My whole life is a chronicle of wasted years – of shame and failure. For over fifty years I was a conman, a crook who lived on my wits. I was without conscience or scruple, a hypocrite.
I was born in Hong Kong. There were thirteen children – five boys and eight girls. We were a typical old-fashioned Chinese family, worshipping idols and ancestors; outwardly respectable but inwardly superstitious and spiritually corrupt.
My parents were not much interested in our upbringing and education, and my elder brother was given absolute authority over the family. Throughout my childhood and teens he abused and beat me up. I shook with fear every time I heard his voice.
Stealing and cheating
At the age of five I started to steal – first food, then money to buy food. At the age of seven I was taught to gamble, mostly at ma-jong and cards. Fifteen years of my life were spent stealing, gambling, cheating, eavesdropping, gossiping, peeping, cursing and swearing. By the time I reached my teens, an obsession with sex was added to that list.
Relief came when I was nineteen. In 1947 my sister married an American GI and emigrated to America. I joined her in 1948 and had the opportunity to start a new and useful life. I was free of all bad influence and tried to change – but I could not stop gambling and thieving. I sank lower and lower into a wretched life.
I left America in 1952, leaving behind a trail of havoc and debts. I came to England hoping my life would change, but that was not to be. After working briefly, I went back to my old ways – stealing and ‘conning’ others to satisfy my gambling urges.
Inevitably I was caught. From 1954 to 1990 I was sent to prison seven times with sentences ranging from two months to two years. God in his mercy never abandoned me. Seven times in prison, I found a Bible in my cell.
Life in prison is very dull. There was no work and little to do but read. Most inmates chose pornography, but I opted for the Bible. Although I had never read the Bible before, I was interested in it. During my seven terms I managed to read the Bible from cover to cover more than once.
Several times I was convicted of my sin and moved to repent. But every time I stepped out of the prison gate, I went back to my old ways.
In 1993 – already over seventy and sick in body and in spirit – I was penniless, with no home and no hope. I was a beggar living rough in Bristol. I had had enough and decided to end my life.
One rainy night I went to a disused waiting room on a deserted railway platform. I was soaked, desperate and afraid. I wept and kept asking, ‘Why? Why?’ Bitter and angry, I cursed myself. In the depth of my despair, I heard a whisper saying, ‘All is not lost; trust in God. He still loves you!’
I was overwhelmed with emotion. Still in unbelief, I said, ‘Save me, O God!’ By then I was so exhausted that I passed out. When I came to, I felt a completely different man. The misery, fear and despair had gone.
Light had come into my darkness and for the first time I understood what it meant for Jesus to be the Saviour and the Friend of sinners. I still had nothing and I was still covered with sores. Yet I knew in my heart that everything was about to change.
Within a few days of my conversion my sores and boils had disappeared. God had healed me of my physical ailments but, more important, he had made me whole within. He had forgiven me and cleansed me from my sins.
Since then he has been with me and shown me his goodness and mercy every day. I can hear the voice of Jesus saying, ‘Go in peace. But sin no more!’
The words of the apostle Paul capture well what I now feel: ‘Oh! The depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and his paths beyond tracing out! … For from him and to him and through him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen’ (Romans 11:33-36).