My story begins in Taiwan, where I was born. Taiwan is a small island with a population of about 20 million inhabitants, located some 100 km off the coast of China. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the region, Taiwan is where the former political leader Chiang Kai-Shek took refuge when the Communist Party seized power in China in 1949.
I am the oldest of three children. My father worked as an agronomist in a sugar refinery, while my mother taught in grade school. My parents had always planned to leave Taiwan in order to secure a better socio-economic life for themselves and their children. It must be understood that, at that time, Taiwan was generally unknown to the rest of the world. It was a poor country, where the infrastructure had to be rebuilt after many years of war. Economic prosperity was far from being assured, and there was a constant threat of invasion by communist China.
Arrival in Canada
In 1965, my father arrived alone in Canada to study. He obtained a bursary that enabled him to pursue his doctoral studies in agronomy at Laval University in Quebec City. Three years later, when he graduated, his family joined him. I was five years old at that time. I started school in French and, eventually, completed my entire academic education in that language. It was in secondary school that I learned English as a second language.
As the eldest son of a traditional Chinese family, my parents were rather demanding of me. At an early age, I was made aware of the fact that I was to be a role model for my younger brother and sister. I was expected to pave the way for them, and the honour of the family rested upon me. My mother never stopped telling us, “We sacrificed everything to come here, and we would be failures if we were unable to be greater achievers than the people of this country.”
With this mind-set, I grew up in an environment where I had to excel continuously, mainly in school because the Asian culture values education. I was on my own for this pursuit of academic excellence. My parents could not help me. My mother had no knowledge of French or English, and my father was too busy with his career. I began to have some real success around the start of the third grade, when I was nine years old, and it continued right through the completion of my education. It is probably because of my academic ability that I developed a confidence in my own capabilities. I believed that nothing was impossible to accomplish. Sometimes I wondered why other students did not understand what I found to be so easy. However, this confidence was about to be badly shaken.
My friend John
When I was a teenager, I had a very close friend named John. We were often together, whether to hang out or study together. He was exceptionally brilliant, especially in mathematics. One day, after I had applied to medical school, John told me he would not be able to start his university studies at the same time I was. He shared with me that he was experiencing some difficulties in school, and had to re-take some courses. This astounded me. I was unable to ask him about the particulars of the situation. The fact that he could fail a subject was difficult to believe! Even when he did not study, he succeeded in obtaining a fairly good grade. But the sad reality came out eventually.
I already knew that there was something wrong with John. However, I had not realized the full extent of his suffering. Within just a few months, I witnessed a pitiful deterioration of his mental state. The confidence that he had always displayed was all but gone. The expression in his eyes became glazed, and his reactions were slow because of all the medication he took. It was said he was suffering from either a major depression or that he was schizophrenic. He was hospitalized several times in a psychiatric ward. He was going down an untraveled road, and his future seemed very bleak indeed. I ached at the sight of him losing himself, just as much as he did seeing himself that way. One day, he showed me a drawing he had made depicting people in mourning. It was very sad and somewhat morbid. Another time he told me, “I will not be able to attend university, but you (pointing to me) must not fail!” The person I had known was gone.
During my second year in medical school, I received a phone call that literally changed my way of seeing things. I was told that John was dead. He had committed suicide. His body had been transported to a hospital in Quebec City. I cannot remember my reaction very well because I was in a state of shock.
Re-examination of my life
It was my first contact with death. I saw John in his casket. His face was white and waxy. He was wearing his favourite sweater. Suddenly, near tears, I felt very lonely, extremely alone. It was this feeling of loneliness that dominated my period of mourning after my friend had passed away, and it lingered on for several weeks.
I began to be haunted by a question that I could not get rid of, despite the demands of my study program. I kept on thinking, “Death stole my friend. If it can happen to him, it can happen to me also at anytime. Why devote your life to studies when life is so fragile?”
I had started medical school with great ambitions. I was ready to sacrifice everything to become the best neurosurgeon in the country. But this goal was becoming less and less significant each time I began thinking about the death of John. After months of reflection, I came to the conclusion that life brings no guarantees of any sort. Things that we consider quite secure can be lost at any time without warning. One can spend many years in academic pursuit, but there is no certainty that you will achieve your goal at the end.
I then told myself, “I am 22 years old and I have many years left, but I do not want to invest them in just anything. What is worth investing a whole life in, and more importantly, my own life in?” Little by little, the need to make friends was beginning to dominate my thinking. I was more and more convinced (wrongly) that the only thing in the whole world that was worth investing in, was friendship. What I really wanted was to have loyal and sincere friends. The reason I prized friendship so much at the time was probably because of that feeling of loneliness I had after the death of John. I knew I had to find friends. But where?
Contact with The Navigators
Then, four years later, I recalled The Navigators. I told myself that this organization was perhaps the best place to make friends of my age. I took the initiative to get information on the group. In January 1986, I joined The Navigators, looking for friends. I had no interest in the Bible, but I was ready to hear about it if it gave me the opportunity to make friends. At this point, I must add that my parents are Buddhists, and that the only place I had heard about the Bible was in grade school. But with The Navigators, week after week, I was exposed to, and even confronted with, the Bible. In no time, I took a real interest in the study of the Holy Book. The more I studied the Bible, the more I came to believe it was different from all other books. There was something special that I could not yet describe.
Conversion to Christianity
Eight months later, I was attending a summer camp organized by The Navigators. The group leader asked me somewhat abruptly, “Yves, how is your spiritual life?” I answered, “In order to respond properly, I need you to elaborate.” He then asked a second question. “If you were to die today, do you think you would go to heaven?” After a bit of hesitation, I told him, “No.” I found it an awkward question, but it had hit the mark.
We were eating spaghetti and, of course, after these two questions, I lost all appetite. After the meal, this leader invited me to meet him privately. He explained to me the central message of the Bible. I had heard it several times before in the course of our Bible studies, but for the first time, not only did I understand it with my intellect, but also with my heart and my soul. I do not refer here to human emotions, but to a spiritual understanding that gives me the assurance of being in the presence of the truth. I could now see what I could not see before. It is as if, not knowing I am nearsighted, someone fits me with corrective lenses, perfectly adjusted to my sight. My eyesight was, until then, limited by my visual handicap. But with glasses, the surroundings appear to me with stunning acuity. I do not see the world, or life, the same way anymore. From that moment on, I cannot live without those glasses. These lenses are the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost that reveals Himself by opening the heart of a man who was searching for meaning in his life. He showed me the realities of the spiritual aspect of life. At that moment, I felt my heart was full of warmth and joy. Thus began my Christian life.
Separated from God
Maybe you are asking yourself, “What is this spiritual aspect of life?” The answer to that question is found in the Bible. It is not my purpose here to sell you Christianity. I will go as far as saying that I do not have to convince you of the relevance of Christianity. To reason on the relevance of Christianity does not transform the heart of a man. It is impossible to approach God with only the force of human logic. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul tells us that the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power. More often than not, we see that in the Bible, there is a reversal of all traditional values. What is wisdom for God, is folly for the human mind. What is wise for man, is folly in the eyes of God.
This is what we need to understand about the spiritual aspect of life. The world in which we live in is composed of two entities : the physical world and the spiritual world. An analogy can be made with the constitution of the human being in the sense that man has a body (the physical aspect) and a spirit (the spiritual aspect). The physical world and the spiritual world were meant to be in harmony with each other just as the body and the spirit of man constitute an inseparable whole. But a split happened.
The Bible reveals to us that God has created man so that we could have a loving relationship with Him. This communion was to last for eternity but it was interrupted because of sin. Adam, the first man, committed a sin by eating from the fruit of the tree he was forbidden to touch. That disobedience severed his relationship with God. And today, each one of us is experiencing the same thing. Because of our sins, we cannot communicate with God. Although our spirit is no longer in touch with the Creator, we continue to thirst for what has been lost in our lives, i.e. fellowship with God. The spiritual world has been hidden from the heart of man. We live without direction, looking for something in the all the wrong places because we only know the physical world. The Holy Scriptures tell us that a man without God is like a thirsty person who tries to collect water in cisterns that cannot hold water.
Reconciliation with God
This problem of sin in man saddened God immensely. God had to make a decision because He cannot compromise with sin. He had two options : destroy everything and start all over again, or give us one last chance to renew fellowship with Him. Having chosen the latter, He sent us His Son, Jesus, to accomplish the mission. Jesus Christ came to earth and died on the cross to bear the burden of all our sins. Hence, He gives us the possibility of a reconciliation with God which will enable us to have fellowship with Him. Without this reconciliation, we will be separated from God forever. A person who dies without a relationship with God will end up in hell, a place of punishment for our sins.
It is God who decides who ascends to heaven and who is to be thrown to hell. His decision is based on our faith, i.e. how we respond to His invitation for reconciliation. How can we be reconciled with God? There is only one answer: Believe in Jesus and make Him the Lord of your life. The teaching of Jesus is very clear on that point. Meeting with Christ has been precisely designed to explain the teaching of the Saviour.
Looking for God with all your heart
It is my greatest desire that you find God. Christian life is so rich. God is calling us to a life of abundance, because a life without God is like a life without purpose. We are all thirsty people, looking for meaning in life. And Jesus is the fountain of living water that can really quench your thirst.
In the Christian life, a lot has to do with the attitude of the heart. Regardless of your present situation, if you seek after God with all your heart, with sincerity and humility, without pride or any preconceived idea, God will reveal Himself to you. It is a promise written in the Bible. Through the voice of Jeremiah, a great prophet of Israel, God said to the Jewish people who had been exiled to Babylon at that time, You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.I encourage you to come closer to the word of God with the heart of a child, and to discover for yourself who is God, and who is Jesus Christ. To help you on your path, Meeting With Christ will try to explain the words of Jesus. It is by far the most important step you will ever take in your life. Do not delay because you never know what tomorrow may bring.