Practicing Faith

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Guiding Light

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

My parents knew I was going to church. They didn’t see any reason to stop me even though it was a different religion. I was getting very active in the youth group and was elected to be the President in the September election. Paul and Esther assisted me and other teenagers to plan for the weekly activities.

By becoming a Christian, I faced a challenge at home. My mom worshiped the multiple gods. For every major festival such as Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival in May, Seven Sisters Festival in July, Mid-Autumn Festival in August, my mom cooked a feast that included a whole chicken, mushrooms, roasted pork, and vegetable with sliced beef. She placed the cooked food on a large tray and offered it to the gods represented by wooden plaques. Incents were lit and inserted into the containers filled with ashes. With hands folded in front of her chest, she bowed to each idol three times. She repeated the same motion to all the idols. After my mom offered the feast to the idols, my family sat down to eat the plentiful dinner.

As I continued to read the Bible, I came to I Corinthians, chapter 4 of the following verses,

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.”

I didn’t fully understand the concept of eating or not eating the food sacrificed to idols. I thought to eat the food sacrificed to idols was associated with worshiping the idols, so, I stopped eating the feast after my mom offered the food to the idols. I only ate the rice. My mom was very observant, after several festivals, she made the connection between my church activities and the food offered to the idols. As a result, she cooked a separate dish and set it aside for me. At dinner time, she put that dish in front of me. I was appreciative of my mom’s consideration.

When my youngest sister was a baby, she became very ill one day. My mom didn’t know what to do. I carried my sister to church and asked Pastor Zeto to pray for my baby sister. After I got home, my mom took my baby sister to a Chinese doctor. The Chinese doctor examined her and prescribed the herbal medicine for her. The medicine cost five dollars. My mom only had five dollars, just enough to pay for the medicine. She took the herbal medicine home, boiled it and gave it to my sister to drink. My sister was recovered from the illness the next day. My mom didn’t say too much but seemed to be appreciative of the pastor’s prayer.

During the same year, my older sister, Jan, was married to her boyfriend. As an endowment to my parents, my brother-in-law paid to have a custom-built bunkbed for our family. It was needed as the family grew bigger.

One and a half year went by since I stopped going to school. My dad found a job working in a factory as a supervisor of the inventory of the molds for the machines. He was pleased to have a steady income for the family.

By this time, the government had a new plan for the city development. The residents on our block were relocated to a subsidized housing in Kowloon. My parents were assigned to a large unit. The flat was an empty structure with no rooms. My dad hired workers to install two bedrooms and put a bunk bed in each bedroom. We were on the fourth floor of a fourteen-floor building with twenty-four units on each level. There was a centralized bathroom with eight stalls for every eight units. The residents had their own keys to their stalls.

The market and all the shops were on the ground floor. There were stores for dried food and beans, pharmacy, beauty products, toiletries and bathroom products, barber shop, beauty salon, bakery, candies, toys and small sizes of hardware.

In the market, there was fresh produce such as green vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms. In the meat section of the market, there were whole fish or cut up pieces from large fish. Pork or beef chunks were hung on a bar with big hooks. The shopper could choose the portion of the meat and specify the amounted they wanted to buy.

After we moved, my dad soon found another factory job in Kowloon. He had a good routine for his day. He got up at six o’clock in the morning and stretched from head to toes for half an hour before leaving for work. After dinner, he read the newspaper. He seemed to be interested in reading the paper from front to back. My dad had a green thumb. He took care of his plants on Saturdays. The plants grew so well that they needed to be transplanted to bigger and bigger pots.

My mom also found a good routine for her days. She went to the market at least twice a day to buy the food for every meal. We had no need for a big refrigerator. My mom made friends with several women on the same floor. She went to play Mahjong with them several evenings a week. One neighbor had a square Mahjong table with drawers for dice and money. They played for fun, so the winners only get five cents from each player per round. There were sixteen rounds per game. So, the women had plenty of social time together.

 

Christmas Carols

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Guiding Light

 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

Eight months into working in the factory, I got used to the situation. One winter night I went out for a walk.  The singing voices drew my steps toward a small church. I heard some teenagers singing the Christmas Carole “Deck the halls.”

I stood by the door listening. The music was so angelic and attractive to me, my feet inched in and sat down in the last pew. The practice went on and I moved up a few rows. I sat there until the rehearsal was over. The young man who conducted the singing came up to greet me. Paul was the pastor’s son and he invited me to attend the youth group on Saturday nights.

I went to the youth group the following Saturday. There were about twenty teenagers in the group. They sang several songs at the beginning of the meeting. Then someone gave a presentation on a topic followed by group games. After the meeting, some girls introduced themselves to me. The friendliness of people made me feel welcome. The pastor’s daughter Esther invited me to the Sunday evening service.

I came to the Sunday evening service at 7:00 p.m. Pastor Zeto gave me a warm welcome and invited me to sit in the front pew. Even though I didn’t know the songs for the service, I enjoyed them by listening. The service concluded around 8:30 p.m. Pastor Zeto’s wife greeted me and asked about my family. She also gave me a small Bible of the four Gospels.

I continued to work in the factory during the day. I read the little Bible before bedtime. Even though I didn’t understand the Bible stories, I continued to read through the four Gospels.

When I read Matthew chapter 7, I came across these verses:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

These verses touched the core of my heart. I knew that my dad loved me very much. Yet my dad could not provide what I needed. My dad encouraged me to do well in school, but when the resources were scarce, my dad had wanted me to help the family by working at such a young age.

I longed for the relationship with the heavenly Father who would answer my prayers and provide for my needs. My heart was comforted by the verses in Matthew chapter 7.

In the months that followed, I spent more time in church. I attended the Wednesday night prayer meetings, Saturday night youth group, and Sunday evening service. Pastor Zeto gave me the New Testament of the Bible. I read it as if I was the Hungry Caterpillar. By April of that year, I was baptized on the Easter Sunday. The missionary who was the Director of Hong Kong Headquarter gave me the name “Miriam” because I liked singing, and Miriam in the Old Testament led the Israelites to sing after they crossed the Red Sea.