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2. How I Began Seeking After the Christian God

Chapter 2

How I Began Seeking After the Christian God

My passion in singing and music led me to church

I remember that when I first attended primary school, “Singing” was one of my school subjects. It was my favorite subject because I was quite gifted in singing. It was a wonderful experience to score an “A+” in singing throughout my six years of primary school education.

From 1969 to 1973, I was the representative of my class in the annual singing competition on Children’s Day. It is strange that my music teacher would have me sing the same song for the competition every year. In any case, I had never requested to sing a new song. It was enjoyable to participate in the contest when I emerged as the champion for 5 years in a row. To this day, I still remember the lyrics of that song.

It is interesting that what I sang in those days had be­come a reality in my life ten years later. The following is a translation of the lyrics of that Mandarin song titled, “I am a little artist”.


I am a little artist, a little artist

I held the paintbrush in my hand

And I painted a picture with some multicolored paint

With my pencil, I sketched an apple tree

The tree was full of green leaves

And lots of flowers were blooming

It bore many red and juicy apples as big as watermelons

I plucked a big red apple and offered it to my dearest mum.

It was a simple song that was deeply engraved in my heart. That is why I can still remember the lyrics clearly even though almost 50 years have since passed.

Besides singing, since young I have always loved music. Among all the musical instruments, the piano is my first love, and the western concert flute ranks number two. At the age of seven, I had a strong passion to learn piano because the sound of piano would always captivate my heart. I would often dream of myself playing all the beautiful songs on the piano. Unfortunately, my parents were against the idea of learning the piano and other musical instruments. In their view, it was a waste of time and money to learn anything related to music.

But pursuing music studies was one of my ambitions. Sadly, that dream did not come true because my parents were old fashioned in sense of believing that one could not earn a decent living through pursuing music as a career. So my dream of becoming a musician was thrown out the window!

How I was first drawn to the church

In 1977, a miracle happened, the first miracle in my search for the Christian God: I finally stepped into a church build­ing one fine day. I was sixteen. It was absolutely unthink­able! How on earth did that happen? Indeed, Yahweh God had been working wonders. It was beyond my imagination that someone like me whose heart was hardened could finally cast aside my prejudice against Christianity. That certainly had to do with the work of the Holy Spirit, I thought.

Just to give you a clearer picture, my house was situated pretty close to a church building, about a stone’s throw away. Every Sunday during the church service, I could hear the sound of musical instruments and the voices of Christians singing hymns or Christian songs.

Our way of life in the 60s was very different from now. Computers were non-existent, so we couldn’t listen to music and songs at YouTube as we freely do in the twenty-first century. As for me, so long as there is the opportunity to listen to music, I did not mind listening to music and songs from any source, including church songs and music. Since I am passionate about music, it was absolutely marvelous to listen to the beautiful sound of singing and music carried by the wind to where I was every Sunday.

So I continued to enjoy the sound of Christian songs coming from the church Sunday after Sunday. One day, I met a friend who was a churchgoer. I did not ostracize her for being a Christian because she wasn’t a Christian yet. After knowing her for some time, I decided to accompany her to attend the Sunday service so that I could for once listen to the singing, not from afar but directly from the church people.

It was a wonderful day which marked the turning point of my life. I guess it must have been the work of the Holy Spirit. That Sunday, I heard for the very first time in my life a message on “God is love” preached by the church pastor. He quoted the famous verse from the Gospel of John, chapter 3 verse 16.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

In his sermon, the pastor preached that God loves the world, which He created, so much that He sent His only begotten son Jesus Christ into this world so that through Jesus the world may know who the true and living God Yahweh is.

There was a section of the pastor’s message that left a deep impression in my heart. I recall that he said, “For the true believer in Christ, God is our heavenly Father and He loves us dearly.”

Amazingly, that Sunday sermon spoke volumes to me. I was wondering, “Hmm, the Christian God is a God and at the same time the Christians’ Father in heaven. What an interesting God He is!” After listening to the sermon, I felt the warmth of love enveloping me. That strong sensa­tion caused me to go further in my search for the truth. After the service, I returned home, but those three words, “God is love,” kept lingering in my mind for as long as I could remember.

As I have shared, I come from a family that was deprived of fatherly love. As a result, I searched high and low for a fatherly figure who would allow me to experience what it is like to be loved by a father. That message “God is love” struck me real hard. As always, curiosity kills the cat! From that day onwards, I was determined to find out who this Christian God is, the one whom the Christians address as their Father in heaven. With that in mind, I started my adventure in seeking after the Christian God.

From Buddhism to Christianity

I began to attend church service diligently. Soon enough my mum found out about my pursuit. She was fuming mad and scolded me for seeking a western religion. She said, “Have you forgotten your roots? We are Chinese, and Buddhism is our religion. It’s a disgrace for us Chinese to adopt a religion meant for westerners. Could you please stop being a disgrace to the Ye family! I forbid you from going to church from now on!” I was deeply hurt when I heard those words coming from my mum’s mouth.

According to my mum, Christianity is a western reli­gion, not a religion meant for Asians. She tried her best to stop me from attending church but the attempt was futile. Every Sunday I would quietly sneak out of the house to attend Sunday service. When I got home after the service, I had to face mum’s wrath. Life was depressing because I felt as if I were undergoing persecution every Sunday. I admit to feeling terribly sorry for hurting my mum deeply but the strong passion for listening to church sermons plus the joy of singing together with the church people were simply irresistible!

This went on for about two years. I continued to go to church every Sunday and was incurring mum’s wrath continuously. As the days went by, I had gotten immune to her scolding. It was music to my ears as I was no longer affected by mum’s angry words.

However, I still felt a heavy burden weighing down on me because I was inflicting pain on my mum as a disobe­dient child. After struggling for some time, I decided not to shoulder the pain alone, but to share my bad experiences with the church pastor. He encouraged me to commit my sadness to God and to ask Him to show me that He is the God of love who will carry me through my ordeals.

Although I had not yet become a Christian, I heeded the pastor’s good advice. I started praying fervently to the Christian God. I was determined to know more about Him, and so I decided not to be a two-timer. With that in mind, I stopped praying to the Buddhist gods completely. Mum was heartbroken when I no longer burned joss sticks to pray to the Buddhist gods. She said, “You are not baptized yet, which means that you are not a Christian. In that case, it’s alright for you to continue praying to the Buddhist gods with joss sticks, isn’t it?” I replied, “Sorry mum, but no. I wish to know the Christian God. Therefore, I must break from the Buddhist gods.” Mum was displeased but she had to accept my choice.

My paternal grandfather passes away

In 1977, my paternal grandfather passed away after suffer­ing from tuberculosis for a few years. Because he had done a lot of charity work in his lifetime, many people held him in high respect. A large number came to pay him their last respects over the five days of the funeral wake. Although I wasn’t yet a Christian, interest­ingly the Holy Spirit was at work, prompting me not to hold the joss sticks or to pray to the deceased.

I recall that on one of the evenings, before the com­mencement of the Buddhist funeral rites, I had a talk with my mum as I did not wish to put her on the spot in the presence of my relatives. I said to her, “Mum, please do not ask me to hold a joss stick and pray to the dead. I am attending church regularly, and have promised to break from the Buddhist gods and from all the rituals related to Buddhism.”

After hearing these words, mum’s face turned pale. I could see that she was struggling hard to hold back her anger. She said, “You are not baptized yet! You can hold the joss sticks! Please stop being a disgrace before our rela­tives! Your actions might cause others to think I am a lousy mother who raised such a disobedient kid like you! Could you please stop giving me trouble?”

After hearing mum’s words, all of a sudden I had a severe headache. My head was splitting and I was in great pain.

My immediate response was, “Mum, no way I will pray with the joss stick. I have promised to make a clean break from Buddhism. You knew my stand, didn’t you?” At that point, mum was holding back her tears. She was caught between letting me go and facing the dread of an­swering all my relatives regarding my rebellious attitude. Oh, poor mum!

Despite her frustration and great disappointment, she decided to do something out of love for me. She said, “Since you have a headache, you don’t need to attend the funeral rite. Please do whatever you wish. From now on, I will wash my hands of you!” Oh wow! That was a close call! What an amazing encounter! I thank God for saving me from a sticky situation. Indeed, He is an awesome God!

At the end of the five-day period—on burial day and before the cortege (procession) headed towards the burial site—there was another final rite. Because grandpa was a philanthro­pist when he was alive, all those who had bene­fited from his good work flocked from far and near to bid him their final farewell. It was a grand funeral procession graced with the band from my primary school. My fear intensified when I saw the large crowd that had gathered. I was thinking to myself, “Will I be persecuted by some of my relatives? Will they let me off for not holding the joss sticks to pay my last respects to grandpa?” Although I wasn’t a Christian at that time, I cried out to God. I prayed very hard; my heart was weeping. I prayed, “God, you know my fear. You know how weak I am. Help me God to remain strong and firm. Dear God, I don’t wish to inflict more pain on my mum. Please spare me from persecution. Please …”

After that prayer of desperation, I noticed that the situa­tion was cool and calm. Although many eyes were staring at me from all directions for not kneeling and hold­ing the joss sticks to pay my last respects to grandpa, there wasn’t any sign of persecution. Oh how I thank God for hearing my prayer even though I wasn’t His child. I began to under­stand the principle of, “If your honor God, He will honor you.”

I was the oddball in the Ye family

During our primary school years, my siblings and I were attending the same Mandarin-medium primary school. It took us 6 years to complete our primary school education. After that we moved on to our secondary school education in which we could choose to attend a Mandarin-medium school or an English-medium school. Interestingly, my parents wanted to enroll some of their children in a Mandarin-medium school and the others in an English-medium school. In the former, all the school subjects were taught in Mandarin whereas in the latter, all the subjects were taught in English.

My eldest brother was the first in our family to pursue secondary education in Chinese Independent High School, which was a Mandarin-medium school. The rest of my siblings were all educated in an English-medium school. Since my parents had two daughters, they wished for one of them to go to a Mandarin-medium school. In reality my sister had a better command of the Mandarin language than I, so it was strange that my parents wished for me to be educated in a Mandarin-medium school. I raised my strong objection right away as I pre­ferred the English language more than Mandarin. Surpris­ingly, my parents did not insist that I follow their wish. In the end I was allowed to continue my secondary school education in an English-medium school. Again, it must have been God who helped me, and I truly thank God for that!

In fact, all my siblings were well versed in Mandarin, and had always scored excellent results in their Mandarin course. As for me, I did manage to pass my Mandarin course but my results weren’t as good as theirs. Moreover, I was the oddball in my family who loved reading English books more than Mandarin books. Throughout my school years, I had a greater love for the English language. In 1977, I sat for the Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) Examination which was a national examination taken by all students at the age of 16. After taking that national examina­tion, we had the option of choosing Mandarin or some other course such as Tamil Language, Malay Studies, or Art, as our elective course. I chose Art as my elective, and it was then that I began to develop a great interest in art. I will share more on that later.

My desire to dig deep down into the Holy Bible

As I have already shared, besides singing in church every Sunday, I listened attentively to the sermons, and the messages would often touch my heart. One day in 1978, when I was 17 years old, out of the blue I realized that the best way to know more about the Christian God was to dig deep down into the Christian holy book known as the Holy Bible. I yearned to own a Bible but had no money to buy one. So I prayed and asked God what I should do next.

After praying for some time, I thought of a good way to get hold of a Bible. Among my three elder brothers, my third brother was the closest to me. He was pursuing studies in a different city at that time, so mum would give him more pocket money for his monthly expenses. He certainly had more money than I.

When he came home on one of the weekends, I casually shared my thoughts with him about acquiring a Bible. Lo and behold, the following week he bought me a Revised Standard Version Bible. It was a beautiful hardcover Bible. Wow! That was totally unbelievable!

When I received the Bible, I was dumbfounded! What puzzled me was that my third brother did not ask me why I suddenly had the urge to get a Bible. Without harboring any doubts, he just went ahead to buy me the Bible as a love gift. That must have been divine intervention. My heart was beaming with joy when I held my first Holy Bible in my hands. I started reading my Bible diligently from then on.

As I reflected what had happened, I wondered, “Firstly, my third brother isn’t a Christian, so why would he buy me a Bible? Secondly, it must have cost him a bomb to purchase it. Why was he willing to fork out that money? Thirdly, did it ever occur to him that mum might scold him for leading his sister astray?” Those were some of my daunting thoughts, and the truth is that I had no answers to those questions.

My mum did not know I had a Bible because she was illiterate. So she didn’t know that my third brother had bought me a Holy Bible. In reality, she always wished that I could improve my English standard, so she thought that my third brother was being so kind as to buy me a nice hardcover English book as an encouragement to read more English literature. Wow, that was a relief! I could safely keep my Bible and read it freely in my own sweet time! As I reminisced about the past, it brought back lots of fond memories. I could only say that God’s way is beyond my understanding. He is a God of miracles!

The joy of attending the Billy Graham Crusade in Singapore

In the beginning of 1978, a group of Christians from Singapore Ngee Ann Polytechnic came over to the church I was attending to conduct a six-day workshop. I joined the workshop without mum’s knowledge. After interacting with the group, I came into contact with a group member who was attending the Zion Full Gospel Church of Singapore. She was a fine young lady who had been trying to share the gospel with me. I appreciated her zeal in leading people to know the Christian God.

At that time, this sister shared with me the steps to becoming a Christian, and said to me: First, you must acknowledge that you are a sinner. You must confess your sins by saying the “sinner’s prayer” which goes like this,

“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow you as my lord and savior.”

The understanding is that as soon I accept Jesus into my life, with immediate effect I am a Christian. There is no requirement of going through water baptism in total com­mitment to be consi­dered a Christian. My understanding was that saying the “sinner’s prayer” was alone enough to make me a Christian. At that time, I was told that water baptism is just a ceremony. With or without going through water bap­tism, I will become a Christian by following the steps just mentioned. Hence I was unaware that I have to go through water baptism to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). That was how ignorant I was! It was not until I was baptized many years later that I discovered that my understanding about mak­ing the commitment to be a Christian was totally wrong.

At the completion of their mission work, the Ngee Ann Polytechnic team returned to Singapore but this sister and I continued to keep in touch. At the end of November 1978, the sister who had shared the gospel with me invited me and my friend to Singapore for a short holiday. Her intention was to invite us to the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade (SBGC) which was held at the Singapore National Stadium from December 6th to 10th that year.

In all my previous seventeen years, I had never stepped out of Malaysia by myself. It wasn’t because I did not wish to, but because my mum had never agreed to let me travel anywhere alone or together with friends. I knew it was a rare opportunity for Reverend Billy Graham to come to Singapore to preach at the National Stadium. The desire of my heart was to attend the crusade. I turned to God in prayer and asked Him to open the way for me. Finally, to my amazement, mum allowed me to travel together with my friend to Singapore for the very first time in my life. I strongly believed that it was God who had opened the way for me so that I could hear a direct message from Reverend Billy Graham.

Reverend Billy Graham was an American evangelist and minister who became well known internationally start­ing from the late 1940s. He was a prominent evangelical Christian, and was, according to a biographer, “among the most influential Christian leaders” of the 20th century.

I was dumbfounded to hear the 4,500-strong choir that had come together to worship God in our Singapore National Stadium during the SBGC. It was an occasion to hear the generation who had front-row seats to the phenomenal leadup and miracle of the milestone SBGC event that drew a record 337,000 over five days at the National Stadium.

Guests could hear the messages in six different languages because volunteers had distributed more than 8,000 sets of headphones for this purpose. At the conclu­sion of the Crusade, more than 19,600 people surrendered their lives to become Christians, among whom many have become pastors and church leaders of Singapore churches after the SBGC. There were no mega churches back then in Singapore. The big churches we have in Singapore today came forth through and after SBGC.

Reverend Billy Graham’s words on his 99th birthday

While I was writing this section of my testimony, I took some time to view some YouTube videos on the SBGC. Amazingly, I chanced upon a short sharing by Reverend Billy Graham dated 7th November 2017 when he was celebrating his 99th birthday. I found the three points which he shared to be very practical.

He said, “I have been praying that we might have a spiritual awakening. But I think that would be possible only when individuals surrender their lives to Christ and live the Christian life wherever you are.

“Firstly, we must do everything we can to follow in the steps of Jesus. We are to live a life in which we love one another and help one another. We must live as Jesus lived. The Holy Spirit is the one that helps us live that new life in Christ which is one of love, gentleness and patience. All of these things are the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22 & 23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

(Gal. 5:22-23, ESV)

“Secondly, you must read God’s word every day and make the Bible your source and authority. Study it, medi­tate on it, memorize it, trust its promises.

“Thirdly, go on your knees and pray until you and God have become intimate friends. I cannot describe to you the joy and peace that He will give you as a result of that daily routine that you have in prayer.”

Reverend Billy Graham was a great servant of God who finally passed away on 21st February 2018. I consider myself so honored to have the chance to attend his crusade in Singapore. How marvelous to hear a powerful message of salvation in such a large-scale event. It was indeed an eye opener to witness the huge crowds that responded to his powerful messages over the course of five days.

It was a fruitful trip to Singapore. Besides the experience I had at SBGC, I enjoyed the company of great Christian friends. Not to mention the delicious Singapore food. Singapore certainly lived up to its name as a food paradise. After that trip, I returned to my home feeling refreshed. With the new inspiration I received during the SBGC, I was all ready to move on to the next chapter of my life!


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