LIFE IN VIENNA
Hallelujah, in the name of Jesus I testify. The following is my personal testimony about how I came to believe in Jesus, my journey in faith, and the grace of God in my life.
I remember that my mother first started attending Bible studies with the True Jesus Church when I was in kindergarten. At that time, she was a student in Germany, and there were only a few members who would gather together every Sabbath to worship God and study the truth.
Every time my mom went to those Bible studies she would take me with her. My father didnâ€™t really like that, but at that time he didnâ€™t oppose her.
A few years later, in 1985, my family moved to Austria, where there were no church members. Yet, my mom managed to keep in touch with the brethren in Germany.
I was five years old when we moved to Vienna, and I would often have horrible nightmares. This was when my mom first taught me how to pray. She told me to pray before going to bed and ask God to guide me safely through the night.
I followed her advice, and God graciously listened to and answered my prayers almost immediately. My nightmares were soon gone, and, from that time on, I firmly believed that God existed and that He could do all things.
Throughout the following three years, many church members, preachers, and other holy workers came to Vienna to visit my parents and to talk with them about the truth. But my fatherâ€™s heart was hardened, and he always rejected what they said.
He believed only in his own abilities and would say that he was a person whom God would not want. He also opposed my mom in her search for the truth, which often led to marital conflicts.
Nevertheless, my mom decided to get baptized with me and my two siblings. Thank God, despite all obstacles, we were finally baptized on June 24, 1989, after making our way out of the house that morning like thieves, because we were afraid that my dad would come and stop us.
JESUS CAME INTO MY HEART
After our baptism, my mom told me to pray with her for the Holy Spirit and for my dad. We did, but always in secret because my dad would not allow us to pray at home. I prayed persistently for the Holy Spirit, but I didnâ€™t receive it until three years after my baptism.
That year, a sister from Germany moved to Vienna to study, so we would meet with her on Sabbath to worship God. I really thank God for this sister who studied in Vienna at that time. She encouraged me a lot and also took extra time to pray with me.
One evening, she asked me again if I wanted to pray for the Holy Spirit, and I agreed. During that prayer I really had nothing else in my mind than receiving the Holy Spirit, and after an hour or so I began to speak in tongues. Tears of joy kept flowing down my cheeks, and I didnâ€™t want to stop praying.
Shortly before I received the Holy Spirit I had a dream: I saw angels in heaven and Jesus in the midst of them. Everything was very bright, and I couldnâ€™t see Jesusâ€™ face because there was so much light around it.
Then, the scene suddenly changed. I saw a house with a garden surrounded by a fence, and the weather was grey and foggy. The gate to the garden opened, and a person clothed in white, barefooted, entered and walked up to the house.
Again, I was unable to see the face of the person. Only many years after I had received the Holy Spirit did I understand that this dream was to show me that Jesus was coming into my heart to live there.
Slowly, my faith began to backslide as I entered into the teenage years. Although I had the Holy Spirit, I didnâ€™t submit to its guidance.
I did what all my peers didâ€”daydream and indulge in all sorts of pleasures, listening to pop music, going to the pub, and dating.
Basically, I was lost in the indulgences of the world. I loved them, and I didnâ€™t want to be different from my friends. After a few years, however, Jesus made me recognize that worldly pleasure was empty and vain.
King Solomon also understood this: â€œI said in my heart, â€˜Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasureâ€™; but surely, this also was vanityâ€ (Eccl 2:1).
My selfishness and indulgence led to a lot of conflicts with my parents and also caused me to suffer emotionally. I suddenly realized how empty I felt inside. Something was missing in my life, and I knew I couldnâ€™t go on like that.
Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I? (Eccl 2:24-25)
While I was straying from God, my dad amazingly came to believe in Jesus. I still remember the day when my dad got baptized.
I couldnâ€™t believe that my father was actually accepting Jesus as his Savior, that it was he who entered the ice-cold water on that day in the fall of 1994, and it was he who shed many tears during the sacraments of footwashing and Holy Communion.
Only many years later did I get to know how many brothers and sisters had been praying for my dad while I had not cared at all. Why? Because I had been too busy having fun. Thank God that He eventually made me realize my need to turn back to him.
TURNING POINT IN MY FAITH
I attended a spiritual convocation for the very first time in 1997. During Holy Communion, the preacher talked about all the pain and agony Jesus had suffered on the cross to save us from eternal condemnation.
This was the first time that I fully understood how much God loved me. I was so touched by His love that I simply kept crying.
As we sang the communion hymn, the lyrics spoke volumes in my heart: â€œI gave, I gave My life for thee, What hast thou givâ€™n for me?â€1 I felt so ashamed and sorrowful because I had neither appreciated nor tried to repay Jesusâ€™ love.
Thank God, this catalyzed the revival of my faith.
A year later, God gave me the opportunity to attend the Youth Theological Training Course (YTTC) in the United Kingdomâ€”a church event that I didnâ€™t really want to go to at first.
I had just graduated from high school that summer, and I wanted to study tourism management, for which I had to take exams. But I failed the exams, so all my plans were, in a way, destroyed.
Looking back, however, I must say that God had His wonderful plan for me. Since I didnâ€™t have anything to do after the failed exams, my mom sent me off to YTTC, and those two-and-a-half weeks of learning Godâ€™s word and many earnest prayers gave my faith a big boost.
Also, when I came back to Vienna, I didnâ€™t know what to study or what to do next. But God graciously and marvelously directed me, opening all doors for me so that I finally entered the department of translation studies without any difficulty. Entering this program further allowed me to take time off in the summers to go to YTTC.
In the theological seminar, I did not only learn a lot about biblical truths and how to lead a life of spiritual cultivation but also got to know many youths in Christ. These brothers and sisters taught me what it means to love one another.
Many of them showed concern and a great deal of kindness to me from the very beginning, although I was basically a stranger to them, and that touched me very, very deeply.
Reflecting on the past few years, I must say that it is truly amazing how God has guided my family and me.
For a long time, we didnâ€™t have proper family services and religious education classes. I often felt like my family and I were sheep without a shepherd, since the lack of holy workers has not permitted for many pastoral visits to Vienna.
In actuality, Jesus Himself has been pastoring us all this timeâ€”helping us to build up and to keep our faith in Him.
Today, I know that Jesus is always around, listening to our prayers, comforting and carrying us. He is teaching, trying, and shaping me every day to make me as pure as gold and more like Him.
Jesus is the meaning of my life.