For most of my life, I wanted little to do with Christians, particularly because some were pushy and most I encountered couldn’t logically defend their faiths.
I would have never thought I would give my life to Jesus. And yet, that was precisely what happened in 2017.
Why? Because I met God. There are three main parts to that story, so let’s jump right in.
I decided to spend the holidays road tripping through Europe before university began again. My last day was in Rome, and it had been a great trip since I was a huge fan of art and history.
On the last day, the unimaginable happened. I was on my way to the airport five hours early – call me a Singaporean kanchiong spider – and it was in the bus that my whole world tumbled into chaos.
My backpack, containing important belongings like my laptop, camera, wallet and passport had been stolen. I had placed it on top of my luggage on the bus, and a thief silently took it while his accomplice distracted me in conversation.
When I looked up, my backpack was gone, and so was my passport.
“If there’s anything out there that can do something… please…”
I was in complete disbelief, and felt the blood draining from my eyes like I was going to faint.
When I came to my senses, I knew I had to react quickly. I jumped off the bus and began huffing my luggage around the cobblestoned streets of Rome, trying to look for a Singaporean embassy.
And there began a series of unfortunate events:
- My luggage wheel had broken off, and I had to carry 30kg of belongings everywhere.
- My phone battery began dying on me, switching on and off sporadically.
- When I reached the embassy, it was closed.
- I couldn’t book an Uber because my phone was dying, so I walked 1.4km to the nearest police station.
- When I called the airline to postpone the flight, I was informed that the transit airport in Istanbul was experiencing snow and ice issues, and multiple flights were being cancelled. So they couldn’t help me.
- When I checked my travel insurance, it had expired the previous day.
I was completely helpless in a foreign land. So at this desperate juncture, I called out to the universe: “If there’s anything out there that can do something… please…”
And as unbelievable as it seemed, God immediately answered. I began to experience a series of miracles from Rome to Singapore.
A man named Valentine called me over WhatsApp and said he found my passport. This happened at the exact moment I prayed.
He explained that he was on the way to church when he heard God tell him to take a different path. Valentine then stumbled across a group of people arguing by a trash bin.
They had seen the thief throw my passport away and leave with my backpack on another bus.
I cabbed down to Valentine, remaining suspicious of this coincidence. I assumed he was in cahoots with the thief, but I just wanted my passport back.
Valentine quickly returned me my passport and told me that God was the one who orchestrated the rescue. He said: “You should believe in God. He loves you and wants you to know Him”.
I wasn’t sure at the time, but this was the first miracle from God. I was grateful to Valentine, and even today he still messages me on WhatsApp, sending prayers, devotions and even pictures of his wedding in 2018!
After that I figured he wasn’t in cahoots with the thief because he’d have to be part of a syndicate with a very elaborate follow-up system with their victims if so!
“If there is a God out there, please help me catch my flight!”
I rushed down to the airport as my flight was in 20 minutes. Arriving at the immigrations queue, my heart sank – the line would be an hour long at the least.
Desperate again, I prayed: “If there is a God out there, please help me catch my flight!”
At this point, an airport worker passed by me in the queue and I asked her for help, explaining my situation. She listened for a moment and then walked away.
The family behind me in the queue said: “You think they will help you? Don’t be stupid, they will never help you.”
But the lady returned, and brought me to the front of the queue, with the family’s mouths hanging open in shock. The airport worker spoke to the immigrations officer and requested for him to let me go in quickly.
He refused, and she began shouting at him. This went on for a full three minutes, with the officer refusing and letting other people through instead. But she just would not stop debating for my case!
Finally, he let me through. And I was a little surer that this was the second miracle from God. I began sprinting for my flight and was the last one on board.
Now, the last miracle in Rome – which was really two miracles in one.
After boarding the plane in Rome, my flight made a stopover in Istanbul.
If you recall, I mentioned that Istanbul was experiencing intense weather issues with the snow, which meant that several planes were unable to take off and had to be rescheduled.
At that point, I was so exhausted, tired and worried, I had no more strength left to handle another crisis.
Desperate, I prayed a third time: “I’m sorry to bother You, God, but can I please just go home? If you do something, I’ll give You my whole life. And please give me some human companionship for the flight home.”
So, the first miracle: After about 20 minutes, an announcement came on in the airport: “The following flights on the screen will be proceeding as scheduled.”
My flight was on the list!
Then the second miracle: A long-lost primary school friend had been sitting in front of me all along, and we chatted the whole way home. I was astonished that both my requests to God were granted.
And yet, after all this, when I finally landed in Singapore and reflected over the series of crazy miracles, I went on to conclude something else.
“Nah, it was probably all a coincidence. God’s not real.”
Two months later, however, my heart was slowly growing accustomed to the reality of God.
I’d recounted the crisis in Rome to many friends, and retelling it again and again helped me to question if they were coincidences or divine miracles.
It helped even more that the philosophy module I was taking in university encouraged me to “question everything and leave no stone unturned”.
At that point, Lisa, a Christian classmate of mine, also began reaching out to me. Chucking question after question at her, I had fun seeing her unable to answer almost every single query I had.
But she eventually said to me: “Cheng, if you think you’re so smart, how about you go online and hear what the experts have to say, then see if you can reason against them?”
Challenge accepted. And challenge failed!
I found it was impossible! For every single theory or “fact”, I had lacked so much evidence! For instance, the theory of evolution was only applicable to micro-evolution and not the other kinds.
Arguments about morality, archaeology, history, prophecy and my favourite: science. All of it was being replaced by more compelling and logical Christian explanations.
My hunger for the truth was a ravenous fire. I had exams to study for at the time, but this quest was far more important to me.
I chose to reply to Christian debates on Facebook, talk to professors about faith and science, and spent my whole time telling everyone that I was on a journey of discovering that I couldn’t have been more wrong about God and science.
Frankly, it took even more faith to be an atheist.
I studied what was sufficient to do well for my exams, but every other waking moment was spent thinking about God.
By April, I was completely and totally convinced of the Christian faith. Frankly, it took even more faith to be an atheist.
It also helped that the Christians in my life were genuinely happy for my journey, none of them shamed me for ridiculing them in the past. I was stunned by their love.
But I had yet to meet Jesus personally. I knew about God, but I didn’t know Him.
Lisa had been inviting me to church, but I would turn her down most times.
I’d tell her that I didn’t feel ready or “holy” enough (this is a common misconception many people have, but I feel it’s like saying “I need to feel healthy before I go to the doctor”).
Her church service was on Saturday afternoons, but that day I decided to stay in hall instead of going to church.
Bored out of my mind, I decided to browse through some movies and discovered the Passion of the Christ.
I had no idea what the movie was about, and I didn’t associate it with Good Friday because it was just another holiday to me like Labour Day.
I began watching the film and quickly realised it was about Jesus. I had spent months studying about God, even experiencing Him in Rome, and here I was, coincidentally watching a film about His Son after Good Friday.
What were the odds?
Yet, oddly enough, I had never known the extent of what Jesus did for me. And I was about to find out.
I watched Him as He was wrongly accused and arrested. My heart broke as He was abandoned by all His disciples. And when they had Him whipped and scourged, I winced at every lash, but my eyes stayed wide open despite welling up with tears.
I covered my mouth in horror as I watched this innocent man being tortured. And He began carrying the heavy cross through the streets, laughed at and beaten the whole way.
I hit the pause button. I was utterly horrified at humanity and could not understand why God would save us.
“If you were the last one on Earth, I’d still come for you.”
But then I heard an almost audible voice in my head. It didn’t come from an external source. It was deep and clear, spoken in a gentle whisper – but with great authority.
I heard God say to me, “If you were the last one on Earth, I’d still come for you.”
What more could I say to God? He had pursued me in Rome. He gave me resources to read up on when I sincerely began seeking the truth.
And here He was, the Saviour, speaking to me in my room and showing me the extreme lengths He had gone to as proof of His love, for me and humanity.
I gave my life to Him in that very moment on 15 April 2017, and life has never been the same.
Life has never been so purposeful and fulfilling.
Every time I look back at my old self, things are so much better now. God’s power not only brings salvation, it brings transformation while we live our lives on Earth.
Life has slowly yet drastically changed. Christ continually changes me as a person, shaping my character like an expert potter shapes his clay.
And the changes don’t just stop at internal improvements, they also extend to the external: my family was once broken and distant. I never spoke to my sister or watched TV with them.
Yet we now have peace and love among each other because of God.
Whoever is reading this, I urge you to sincerely call on the name of Jesus yourself and see how He redeems all things.
Many things in life dissuade us from knowing Him, but there is nothing more important in your life than getting to know your Creator.
Who knows, you might really like Him. He’s a good God after all.
This article was first published on Stories of Hope.
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