I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FASCINATED BY THE WORLD’S INTRICACY. My earliest recollection on the notion of a divine creator behind natural phenomena is seeing how a prism breaks a beam of white light into a spectrum. Throughout my childhood in Hong Kong I had attended a Catholic elementary school and a Lutheran middle school. From the years of bible stories taught in the curriculum and daily religious rituals, I associated the deity as the Christian God. I love those bible stories yet on my child’s mind they were no different than Aesop’s Fables.
In the Lutheran middle school, attendance of quarterly school assemblies was mandatory. The Easter of my eighth-grade school year I attended what I thought was a routine assembly. It was anything but a run-of-the-mill event, the school had turned it into an evangelical assembly and invited a preacher as a speaker. I distinctly remember the preacher’s message of God is The Creator, Jesus being God incarnate, and of His redemptive love for a sinner like me. Although He is innocent and holy, He was wrongly accused and suffered a gruesome and humiliating death on the cross to die for someone like me. Amazingly Jesus resurrected on the third day after His burial. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” —John 3:16–17
Emotionally touched by the preacher’s message I was sobbing. Right then and there I realized that those childhood bible stories have a personal connection. As soon as the preacher made the conversion invitation I stood up and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
That was the last school assembly I had attended in Hong Kong and it marks the beginning of a radically different phase of my life’s journey. A few months after my conversion, in August 1982, my family immigrated to the United States.
“water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost.’”
In the immigration application process my parents rarely mentioned about the move and they did not properly prepare us children for it—my mental picture of the U.S. was only from the images projected on television, vague at best. Without properly bidding farewell to the places and people I was familiar with, I was suddenly thrown into a drastically foreign and volatile environment called “Freshman, High School USA.”
The Queen’s English—with its own set of phonics and vocabularies—was taught in Hong Kong schools. Most importantly the English lessons I had was non-conversational. Lacking adequate adjustments to the American culture and conversations in English, compounded by the onset of early teenage awkwardness, in high school I was ridiculed and shunned by the other students. As soon as we landed both of my parents needed to frequently travel away from home for months to make a living, thus they were absent from my struggles. I was abandoned by my parents, without any adult supervisions, and rejected by my peers.
Desperate, I fell-in with a group of boys who had a similar background as mine. They were associated with a Chinese Traid but I did not mind, for I thought I had ﬁnally found my identity in my gang of fellow outcasts. I became a teenage delinquent and the modus operandi includes shoplifting, ﬁghts, cutting schools, running away from home, and giving people hell. Because of the accumulated school absences my school-grades were failing rapidly. My behavior has alienated my parents and younger siblings. I did not care, for I thought nobody cared about me anyway.
In my junior school year, a boy from that group was murdered, a few was incarcerated, some moved away, most fell-out by the constant in-ﬁghting and conflicting personal agendas. Wanting to hold it together I went to my remaining friends in the outcast group to seek support, instead of consultation they only laughed at me and took advantage of my disappointments. Finally realizing that the friendships I had with the group and my identity were only a mirage, I pleaded with the school to keep me for an extra year to make up for the lost school credits. To no avail I became a 17 year-old high school drop-out.
After that I had returned home to the empty nest, facing my parents’ and my siblings’ scorns. My siblings adopted to the American life well and my parents showered them with luxurious things. I did not want any of the superﬁcial lifestyle my family had. I worked odd jobs to make money while having no idea of what my future would be like. I was in limbo and felt lost.
One Sunday morning I strolled by a church, I heard the sound of hymns drifting to the street, and a voice in my heart beckoned, “Hey Roger, remember that time several years ago when you stood up to become a Christian? Com’on, walk into that church!” I attended my ﬁrst Sunday worship there. Being a ﬁrst-time stranger to that church, I was greeted by a group of people my age. They were completely opposite to the group of friends I used to know in high school—genuine, kind, and caring. Intrigued by these Christians’ joy and what made them this way, I stayed in the church and joined a youth fellowship. That was the restart of my Christian journey. I have found my true identity in Christ.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”