Have your past church experiences been a stumbling block to knowing Jesus? Joey shares his story of being delivered from a cultic experience through the godly faithfulness of his family.
Many times in life, things don’t go as planned. I’ve come to this utter realization as my journey with Christ has persevered and as struggles along the way have molded my incomplete perspective of life. My story is one of brokenness, soul searching, and ultimately pointing to God’s redemptive and amazing grace.
My story on how I came to follow Christ began in my young teenage years. Like many kids, I began to attend church because of my parents and how they were involved at their church. Not one of your difficult, head scratching decisions in life; I just listened to my parents as a “good boy” should but not always does. This led to more of an acceptance of the concept of church. Not necessarily that I myself believed in the Gospel or knew what following Christ meant (because I was young) but the people were nice and friendships were made. This was an Indonesian church that my parents attended and if you know me, I am fluent in Indoglish which is some fusion of English and broken Indonesian. My limited understanding of the language meant that listening to sermons proved to be difficult because they were spoken 100% in Indonesian. This prompted me to search for other outlets that would fill my curiosity for Jesus.
My close friend Dieter suggested that I check out this church in Berkeley. He began to describe that community and I was all for it because they provided two beautiful things: home cooked Korean food and soccer after every Sunday service. After visiting a couple of Sundays, I immediately loved it, not only because of the previously mentioned things, but through seeing their tight-knit relationships, their passion when talking about their faith, and the genuine joy in which they lived their lives. I admired these qualities and I became actively involved with their events, bible studies, and small groups right away. These people really took care of me and shared that they were encouraged by my youthful excitement for life. I was learning a lot about the Gospel and of the lessons they taught every week. They offered a membership class, so I learned every lesson diligently and with great curiosity until the completion of the course. The last course in the class was the most important and, incidentally, the most radical to someone new to the church. Even so, there was no hesitation on my part. I had already bought in at that point.
Life was good and by good I meant really good. Everything finally started to click as I became more settled and happy at this new church. One night in particular, I shared with my mom about some of the lessons I have been learning out of this youthful excitement. The topic had casually switched to how my experience at the church was going and I could not be happier to share what I was learning spiritually. The words that came out of my mouth must have freaked the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of my mom because what I was saying would have triggered fear in any mother. I could not tell from her composed reaction at the moment that on the inside, my mom must have had twenty different alarms sounding as she realized that her son was brainwashed.
I told her about a man named Joseph who was the secret of the last lesson and the focus of our Ministry. This man Joseph claimed to be the second coming of Christ. He was the head of a worldwide movement called Providence, mainly stationed in Korea with churches under the name JMS (Jesus Morning Star). The buzz on the Internet was that this religious organization was a cult, but from an insiders’ perspective, these claims were ignored and seen as persecution. My mom immediately told the rest of my family. For months after that, they approached me and tried to convince me that I had joined a cult and that I needed to back out of it immediately.
To them, this was all out of love but from my perspective, I absolutely could not see it that way. Instead, I saw it as an attack. I would fight and deny everything they had confronted me on. It felt like I was being lectured to and I hated that because all I wanted was my freedom. You cannot imagine the number of sleepless nights when my family stayed up arguing, the amount of tears shed, nor the divide that engulfed our household for that period of months. There was no way I was going to listen, not after I have found God at a church that I loved, with people that I grew so tremendously close to.
One day one of the leaders of the church came to my house to talk to my parents. The situation got so bad that the last straw to win back their only son was pulling out the “age card.” I was under the age of 18 and therefore still a minor, so my parents said that until I am an adult, I cannot make decisions for myself, which included attending this church. Another time, my parents threatened to kick me out of the house and disown me if I did not listen to their advice. I was forced to cut ties with that church and in the weeks that proceeded, I was left confused, discouraged, and lost. These circumstances got me to question my faith or what was left of it.
This is the part of the story where things turn around and through God’s abundant grace, thankfully it did. In the months that followed, my sister’s college roommate Mary invited my sister to her home church’s winter youth revival. On a whim, my sister asked Mary if I could go also. I hesitated at first but eventually agreed to check it out. Those three nights were fun and full of laughs and great fellowship. I’m glad I went because by the third night, there was an altar call, a raising-of-hands-time where you choose to accept Jesus into your life. I did it and it didn’t change my life at that exact moment, but it opened up my curiosity to know more about Jesus again and allowed God to heal me from the hurts of my past.
I owe my life to Christ. I can say that with full confidence only through the loving determination of my family and the grace of God. So to my mom, dad, and sister, thank you for being an example of God’s love in my life and for never giving up on me knowing the true Christ. Looking back now, it is crazy how I believed in what I did at that time was but it was part of God’s plan and now part of my journey with Christ. My encouragement for those going through a rough time is that God said in His Word: “Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Joey can be found at Lifehouse Covenant Church in San Francisco (http://www.lifehousecov.org/).They meet every Sunday at 10:00am at 700-4th Avenue San Francisco, CA and would love to host you!