Insights from Others on the Road
The sound clip below is from Walter’s testimony to the congregation at the church’s Thanksgiving service on November 20, 2016:
In college, I joined the Air Force ROTC program. I dreamed of flying jets. The idea of life as a military officer flying fast planes was my definition of a successful life. I did everything I could to accomplish that dream.
My sophomore year was an important year for me in achieving that dream. To continue in the program I needed to pass a qualifying test. I had high hopes I would pass easily. I failed that test three times in a row by one point each time. I invested so much of myself into that dream that after being asked to leave the program, I felt I lost my identity, purpose and even my significance.
With a newly empty schedule, I accepted an invitation to go on a humanitarian trip. It was my Spring Break in 2007 that I went to New Orleans to help rebuild areas destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t know that it was with an organization named Campus Crusade for Christ.
When I found out I would be spending 2 weeks with a Christian group I was furious! After losing so much of myself for not being able to pursue a career as an Air Force pilot, I felt God was to blame for it all.
My attitude began to change as I met more students who had their share of shattered dreams yet managed to see the “bigger picture”. One night, a group of my new friends carried a drunken man to a hotel room to have a safe place to stay for the night. They shared with me the parable of the Good Samaritan. They opened the Bible and shared how God loves people, has a plan for their life and how I could know Him too. It was the first time I had ever experienced this.
I came home different. I struggled with the idea of giving my life over to God. I questioned whether He really loved me and if He truly knew me inside.
I remember thinking to myself that I did not want to live a life always on the fence about the God question. Looking at my life not knowing Him always led me to ask if there was more to life. I decided I had to try. So, in faith, I prayed to know Christ.
The more I read the Bible; my whole outlook on life began to change. I began experiencing another side to life I had never felt before. Receiving forgiveness for my sin empowered me and freed me to bank my life on Someone instead of something.
My life has been motivated by gratitude for the grace that I’ve been shown by Jesus Christ. I’ve had many ups and downs but will never regret my decision to call out to Christ. My reservations of what my life would become if I followed Him were legitimate but each day He reassures me that following Him is truly the definition of a fulfilling life.
I came from a Buddhist family. My parents, my mother in particular, were devout Buddhists. My earliest recollection of contact with Christianity was at the age of five or so. My second and third brothers were attending a missionary school and decided to become Christians, the first of such in our family. Shocked and hurt, my parents severely chastised my brothers, forcing them to kneel before the family altar and to recant their faith, and promising more punishment if they did not. The dramatic episode left a deep impression on me. I remembered thinking to myself that there must be something in Christianity that caused my brothers to willingly suffer like this.
My personal, direct contact with Christianity took place when I attended the same Anglican missionary school my older brothers went to. After a year or so of contact with Christianity, the school Rector invited a friend and me to his catechism class. The catechism expanded my understanding of Christianity. I also got to know the Rector and other missionary teachers better, dispelling previous myths I had of Christian workers. Three months into the catechism, I was invited to participate in Christmas caroling. I was not a Christian then. However, I knew that caroling was about Jesus’ birth.
On the last evening of six evenings, which was December 24th, while singing the second last carol while visiting the last house before we headed back to the church for midnight mass, a wonderful thing happened. We were singing O Little Town of Bethlehem when suddenly I sensed an uncorking in my heart. It felt as if a stopper had been removed from my heart. At that instance, a tremendous sense of joy the like I had never known flooded my being and I was so happy! For the first time, I noticed that the words of the carols made great sense. All these events happened at about the same time during verse three, particularly the portion, “So God imparts to human hearts, the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin…” Along with the uncorking, I felt like someone was standing right next to me explaining the song. I felt the presence of another person close by, very close by.
About January-February, the same Rector asked me to consider attending Sunday services, if for no other reasons than to see “what Christians do on Sundays.” I walked the distance of over a mile to the church that first Sunday (and for many more Sundays to come). Everything was new and strange. s I was trekking home alone soon after the service, midway between the church and home, I saw a vision. Before me was a wheat field as vast as the eyes could see stretching into the distant horizon. The field was thick with harvest. Rows upon rows of grain densely planted together and every stalk was curved downward by packed, bulging grains. The harvest was ripe and golden. In the entire limitless field only a half dozen of workers were present, all busy harvesting. I heard a voice saying, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Then I heard someone asking, “Would you like to work for me in there?” I hardly knew what the vision meant then.
Mesmerized by what I saw, I answered, “Yes, I would, if you pave the way for me.” Upon my reply, the vision disappeared. I looked around and saw I was all alone. No one else was in sight. Not a single car or biker. Not a creature was stirring. Just me. I did know I was not dreaming, although I had no clue about the vision.
I continued my Bible class in my senior high. Our teacher fell sick one day and a substitute took over for two weeks. We had been studying the Old Testament all this time. He said he was going to teach from the New Testament. We were told to turn to Matthew 9:37-38 (Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”). I was absolutely flabbergasted when I read the verses. Verse 37 was almost identical to the remark in the vision some two months ago. I had no idea that it came from the Bible! I knew then it was the Lord Jesus who spoke to me. I became more aware that God might be calling me to some kind of fulltime ministry, although I wasn’t sure what exactly that meant.
A couple years later, I happened to join a choir rehearsal at a Melbourne church. When I opened their music folder, the lyric of the first song went something like: The fields are white unto harvest but the workers few. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest; Christ says, Pray. Pray to the Lord for the workers which we need in these days. Part of the second song, also about going forth and evangelizing, went something like this: Let the lower light be burning, send it out across the sea. Some such dying, struggling seamen, you may rescue, you may save. I was absolutely dumbfounded! God had not forgotten about the vision at all!
Around October/November of 1978 three quarters into my first year in college, I attended an evening service at the invitation of two friends. It was the first time I visited their church. They had no idea what the evening program was about. When the Pastor came forward to preach, he showed the congregation his prepared sermon notes and then tossed it aside because he felt God was asking him to preach a different sermon that evening, and it was the kind of sermon that he had not preached in that church for the last ten years. The congregation grew tense and the air thickened with anticipation. I was merely a visitor and that was not as big a deal to me.
The Pastor preached what God laid on his heart. He spoke of the dire need for fulltime ministers in both churches and mission fields and the great need for Christians, especially young people, to heed God’s call to enter fulltime ministry. That caught my attention. At the end of the sermon was an altar call and 30-40 young people went up to dedicate their lives for fulltime service. I was wondering if the message was for me. Sure, I was seeking divine confirmation, but I felt uncomfortable because I did not feel “moved” inside to go up. Plus, I was only visiting that church.
With the few dozens of decision-makers standing up front with little additional congregational movement, we were expecting the Pastor to close the altar call so the elders could come and pray for the people. Then the Pastor announced that he was reissuing the call because God told him that there was still one more yet to come forward. I didn’t think he meant me, but some sort of power moved me and I found myself leaving my seat to join the others. Shortly thereafter, the Pastor ended the altar call and the elders came and prayed for me. We were strangers to each other. They asked me for specific prayer requests, if any. I said I simply wanted to do the will of God. During prayer, I somehow knew with certainty that the one hundred percent I had been seeking these few years since I became a Christian was right here and now. I no longer doubted God’s will. I had such great peace and confidence within.
With this confirmation, there are, of course, continuing lessons of discipleship that I must learn, struggles to overcome, sin to confess and faith to deepen. Nevertheless, God proves his faithfulness again and again. It has been an enriching journey of faith. My lifelong desire is that I want to be greatly used of God and by him through his church on earth. I love the words of John the Baptist, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). May that ever be true of me. I am often reminded that I am a sinner, the greatest of all sinners, saved by Christ, and I still have a tremendous lot of dying and living to do. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. I would lay down my life for Christ if that is his will, for the Good Shepherd has already died for me!