Iris Chiang, Garden Grove Church
A NEW FRIEND
In the fall of 1999, I left Taiwan for San Francisco to continue my education. At one of the school computer labs, I made friends with someone who worked there, and when he learned that I had just come to the United States, he was very kind to offer me help.
I assumed that he so eagerly took care of me because he liked me. But surprisingly, I realized later that he was equally helpful with everyone else. His conduct puzzled me.
Having grown up in big cities, I was taught to be suspicious of people and was accustomed to white lies. Also, having worked as a reporter at a periodicals office, I have met many successful people and, from their experiences, I quickly learned about the seedy side of society.
So I did not expect to meet someone as naive as my friend. I decided that he must live a miserable life. But after observing him over a long period of time, I could see that he lived very happily. And he would give thanks to God whenever something good happened.
I believed that people should work hard for themselves and not rely on God. After all, does God really exist? I had gone to different religious institutions and had never felt God.
THE FIRST ENCOUNTER
I still remember it was a Friday night when I went to the church with this friend.
The minister cited many miracles to prove God’s existence but I didn’t think much of the sermon. Instead, I wanted to ask him if he could prove that these miracles came from a supernatural force.
The minister continued, “Everyone has sinned. We must acknowledge our sins before God, pray for the Holy Spirit, and then we can enter the heavenly kingdom in the future. When one receives the Holy Spirit, he will speak in an unknown tongue.”
At that point, I realized that I might have stepped into a cult of some sort.
When the sermon concluded, the minister invited everyone to go to the front of the chapel to pray. He said, “Those who have sickness or would like to pray for the Holy Spirit can come forward, and the ministers will help you by the laying of hands. When you pray aloud to him, God will fulfill your request.” Seeing everyone standing up and walking forward, I braced myself and went, too.
We knelt down and, when everyone started to pray, I immediately understood what the minister meant when he asked the congregation to pray aloud. I was startled by the sound of praying in tongues, and my fear of having gone to the wrong church was further confirmed.
I kept thinking to myself, “When is the prayer going to end?” Since I had never knelt this long in my life, I was sweating and feeling faint. So I prayed to God, “Please end this prayer soon. I don’t want to faint and be embarrassed.”
Thank God, I suppose this was my first miracle—that I knelt for thirty minutes and didn’t faint. But I vowed in my heart that I would never go there again.
“You have to Experience Faith”
Afterwards, my friend said to me, “You have to experience faith.” I replied, “How do you experience faith?” He said, “When you receive the Holy Spirit, you will know that God exists, and many questions that you have will be resolved.”
He said with further conviction, “The Bible promises us: Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. As long as you are willing to pray for it, God will surely give you the Holy Spirit.”
I was still very skeptical of the existence of the Holy Spirit. I thought that people usually seek God when they want their sickness healed or when they have difficulties in life.
I was very satisfied with my life, and I couldn’t find anything I needed to ask of God. Besides, I didn’t think I had committed any sins to ask God’s forgiveness. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t need God’s forgiveness, and I didn’t have any reason to believe in Him.
MY OWN MIRACLE
Even though I constantly questioned his religion, my friend never gave up on bringing me to church services. So, I told him, “I will go one more time. But if I do not experience God this time, please don’t try to persuade me that God exists or ask me to go to church ever again.”
I went to the church again on a Sabbath. When I knelt down in prayer and said, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord,” my hands began to shake slightly.
Now I was curious.
Just to make sure that I didn’t shake my own hands, I decided to go to the church the following week.
On the following Saturday morning, I woke up feeling that I would receive the Holy Spirit that day. And a brother delivered a morning sermon that touched me deeply and struck a chord within me.
What was more miraculous was that I could readily open the Bible to the passage he was referring to. Even the sister who was helping me with the Bible asked, “Are you a Christian? Is that why you are so familiar with the Bible?”
I had never read the Bible. When the sermon concluded, I felt the urge to pray. So my friend suggested to me, “There is a thirty-minute prayer session in the chapel before lunch.” I decided to stay for the prayer session.
I knelt in a corner where no one was around and prayed, saying, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord.” My hands began to shake slightly like the last time. I thought to myself, “If there’s a God, please let me experience Him and give me the Holy Spirit!”
As I was thinking that, I felt a ray of light shining on me from behind like a warm current. My hands shook more vigorously, and I began to speak in an unknown tongue.
At this moment, I felt a wonderful message entering my heart: my well-being and the blessings in my life did not come from luck or my own diligence but from God’s grace that He had freely given me.
In my prayer, I thought about my relationship with others. I realized that there were many times when I had a conflict of interest with another, and I would struggle to love and help them. God opened my eyes to see how often my own interests took precedence over others’.
The more deeply I prayed, the more I realized that I was just as much a sinner as everyone else. It finally dawned on me that God really exists in this world. He knew my doubts. Only He could humble me and, in an instant, show me how insignificant I was and how I needed to recognize my own sins.
God opened my heart to understand that sin is not defined by human standards of morality or law. If I don’t belong to God, I am a slave to the sins of this world. And only through Jesus Christ can my sins be pardoned and cleansed.
At the same time, God allowed me to understand a lesson far greater than sin—His love for me.
I BECAME HIS
The moment when I realized that God had changed my heart, my tears began to flow uncontrollably, but the joy in my heart was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
I felt like a lost sheep who had found her way home. When the concluding bell rang to end the prayer, I realized that I had prayed for thirty minutes. After this miraculous experience, I finally believed that this was the church in which God abides. Praise God!
I became His when I received baptism in October 2000.
The Holy Spirit strengthened me so that I would willingly and actively study the Bible. I knew that I could only receive true joy and peace by accepting the Lord Jesus as my Savior.
Before I believed in the Lord, I thought I was happy and blessed. But after my conversion, I really understood what true bliss is all about.
It is so enlightening to have faith in God.
He is almost like a round-the-clock bodyguard and a psychiatrist who sees to my troubles at no cost. What is more miraculous is that I do not need to say anything. God already knows what I need through my prayers, and He comforts me with the Holy Spirit.
Often, I find that what God gives me far exceeds and outweighs what I pray for.
How capable are men? Can we really control our lives? I could never have imagined that one day I would testify for the Lord. We should not draw conclusions prematurely about things we don’t understand.
God exists in this world. Through the Holy Spirit that dwells in us, we can experience His abidance, as long as we give ourselves the opportunity to accept and believe in Him.
May all the glory and praise be unto our heavenly Father. Amen.