I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but only got round to it now. This isn’t the best writing, I’m covering a lot of events in a long period of time, so ask if you want to know about anything more!
Without further ado…
I grew up in a Christian home. I first invited Jesus into my heart at age 6. I don’t remember understanding everything fully, but I do remember just ‘knowing’ that it was real and that it was what I wanted. I continued to have faith, and prayed to God at often, but thought not much more of it other than going to church with my family. I did have one experience when I was 11 or 12 when I felt God say I should get baptised. I didn’t hear a voice or anything, I was just knowing that it is what I should do, so I did it. Overall I had a happy childhood, and felt family life was good. My dad spend time with me and taught me things, my mum loved me, and my sister and I had a lot of fun, even if we fought at times! I know I wasn’t perfect, but overall I think I was a good kid. I tried to do good, and felt bad when I didn’t. I could count the number of times I’d sworn on my hands. I think there was the beginnings of pride that would later become a problem, and I’m not sure what the root cause was other than the general pride that comes from being human.
As I entered my teenage years things started to change a bit. I started to realise I did do comparatively well in studies at school, and this combined with regular emotions and experiences lead to me turning more and more arrogant, think myself better than most of my friends and my teachers. Dad also got busy, and didn’t know that as guys enter their teenage years they need to put extra effort into being involved in their boys lives, especially since we try to push everyone away, so I ended up relying more and more on myself, not really sharing with everyone, and thinking I didn’t need anyone else. I remember in my GCSE mock I got marked badly on something, and wrote some very rude things on my paper back to my teacher. I really felt I had to be the best at everything. I was known for being arrogant and being quite mean to a lot of people. This was all compounded when my Dad and my Mum were separated around my birthday. This just made me more of an angry teenager. I wasn’t angry at anybody in particular, or at God, I was just angry at the situation.
It was also during my teenage years that I first discovered pornography. There was little clear teaching on it other than “he who has looked at a women with lust has committed adultery with her in her heart.”, and so I wasn’t given any practical steps in order to control my sexuality which is a very powerful thing for a teenager boy.
Despite these bad things going on in my life during the week, I still had some genuine encounters with God, praying in tongues at some times, and often crying under the presence of the holy spirit, which to me is a sign that religious experience and the manifestations of the holy spirit are not as true signs of spirituality as the fruits of the spirit. But all these experiences showed me God is really real and wanted to relate to me.
All this came to a head my last year in high school. Things were not good between my 1st girlfriend Kassie and I, and I was at my 18th feeling really sad. It was then that I looked around and realised that all my friends around me were really great people, that I had treated them really badly, and I was really going to miss them when we all went to Uni. I committed then to really not be so proud, and try to be a nicer person, and committed to taking God more seriously.
This is the state I went into in Uni, realising I had been a really mean person, and that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. Being at Imperial College without a lot of really bright people contributed to this, and I lost a lot of confidence. At Uni I did really miss everyone from Hong Kong, and found it hard to make a lot of other close friends, so overall I hung out mainly with my friends from Hong Kong, and wasn’t terribly social otherwise. The first week I was there though, I was praying for a church and I met some people witnessing on the street, and ended up going
My first year of university was depressing because my hall was really bad with the hot water pipe going through my room, and because of missing Hong Kong, my friends Lester and Mel were huge helps and made that much more bearable. But as I entered my second years things got worse. Because having my own place and broadband internet for the first time, my struggles with pornography got more and more until the point where I was completely addicted. I still kept going to church, and having an evening service really saved me. I’d sleep in Sunday mornings, but feel guiltier and guiltier all day until I finally would leave to go to the 6 O’clock service. I think I walked forward in more alter calls than just about anybody else EVER to recommit myself to the Lord not wanting to sin sexually anymore. Things got a bit better over my time at Uni, but still remained an issue. My church in England helped a lot though. It was a very Calvinist church, with the minister RT Kendall having even written a book called “Once saved always saved”, which helped me at a time where my sin was really making me doubt my salvation.
Coming out of Uni, it was 2003 and the Economic down turn made if very hard to find a job. I had started applying from January that year, but I was starting my final exams and still didn’t have a job offer. However in our department careers newsletter an opportunity turned up in Hong Kong at Deustche Bank. I apply, had 2 phone interviews and a video conferencing interview and I got a job. It was the only job I applied for in Hong Kong, and it was the one job that I got offered! I think God wanted me back in Hong Kong. The nature of the job also really suited my personality and temperament, so I really do feel it was God.
First starting work and moving back to Hong Kong wasn’t the best experience though. We started with 2 months of training in London, where they were paying us extra for not being in our ‘home’ country. We were all young earning good money for the first time, and so I started drinking a bit more excessively than I had at Uni. Uni it was mainly social, but people in Investment Banking drink for fun. This continued to coming back to Hong Kong, until one day I had the worst hang over I’d ever had, and was sitting in my bath tub on Saturday morning and I decided not to do that anymore. Strangely though, this still became the start of realising I didn’t have to be the same shy person I was at Uni.
My pornography addiction though didn’t get better, it got worse. I had even fewer good friends than at Uni, and so it became a way to deal with the depressed and lonely feelings I had. It was early 2004 though that my friend Nate invited me to 180, the young adults group at the Vine Christian Fellowship. This became the start of healing, seeing a vibrant and real Christian fellowship, and starting to really encounter God again. I remember one day I woke up and had this ‘knowing’, and I believe it was from God, that I was able not to sin sexually anymore, and I thought I was healed, and I had a period of a few weeks that I didn’t look at anything. However after that I messed up again. I ask God why, because I thought he had healed me. What I felt God say back, was that I was freed of the addiction, but that I had to form better habits of purity.
It was then in summer 2004 that there was a series at 180 called Series 56. It 56 stands for 56 days to change, being 8 weeks of 7 days, 7×8 = 56. At the beginning my friend Derek who leads 180 asked us to write down what we wanted God to help us change. I prayed two things, to get over pornography and to become the type of person that anyone felt comfortable talking to. I didn’t realise at the time, but these things were inextricable linked, as a huge part of my addiction was trying to find intimacy that I was lacking in the relationships around me.
Part way through series 56 I went to Singapore and temporarily was together with Su-Lin someone from there who wasn’t a Christian. This was a bit of a distraction and did lead me to feel far from God, but after I finally submitted to God and realised it would never work out because our lives were simply heading in different directions, I came back to God and to 180 and really started to change. Around the same time I also realised part of the reason I was so unhappy in Hong Kong was because I didn’t have good friends, so I committed to going to every invitation anyone gave me, something that was suggested in ‘Every Man’s Battle’. As I started to form better relationships and get closer to God through 180, by struggles with sexual sin started to fade.
Things in 180 started to go good and I started to really grow in God there. Derek started to ask me to consider being at leader there, but it would have required moving from Shatin Church to the Vine permanently. He gave me a while to think about it. This was in summer 2005. Nate asked me a lot of hard questions and that was good because it made me really consider if it was something I should do. One of the things I kept saying to him was how I really wanted to do something new, that 180 was like a new thing, and Shatin Church was old for me. One day when I just through I REALLY needed an answer, I got on my knees before church on Sunday and ask God for an answer. I then went to church. During the service they read a word from God from the team that prays before the service. The word was, “God is calling someone to be a leader in growing this church.” and the verse to go with it was:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
For me, as hard as it was, it made me realise I was supposed to be at Shatin Church, and that’s why I have been so committed to it since. I still went to Hillsong Conference in summer 2005 with the Vine, and had a great time, and attended some leadership courses, and bought leadership books stepping out in faith at the word God had given me.
That summer was significant in another way. We also went on a mission trip to Cebu, my first in a while and I didn’t really want to go. But on that trip I did really have growing experiences with God particular in the area of worship. (The Hillsong conference helped a lot for that too!) It was the main youth service there and Celia who was supposed to lead worship couldn’t and was sick. I without even thinking said I would do it. I’d never really lead worship before, just playing guitar in small bible studies, and doing it really timidly. It had been something in the back of my mind, but I really didn’t think I would be that good. Still it came to the main youth service and I did it, and it went REALLY well. After that I did realise it was something I should do, although didn’t start doing it until later that year.
That summer went by, and I still wasn’t sure what God wanted me to do in Shatin Church. I still went to 180, but wasn’t sure what I would be ‘leading’ in Shatin Church. I had my friends drum kit at my place, and we were going to give it to Solid Rock, as the one there was very old and not very good. I was serving at 180 most Saturday’s so I arranged to be free one week so I could drop it off. I decided in the end it was too big for the venue at Maranatha House, but decided to visit Solid Rock anyway. I went there and felt I could really connect with the youth, something I thought I never would have, I’d always felt scared of teenagers before! I drove back to 180 to see people and to sign the lease for my flat on the island, and Derek asked me where I’d been. I said I had been at youth group, he asked if I’d be going back, and I said “maybe”, but I knew I meant that I would be. I was driving back in my car, and it was raining REALLY heavily. All I can explain is that it felt like the presence of God filled my car, and I started sobbing uncontrollably. I just knew that I was supposed to go to Solid Rock and not go to 180 anymore. I could hardly see where I was going through the tears and through the rain. I didn’t go back to 180 again, accept one week a month later when Derek made me to say goodbye and say where I went. Things were going really well I loved serving there.
Eventually I would get together with Nat, someone I knew from 180 right before she went to Australia to be park of the Planetshakers church. Eventually through prayer we decided God didn’t want us to pursue things further and that are lives were on different paths. This was hard, but what made it harder was that the day we ended things, I had a feeling descend on me and I felt like God left. The feeling seemed to make me worry that God was asking me to marry someone, marry someone I really didn’t like. I felt that God had left me, and that I wouldn’t feel him again until I was obedient to him. This continued for a long time, most of 2006, and I even prayed and fasted meat / carbs (Daniel style) for 21 days to try and break this feeling. I found it hard to battle mentally because it felt like I was saying no to God’s will, which I thought I couldn’t do. It is one of the worst experiences I’ve ever gone through. It got so bad that I even felt like this voice was telling me that I was only listening to the worship songs or going to the scriptures I was, because I wanted to be comforted and I was using them to ignore God’s will. It got so bad one day that I had to walk all the way down from my house, get on the train and go to the end of the line and back just to deal with stress. I would actually wake up feeling physical tension across my chest.
This feeling continued until January 2007, when one week I woke up the tension and feeling was gone, and I felt God again, accept it was some how different than before. It happened the same time I read Blue Like Jazz and Velvet Elvis, and its why those 2 books changed my life so much. After I finished then I read about 11 books in 2 months, and the thing that echoed from the stories and the bible verses they shared was how much God loved me. And I started to feel God in so many more ways than before, in nature, in people, in all aspects of life, and not just music worship like before. This closeness with God continued for while, although some events at church made it not so in the forefront. Still it was a life changing experience that has changed me forever.
Another significant thing for me around this was leaving my Job. This happened about November 2006. I realised there wasn’t much left for me in terms of doing new things in IT and the traders at DB were asking me to become a trader, but I eventually realised I could do my job at DB and be very good at it and be comfortable for a long time, but end up wasting 5,10,15 or more years. So I eventually decided it was time to quit and do something more meaningful, which was going into Sha Tin College and helping out with livewire, the Christian fellowship there.. On the day I was going to talk to my Boss, I was talking to Janakan online, and he asked me what my vision was for there. I said to see 500 people worshipping God there. He said that was very interesting, and that many years earlier that same vision had be cast for Sha Tin College. That gave me the courage to go through with quitting. It was hard to do because it was during the time I thought I was being disobedient to God, but I believe that God gave me clarity and grace for that decision, even if it was in a more general time of testing. The Sunday after I quite my job someone at church who had no idea of what I was thinking about and who never does this normally to me came up and said to me they really felt that God asked them to tell me “My future is taken care of.” to me this was confirmation the decision even though it was different to the direct encounter with God in going to Solid Rock.
Since then my life really has been the best its ever been. There have still been issues and its not always been easy, but its definitely been good having freedom of time and freedom to relax, spend time with God, and live a really full life that doesn’t just comprise of work. I do feel that I was the least likely person to step out of a conventional career and do something alternative, but I now believe anyone can do it, and as long as you choose to that you don’t have to live life the way the world says you “have to live”.
This brings me up to today. A recent highlight has been Men’s group at church. The course (http://www.mensfraternity.com) that we’re doing has been one of the best teaching on biblical manhood and living life in general that I’ve ever heard, and it really has had a huge impact on me and how I live my life and seek to serve other people. One of the key areas it has taught me a lot about is relationships, and I do feel it has been great preparation, without which I would not be able to care for and love my girlfriend Anna how she deserves. She is an amazing and beautiful girl, and I thank God she is in my life. So many of the lessons and ways in which I’m growing now, are down to relating to her, and she makes me so happy.
I pray that God in someway speaks to you through this. That you learn to open up and share more. That we all learn to love more; after all, Love Wins.