My wife and I have been reading the Psalms together. We’ve come across Psalms like number 78 (again), 104, and 105. They are reminders to recognize that the power of God has indeed touched into our lives and that ought to be passed on to the next generation. Years, ago I posted a number of events/experiences in my life (from before birth to entry into college) that have demonstrated to me that God is present, personal, and powerful. I am writing a follow-up to that post by adding events/experiences from college to the present that have reconfirmed to me the reality of God. I hope you too will testify to God’s work in and through your life…so He may be recognized as the mighty God He is.
15. A couple days before starting at UCLA in the fall of ‘97 my brother introduced me to a friend of his that he had met through his involvement with Little Spark Mission at USC. I knew that God was at work in this ministry because my brother’s lifestyle changed drastically for the better in the course of his involvement (and like anyone with siblings can tell you, if a person has changed even in the home, they are indeed changed). This friend of his was named Phil. During our time together at UCLA he took me under his wing, sacrificed time to meet with me in the morning (and much more I’m sure), and passed on to me the second greatest gift a person could ever pass on, a gift that keeps on giving – he taught me how to walk with God. Many people have told me what to do in my walk, this was the first person who actually showed me how to do it.
16. I had begun trying to read the bible regularly on my own during the week (gasp!) in college. I was doing okay until I reached the book of Leviticus. If you don’t know, this isn’t the most thrilling stuff at first glance…it lists all the ceremonial rituals of the temple at great length. I felt I wasn’t getting anything out of it. One day, in frustration, I cried out in my heart “God, why can’t you just speak to me like you did to Moses, like a friend to a friend?” Then, in one of the first times I can remember hearing the voice of God clearly, I heard him say two words: “I am”. Suddenly everything came crashing together. Not only is this the actual name of God that he told Moses, I realized he was indeed speaking to me the whole time, I just wasn’t hearing him. You see, the book of Leviticus continually repeats the refrain “be holy, because I am holy.” I had been struggling with lust at the time, and still do (but now I am trying to get help for it). He was calling me out of that. Since then I had a whole new perspective in reading His Word…that He was speaking to me. Before I always felt I was missing out on something by not trying everything the world told me I needed to try. Now, even though I have lapses, I had tasted a peace that I knew nothing in this world could match. I didn’t need to look anymore…I had found the source of all that I need.
17. In the summer of ‘98 I attended a Christian training “boot camp” sponsored by the fellowship I was a part of (LSM). I met my good friend and future best man, Lee Nguyen, there, a brother who exemplifies to me the life of a servant leader. Amongst the many things I learned there, one stands out. We were challenged to go on a “faith trip” dropped off at a town miles away, with no money, no food, no cell phones, and to depend on God for his provision…and our way back home. Crazy, I know. That day we (a group of at least 8) met a guy at a park who was leading a group of young people to clean a local school. We followed him, we helped beautify the school, we met a bunch of people, we were treated to Jack-in-the-Box for lunch, and we were given a ride home to camp in his suburban by sundown. Yes, God provides.
18. In the summer of ‘99 I went again to the LSM training camp. We were challenged again to go on another faith trip. My partner and I went around talking to people in town about God. One man we were trying to encourage, who seemed sort of down and out, heard about our situation and without our asking reached into his pocket and handed me a 20 dollar bill. Who does that, to total strangers, who weren’t even asking for money? This money helped to feed our whole team and then we were invited to an AA celebration in the park. Yes, God provides, even through broken people.
19. In my 4th year of college I sensed God was challenging me and the Christians at UCLA, confirmed through multiple conversations with others across fellowship/church lines, to step out of our little “Christian bubbles”, out of our comfort zones and to reach out to non-believers. To be honest though, by that time, I realized I really didn’t have any non-Christian friends. I prayed to God that he would help me get to know some non-Christians. Wow, does God like to answer that prayer. A guy started coming to our church through a church member that he met at the supermarket. We were dropped off at our apartments and he turned out to live in the apartment right next to mine. A little while later I was at school in a computer lab finishing up a project. Turned out there was another person taking the same class as me in the lab and we started talking. We headed home and it turned out he lived in the apartment on the other side of mine. I was surrounded. Sorry, that’s just much more than a coincidence to me.
20. In my 5th year Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, in one of his last interviews before he passed on, challenged believers to make a commitment to live as slaves to God. I just couldn’t do it. About a month later I had spun downward into an inexplicable time of doubt in God, even as to His existence. I remember lying in my bed feeling so worthless and low, when I heard God again. I heard him say, “All of that…give it to me.” Then I saw him take all of my crap and saw him hung on a cross and die for me and to all of that junk in my life. Soon after that I gave my life over to him as His slave…that time was the freest I ever felt in my life.
21. In the summer of ’03 on a mission trip to Central America, we joined a group of local leaders to put on a city-wide crusade in the city of Las Vegas, Honduras. On the night of the event, that we had worked so hard to invite people to, it began to rain…heavily. The crusade venue was an open-air soccer stadium. My team didn’t know what we were going to do. As evening approached one of my Honduran brothers tugged me to the field where a handful of people were already spread about on their knees. I was like “What’s going on?” He said, “We’re going to pray for the rain to stop.” Doubtfully, I joined him and the others. As time passed the rain started to let up a little. I looked up and saw a small hole in the clouds above. We continued to pray and soon enough I saw the starry sky through a large opening in the clouds, just large enough to keep the rain out from the soccer stadium, as it continued to rain down on the rest of the city. Many people came out that night.
22. In 2004 on a summer trip to Guatemala with LSM, my buddy and I had met a law student named Fabricio at San Carlos University in Guatemala City. He was so encouraged as he had been away from the Lord and His call on his life. We had a wonderful interaction but for some reason. My buddy and I were on campus on another day and we knew we just had to meet up with Fabricio again, but we had no way to contact each other at that time. This is a large public university in the capital, with tens of thousands of students…it was a long shot but we just lifted up a prayer that we could find him. As soon as we lifted up our heads from prayer Fabricio came walking around the corridor we were walking down.
23. From 2005 to 2008 I had the privilege every summer of being a part of mission work in Ukraine (to the ends of the earth!). Each year I went I got to witness the ministry expanding. Our desire from the beginning was to connect with key people who could join us to develop a disciple-making ministry in Ukraine. In 2006 I met Nadia. Nadia happened to be in my small group during our training conference. Nadia is from Zakarpatska, a rural area in the far west of Ukraine. She is an orphan who has never met her parents and was homeless when she met Christ. Before I had the privilege to meet her, the Lord had already prepared her and taught her about human weakness and His faithfulness. She had a compassionate heart for the broken, the lost in the streets. Out of all the people I had had the privilege to meet over the years on the mission field, Nadia was not only willing to learn but I felt our hearts were as one…without a doubt an answer to prayers. Despite our language barriers, we saw the same needs, felt the same hunger, and were convicted of the same imperative for workers for God’s harvest field. I remember sharing silences with her, words being inadequate to express our wonder in the fact that God was and is indeed moving amongst us. Nadia is now a missionary to the gypsy people group on the western border of Ukraine.
24. When I was student teaching, my guiding teacher told me not to teach at a school like Locke. I didn’t even know about that school. But sure enough when it came time to find a job, Locke was the school that got back to me. As I was going out of the country for the summer, I took a leap of faith and took the position. On my first day of professional development, walking into the school, I remember seeing a mural of the mascot…a saint. Interesting. During lunch I saw another new hire praying before his meal. I introduced myself. His name is Craig. God had provided another brother in the faith literally right by my side…when the classroom placements were announced I found out his class was across from mine. We began praying together regularly…those prayers got me through that first year and beyond.
25. In that first year of teaching another colleague of mine and I drove around the school multiple times, like the Israelites around the walls of Jericho, to pray for the school community. Satan was not pleased…that very week I had the first fight break out in my classroom.
26. Early on in my time at Locke God spoke to me from Isaiah 1…his heart for the fatherless and the widow…for the people of the Locke community. Every year a couple colleagues of mine at Locke would gather to pray weekly. Little did we know He was brining about transformation. In 2008 Locke High School became the first school in LA of its kind, changing a traditional high school into a home charter school. In the fall of 2008 I experienced something I never even dreamed of…hundreds of people from different socio-economic status, age, race, and even religion joined hands in a circle on the Locke High football field and prayed for the Locke community.
27. I had been seeking a woman that I could spend the rest of my life with for years…that search intensified in my later twenties. There was a point where almost every young woman I encountered I was wondering in my head “God, is that her?” It got a little ridiculous. I met a woman who was a prayer warrior…I asked her to pray from me concerning this. She spoke to me about a month later. She felt God was saying I needed to stop fretting. It still wouldn’t happen for a couple years and that I needed to focus on what was right in front of me. When the woman would come into my life I would know. She would be smart and she would have a heart for missions. In the late summer of ‘06 I was seated next to Ji for the wedding reception of a mutual friend. Needless to say, although she had been an acquaintance for years, we hit it off and now we’re married. She is smart (I’m not just saying that. She has a PhD in Cognitive Science) and she has a heart for missions (she followed me into this crazy approach to ministry!).
28. Speaking of this approach to ministry, of moving into the inner-city, there have been many confirmations from God that we are right where God wants us to be. First, on the first day we had a little tour of our neighborhood we miraculously came into the home we now live in. Second, the church community here has been amazing, embracing us outsiders immediately. Third, the team of youth ministers I have met are awe inspiring…they care so deeply, actually, and sacrificially for the youth of our community. Fourth, I was sharing about the ministry my family is now a part of to a completely different set of youth from the O.C. at a retreat in the Big Bear Mountains, when we met a couple of youth who “just decided to stop by” this Christian camp site on their way up the mountain. We asked them where they were from and it turned out they were from the same inner city that we moved into!
29. Along with the transition into the inner city came the wonderful arrival of an amazing grace, our son Amos. In fact, the first Sunday we visited the church we are now a part of, the pastor announced that Ji was pregnant, something we had only recently found out. This revelation instantly enabled people of the church to bond and relate with us, with their high value of family. This gave our family a way to connect to the new community and a way for them to connect with us. Amos also entered the world in wonderful timing. Ji had just finished her lectures and so she was able to hand off administration of final exams to her assistants and I was able to take more time off of work with his birth coming so near spring break for many schools. Now that our son is here he is a continual reminder of the wonder of our God’s love. If we who are weak, limited, and sinful are overcome with love to care for Amos…it makes me marvel about how much more awesome then is our Heavenly Father’s long-suffering patience, perfect love, and faithful care for us!
So what has God done in your life?
Won’t you set up some memorial stones too? Let’s remember what He has done and who He is. Let it be a witness to us as well as for all to see.
We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. – Psalm 78:4