I have told this story to many people, and most of the time I told in a brief way. However, I feel that it was not fair for audiences to know half of the story. So, I am going to begin my story here in a little more detail, fulfilling my promise in my first blog post.
I was born a Buddhist. My parents were Buddhists, though not very devout. When I was an infant, I always encountered lots of sicknesses - that's what my mom told me... later on I found out that infant sicknesses are pretty common. So, out of fear and superstition, my mom went to consult Goddess of Mercy through a medium - it was told that I had to be 'adopted' as a 'god-child' to the Goddess of Mercy, as well as to a couple born of the Year of Goat (I guess they were 47 years older than I). And, as fearful as my parents were, so be the 'adoption'.
I was never a devout Buddhist. Rather, I believed in superstitions. I grew up to be a timid boy who was afraid of dark, afraid of 'ghosts' which might be lurking in my room when I was sleeping alone in the dark, and afraid of gory pictures (sometimes published in newspapers back in the 80's). I still remembered burning a newspaper that contained a picture of many corpses of the Weld Quay Jetty disaster in 1988. (Guess what caused it? The once-every-60-years feast of Goddess of Mercy!!) My parents never found out the burning then. :-)
One thing that really gave me reason not to be devout: my mom, after consulting the Guan Yin Ma (Goddess of Mercy la...), told me that I should not touch water less I got drowned. Then I argued, how am I going to bathe? An exception bathing was, she said. Anyway, I was not angry with my mom. I was angry with the goddess!! There goes my wanting to learn swimming!! (I eventually went to learn myself secretly without my parents knowing... hahaha!!)
From then onwards, I began to devise my imagination and self conversation (reminder - I am the only child), assuming that all nature existed without any control of any gods. I secretly rejected Buddhism, and became an atheist that believed only in science. I started to love physics, and that's why I admired Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist who devised several abstract yet popular theories about astronomy. Nevertheless, I was still afraid of ghosts.
I have two aunts (my mom's younger sisters) who are Catholic converts, now living in Kuala Lumpur. I am considered blessed to be a nephew of these two aunts. When I was young (about 12 years old), I traveled from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur with my mom to visit them. I would stay in either one of their homes, alternately. When Sundays came, I would normally follow them to Sunday Masses.
My first experiences in Sunday Masses were kinda strange, or rather, awkward. Some of the many things that made me awkward: I was lost in the so-called 'ritual' gestures that every Catholic in the church did. I did not know when to stand, sit, nor kneel. I did not know when to draw the sign of the Cross. I was blur at the moment when, before the priest read from a humungous book, all people draw something on their foreheads, mouths, and chests. I did not know what to say when certain prayers were chanted. Basically I could not follow the Order of the Mass. I kept this sense of loss in my heart, thinking that “it’s not a big deal, I just do whatever other people do”. By the way, I was already an atheist then.
So, time flies, and in 1996, my parents were invited by one of my aunt, to join the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes in St Michael's Church, Ipoh. So, I tagged along. That’s when I bought my first Catholic Bible - well, it turned out to be a blessing, which I will elaborate below.
Soon enough, about a month or so, my parents had some fundamental argument with one of the RCIA facilitators, and got discouraged. I was a teenager then, so, when my parents eventually abandoned the RCIA classes, I followed suit. I was almost directionless, except that I had my own Bible. I started reading my Bible, treating it as a storybook rather than the Word of God. It was indeed a very good bedtime storybook then.
As I continued to read more, I started to believe that God is in charge of everything, and yet some kind of I-am-still-in-control atheistic feelings pop up in my mind. Nevertheless, I kept searching and searching, asking Christian friends (I was too timid to ask fundamental questions to my Catholic uncles and aunts then - I assumed that they would give me boombastic answers) and kept studying the ‘stories’ in the Bible. Later on, I made a pact, that I had to finish reading the Bible at least one time through, then I got myself ready for baptism. From 1996 through 2002, I read it, gave up, and read again... eventually I did not finish it.
Then, God disputed my pact by calling me earlier than expected. He gave me a slap by allowing a recurring breast cancer developed in my mom in November 2002. Only by then the silent action of prayers of my Catholic aunts were revealed in apparent action. They taught my mom how to pray, how to acknowledge and admit that we were sinners, and most importantly, how to ask for Mother Mary’s intercession via the Rosary. My mom had then changed a lot. In fact she was convicted that Jesus is her personal Lord and Savior.
I witnessed the conversion of my mom, and so that triggered my own conversion. I started to feel that Jesus was always there, but I still had my fundamental worry: the Order of the Mass (which all the while hindered me from undivided participation of the weekly celebration, and it even hindered me from going to church alone for Sunday Masses).
Due to my mom’s treatment in Kuala Lumpur, I traveled more often (once every 3 weeks) from Penang to Kuala Lumpur. It happened that, in one of the Advent weekends in December 2002, I was called by one of my aunts to attend the RCIA class of that particular weekend. I still remembered that day (December 15, 2002), when the class was all about the Order of the Mass! So, my worry was solved, and all my questions were answered! More importantly, this was the very first personal revelation / miracle to me from God!
After that incident, my mom received a painless surgery (thanks to all the prayers of her own and my aunts), and recuperated very fast. My mom was also freed from the painful (physically and financially) treatment of chemotherapy. According to the doctor, if 3 or more out of 16 lymph canals were infected with cancer cells, chemotherapy must be done, and it would be very rare to have the cancer cells spread to less than 3 out of 16 lymph canals. My mom only had 2!! This would be a series of miracles of God on my mom. Indeed, this scripture promise in Exodus 23:25-26 (which I very much later found out) was alive in my mom.
My mom was recuperating, and I had no more worries of the Order of the Mass. So, for the first time, I attended Mass alone in Holy Spirit Church (yet a Cathedral then) in Penang. Due to some personal reasons, I began to travel to St Anne's Church in Bukit Mertajam for Sunday Masses - yes, I traveled across the Penang Bridge, practically every week. I discovered that the RCIA class was about to start, so I obediently enrolled for the 2003/04 RCIA journey in St Anne's Church. After 10 months of journey in RCIA, I got baptized on Easter Vigil Night 2004 (April 10, 2004) - with my mom, of course - in St Michael's Church, Ipoh!
Since the day of my conversion (December 15, 2002), I renounced all the following:
- My connection with Goddess of Mercy
- My so-called bondage with no-touchy-water thingy
- My atheistic assumptions
- Reincarnation (a false sense of having a second chance in afterlife)
- My yellow-paper-red-ink caligraphic talisman
- My superstitions
- My fears of darkness, spirits of the dead (they never exist), and gory pictures (though I do feel disgusted)
All the above is not important anymore. I have Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. And, as one of my Christian friends said, if we had Jesus, what for we need other gods? Indeed, it is true. If I have Jesus, the God of Creation, why do I need other 'gods' who are merely part of the creation? If I believe Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life, why should I fear of things which are not from God? There is no reason for me to fear - other than working out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
I still love physics. Rather, I am now convinced that God is not bound by the law of physics, because God created science! How great is our God! And more importantly, how personal is our God!
P.S. My dad, indirectly affected by my mom's incident, was converted and baptized 2 years later.