Sunday, January 02, 2011

His love will not let me go

This is my personal testimony. I would like to thank the FCF Fishers editorial board help me to edit it.

I grew up in a quiet town called Kuala Belait (KB) in Brunei, situated near the Brunei-Malaysia border. By just crossing two bridges we can easily reach the town of Miri in Sarawak, East Malaysia. Since KB is a quiet town without any major attractions, on weekends many people will drive across the border to Miri in the morning to shop and to visit places of interest and then rush back to KB just before the immigration stations close. That’s basically what life is like in our sleepy town of KB!

In my family of six, my mother was the first to receive Jesus as her personal Saviour. Though my dad is still outside the kingdom of God, he did not object to my mother bringing me, my twin brother Tung Ngie, our younger brother and sister, Tung Lieng and Tung Ci to church. I attended Sunday school since I was 7 years old and when I was about 12 years old, one day my Sunday school teacher took me into a room and explained the gospel to me in detail. She asked me if I wanted to receive Jesus as my Saviour as I was not sure what becoming a Christian entailed so I did not give her a positive answer. One year later, she again took me into the same room and spoke to me about my salvation this time I really felt that I was a sinner in need of a Saviour so I prayed with her earnestly to ask Jesus to come into my life and to forgive me of all my sins. Though I claimed to be a Christian when I was 13 years old but I was not very serious about my faith and continued to live a self-centred life as any naughty boy did and even bullied my brothers at home.

Though I disliked going to school, I attended it regularly in obedience to my parents and once I stepped into school, I had no desire to go home. I found life very monotonous and I did not know the true meaning of my existence. I remembered saying this about my home, “Why must I come back to this same old home each day?” Another thing that bothered me a lot was my medical condition. I was diagnosed to have congenital hypothyroidism (deficiency of the hormone thyroxine) since I was born and I have to take medication every morning for life. On top of that I also have to go for blood tests and visit the doctors regularly. I envied my brothers who were spared all these agonies. As a result, I resorted to bullying them out of hatred, frustration and jealousy, especially towards my twin brother Tung Ngie who did much better than I academically.

In 1999, Tung Ngie received a scholarship to study in one of the ‘top 30’ secondary schools in Singapore. And not long after that, my father sent me to Singapore to study with the intention that I might keep Tung Ngie company. I was only able to gain entry into a neighbourhood school near Tung Ngie’s school because I failed the IQ test which was required for admission into his school. I felt very inferior compared to him.

Coming to Singapore to study was our first experience of leaving home and family as teenagers. It was a difficult time for us as we felt homesick and really missed our loved ones. Although we had each other, staying in the same boarding school in Bishan, we were lonely and even felt abandoned by our family. I missed my own room, my grandma’s delicious cooking, my parents, and younger brother and sister; all these I had taken for granted when I was in KB. At that time I really wanted to take back my words “Why must I come back to the same old home each day?” Tears just rolled down my cheeks each time I remembered my home. It was indeed a sad and difficult time for me being away from my family.

While in Singapore, we attended the ‘Fisherman of Christ’ Fellowship at Geylang. Each Sunday morning we had to take a train from Bishan to City Hall interchange and then change to another train to Aljunied station near the church. Soon we felt that the journey was too tiresome for us and without motivation, our laziness overtook us and we began to skip Sunday worship whenever we could arrange activities with our friends on Sunday mornings. Eventually we stopped going to church altogether for more than half a year!

Our Sunday school teacher would call us on Saturday evenings to remind us to go to church on Sunday and even ask for our prayer needs. He persistently did that each Saturday to our annoyance, so we asked our friends to take the calls on our behalf and to lie to him that we were out!

During that half year we skipped church, we would sleep in late on Sunday mornings and basically just waste away our time. At that time, I did have a sense of remorse and loneliness, even though I was busy participating in activities with my friends. I felt a lack of self-control and did not have the motivation to study. On hindsight, that period was a low point of my life and the worst experience I ever had. My anxiety was heightened when I thought of the approaching of GCE O-Level examination which was just less than 6 months away. The very thought caused my heart to pound very fast, and I felt weak with fear worrying that I might fail English Language which was my weakest subject!

It had been said that twins think alike. Without me knowing, Tung Ngie shared the same thoughts and fears that were bothering me at that time. Somehow, we both felt the need to stop asking our friends to help us to lie to our Sunday school teacher, so we resolved to answer his calls ourselves. Yes, after a long half year, we finally heard his voice over the phone. We bravely told him that we didn't want to go to church anymore and asked him to stop calling us. The truth was that his calls had created in us a guilty conscience and a sense of remorse that we had actually lied to him throughout the six months!

I thank God that in His mercy, He had not given up on us because His love will not let us go. He equipped our teacher with His word and through his encouraging words over the phone, I realised how wrong I was to have skipped church though I called myself a Christian and by so doing I had become a stumbling-block to Tung Ngie who was not a believer yet. I should have known that "God is our strength" and should have realised that I could have sought God’s strength to overcome my fear and laziness.

Responding finally to one of our teacher’s many phone calls, Tung Ngie and I decided to go back to church the very next day. We prayed and asked God for forgiveness that Saturday night. From then on, I no longer felt guilty and remorseful, but was filled with joy as if I had been set free from jail. We went to church that Sunday morning and our teacher gave us more encouragement from God’s Word.

Shortly after we went back to church my brother’s heart was opened by the Lord and he too received Christ as his Savior. From then on we learnt to put our trust in God. I thank Him that I no longer felt my heart pounding fast and weak because of the approaching GCE O-Level examinations for I had entrusted all things to God. As I reflected on the past, I realised how the Almighty had in His wisdom, placed me in a neighbourhood school instead of one of the “top 30” schools which I had coveted. He knew my limitations and prevented me from being stressed out. He knew my capability more than I do myself for He is the Lord of all! When I reflected upon my life, I soon realized that all things are in God's plan – He led Tung Ngie and I to Singapore to study, leaving our family and casual life in KB behind so that we may grow spiritually and learn to lean on Him in times of need. I realized that I had taken all things for granted, but now I treasure every trip I take when I go back to KB for holidays.

God has changed my heart throughout the years and I am convicted that I must let God sit on the throne of my heart and not in my head only. Many areas of my life have been changed, especially my attitude towards my family members. I do not bear grudges toward my brothers anymore, and I no longer envy Tung Ngie because of his better academic performance than mine. For all these will come to naught and only the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ matters to me now. As Paul the apostle says in Philippines 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I really thank God for my life’s experiences and that He brought me back on the right path. I thank God that whenever I am tempted to skip Sunday worship service the Holy Spirit would convict me of my sin and I pray that I will continue to be sensitive to His tender guidance to do His will all my life.

Tang Tung Leh is a member of the ‘Fisherman of Christ’ Fellowship. He was baptised with his twin brother Tung Ngie on 24 May 2009.