New Beginnings - James' Story

New Beginnings - James' Story

 

An uninterested, non-believing church goer accompanies a friend to Alpha and ends up experiencing a series of life-changing events.

Growing up, I had many experiences going to church, attending cell groups and evangelistic events. However, I remained uninterested in pursuing the faith. Many years later,  I met Esther and we started dating. She was from a Christian family and regularly attended church. She soon invited me to attend services with her and I followed, just to accompany her.

In 2012, I was invited by a friend to attend Alpha at Leng Kwang Baptist Church. I asked Esther, who was now my wife to come along as well for the sessions and she agreed. When I first heard the name “Alpha”, I would laugh because I thought it was a comical name. In the army, we commonly used the words Alpha, Bravo, Charlie as military alphabet codes, and so I jokingly referred to Alpha as the Alpha Bravo Charlie course. 

I attended the first few weeks of Alpha, and after the Weekend Away in 2012, my wife and I were invited to join a cell group that was led by some of the Alpha facilitators. We then started meeting with this group regularly.

The following year, the church ran Alpha again and we decided to help out as befrienders, inviting people and building friendship with them. Around the same time however, Esther developed rheumatoid arthritis and had difficulty walking and sometimes even standing up.

Even though I was not a Christian then, I had been exposed to the concept of prayer through Alpha, and I started to pray for my wife’s recovery. When there were no signs of improvement, I began to scold God, and questioned why He did not want to heal her. One day, I decided to barter with God, promising Him: “If you make her well, I will believe in You.” 

That year, we went to the Lotus Desaru Resort in Malaysia for the Alpha Weekend Away. During a time of ministry, we were prayed over by the ministers and then decided to leave early to rest. Before we could leave, one of the pastors, Pastor Jeff called us back. He asked us to hold hands and prayed for us, saying that he sensed someone needed healing but only God knew who that person was. He continued, saying that someone had made a barter pact with God in order to receive healing.

Immediately, a chill ran down my spine. I had not told anyone about my bargain with God! How did he know? That was when I decided to receive Christ. I prayed silently in my heart for God to forgive me for ‘scolding’ Him as well as for the barter trade. 

When we returned to the room, I decided to tell my wife what I had done; that I had been bargaining with God. I told her, “I need to be baptised.” On the 1st of December 2013, I was baptised. Esther’s condition improved radically from that point, and she was even able to exercise again.

By then, we had been married for a few years but were unable to have children as a result of several medical issues that my wife had. In December 2014, she was required to undergo a number of operations. The attending gynaecologist advised 70-80% removal of her right ovary. After this operation, I thought to myself “perhaps it would be okay not to have any children”, thinking that there was little hope of conceiving anyway.

In 2015, a friend of mine challenged me to pray for three things throughout that year. At the time, our cell group was talking about the idea of fostering children, and so we began thinking about the possibility of becoming foster parents. Although we were content, we thought it would be good to seek God for direction.

The time for another Alpha Weekend Away came in May 2015. During the time of ministry on the first evening, Pastor Jeff asked us to hold hands and prayed for us once again.

A month later, on the 11th of June 2015, my wife found out that she was pregnant. We were overjoyed! On one of our early visits to our gynaecologist, my wife shared that she felt pain in the right side of her womb. The doctor explained that the reason for this could be that the egg which had been fertilised had come from Esther’s right ovary. We informed the doctor that Esther previously had 80% of her right ovary removed, so how could it still have been able to produce any eggs? The doctor, a Christian, replied, “What is impossible to man is possible to God!” I was left speechless.  

Chloe was born on the 2nd of February 2016. Her name means “green shoots” representing a fresh beginning, just like how God has given us a new journey in Him. Chloe’s arrival has filled us with joy and thanksgiving. Even though our roles as new parents have been tiring, it has all been worth it. “The nights are long, but the years are short.” This is something we are keenly aware of and thank God every day for blessing us with this child.

At the start of 2016, it was time for another “prayer challenge”. My request for the year was for my parents to receive Christ. My mother had been brought up in a devout Taoist family and my paternal grandfather and grandaunt had been mediums. Even though I had always been close to my parents, I had never talked to them about religion and did not know where to begin.

In June 2016, I discussed with Esther, the possibility of inviting my parents to Alpha. She agreed that we should invite them and so I sent a simple message to my mother, inviting her to Alpha, saying it was an open platform to help people know more about Christianity. After just a few minutes she replied, “Okay.”

My wife and I were surprised by her quick reply. Thinking that we should provide her with more details, we sent her the topics that would be discussed at Alpha. This time, she took a longer time to reply and texted, “don’t expect us to change our religion immediately.” I replied that, of course, I would not force them to change but just wanted to give them a better understanding of why I chose Christianity. 

That run of Alpha began at the end of July.  It was a Chinese Alpha run, and as the weeks went by, my parents began to ask more questions. 

The Alpha Weekend Away was on the 10th of September, and I accompanied my parents to the retreat. To my delight, during the time of ministry, both my parents said the sinner’s prayer. I was moved to tears. After they were ministered to, I had a long conversation with my parents and my mother confidently exclaimed, “Yes, I did say the sinner’s prayer!”. 

She then revealed something that I had not previously known; in her youth, she was an avid reader, and after seeing someone reading a bible, decided to read it as well. However, she was caught by my grandfather, the medium. He was furious, reprimanding her and as a punishment, made her kneel in front of the altar of the gods to repent and seek forgiveness from them. This incident scarred her so much that she had vowed to never have anything to do with religion. The only reason that our family had idol statues at home was because these were gifts from my grandfather; my mother had never been a devout Taoist. 

After Alpha, my mother confided in me that after she had said the sinner’s prayer, she felt liberated. Previously, she would have dizzy spells, headaches and feelings of oppression when she went to temples. Because of this, she hardly visited these places. She added that it was a totally different experience during her visit to church – she felt peace and comfort! I was very encouraged hearing that. After this conversation with my mother, my father asked a friend to help remove the idol statues from their home, and a few days later, I asked Pastor Jeff and his team to help remove the ancestral tablets. My mother commented that she is now at ease, knowing that her “old life” was now behind her! 

For the first time, my parents described feelings of liberation and being worry-free. My mother is more easy going and my father has become calmer and more positive. My parents are filled with so much joy and they love to pray! As a family, we pray before our meals. My parents’ motto is just keep praying! 

Esther and I have continued serving at Alpha because we want to do more for our Lord. We have been blessed with so much and want to continue to do what we can to bring people closer to God through Alpha. 

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