ARA Family Story“Somehow, amidst all the turmoil and trauma, our whole family managed to have this quiet confidence and strength in God and to trust that everything will be all rightA sister recounts the passing of her father and the constant abidance of God with her family throughout the years. By retelling her family’s story, she was able to come full-circle in her relationship with God.
Just as every family has its own wondrous and compelling tales of God’s grace and compassion, all filled with life lessons, I offer my family’s story as an indication of the depth and breadth of His loving mercy and an illustration of God’s unequivocal and timely control over everything.
The testimony that I would like to recount concerns my parents’ individual and separate journeys of how they both came to believe in Christ, and, in particular, my dad’s remarkable acceptance of God just before his death in October 2000.
I would also like to share what God has revealed to me about my parents that I had previously been blind to for a long time—especially the attributes of my dad, whom I had always had to struggle to find the capacity to respect.
My parents first met each other almost thirty-five years ago, but it took them a long and arduous thirty years before they were finally able to come to share the same faith in God.
Their individual journeys of faith and their own lives were neither simple nor easy but, rather, pitted with many obstacles.
The hardships and difficulties they faced and managed to overcome together made their belief and conviction in our heavenly Father something truly precious to behold, and it remains a beautiful legacy for me.
THE NOMADIC YEARS
Like many of the first UK Church members, my parents were economic migrants of the 1960’s and 70’s, mostly from neighboring fishing villages in rural Hong Kong. Many families were acquainted with each other because of the tight-knit ethos of the fishing communities at that time.
As with most of the early UK brethren, the catering trade provided my parents with their livelihood in the UK. But unlike most of the UK members of that time, neither of my parents had any firm knowledge of the True Jesus Church or any Christian beliefs prior to their immigration to the UK.
Due to the nature of the catering trade in the UK, most of the early Hong Kong immigrants had literally scattered themselves across the length and breadth of Britain, either in search of work in the catering trade or to open up their own restaurants or takeaways in different towns and cities.
And because of this, many people lost contact with each other as they became dispersed around the UK and communication with each other became fragmented. Just to illustrate the instability of the lifestyle of some of the Hong Kong migrants at that time, my parents themselves moved almost ten times around the UK in the first fifteen years of their migration.
By the time of my birth, my parents were living in Scotland and had become close acquaintances with a few members of the True Jesus Church through working in various restaurants. It was during this time that my parents heard that my distant uncle was living in Edinburgh.
So, they took my older brother and I along to the dedication of Gifford Park Church in Edinburgh in 1978 because they were told that my uncle would turn up at this event. On this occasion, my parents became reacquainted with many people they knew from when they were in Hong Kong.
My mom also managed to rendezvous with her younger sister, who had, by this time, come to believe in Christ through marrying a True Jesus Church member and was living on the south coast of England in Portsmouth.
As for my own family, however, our time to receive Christ into our home wasn’t to come until July 1985. My mom, my older brother, and I became the first ones in my immediate family to be baptized, and my remaining siblings were baptized a few years later. But my dad’s time to be baptized would not come for many years.
In the intervening years from their immigration to the time of my baptism, it seemed that my parents were almost always in a financial quandary.
Coupled with many emotional upheavals, the years prior to 1985 seemed like a never-ending struggle for them to provide the secure and stable environment they wanted for their family.
A chain of failed business ventures meant that, for a long time, we led quite a nomadic lifestyle, moving around the country in search of a stable home to call our own.
One of the major shifts in my family took place in 1984, when my family split up. My dad took up a job that was in another town, and my family moved to Portsmouth to live with my aunt and her family. We were separated for four years.
Although we were physically disconnected, with my dad working away and with my younger siblings being looked after by foster parents, this was a momentous step forward for us to draw closer God. This was also when we began to experience the embrace of His loving arms.
As we lived with my church-attending aunt and her family, the natural thing for my mother to do, it seemed, was to go with them to church every week, taking my older brother and me with her.
God had a lot of compassion and love in store for us. I firmly do not believe that it was any fleeting coincidence that, once my mother took the first step to believe in God, the physical circumstances and the stability of our family took a major turn for the better.
Consequently, I had always felt that I never really knew my dad properly and did not have a very communicative relationship with him. He was the traditional patriarchal figure, who was stern and emotionally self-contained.
Nevertheless, I knew that as a father, he undeniably had a deep, unspoken love for us, especially when I think about the struggles that he went through since his migration to the UK.
It would have been so much easier for him to live a more selfish life just for himself or for him to turn his back on his family, but instead he demonstrated great integrity when faced with difficulties.
My dad was not a frivolous man and he always seemed content with the simple things in life. Like many fathers, he would never put his own needs before those of his children.
Although our family did not seem to be very cohesive or emotionally united, God always provided enough for us in terms of material needs. And by 1989, God blessed us with our own house and a successful family business.
MY DAD’S INDIFFERENCE
My dad was quite a headstrong character, and, for the most part of his life, he held quite agnostic views to there being a creator, despite his philosophical outlook on some things in life.
He felt that, as long as he did no wrong to others, he did not need to believe in God or to hold onto any notion of there being an eternal life after death. No requirements of salvation were in order in his view.
So my dad was not the most ideal candidate to accept any messages of salvation. He remained quite adamant in his stance and held firmly to his views for many years after my baptism.
However, he never once objected to my mom’s, my siblings’, or my belief in God, nor to us going to church on any occasion. But despite the many efforts of various preachers and deacons, he would always diplomatically and tactfully decline any invitations to church.
By the time I moved away from home to study, however, the disparity and lack of unity between my church life, family life, and my own spirituality became more and more discernible.
I continued to contemplate on what God still had in store for my family and, in particular, I wondered if the day would ever come where my dad would get baptized. But due to my own lack of reliance on God, I was never able to muster up the courage or wisdom to ask my dad to church or attempt to preach to him in any way.
By 1998, I had graduated and moved abroad to Japan to work. At this time, my faith was very shallow and was not rooted in any real way, since my attitude towards church had become lukewarm long ago. And to my own detriment, I found myself not behaving as a very good Christian.
Moreover, I started not to have any real concern for my family. By the time I’d moved to Japan, it came as no great surprise that my faith in God was already quite stagnant, and I became increasingly unsure of where my life was heading.
But once again, God extended His invisible hands out to turn me back to my family and, more importantly, to show the way of salvation to my dad.
GOD’S WAKE-UP CALL
In April 2000, my parents were able to take their first holiday together on their own for the first time in a long while—going on a month-long tour in China.
A few days before their return flight back to the UK from their last stop at Hong Kong, my dad was admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed with liver cancer. This was the beginning of a huge wake-up call for me to turn back to God and to ask Him for His mercy.
I flew out to be with my dad in Hong Kong, and, although his condition had stabilized by the time I arrived, it was still a huge shock for me to see the state that he was in.
During this time, I could really see the strength and the resolve that my mom had in God. Somehow, as a family, we were able to remain relatively calm despite the traumatic circumstances we faced.
After about two weeks of hospital stay in Hong Kong, my dad was able to return to the UK to begin cancer treatment, and I went back to Japan to resume my work.
On my return, the full gravity of my dad’s illness had not really hit me yet, and I made no real attempt to comprehend the full implications or the reasons why God allowed this to happen to my family.
I wasn’t really able to trust in Him fully to guide my family safely through my dad’s illness. But I knew enough to realize that whatever was to happen would be in God’s hands and that I could only pray for God’s will.
Subsequently, in October 2000, I received a phone call telling me to fly out to the UK because my dad had once again been admitted to hospital. This time, the doctors were very blunt in telling us that nothing more could be done for him.
I knew that this was God’s will and that only He could give us the strength to get through this. So everyday at the hospital with my dad, I would speak to God, asking Him to carry out His will but also to look after us as a family.
Somehow, amidst all the turmoil and trauma, our whole family managed to have this quiet confidence and strength in God and to trust that everything would be all right.
During this difficult time for us as a family, the brothers and sisters in the UK never failed to show us their love through their encouragement and prayers. Since my dad knew some of the brethren from when he was in Hong Kong, he, too, could feel their concern for him.
I believe that it was through their constant prayers for him that, thank God, three weeks before his death, my dad finally agreed to be baptized.
And through the amazing virtue of God, a few days before his baptism, my dad received the Holy Spirit in the hospital. God can truly bring people to believe in Him in the most profound ways.
SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN
Although it has been almost three years since my dad passed away and many adjustments have had to be made as a family, I am constantly reminded of how God graciously and freely extended His compassion to my family.
In retrospect, I have come to learn an immense amount about my family and myself through our spiritual journey. I have learned that my dad showed great strength of character throughout his life, right up to the point of his death.
And even before my dad came to believe in Christ, he showed some very Christian-like attributes, not only towards his family but to others as well. At his funeral, people came from afar to pay their respects to him, for he had touched many people with his generosity and kindness throughout his whole life.
As a family now, there seems to be a lot more hope and joy for us. We are able to draw great comfort in knowing that God has given His salvation to my dad and that, at last, he is within the Lord.
There is certain incident in the Bible that I heard during a sermon, and it strikes a chord with me. 2 Kings 13:20, 21 records the story of how a dead man was revived by touching Elisha’s body.
It seems that by showing my dad His great mercy, God has given me another chance to revive my faith and zeal to follow Him. This is something that I truly hadn’t expected. Regardless, I am thankful that God has brought me to a better understanding of why I need to be a Christian.
Without the presence of God, my life would just be a meaningless sequence of events. However, His fathomless love for my family has shown me that it can be something greater.
God has abundantly and compassionately taken care of us, even before we came to believe in Him. Just as it is written in Ephesians 1:4, 5, He chose us even before the world was made.
It is God’s supreme and ultimate wish for us all, whom He lovingly created, to be reunited with Him for all eternity. It is up to us to choose to accept Him as our only Savior from this world.
For the LORD will again rejoice over you for good…if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut 30:9b, 10b)
And no matter how far we think we can run from Him, God, out of His all-encompassing love for us all, will constantly watch over us, waiting longingly for our return to Him.
God has provided every individual in this world a unique path in life to find Him. We just have to discover this path for ourselves and be willing to step with conviction onto our own paths to follow Christ in all sincerity.
Once on this path, we must help guide others to find their paths and support each other in our life journey.
Even after all these years of my baptism, I feel that I still have so much more to learn about the magnitude of God’s empowering and loving nature.
No matter how hopeless our life journey has become, we have only to remember that, in the depths of our despair, we will always have hope in the Lord. He will always be guarding and watching over us. We only have to look towards Him.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills –
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. (Ps 121:1, 2)
May all glory be unto our Lord. Hallelujah! Amen.