In a way, my conversion came about through a life and death experience. Before becoming a Christian I was an avowed atheist. In secondary school (high school) I remembered I had many discussions (more like arguments) with my Christian classmates. I did not believe that there is a god or that we need him. Mankind is intelligent, give us time and our sciences will solve the mysteries of the universe, cure all diseases, solved all the social and ecological woes, conquer space and built Utopia. Our potentials are limitless. An indirect encounter with death was what it took to change my mind.
It happened while I was in college. During a long break between semester, three of us from our study group decided we would look for work and to earn some pocket money. We found jobs in a carpet looming factory. One Monday, one of my classmate did not showed up for work. We were not able to call him as it was in the “dark age” before the advent of mobile phones. It wasn’t until that evening that we found out he past away suddenly over the weekend. We were shocked and many thoughts went through my mind. We had lunch together on that Friday before and he was in perfect health. We were young and had our whole life ahead of us. He was a good student, a good person, what happened? Why? Till today, we don’t know the actual cause of his death. Doctors suspect he was bitten by some poisonous.
The incident was a wake up call for me. I began to understand that life is fragile. I began to ask myself, was there more to the meaning of life? I was in shocked, the fear of death and uncertainty of life crept in. I began to understand that in spite of all my arrogance and bravado, mankind had no control over our future. My confidence in mankind’s ability to master one’s life was totally shattered.
One our my study group one member was a Christian and had been trying many times to invite us to church. I had always rejected him but that Sunday after the funeral, I followed him to church. I joint him in Sunday school. The teacher was teaching on prophecies and how many of these had been fulfilled. In particular, I was amazed by the fulfillment of Old Testaments prophecies of Jesus written hundreds and thousands of years ago, His birth, ministry and His death on the cross. After several weeks of Sunday School, my teacher spoke to me about the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross, how my sins that put Him on the cross. I was ready when he asked if I wanted to accept Jesus into my life. And so that’s how I became a follower of Jesus.
Call to mission
After my conversion, I was fairly active in church ministry. I was a Sunday School teacher for several years, joint the Evangelism Committee in our church, participated in outreach activities, served on the church camp committee, served in the church library for many years. I was doing reasonably well in the secular work so I was contented. That changed in the early 2000 not long after we bought a new house. Back then networking companies were making money and I had a good job. I could afford to buy a house. But the burst of the Dot.Com era saw retrenchments and downsizing of many companies. I was one of those affected and I had a deep cut in my income. Paying the house mortgage became a challenge. Yet somehow God helped us with adjustments of our finances and eventually God saw us safely through the difficult period.
As an act of thanksgiving, I resigned from my job to join OM Ship Ministry to sail on the MV Doulos for their 2-month STEP program. Even thought it was just 2 months, many of my friends thought I was mad to do it at my age (I was 54). Many said I will not be able to find a job when I come back. In my mind, God had fulfilled His part and I had to do mine. God proved the critics wrong. The 2-month STEP was a high point of my walk with God. After my STEP, I was able to find an even better job. The job led Susan and I to begin a 3 year journey in China that was the best in our marriage life. But that’s another story for another time.
On the Doulos I was very surprised that there were some 14-15 Japanese Christian youths serving on the Doulos vs just 3 Singaporeans. I remembered asking myself, if there are so few Christians in Japan, then how come there were more Japanese missionaries than Singaporeans. I was very impressed. But it was really in 2015, when we stayed in Japan for 6 months that God really opened my eyes to the great need in Japan for workers to bring the message of Jesus to the people. I began to research about the history of Christianity in Japan. The more I read, the greater the need I saw. I began to wonder if the experience I had on the Doulos and the 3 years in China were God’s preparation for me for ministry in Japan.
We shared our call with our small groups and we began to pray for God’s direction. We prayed for open doors if it is His will and closed doors if it is not. Some may consider that approach for seeking God’s will and direction as naive or too easy. But for me it was not definitely an easy thing to do. It meant that we will still need to do our homework and research. It meant we have to pray and search the scripture for His confirmation. Furthermore, I was not young and I did not have the language skills. Serving in Japan would be a big step of faith for me. Asking God for Opened or Closed door implied that if God closes the door, we need to accept His will as final and moved on. Often there are obstacles that we had to overcome before can confirm if the door was really opened or closed. When He opens the door, the faith and obedience step through even if it is not what we wanted. It required a commitment to trust and obey.
After much research, we narrowed it down to 3 missionary organisations. So in 2017, Susan and I embarked on a 6 weeks Vision trip to Japan to visit these 3 organisations. To learn more about their ministries and how we might or might not fit into them. Then, through a series of open and closed doors, we finally narrowed it down to one, WEC. We submitted our applications to our church and WEC, were accepted. We underwent and completed the WEC Candidate Orientation. We had to overcome several hurdles along the way but eventually passed our medical examinations.
Getting the Certificate of Eligibility and tickets were dramatic. The New Worker Orientation were 2 weeks away but we still have not gotten the COE to apply for our Visa. Tickets for the direct flight to Osaka were running out (it actually ran out but somehow God provided) and we made it by the nose to arrive in Japan the day before the orientation began.
Looking back, Susan and I are glad for all the obstacles and challenges that we had to overcome along the way. We believe that these will serve to remind us when we encounter difficulties during our stay or in ministry that God led us here and He will see us through whatever storms that are ahead of us.