I left Malaysia to come to the UK some twenty-five years ago. It was on the picturesque, multicultural island of Penang that I was born. We were a hard-working family, never too well off, but generally happy and content. My father, who was a teacher, would offer tuition classes to his pupils to make ends meet. My mother was always about the house, making sure we were properly fed and clothed. We were a close-knit family; the extended family then was held in high regard. I have lost count of the number of uncles, aunts and cousins that I had.
Whilst traditional moral values, such as respect for the elderly, were, from the earliest years, inculcated into our thinking, these values were inseparably associated with Buddhist beliefs. The idea of ‘earning your way’ in religious acceptance was always emphasised. We bowed to and worshipped idols in the form of statues in our house. This was often done with the expectation of earning some favour from them, such as winning the lottery or being restored to health. Loyalty to the family also required us to make sacrificial offerings at least once a year to our dead ancestors.
An alien concept
Illiteracy and superstition often go hand in hand and, for a variety of reasons, the Chinese are particularly superstitious. I cannot now remember all the things that one should and should not do on the day of Chinese New Year in order to earn ‘luck’ for the next 365 days. Our lives were dominated by superstitious beliefs. These included never lying down to sleep with our feet facing the door! Sundays too were taken up with visiting grandparents, shopping or having a picnic on the sandy beaches. When I came to England, eternity had no place in my mind. The ‘here and now’ was all that I lived for. Little did I then know how God was going to change my life.
A personal God who takes an intimate interest in sinful men and women and rescues his people by the death of his own Son was, at first, a totally alien concept to me. When the Lord Jesus Christ first spoke to me through his Word, I was moved and challenged. All that I had previously held most dear and taken pride in had to be painfully thought through again.
The background to my conversion was that a number of Christians at Bedford General Hospital befriended and gave time to me, explaining to me the gospel. They helped and guided me, an unwilling and stubborn sinner. In spite of the infertile soil, the Lord was pleased to hear their prayers. God met with me through a Christian meeting, held to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the birth of Bedford’s favourite son, John Bunyan. I too felt like Bunyan’s ‘Christian’, when the heaviness of my sin and burden was finally removed from my back.
I have since moved and settled in a small evangelical church in Yorkshire. The Lord has blessed me with a loving wife and three lively children. He is still showing me what great things he has done for his people. I was thrilled when we, as a family, went back to Penang and met with a group of Christians there. I have fond memories of worshipping the true God with them at Sungai Dua Baptist Church, Penang.