Growing up, I did not have the benefit of receiving gifts freely from my parents. My father, who was the sole-breadwinner of the family, had to put food on the table for a family of eight. However, I treasured the freedom of choice that I was given from a young age – choice of new clothes, school, course of study, co-curricular activity (CCA), career - but what I valued most was the freedom that I had in shaping my own spiritual destiny. God’s timing played a critical part in this journey.
From the age of twelve, I was invited to gospel meetings that were conducted in a church near my school on Saturday mornings. A teacher had invited a few of us students there. The love of God was told through stories; but these remained mere stories for me. I remembered enjoying the singing though, and the small gift tokens that we received on special days.
It was not until my late teens that God sent a ‘messenger’ to share His salvation plan for me in a more intimate way. She was a pre-university schoolmate whom I got to know in my CCA group. She would consistently and persistently share God’s truths from the Bible with me after our CCA duties.
At that time, I had reservations about becoming a Christian. Growing up in a family that practised ancestor worship, I was worried about sticking out as the only Christian in my family, like a sore thumb. I balked at the thought that I might ultimately have to choose between honouring God as a Christian or respecting my parents’ wishes, should they object.
But during all this time, God was preparing me to receive Him as my Lord and Saviour. As I learned more about Christ, I felt a strong conviction that the gospel is true and desired to accept Jesus in my life. God broke down the walls of resistance in me and the perceived obstacles to my faith faded away. Led by the Spirit, I knelt down in my bedroom and received Jesus as my Lord and personal Saviour.
God had His timing: another friend invited me to her church. After two years of worshipping in the church, I was baptised. I remained and served in the church for a large part of my young adult life. The church was akin to a safe harbour and a second home to me for a while, until things turned out darker and tougher than I had imagined.
Around that time, I entered a marriage relationship that became increasingly controlling, marked by jealousy, emotional manipulation and even leading to physical abuse. I took for granted that the church was a safe haven where I could meet my spiritual and social needs. But that was no longer the case. Compelled by my spouse, I left the church of my youth to join another church.
Instead of finding solace there, Sunday was the loneliest and most challenging day of my week. For a long while, my spousal relationship hindered my ability to enjoy the community in church. Socially isolated, I felt trapped in an emotional sinkhole. Even though I was physically in church week after week, I felt I had lost my freedom to worship God.
Deep cracks started to emerge in my life. Many times, I asked if there was a God, and if so, why did things happen this way. But when tested, the mettle of my faith stood firm, as my earlier convictions in Christ had shaped my life and become an essential part of me. I thank God for His faithfulness in preserving this faith, even when cracks started to emerge in my life.
In 2016, after a conclusive separation, I was finally delivered from the pains and traumas deep inside me. God then opened a path that enabled me to experience productive, emotional health. He did not abandon me, nor will He abandon me – just like Paul wrote, “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me…… so I was delivered from the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:17).
So, in October 2016, I had settled down in a new house and was looking for a church nearby. Quite naturally, I visited a number of churches in the vicinity where the teachings were familiar, and hence comfortable for me. But on 10 December 2016, I took the courage to walk into a church that was totally out of my comfort zone. I literally sneaked in and tried to sneak out after the Sabbath Service, not wanting to be noticed. But God was watching my stealthy movements from above. He placed the Pastor of that Church at that time at the gate that day. As I was walking towards the gate, I saw the Pastor and I said to myself, “Oh no, the Pastor seems to be walking towards me! Don’t think my escape plan is going to work!”
Long story cut short, the Pastor stopped me in my path. Just then, a church member was there to get her car. Quickly, he connected me to her who connected me to the rest of the ladies from a cell group in the Church. Within a short time, this lady introduced me to many other ladies in the Church and helped me to navigate around the Church’s beliefs and activities. It was also through her that I got in touch with my Bible Study Teacher and Discipleship Leader.
I am happy to say that on 7 November 2020, I recommitted my life to Jesus through profession by faith and I was officially received into the membership of the Church. I am thankful to the Church and the friendship of many ladies for growing my faith.
Let me share three thoughts that were significant to me in my journey over the last four years:
God knows the ideal timing for me to arrive at my destination. He is never early, never late, but always on time. After attending a few Sabbath services at the Church, I had a secret desire to deepen my faith in God. In His good time, God granted the desire of my heart to study deeper into His Word under the guidance of my Bible Study Teacher and Discipleship Leader. She took time to plant the significant truths of the Bible and to clarify all my questions. She allowed me time to reflect and to relate these truths to my circumstances and my beliefs.
While she went about this at an unhurried pace, I sensed the urgency for me to recapture my hope and to renew my vision of a wondrous Saviour. I learned to live in God’s time. This led to my desire to focus my life around God so that I could fulfil His purpose for me.
Our first Bible Study topic was ‘Can God Be Trusted?’ It was an appropriate start to heal my ability to trust after this trust has been betrayed and abused. But the bigger question was: Could God be trusted? Could the Bible be trusted? The study of Daniel Chapter 2 on King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams demonstrated that the Bible is historically true and accurate. I was assured that God could be trusted because He has the ability to predict future events before they happen. After all, He has ultimate control over the world. Surely, I will want to know Him more and understand His plan for my life. At this first session, I sensed the urgency to align my life to God’s plan as we are living in the last days of earth’s history. The Bible Study on the whole has helped me learn how the Word of God and how faith could be practiced and applied in my daily life. Understanding God’s instructions instilled a sense of accountability in me.
After completing 25 sessions of Bible Study over nearly one and a half years, I am now in a discipleship group where I can discuss my challenges and hard questions in a safe and unintimidating environment.
2. The Cell as a Community for Fellowship
Being part of the Ladies Cell was the best thing that happened in the last four years of my life. Not only did I get to experience God with other believers outside of Sabbath church service, but I also had the opportunity to dive deeper in my study about Christ in a practical, relaxed manner – all while having a good time over healthy food and laughter. Besides, some of my dear sisters in the Cell would notice immediately when I wasn’t in church on Sabbath and they would text me, not to rebuke, but to show their care and concern.
Indeed, this cell group will be etched in my memory as a place where joys and pains are shared, where praises are sung and where burdens are lifted through prayers.
I remember this Ladies Cell as a base where I formed new connections with new friends, thus helping to disperse the feeling of loneliness. The old connections no longer worked, and the pieces were finally coming together. The fellowship also fostered a sense of community and comfort, especially when collectively, the Cell prayed for my recovery after an emergency surgery to detach a cyst from my kidney. I was touched to see how quickly the Cell Leader activated the pastoral staff and some members to visit me in hospital and during my recovery at home.
The final thought I would like to share is that it is God’s purpose for me and for each one of us to be a part of a church family and to build our lives with so that we can fulfil His purpose for us. God never intended for us to work solo. Ephesians 2:19 – “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”. Together as a family of God, we can labour so much more for His kingdom. A hundred or thousand years from now, there will no longer be the things we now think are so great. But the family of God will outlast all of these things.
I have finally found a church that is more than just a meeting place. It brings together a community which inspires one to do greater good; where individuals are cared for; where gifts are used effectively; where people are challenged to grow beyond themselves; where authentic Christian living is the goal; and where we can call home. I am glad to be a part of this family of God. Oddly, I have reclaimed my joy of worshipping at this Church. Through this Church, I feel a connectedness to the faith and joy I had experienced in my teenage years, much like in the church that I grew up in before the dark days set in.
It’s been a four-year wait since 2016 for me to arrive at my destination in this Church. Nothing encourages my heart quite like Jeremiah 29:11 - ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I left with this scripture text on my lips at the end of my first Sabbath worship at the Church, for the Pastor had preached a message along the line of this text. I knew when I left the Church that day, God had restored the joy of my salvation. My faith has found a resting place. I’m so glad I’m part of the family of God.