I was born on an early Sunday morning in San Jose, CA. Since then, I’ve managed to live a rather bland and uneventful life.
I grew up in a typical Asian-American Christian household. My parents were and still are active in the church. They’ve worked hard and provided for my sister and me and supported us through school and throughout adulthood. They weren’t particularly demanding in regards to school and career, but my mom did seem to nag a lot about things. She still does.
Growing up in a Christian household, I believe that I always believed. Of course there were moments when I felt a greater realization of God working in my life. Some were emotional moments at a retreat, others a more calm reflective look back at my life.
My life didn’t have any particularly dark or momentous moment in my life where I wrestled with my faith. Rather my life is an ongoing daily struggle between my own selfish desires versus what God desires. Actually, that is an overstatement. It’s really not a struggle. It’s me doing what I want (which is mostly eat, drink, and play video games) and God calling me back in His infinite grace.
I am incredibly thankful for this blessed life that is remarkable in its boringness. I pray that He will continue to watch over me and that someday I may do some good as His will works in me.
Bonus - Here is one verse that I am fond of:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
I grew up in southern California, and lived there until college. High school was not fun for me. I was in a very dark place in my life, I didn’t know what to do with all my free time, my family had all sorts of issues, everyone in my youth group stopped coming out to church, and I questioned God about the purpose of my existence. I didn’t have much to hold onto, and my depression seemed to get worse each year. I had suicidal thoughts, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. During these dark years in my life, I did not have a church community supporting me nor a biblical understanding of the Gospel.
I’ve been attending this church since 1999 when I entered college as a shy reclusive boy. That year, I took the bus to our church, and people would try to get to know me. I would always give 1 word answers to their questions. But we’d have our weekly bible study on 1 Corinthians and I’d studiously take notes because the Holy Spirit inspired me to learn about Christianity.
And I’ve been here ever since because of examples like that: the church community has spurred me towards a biblical worldview that has grounded me in Christ during turbulent times.
God has clearly defined my purpose through the Gospel. The Lord has guided the decisions in my life and encouraged me to invest in the spiritual growth of our church through so many changing circumstances, and close people around me who have come and gone.
Since I’ve been here at Christ Central, I’ve been on a journey in learning how to grow in my spiritual walk through college, single life, married life and now as a father. Witnessing the faithfulness of God’s character throughout the Word encouraged me to continue learning and building deeper relationships despite its initial awkward stages, impending challenges, and commitment. It’s because of God working through His Word and this church, that he has encouraged me to keep going even when I was tired or frustrated. And it’s not a single event that spurred my spiritual growth. Instead, it’s been the consistent things of attending worship service, going to community group, meeting up with my accountability brother Basile to be reminded of my need for discipline, and serving the church. I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but my spiritual growth has been one baby step after another, and God has been very patient with me as I fight my sinfulness.
So my life was filled with darkness prior to coming here and now is filled with light. By the grace of God, I’ve been here since 1999 because the Christ Central community has spurred me onto a biblical worldview that has grounded me in Christ during times of turbulence. I’m looking forward to the challenges that await us here at Christ Central.
God granted me a fast track to getting to know Him - my father was a Reformed minister who often prayed during long car rides, my mother's discipline of choice was to make me write Proverbs by hand. We held family worship almost every week, my parents refused to let me participate in Sunday league games, and my sister and I logged thousands of hours waiting around in church offices as our parents fulfilled their weekly duties. It was genuinely challenging to get away from it all, all this Jesus stuff, though I never felt smothered enough to retract and move the opposite direction.
And this, I believe, was one of many examples of God's grace in my life, in this case through family. That the potentially overbearing grasp of my parents and the latitude to exercise independent judgment in following Christ were so delicately balanced that I was not tempted towards rebellion, nor was I let alone to roam too far. All credit to God for helping my parents toe the line here. And because the Gospel was daily ministered to me through family, at the vulnerable age of 13 I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. I then realized that accepting Christ was also accepting my identity as an heir to this Christ and thus called to be apart from the world. It's the latter that God really affirmed for me in order to fully acknowledge what the Gospel called for, that I had to fundamentally reorient my life to reflect Christ in all I did. The Gospel finally was more than a mental proclamation, it became a literal, living conviction.
To be sure, many many mistakes were and continue to be made along the way. Living through poverty in childhood, I struggled with envy and stole to feel adequate. I was quickly disillusioned that following Jesus was an easy thing. And today I do a pretty good job of reminding myself that I’m a first class sinner with nothing to boast. But what a relief, to have a Christ who redeems. God made Himself known to me in real ways, affirmed my identity, and continues to chip away at my stray heart to behold His glory as He deserves.
And grace has been received through community. God brought me to San Francisco 8 years ago and in Christ Central I’ve found my home church, where I’ve come to know and love Jesus all the more. And it’s through these blessings, small and large, that I’m reminded of his love and can firmly declare He is good.
I was raised in Iowa on the mighty Mississippi in a community where I did not fit in. Throughout most of my childhood, I would be singled out because of my name, appearance, or which country I immigrated from. As far back as I can remember, I never felt comfortable in school or my neighborhood due to the ever-present cloud of racism and bullying from children and even adults. Over the years, I had a desperate desire to blend in with my community and not singled out for something I could not control. My home life was a different story. My parents own small businesses and worked long hours, which resulted in limited supervision and interactions which could last for days. The casual check-ins and disconnected conversations led to a very distant and cold relationship with the people who lived under the same roof. I grew up with roommates rather than someone I could call family.
The lack of parental oversight and support from my peers shaped me, for better and worse, to become hyper self-sufficient. Even in adulthood, I believed that I was the driving force for my achievements and I alone was the source of my shortcomings. The fallout of this mentality had a significant impact on who I am. I openly and shamefully confess that I am flawed and utterly broken.
Life slowly changed in high school; I found myself surrounded by faithful witnesses who shared the message of God and his love for all no matter their race, social status, or home life. As I wrapped up my senior year, the idea of repentance and committing my life to God weighed heavily on my heart.
While attending a then-random Friday night session, the Pastor closed by asking if anyone would like to come forward for prayer and confession. Something was different about this night. Shoulders were heavy, and there was a deep pain in my heart. The feeling did not pass and I knew there was something desperately wrong with how much pain and depression occupied my heart. This was the night I gave my life to God.
Days of guilt-free living turned into weeks and I thought this was it. I had my salvation and now I could live life without the burden of sin and shame to weigh me down. My outlook changed, but my sinful life did not. It took many years to realize how stubborn, foolish, and arrogant I was with my relationship with God.
In college, I thought a good Christian life was attending church on Sundays and staying out of trouble. This was the extent of my engagement and understanding of the Gospel. I did not commit to ministry or spread the Gospel even though God place many people in my life who needed His love. My commitment to the Lord was two hours on Sunday and I believed I could manage God like like the rest of my life.
After graduating, I continued to struggle with anger and darkness. Wishful thinking and the California dream called me out west. I believed being around more people who looked like me would cure my depression and a change in scenery would eliminate the loneliness I carried my entire life.
My first year in San Francisco was a blur. Graduate school was an excuse to go west and it opened paths to new sin and idols. Caution and the distinction between good and evil were non-existent. I was out every night, always looking for something to fill the void. I eventually came to the realization I was not happy. The party lifestyle wore me down and took a toll on my mental and physical health. Days melded together, I was exhausted and I felt more alone than I was back home. The pursuit for worldly happiness ran its course and I had enough. I was miserable and could not remember the last time I was happy. Soon after this realization, I wanted to give church another chance.
After months of church hopping, I found KCPC (CCPC). I shamefully admitted my lack of commitment in the past and did everything I could to submerge every part of my life into my new church. I joined multiple community groups, attended every event, and befriended members who were passionate about church and God.
One year in, I found myself in a situation where the Children’s Ministry needed additional volunteers. The children were so happy to see each other and learn about the Gospel. I was rebuked and inspired by their joy for God. I soon joined and fell in love with the ministry. During this period of spiritual growth, I was able to learn and approach God with my kids. One of the blessings I received through the ministry is to witness my youngest kids grow up to confess their faith and become amazing role models for the younger generation. I plugged myself into the lives of our members and come to love the church and God, which became the family and community I never had and desperately sought after.
I pray my story would remind you of God's commitment to the lost. God is able to take a broken soul and use him as an example of his love. He can use a sinful and selfish child from a broken home and share the truth of the Gospel through word and deeds. He can take my trails and shortcomings to glorify His name. God is ever-present in my life and He can do great things through you.
Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
Growing up, I had a foot in the door of different cliques: the nerds, the jocks, the gamers, the cool kids, and the not-so-cool kids. Everyone had their interests, passions, and life goals, so I searched for mine, too. I eventually planned for the “American Dream”. I would need the best grades, so I could go to a top school, get a high paying job, buy a ranch home with a horse named Pono, have a big family, and retire happily ever after in Hawaii.
I was well on my way to achieving these plans - got good grades, graduated from Berkeley, cofounded a small business, and became a financial planner. I hustled and ran, hard. At 25 years old, I was making six figures, owned my dream car (2003 BMW 330i ZHP), rode a motorcycle, and paid off all my debt.
Then everything came to a halt. I had a mid-life crisis (more like a quarter-life crisis). Now that I paid off my debt, what was next in life? Continue to grind, to push, to bend… all to buy a faster car? To buy a shinier bike? To eat more buttery sashimi? To buy a piece of land closer to the ocean? Maybe to climb a little higher up the ladder? To sip from fancier mason jars? There had to be more to life. What was the point? I didn’t understand what people were chasing after, so I took pause.
Through prayers, God reminded me of the truth of the gospel I received back in college. That I was adopted into Christ’s family through mercy and grace, not through any of my works or accomplishments. I soon realized “my plans” were the world telling me what “success” was. The world had drowned out God’s voice.
Yet, God did not let me go.
Back in 2017, my wife Nancy and I went off the grid on a 20-day backpacking trip. We trekked 222 miles in the High Sierras, away from black mirrors, resumes, net worth, and comparisons. Surrounded by God’s beautiful creations, we remembered His promise to never leave us or forsake us as we journey through life in faith.
A year later, God called me to be on the short-term missions team to Paraguay. I saw and felt so much of God’s love and to understand what is important: our relationship with God and the Word. No material good, no amount of net worth, comes with us to eternity. We are resident-aliens on this earth, temporary visitors, and God wants my life to be a reflection of such truth.
These moments and many prayers later, I began to hear God’s voice more clearly.
He called me to walk side by side and serve others, rather than race to the finish line at their expense. He directed me to look into other people’s bowls only to see if they had enough, rather than to compare.
God told me that He is so much bigger than my plans of worldly success.
God still called me to be a financial planner, but no longer focused on the numbers. He had me quit my former profit-driven company and started a practice with a not-for-profit, faith-based financial services organization. Through prayer, I felt Him lead me to obtain the Certified Kingdom Advisor designation, which reconciles biblical wisdom and financial stewardship.
Our family lives a simple but generous life. I no longer want to be an American dreamer, but instead am called to be a prayer warrior, an agent of grace, and a faithful steward. I hope to live a life that is pleasing to Him and have peace knowing His purpose prevails. Coram deo and all the glory to God.