Written By Judah Koh, Singapore
I have been a Christian for 11 years, and was the first in my family to come to Christ. By God’s grace, my mom and sister came to know the Lord a year after me. About a year ago, my brother also came to the Lord thanks to the efforts and prayers of his colleagues. Christ’s redemption of my family has been miraculous.
However, there was still my dad. I grew up fearing my dad because my mom would tell me ugly and nasty things about him. Shouting, yelling, and swearing were common in our home, and at one point, my dad even handed me a butcher knife and challenged me to a fight during one particularly heated argument. To me, he was a bad-tempered man who was distant and possibly violent. Though I eventually outgrew my fear of him, the fear had already wiped out any love that ought to have existed between father and son.
But then, around five years ago, on a day just like any other, I noticed that my father had become old. Not just old, he had become frail. He had become silent (he no longer swore the way he did when I was little). He had become mild. And he had become isolated.
Though we all lived in the same house, no one really bothered connecting with him. He cut a forlorn figure, and I felt like God deposited within me an ache—an ache that began with sympathy, then grew into love and forgiveness, and eventually became a desire for the salvation of his soul.
In our culture, many things are often unspoken. But somehow, my relationship with my father began to take a turn for the better. We almost never quarreled again, but became more cordial in our interactions. As our relationship healed, more and more I wanted to share my faith in God with him.
It proved to be a long journey. At one point, an overseas friend joined us for a visit, and we started talking about our faith. The conversation quickly turned on its heat, and I suddenly realized that we were being too forceful in trying to convince my dad. I had to halt the conversation before it escalated into a full-blown fight. While I desired my father’s salvation, I realized that I could not push things by my own strength (Ephesians 2:8-9).
2018 was my last year receiving red packets as a single at Chinese New Year. My dad and I, together with my fiancée, went for our regular New Year’s visits. My dad, being a proud traditional Chinese man, was eager to share about his son’s wedding—a church wedding, that is.
It was interesting witnessing a non-believer’s explanation and understanding of a church wedding. As the conversation continued, I heard my dad utter words like “Jehovah” and the “10 Commandments.” Turns out, he had been to church in his youth, albeit only during Christmas for the goodies and food. He was never challenged to make a decision, but somehow, God deposited that knowledge in him such that more than half a century later, my dad could remember details from the sharing.
As the first believer in the family, I had felt responsible for bringing the good news to my family. But it was humbling to be reminded that God loved my dad more than I could, and He had plans to reach my dad long before I was even born. God was in charge of my dad’s salvation. My role was to trust and pray and remain faithful (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Not that it was smooth sailing thereafter. Shortly after I was married, my wife and I discussed bringing my dad to her home church. It was a bilingual service, and there were quite a few people close to him in age there. My dad came with less resistance than usual, and things in general were uneventful and calm. This was the first time we had managed to bring him to church, and I was hoping that my dad would show more interest or maybe even become a believer. I was left disappointed that day, but my wife told me to take heart, for God was softening my dad’s heart.
Earlier this year, a large multi-church, cross-denominational evangelistic meeting was held in our city, and my wife and I decided to invite my dad for it. My dad was 71 years old, and the urgency for the gospel to be preached and understood was clear. We asked, and after some to-and-fro, he agreed to come. We heard testimonies aplenty, and a timely message about truth and principles; my dad sat through the entire event, occasionally commenting on the wrong use or mispronunciation of words. But, he listened to what he needed to hear. When the time came for a decision to be made, my wife and I took the opportunity to sandwich him.
He claimed to have understood, and claimed that sooner or later he would believe because his entire family already had. Yet, he expressed some concerns which I felt could be better worked through in his eventual discipleship journey. After all, we all have personal issues that God continues to help us overcome. My dad agreed to take a step forward, and we accompanied him to answer the altar call.
I was so moved and excited, thinking that he had finally believed, only to later find out that in his conversation with the minister he had yet to believe. It felt like a defeat at first, but I came to see it as a victory, in that he was prayed for and was willing to consider finding out more about this “western faith.” The minister passed him a copy of the New Testament, and we knew that salvation was near.
In the following weeks, my dad went to my wife’s home church on his own accord to meet up with my father-in-law, which was another breakthrough. My dad has probably only been to church six or seven times (apart from those Christmas events in his youth), and five times in the past month alone.
I was eager to hear from my father-in-law what had transpired. My father-in-law shared that my dad teared up a few times during the visit, and was moved by what my wife and I had shared about our heart for him to come to faith.
Finally, on June 30, when my wife and I were at a leaders’ retreat at church, we received a video clip from my father-in-law of my dad praying and professing his faith in Jesus Christ.
God works. God loves. God completes.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)