Timothy Yeung—Calgary, Canada
Hallelujah, in the name of the Lord Jesus, I share my testimony of how I came to know and serve the Lord.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Cor 15:10)
In this verse, Paul says, “I am what I am.” We are constantly changing throughout our lives; we may be different from when we did not know the Lord, and we all have different journeys of faith. Some were born into the faith, and some were converted as adults. But we all come to the Lord Jesus because we have experienced His love.
For me, I was brought to the True Jesus Church by my mother and baptized as a baby. I may have had no choice, but this was the greatest blessing since I did not have to struggle to find the right path. My maternal grandmother was also a member, so I am a third-generation True Jesus Church believer, like my namesake in the Bible (2 Tim 1:5). And, like his, my mother and grandmother were also full of faith.
THE FAITH OF MY GRANDPARENTS
My maternal grandparents were born during World War II, and their families fled from China to Hong Kong. Life in Hong Kong was impoverished and challenging. Back then, you would keep having children until you had a son. So, my grandmother gave birth to four daughters before having my uncle, a much-longed-for son.
It was traditional practice to feed newborn babies a herbal tea made from Coptis chinensis, to prevent inflammation. However, that year, the crop had been contaminated because it was planted close to strychnine trees, which produce toxic fruit and seeds from which the poison nux vomica is derived. Many babies had already died from drinking the poisonous infusion, but unfortunately the midwife forgot to warn my grandmother. Indeed, after drinking the tea, the baby fell very ill and became unconscious. The doctors declared there was no remedy as the poisoning was too severe. But my grandparents were full of faith; they took the baby home and prayed earnestly throughout the night for the Lord’s mercy. Soon after the prayers, the baby cried out and was able to drink milk. By God’s power, his condition quickly improved and he fully recovered. He grew up as a healthy child and is now over sixty years old.
During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, the occupying forces could stop anybody in the street and kill with impunity. One day, a Japanese soldier stopped my grandfather and told him to kneel. My grandfather figured he would be beheaded or shot on the spot, so he started to pray in tongues, imploring the Lord Jesus to save him. After a while, the soldier kicked him away and told him to leave! We heard these testimonies from our grandparents when we were children, and their faith was passed down from generation to generation through such sharing.
INHERITING THE FAITH
It is God’s blessing that I am here today. When my mother was carrying me, she almost miscarried. But she prayed and relied on God to preserve the fetus growing inside her. My being born into the faith may seem coincidental by human logic, but it is God’s arrangement and choosing. Some people are chosen as infants, some when they are old. Regardless of when we are chosen, it is a blessing and an opportunity to be treasured. Parents who choose to bring up their children in the true church must cherish their faith.
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6)
I was not a smart child and did not do well in school. However, my mother never worried about my school work; instead, she insisted we attend church services. Not only did we attend Sabbath services on Saturdays, but we would attend Wednesday and Friday evening services without fail. My mother was a busy career woman who would rush home after work, feed me and my two younger brothers, and take us to church. Night services were from 8 to 9 p.m., so we would get home around 10 p.m. and still need to get up early the following morning. But my mother was determined never to miss a church service. We enjoyed those evenings because we did not have to do homework, and the chapel had air conditioning. Night after night, Sabbath after Sabbath, we heard many sermons, and God’s word gradually became a part of us. My mother did not organize many extracurricular activities for us. On Saturdays, we would only go to church, so we learned to embrace the concept that worshipping God is more important than anything else. As children, we could not express this idea in words, but we understood implicitly that these were our mother’s values, which had a tremendous and lasting impact. At home, we witnessed her reading the Bible and praying into the night, even when she was tired. This seed of faithfulness was planted deep in my heart.
CHANGED BY GOD’S LOVE
As I was growing up, I went through a difficult stage. I was not intentionally rebellious but I could not concentrate or sit still. Today, I would likely be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and placed on medication. When getting my hair cut, I would be unaware that I was moving until the barber told me to hold still. I could not absorb what teachers were saying and would ask many questions. I made frequent trips to the washroom during lessons. On the first day of the student spiritual convocation, I broke a window. I was a constant headache for my teachers. They never expected such a child to become a preacher. So be merciful to naughty kids because God’s mercy can change a person. And one day, they will remember and thank you.
How did God change me? Through two events. First, I met Preacher Shek, a resident preacher of Hong Kong, who was very loving. I was young then, and people were already frustrated with me. But he said, “He’s not a naughty child. I can train him.” He took me aside and said, “Timothy, stand here; look at the clock for a minute, and don’t move.” I said that would be too long, so he shortened the time to thirty seconds. We repeated this exercise every time I went to church, eventually increasing the time to a full minute. He lived across the street from my school, so I started going to his house to study and have lunch before school. He told my mother it was not that I could not study but that I was distracted by my brothers’ presence. I was touched by this preacher’s love. If I grew up only hearing, “You’re so bad. You’re so hopeless,” I probably would have believed it and become bad. The more you criticize and deny someone’s abilities, the more he will prove you right. But this preacher’s faith in me helped me not to give up on myself. Love can change even the worst person, but it takes commitment; the more you encourage, the more he will improve.
Second, I received the Holy Spirit. In the True Jesus Church, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit.
[N]ot by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Tit 3:5)
Receiving the Holy Spirit is invaluable because He continually renews us in our lives on earth and also allows us to enter the heavenly kingdom to come. I received the Holy Spirit at a student spiritual convocation, aged twelve. The preachers encouraged us to pray fervently for the Holy Spirit so that we could change and enter heaven one day. They told us to pray out loud, saying, “Hallelujah.” I had found prayers boring and unpleasantly hot in the past, so I would often escape. But this time, I prayed harder than I had ever prayed in my life.
The Holy Spirit can truly transform a person, no matter how deep their issues. God changed me in several ways. I became obedient and stopped being naughty at school and in religious education class. My school teachers thought I was acting strangely and asked if something had happened at home. I did not know how to testify at that age, but I assured them everything was fine at home. I also started to enjoy doing things related to God and my faith. The Holy Spirit inspired me to love God’s word. I would write notes during sermons, even when listening to sermon cassette tapes at home. I would read the Bible on my own and loved to pray. I would pray at home by myself for at least thirty minutes. Most miraculously, my ADHD-like symptoms, which had been very serious, disappeared.
MATURING IN FAITH
Of course, we go through highs and lows in our faith. I prayed fervently when I first received the Holy Spirit, but this did not last more than a year. I gradually returned to my old self. Because I did not continue diligently in prayer, I became weak. During my adolescence, I attended church without enthusiasm or experiencing anything special. It was a routine, like going to the grocery store. In 1993, when I turned eighteen, my family immigrated to Canada. We moved to a small town in Calgary where my aunt lived. It was only when we got there that we realized there was no church and that winter temperatures would be sub-zero. The population was tiny, and the only other church member living there was a student.
This was a time of trial in my faith. Even though we learned English as children, my conversational skills were appalling. At eighteen, adjusting to a new environment and entering a good college were difficult. I started to reflect: This is a turning point in my life, but how can I go forward? I’m not as smart as others, I don’t have friends, and my parents can’t help me. But I do have God. From then on, I learned to trust in God. This was when I truly made my faith my own. Previously, my faith was given to me by my parents. But now, I began having my own thoughts and experience of God.
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God. (Ps 42:1)
In Hong Kong, we could attend church services every day, but in Calgary, we had to have service at home. Every night, after dinner, my mother would lead our family service. We read the Bible, sang hymns while my youngest brother played the piano, and prayed. During Sabbaths, we listened to sermon tapes sent to us from the church in Pacifica, California. We would start the service in the name of the Lord Jesus, and after the prayer, we would “invite” a preacher from the US to speak by pressing “play.” Halfway through, we would have to flip the tape, but sometimes the other side would be blank, so we learned to check the tape beforehand. Thinking back to those years, our hearts were full of fervor. Even though no speaker was standing before us, God’s Spirit was moving us, and God’s word touched our hearts. Gradually, God led truth-seekers to join us. It was miraculous to see God working to move the truth-seekers, even through a recorded sermon, and some received the Holy Spirit in our home. By God’s grace, we established a house of prayer in Calgary.
CALLED BY GOD
This was also my first year attending the US National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS). When my mother asked if I would like to sign up, explaining it would be two weeks of staying in church and studying the Bible, I was not keen. I complained that I would find it boring. But since she promised we could go sightseeing in San Francisco afterward, I agreed to go. This event significantly impacted me—the church was filled with youths, and they loved God so much. The speakers and their testimonies touched us immensely. Preacher Derren Liang showed us videos of missionary trips to Africa, and I was inspired by God’s great love. So many people in the world need Jesus, but we have so few preachers in the True Jesus Church. I thought: If God wishes to use me, I want to be used. I realized my English was poor, and I was not good at studying, so I could not absorb the course materials as well as my peers. But if God was willing to use me, I would eagerly say yes. I might not know where Africa was, but I would be willing to go if God sent me.
Many people ask me why I became a preacher. It sounds like a great sacrifice, but it was not. If God esteems me and allows me to be a minister, I need to be thankful. Paul says, “I am what I am.” God does not have to use us, but He accepts our service. Imagine the wealthiest person in the world who always has the best of everything. What could you possibly give him? Similarly, everything belongs to God (Ps 50:12). Who am I? What can I possibly offer to God? It is a blessing that God does not reject us but uses us and accepts our offerings, whatever sacred work we engage in. You are not making a sacrifice to God; you are actually gaining treasure.
After graduating from college, I worked for half a year. The International Assembly (IA) was recruiting students for the Overseas Ministry Program. Graduates of the program were required to serve in Africa for at least five years. I was excited for the opportunity, so I signed up. However, the IA could not start the course immediately because I was the only applicant. Then God moved a brother from France to join the program, so there were enough students. By God’s grace and mercy, He allowed me to serve Him despite my poor English, and He has guided me thus far in my ministry.
Is it hard to be a preacher? No, it is not because God’s grace is with you. We work hard, just as working in the world requires effort, but working for God is an exceedingly great blessing. Wherever I go, I am well taken care of and experience the love of the brethren. I have made many friends and gotten to know so many brothers and sisters along the way.
This was my personal path to knowing God, being moulded by Him, and responding to His call to serve. But it does not matter when or how you came to know God, whether as a child or an adult. You must respond when God calls you to believe, serve, or make a change in your life. Then, you will experience His grace and realize more blessings will come.