from friends, teachers and boys. My diary entries during this period focused on my hopes, my dreams, and the crushes that I had on several boys. They were usually written with excitement, and sometimes I would thank God for the momentary feelings of happiness. However, each page was filled with vanity. Even when I thanked God in my entries, those words were superficial. The relationships I formed never seemed enough. I was also not able to maintain lasting friendships.
Then in 2007, when I turned seventeen, I joined an art program and met several high school students who were part of a Christian youth group. They welcomed me into their social circle and invited me to attend a night of worship with them. When I first entered their church, I was instantly overwhelmed by the sounds of worship music from the band playing on stage. For a brief second, I thought that this manner of worship seemed odd. However, I brushed the thought aside and readily immersed myself in my new friendships. I gradually became more involved; I participated in Bible studies, summer camp retreats, and joined the worship band. I began to genuinely seek God, but amid these church activities, I still felt far from Him. When I read the Bible, it seemed like there was a wall between me and the words on the pages. Then, I experienced a life-changing moment one summer morning, before my senior year in high school. I went out for a walk and observed the sunlight coming through the tree branches along my path. This beautiful sight brought tears to my eyes; it filled me with a longing and a hope for another place beyond this world—a heavenly home.
COMING TO KNOW GOD
Senior year in high school was an eventful time. There were events like prom, graduation, and numerous festivities. It was supposed to be an exciting period in my life, but there was a deep sense of emptiness in my heart.
Toward the end of my senior year of high school, my family reached out to my uncle for financial advice. I had just received my college acceptance letter and we were uncertain about some sections in the financial aid form. At this point, we had not spoken with him for over eight years. During our phone conversation, I learned that my grandparents and cousins were moving in with him and his wife in San Jose the coming summer. I also discovered that he had become a pastor. He then invited me to catch the same flight as them to visit him for two weeks. Although I was hesitant to go because I was not close to my relatives, I agreed, and my tickets were booked the same day.
Before my trip to San Jose in August 2008, I attended one last Bible study with the Christian youth group. The discussion led to the topic of praying in tongues. That night, I left with many lingering questions regarding baptism, the Holy Spirit, and what these meant for Christians.
After we landed in San Jose, we were met by my aunt and uncle. We drove to their home in two separate cars and this time, I happened to sit in the front passenger seat with my aunt. At first, it was a quiet ride. Then I turned to my aunt and asked, “Does your church believe in the Trinity?" Both she and I were surprised by my abrupt question. She briefly explained that there were some gaps in the concept of the Trinity; instead, the True Jesus Church believes in the one true God.
The next day, my uncle started to share passages from the Bible with me, and this opened up a whole new world to me. It was as if I woke up for the first time. Despite my earlier doubts, in that moment, I knew with absolute certainty that God did exist. We spent the next few days exploring San Francisco in the mornings, and in the evenings, we stayed up to read the Bible together. I felt very joyful. That Friday during the first week I was with them, my uncle had to travel to the church in Sacramento to lead the Sabbath service, and he thought of asking me to go with him. Right before he approached me, I had been experiencing unusual stomach pains that caused me to lie in bed all morning. When my uncle learned of this, he thought it might be best if I did not go. I also thought that a long car ride was the last thing I needed, but I thank God that I eventually decided to go.
After the Friday night sermon in Sacramento, my uncle invited everyone to pray in the front of the church hall. I knelt down, closed my eyes, and everyone around me began to pray in tongues. It sounded both foreign and familiar. One sister in particular prayed so earnestly that I was touched by the sound of her prayer and the sincerity in her voice. Since then, the sound of prayer has always brought comfort to me. Through everyone’s prayer, my stomach pain subsided the next morning. That afternoon, we joined a hymnal sharing session where we sat in a circle to talk about our favorite hymns. I was not familiar with any, but as I flipped through the pages in the hymn book, I stopped at the hymn entitled, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow. The refrain was exactly what I wanted to express.
Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.
The future was something I frequently thought about. I would wonder why my life turned out the way it did. When I read the last two lines in the refrain, I felt a sense of freedom and was comforted to know that the Omnipotent God, who held the future in His hands, would also be holding my hand. We returned to San Jose later that evening.
During the second week of my visit, we attended the weeknight service at the church in San Jose. Another pastor was delivering the sermon. When my family and I walked into the chapel, my uncle asked where we wanted to sit. Without a second thought, I requested to sit right at the front. During the message, I sat at the edge of my seat, listening intently. It was during this time that I received the Holy Spirit. The night before my return flight to Boston, we attended a prayer session where I prayed in tongues for the first time. Besides feeling warm in my heart, my mind was also full of peace.
When I arrived home, God moved me to throw away a lot of my material possessions, such as CDs, clothing, photos, and things that linked me to a life of sin. God also gave me confidence to talk to my family about the True Jesus Church and continue praying in the Holy Spirit. Then in the following month, on September 28, 2008, I received water baptism conducted by ministers of the Boston House of Prayer. Although the weather was gloomy, when I came out of the water, I felt I had received God’s abundant grace. I was determined to become the new person God wanted me to be.
WALKING WITH GOD
That September was also the start of my freshman year in college. I was excited but concerned about how to tell my roommate that I prayed in tongues. While I meditated on this, it came to my mind that the best approach was to tell my roommate right away. On the first day we moved in, I politely shared with my new roommate about my prayer and she wholeheartedly welcomed me to practice my faith. I was thankful for God’s arrangement and established a daily prayer routine right away!
Another concern of mine was the temptations I would face on campus. I was afraid to lose God and be drawn away by sin. My old self continued to struggle inside with loneliness, anger, and my desire for attention. I knew that boy-girl relationships would be a problematic issue. In addition to meeting my roommate on the first day, I also got to know a male student who moved into the dormitory across the hallway. He was attractive, funny, and also expressed interest in me. This seemed like a red flag, so I shared the situation with my aunt and uncle. They reminded me that Satan was working hard to make me spiritually fall and advised me to limit my interactions with this student.
One verse that comes to mind when I think about my time in college is Colossians 3:3: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” I wanted to manifest these words but was often challenged by my pride and insecurity. A part of me yearned for acceptance, popularity, and acknowledgment from my peers. The other part of me wanted contentment in a hidden life with Christ, just as this verse says.
During the second week of classes, a boy asked if I wanted to study with him. The following month, a girl I met at freshman orientation invited me to a party. At the end of my first year, another girl from my dormitory pleaded with me to join the housing lottery with her and two boys, in order to reserve a shared living space for the next academic year. These encounters were similar; they seemed harmless, but in each case, my heart was troubled to oblige. I had to choose whether to please people or please God.
One particular night, as I was falling asleep, I was overwhelmed with loneliness. It felt dark and unquenchable. When I cried out to God in my heart, I felt Him embrace me and let me know that I was not alone. This experience taught me that the feeling of loneliness would always be present in my life, but that was alright. It served as a reminder that only God could truly satisfy me.
By God’s grace, I was able to overcome these temptations. It would not have been possible without daily spiritual cultivation and me sharing my weaknesses with my aunt and uncle. I am also thankful that I was able to attend the Sabbath service every week. I always looked forward to the scenic train rides that took me from campus to church during the weekend. Each season painted a different scenery—the red foliage in fall, the white blanket in winter, and then the blooming flowers in spring. God’s creation inspired and comforted me throughout my entire time at school. That was how I survived my college years.
BLESSED BY GOD
When I was between twenty-three and twenty-seven years old, my life was filled with a myriad of blessings and spiritual refinement.
After graduation in May 2013, I actively sought work. I was worried that I did not have enough experience. I submitted my resumé to countless companies but months passed without any response. It was not until December 2013 that I had my first interview. I was helping with the central region student spiritual convocation in Houston when I received the call. I had to reschedule my interview twice—the first time because I was not going to be in town, and the second because my flight from Houston to Boston was canceled due to a snowstorm. Despite the complications, the company readily rescheduled the interviews for me.
God blessed me with a good job in water resource engineering, a position that I was not qualified for. However, the more experience I gained, the more I was amazed at how beautifully God had crafted this career path for me; in addition to office work, I was also able to spend time outdoors amid God’s lovely creation while completing related fieldwork.
Through God’s guidance, I moved from Boston to Dallas and bought my first house, which was something that I had always aspired to do for my parents and for my younger sisters. God truly provided for my family and me all these years.
With each passing year, God continues to bestow His mercy upon me. Sometimes, I still feel unsure about the future. Other times, I still feel the weight of loneliness. However, even if the fig tree does not blossom and the vines do not bear fruit, I will always strive to rejoice in the Lord.
 By Ira F Stanphill. © 1950, renewed 1978, Singspiration Music.