August 28, 2023

Sunday School Was the Door

My parents immigrated from China to America in the early 1960s. When my twin brother and I were born, there were already two older siblings and our family was living in the projects of San Francisco, California. Our dad worked as a busboy, which did not bring in a lot of income, so we did not have much materially. Our parents had been raised Buddhist and that was how they raised us. I was taught to pray to idols, and even if I did not understand what we were doing, I was expected to obey my parents as a dutiful daughter.

When I was about five years old, someone knocked on our door and invited my siblings and me to Sunday school at their church. It sounded fun to me. Since our family was poor, we did not have bicycles to ride or many toys to play with, and I spent most Sunday mornings at home watching cartoons by myself. My parents were very protective of us, but surprisingly, they agreed to let my twin brother and me go.

We went to Sunday school the very next week, and I loved it right away. There were kind people who paid attention to me, crafts to work on, contests, stories, and other kids to play with. It was much more fun than watching cartoons! So from then on, every Sunday I would get myself ready and go with my brother on the van to Sunday school. As the years passed, we went from the Beginner Department to the Primary Department, and then the Junior Department. At one point our family moved and the van could not come to our new neighborhood, so people from church picked us up instead. We never missed—we were among the students who got perfect attendance awards.

During my high school years, one of my teachers had our class over to her house for a sleepover, and my parents let me go. That was a big deal for me because I had never been allowed to go to sleepovers or birthday parties at my friends’ houses. In fact, in our family we didn’t celebrate birthdays or holidays, so anything special that my Sunday school teachers did made a big impression on me. I could never put a price tag on the time and energy the church people invested to share the love of God with us.

In 1987, I was nineteen years old and had been in Sunday school for all of my growing up years and knew most of the Bible stories. That year, we were studying about the end times again. The lessons were about the Rapture, the Tribulation, the plagues—all the terrible things that will happen on earth after Jesus’ second coming. We also studied prophesies about the end times that were already being fulfilled, and we watched a movie called “A Thief in the Night” that brought the Scriptures to life. During that time, I began to feel an urgency that I needed to get saved. I had always been a pretty good kid and had never done anything majorly wrong. Yet, I knew I was not ready for the Rapture because I had never asked Jesus to come into my heart.

At a Sunday morning service on March 15, I realized Jesus could return at any time and I was not ready. I knelt in prayer and told the Lord, “I don’t want to be here for the end times.” For so many years I had heard about how Jesus died on the Cross and how He suffered being beaten, wearing a crown of thorns, and having nails in His hands. Until that day, though, it had never really sunk in that He went through that terrible pain so that I could go to Heaven, and that He did it because He loved me. That morning I prayed, “I know You died on the Cross for me. I want You to come into my heart.” What joy filled my soul! When Jesus saved me, it was as though a huge burden lifted, which I hadn’t realized I was carrying. It was wonderful. I felt so happy inside knowing that I was going to be with Jesus in Heaven.

After I gave my life to the Lord, I was the only Christian in my Buddhist family. In Buddhism there are gods for health, prosperity, relationships, and anything else a person might want. My father had bought idols for a few of those gods and set them up at an altar in our garage. On certain dates, we gathered there to pray, burn incense, and offer sacrifices of food and fake money. The belief was that our ancestors could use that food and money in the afterlife and the gods would help us with whatever we needed. Of course, the Bible says, “Thou shalt have none other gods before me,” which means we cannot have or pray to idols. But the Bible also says, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” and I knew it would be considered disrespectful if I did not pray with the family. As a new believer, I wanted to do the right thing but wasn’t sure how I could honor God without disrespecting my parents.

After I gave my life to the Lord, I was the only Christian in my Buddhist family.

Soon, the day came when it was time to pray to our idols again. As my dad was getting everything prepared, I remember feeling anxious and thinking, What do I do? I knew in my heart that I couldn’t go along with it, but I didn’t know how to tell my dad.

We all went to the altar, and after my dad prayed, my oldest sister said a prayer next. Then my older brother prayed, followed by my twin brother. Then my dad said to me, “It’s your turn.” In that moment, God gave me the grace to simply say, “I’m not going to do that.” Then my dad said, “Okay.” Thank God, He did not get upset or ask me why I wouldn’t pray, and he has never asked me to do it again. Looking back, I can see how the Lord really helped me. He was in control of that situation and He went before me.

Once I stepped away from my family’s religion, I began to see how evil it was and how the devil used those false beliefs to bring darkness into people’s lives. However, I also came to know that God is more powerful than the devil. Now, I just marvel at how the Lord helped me during those early years when I was first saved.

I had never been allowed to go to youth camp as a student because my parents did not feel comfortable with me being too far away from home. However, a few months after I was saved, there was a need for more youth camp counselors, and my parents agreed that I could go. I had a great cabin of girls that year, and one night as I was praying with them for their salvation, I felt the weight of the situation—their souls were at stake. I wanted to do as much for them as I could, and as I prayed for them, the Lord sanctified me. He gave me a greater love for others and also a deep assurance that He would be with me and see me through anything that might come my way in the future. That experience really established me spiritually.

My family did not understand my new faith because it was totally different than the type of religion they had experienced. When I started teaching Sunday school, they wondered why I was doing so much work for the church if I wasn’t getting paid. It was difficult to explain to them that sharing about Jesus with children brought me more than money—it filled me with joy. They also wondered what was so special about the Bible that I would spend time studying it every day. I tried to tell them how important the Bible was to me, that it is more than just a hobby but a Book that gives me strength. God has been faithful to my family, and I thank Him for all those opportunities to share the Gospel with them. I know it has had an impact because even recently family members have asked me for prayer. They know that the God I serve is powerful and that He hears and answers prayer.

Eventually I started a career as a corporate travel agent, and that went well until September 11, 2001, when suddenly no one wanted to travel anymore. There was a period of time when I didn’t know what to do for a job and I applied at a number of places. Some positions looked good to me but I did not get them, which was discouraging. However, I talked to my pastor about it and he encouraged me by saying, “When it is the right job for you, the Lord will work it out.”

His advice was true. I was finally hired as a guest service representative at a residential apartment community. The first blessing with that job was finding out that they needed someone who could work Tuesday through Saturday, which meant I would have Sundays off. At the time, I was still living at home, and having to miss church on Sundays was an unpleasant thought. But once again, the Lord had gone before me and taken care of my concern.

In time, the Lord helped me to work my way up to being an assistant property manager, then a property manager, and then a trainer for property managers. That led to obtaining my real estate license, which opened the door for me to purchase a home and rent an apartment at my work, which was near the church. It was wonderful to be so close to church, and the timing worked out so that I was able to share the apartment with a sweet saint from church who needed to relocate. She became a very dear friend of mine, and I cherish the time I spent with her. Everything came together so perfectly that we knew it was from the Lord. Every step along the way was ordered by Him.

God has been so very faithful to me. Even without other Christians in my family, I am grateful that I always had abundant love and support from the family of God. I love my dad, mom, and siblings, and God has given me a wonderful church family that I love too. I have had wonderful pastors who have not only prayed with me, but guided me when times were tough. He has put so many women in my life who are like a mom to me, and dear friends who are like siblings. Some of their kids even call me “Auntie Betty,” and I consider them as my nieces and nephews. It has been amazing to see how the Lord fills in any holes where something might have been missing. My life has been blessing after blessing with the Lord, and I am so very thankful for His goodness to me.

apostolic faith magazine